Plastic sheet (sheeting) comes in a variety of compositions which vastly affect the nature of the plastic. Plastic is one of the most versitile products that is used in many aspects of daily life. From car parts, to children's toys, water bottles, televisions and now aircraft, plastic is molded into plastic sheets, parts, and gagets. Plastic is the chosen material because it can meet so many consumer needs at a respectable price.
Today's plastic sheets are here to meet consumer needs for health, safety and performance with value. Take a milk bottle. Once stored in glass bottles, a container of milk was heavy, and shattered into a million pieces if it was dropped. The plastic milk bottle allows the drinker to easly lift the bottle, and feel assured that if they drop it, it won't be too much a a calamity.
The properties of plastics/plastic sheeting are defined by the organic chemistry of the polymer such as the density, hardness, resitance to heat, organic solvents, oxidation and ionizing radiation. Due to plastic's insolubility in water and relative chemical inertness, pure plastic has a low toxicty. Keep in mind that the additives that can be added to plastic could be toxic. An example of an additive is the plasticizers that when added to brittle plastics like polyvinyl choloride, it makes it pliable enough for use in food packaging. It's the effects of such leachates that concern the public regarding food consumption.
To illustrate the types of common plastic and their uses, here is a list taken from Wikipedia.
- Polyester (PES) – Fibers, textiles.
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – Carbonated drinks bottles, peanut butter jars, plastic film, microwavable packaging.
- Polyethylene (PE) – Wide range of inexpensive uses including supermarket bags, plastic bottles.
- High-density polyethylene (HDPE) – Detergent bottles, milk jugs, and molded plastic cases.
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – Plumbing pipes and guttering, shower curtains, window frames, flooring.
- Polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC) (Saran) – Food packaging.
- Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) – Outdoor furniture, siding, floor tiles, shower curtains, clamshell packaging.
- Polypropylene (PP) – Bottle caps, drinking straws, yogurt containers, appliances, car fenders (bumpers), plastic pressure pipe systems.
- Polystyrene (PS) – Packaging foam/"peanuts", food containers, plastic tableware, disposable cups, plates, cutlery, CD and cassette boxes.
- High impact polystyrene (HIPS) -: Refrigerator liners, food packaging, vending cups.
- Polyamides (PA) (Nylons) – Fibers, toothbrush bristles, tubing, fishing line, low strength machine parts: under-the-hood car engine parts or gun frames.
- Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) – Electronic equipment cases (e.g., computer monitors, printers, keyboards), drainage pipe.
- Polyethylene/Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (PE/ABS) – A slippery blend of PE and ABS used in low-duty dry bearings.
- Polycarbonate (PC) – Compact discs, eyeglasses, riot shields, security windows, traffic lights, lenses.
- Polycarbonate/Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (PC/ABS) – A blend of PC and ABS that creates a stronger plastic. Used in car interior and exterior parts, and mobile phone bodies.
- Polyurethanes (PU) – Cushioning foams, thermal insulation foams, surface coatings, printing rollers (Currently 6th or 7th most commonly used plastic material, for instance the most commonly used plastic in cars).
More Specialized plastics are listed below, thanks to Wikipedia.
- Melamine formaldehyde (MF) – One of the aminoplasts, and used as a multi-colorable alternative to phenolics, for instance in moldings (e.g., break-resistance alternatives to ceramic cups, plates and bowls for children) and the decorated top surface layer of the paper laminates (e.g., Formica).
- Plastarch material – Biodegradable and heat resistant, thermoplastic composed of modified corn starch.
- Phenolics (PF) or (phenol formaldehydes) – High modulus, relatively heat resistant, and excellent fire resistant polymer. Used for insulating parts in electrical fixtures, paper laminated products (e.g., Formica), thermally insulation foams. It is a thermosetting plastic, with the familiar trade name Bakelite, that can be molded by heat and pressure when mixed with a filler-like wood flour or can be cast in its unfilled liquid form or cast as foam (e.g., Oasis). Problems include the probability of moldings naturally being dark colors (red, green, brown), and as thermoset it is difficult to recycle.
- Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) – Strong, chemical- and heat-resistant thermoplastic, biocompatibility allows for use in medical implant applications, aerospace moldings. One of the most expensive commercial polymers.
- Polyetherimide (PEI) (Ultem) – A high temperature, chemically stable polymer that does not crystallize.
- Polylactic acid (PLA) – A biodegradable, thermoplastic found converted into a variety of aliphatic polyesters derived from lactic acid which in turn can be made by fermentation of various agricultural products such as corn starch, once made from dairy products.
- Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) – Contact lenses (of the original "hard" variety), glazing (best known in this form by its various trade names around the world; e.g., Perspex, Oroglas, Plexiglas), aglets, fluorescent light diffusers, rear light covers for vehicles. It forms the basis of artistic and commercial acrylic paints when suspended in water with the use of other agents.
- Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) – Heat-resistant, low-friction coatings, used in things like non-stick surfaces for frying pans, plumber's tape and water slides. It is more commonly known as Teflon.
- Urea-formaldehyde (UF) – One of the aminoplasts and used as a multi-colorable alternative to phenolics. Used as a wood adhesive (for plywood, chipboard, hardboard) and electrical switch housings.
So thanks to it's name "Plastic" which comes from the Greek meaning "capable of being shaped or molded", plastic has played an integral part in life as we know it today.