England 22/09/2012 – Plastic moulding is thought of as a modern manufacturing technique, so many people are surprised to find it is 150 years old
The technique of plastic moulding or injection moulding is used to produce tens of thousands of different products. Everything from toys to medical equipment is made using this manufacturing process. It is a manufacturing process that has literally shaped the modern world.
The machine that makes the process possible was invented in 1872, by Isaiah and John Westley Hyatt. John had invented a new form of plastic only 4 years earlier called celluloid. However, making things out of it was difficult and a laborious process, so he knew to make it commercially viable he had to come up with tools to make it workable. The resulting machine was the first injection-moulding machine. It was manually operated and was similar to a large syringe with a heated cylinder to keep the plastic malleable. However, at first there was still not much demand for products made out of plastic. They were used to make buttons and combs, but not much else. Other larger products were easier to make out of other materials.
However, when other materials became rare during World War II the use of plastic took off. There was also a lot of demand for small trinkets and presents, that could also be made out of plastic.
The modern plastic moulding industry
The introduction of automatic injection units sped up production and allowed even large products to be quickly mass-produced. By the 1970s gas injection enabled large, quick drying products to be made. At this point, the industry took off and went from strength to strength. The availability of gas injection machines, new plastics and finishing processes allowed plastic to be used for even big products, such as baths and building materials like drainpipes and soffits.
Firms like Bridgewood UK took things further and offered a custom plastic moulding service. This meant any firm who needed parts could come in and have a mould made to mass-produce exactly what they needed. It is a service there is still a growing demand for.
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