Polymeric materials are created via polymerisation of many small molecules. Their consequently large molecular mass, relative to small molecule compounds, produces unique physical properties including toughness, viscoelasticity and a tendency to form glasses and semi-crystalline structures rather than crystals.
Polymeric materials are exceptionally well suited to low cost (pence^), high volume (10,000 to N million) product applications where fit, form and function is the primary driver and high structural performance is not required. From the 1940s onwards, a variety of manufacturing techniques have entered everyday use, including injection moulding, blow moulding, diaphragm forming and extrusion. The industry is relatively mature, but has key challenges to face in terms of the drive towards environmentally sustainable feed-stocks, components that exhibit multi-functionality, higher temperature performance and manufacturing techniques that are beginning to blur with those for polymer composites (e.g. co-moulding and over-moulding).
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