The Art: Understanding Plastic Manufacturing

Plastic continues to be one of the products causing the most heated debates around the world. While the polymer is one substance that forms part of almost all human use equipment- electronics, furniture, containers, name it- a persistent campaign against it continues to run.

Pro-plastics insist the anti-plastic campaign is a misinformed act of activism. They argue that with proper management, plastic is one of the most useful and friendly products man will ever come across.

What is plastic manufacturing?

This is simply the creation of polymer materials (plastics) from mineral oils using an industrial process. It is done through a process known as plastics engineering, an entire process that starts at design and ends at the production of actual plastics.

Plastic manufacturing should not be confused with the creation of plastic products like construction blocks, bottles, tanks, and electronics’ cases. The latter is just creation of specific products from already manufactured plastic, usually done through a process called moulding.

In its initial stage of production, plastic is usually in liquid form (it comes from oil remember) but it is usually solidified and sold in granular/powder form for industrial use. Manufactured plastics are classified into two categories:

  • Commodity plastics

 

  • Engineering plastics

This classification is done using mechanical and thermal properties of the plastic – how easily it can be moulded. Commodity plastics have poor properties and are cheaper than engineering plastics. The latter are produced in low volumes and have a more refined sub-category known as high-performance plastics.

Who are the major players in the plastic manufacturing industry?

Since 2011, China has been the greatest producer of plastics globally, overtaking Europe as a continent. America comes third behind the two regions. As individual companies, Dow Chemical (America), Lyondell Basell (America, UK), Exxon Mobil (America), SABIC (Saudi Arabia), and INEOS (Switzerland) are the top five plastic manufacturers in the world.