Economics and Business

Auto Industry

Why was the introduction of plastic important to industry?

Pioneered in the early 1900s, plastic—which is any synthetic organic material that can be molded under heat and pressure to retain a shape—affected every industry and every consumer. As a malleable material, plastic could quite literally be molded for countless uses, both for the production of goods and as a material in finished goods. In 1909 Bakelite plastic was introduced, and over the next three decades the plastics industry grew, developing acrylic, nylon, polystyrene, and vinyl (polyvinyl chloride or PVC) in the 1930s, and polyesters in the 1940s. The applications seemed endless: from household items such as hosiery, clocks, radios, toys, flooring, food containers, bags, electric plugs, and garden hoses, to commercial uses such as automobile bodies and parts, airplane windows, boat hulls, packaging, and building materials. The space industry and medicine have also found critical uses for plastic products. Scientists have continued to find new applications for plastics—in products such as compact disks (CDs), computer diskettes, outdoor furniture, and personal computers (PCs). The material has become essential to modern life.


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