Did you know that the simple little molded plastic toy your kid has in their toybox got its start as a billiard ball? It is true, back in the mid 1800s a manufacturer was looking for a way to make a billiard ball that didn’t involved using ivory. At the time that was the only material that billiard balls or the balls you use when playing pool could be made of to give them the same bounce.
But plastics, then a very new material, was seen as an option. They only problem was how to create one that was perfectly round. Enter the brilliant idea of melting the plastic and then pouring it into a mold. Thus, you see the very first use of molded plastic, just like the plastic used to create those little green soldiers in Toy Story and perhaps most of the toys in your kid’s toy box. It is just one example of how an everyday item like plastic has evolved.
Rotational Molding and War
Of course, if you want to make something out of plastic today, there are hundreds if not thousands of ways to do this. But back during World War II this was not the case. While molded plastic had now been around for a while, it was not used in military and there was a good reason.
But you could still use rotational molding on metal and this was done to create artillery shells back then in Great Britain for the war effort. But combining these two very useful ideas, rotational molding that give you an even and easy to reproduce product with plastics, a very reliable product, wasn’t quite ready to start showing up on our store shelves the way it does today.
What a Doll!
One of the first major uses of plastic and rotational molding, was to create plastic doll heads in the early 1950s. Before this time, they were cast in porcelain much like a coffee cup and then painted. With the introduction of plastics, the production of cheap easy to buy dolls took off, leading to such acclaimed centers of modern culture as the Barbie doll.
But as the process became more sophisticated the use of molds and rotational molding grew to encompass almost everything, as you can see from http://fibertechinc.net/custom-rotational-molding/a-simple-guide-to-plastic-molding/ a guide to the various products today.
Plastic Recycling in Space
Of course, like the company above, recycling plastic has become an integral part of the industry. Never is that more obvious then NASA’s recent announcement that they will be sending up a 3D printer that recycles the plastic of current parts of the space station to create new parts.
This little device will take the plastic devices already in space, melt them down and then allow the astronauts to simply remake the broken or worn plastic part using the 3D device right there at the space station. From replacing the ivory horn of the endangered elephant and rhino to recycling plastic in space to make replacement easy and fast, plastic molded products really are the future here among us today!