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Bakelite

[bey-kuh-lahyt, beyk-lahyt]
Bakelite is a material based on the thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride, developed in 1907–1909 by Belgian Dr. Leo Baekeland. Formed by the reaction under heat and pressure of phenol (a toxic, colourless crystalline solid) and formaldehyde (a simple organic compound), generally with a wood flour filler, it was the first plastic made from synthetic components. It was used for its electrically nonconductive and heat-resistant properties in radio and telephone casings and electrical insulators, and was also used in such diverse products as kitchenware, jewellery, pipe stems, and children's toys. In 1993 Bakelite was designated an ACS National Historical Chemical Landmark in recognition of its significance as the world's first synthetic plastic.

The retro appeal of old Bakelite products and labor intensive manufacturing has made them quite collectible in recent years.

Bakelite AG (a German company) claims to own the trademark in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Republic of Macedonia, Malaysia, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Switzerland, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom.

History

Bakelite Corp. was formed in 1922 from the consolidation of three companies: General Bakelite Co., Condensite Corp., and Redmanol Chemical Products Company, an early plastics manufacturer formed in 1913 by Chemist L.H. Baekeland. The American Catalin Corporation acquired the Bakelite formulas in 1927 and currently manufactures Bakelite cast resins.

Bakelite Limited was formed in 1926 from the amalgamation of three suppliers of phenol formaldehyde materials: the Damard Lacquer Company Limited of Birmingham; Mouldensite Limited of Darley Dale and Redmanol Chemical Products Company of London. Around 1928 a new factory opened in Tyseley, Birmingham, England. (The building was demolished in 1998.) The company was acquired by the Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation in 1939.

Properties

Phenolics are seldom used in general consumer products today due to the cost and complexity of production and their brittle nature. An exception to the overall decline is the use in small precision-shaped components where their specific properties are required, such as moulded disc brake cylinders, saucepan handles, electrical plugs and switches and electrical iron parts. Today, Bakelite is manufactured and produced in the form of sheets, rods and tubes for hundreds of industrial applications in the electronics, power generation and aerospace industries, and under a variety of commercial brand names, including Garolite.

Phenolic sheet is a hard, dense material made by applying heat and pressure to layers of paper or glass cloth impregnated with synthetic resin. These layers of laminations are usually of cellulose paper, cotton fabrics, synthetic yarn fabrics, glass fabrics or unwoven fabrics. When heat and pressure are applied to the layers, a chemical reaction (polymerization) transforms the layers into a high-pressure thermosetting industrial laminated plastic. When rubbed, original Bakelite has a telltale odor.

Bakelite Phenolic is produced in dozens of commercial grades and with various additives to meet diverse mechanical, electrical and thermal requirements. Some common types include:

  • PAPER REINFORCED PHENOLIC NEMA XX per MIL-I-24768 PBG Normal electrical applications, moderate mechanical strength, continuous operating temperature of 250°F.
  • CANVAS REINFORCED PHENOLIC NEMA C per MIL-I-24768 TYPE FBM NEMA CE per MIL-I-24768 TYPE FBG Good mechanical and impact strength with continuous operating temperature of 250°F.
  • LINEN REINFORCED PHENOLIC NEMA L per MIL-I-24768 TYPE FBI NEMA LE per MIL-I-24768 TYPE FEI Good mechanical and electrical strength. Recommended for intricate high strength parts. Continuous operating temperature 250°F.
  • NYLON REINFORCED PHENOLIC NEMA N-1 per MIL-I-24768 TYPE NPG Superior electrical properties under humid conditions, fungus resistant, continuous operating temperature of 160°F.

Patents

  • Condensation product and method of making same

(After following the patent link, click on the "Images" button to view the patent. You will need a TIFF (.tif) viewer to view the patent.)

Applications and usage

Although it is no longer extensively used as an industrial manufacturing material, in the past Bakelite was used in myriad applications, such as saxophone mouthpieces, cameras, solid-body electric guitars, rotary-dial telephones, early machine guns, and appliance casings. It was at one point considered for the manufacture of coins, due to a shortage of traditional manufacturing material. In 1943, Bakelite and other non-metal materials were tested for usage as a penny in the United States before the mint settled on zinc coated steel.

See also

References

External links

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