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Wonder Plastic

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

That’s what I would like to call it. But really, I’m talking about “polymorph plastic” or “thermoplastic”.

I’ve only recently discovered this “wonder plastic” and I had no idea what I was missing out on before. The white stuff you see above is in fact little plastic pellets that “melts” at around 60°C (62°C according to the instructions). The opaque pellets turn transparent and bind together at this temperature. It was recommended that the plastic be heated up in warm water no higher than 65°C.

I took a big pinch of pellets and placed it on my work surface. Instead of using warm water, I decided to use a stream of hot air from a heater unit. The sparse and tiny pellets quickly turned transparent. I picked it up with my bare fingers (generally not a good idea, but I suppose I’ve got thick skin), clumped them together and roll it into a ball between my palms. As it cooled down and became less transparent it became harder to shape. I tried to reheat it but as a bigger ball there was less surface area for heat transfer. The instructions also noted that the plastic remains mouldable between 30°C to 60°C. Playing around a bit it seems to be fairly mouldable for quite some time. Whilst I could still shape it, it doesn’t bind too well after a while.

I then squished the ball with my thumb into a disk shape. In this shape, it was easier to heat up. Supposedly, the plastic can heated and moulded over and over. Playing around with the disk I tried to smooth the surface and round the edges. I had to leave it for quite some time before it fully turned opaque and stiff. One would think that plastic that melts at 60°C wouldn’t be very stiff. On the contrary, the disk that I made was no more than 2mm thick but, it was surprisingly strong. There was a certain degree of flexibility in it but it doesn’t snap like some rigid plastics. I was really impressed.

I haven’t made anything useful with the polymorph pellets yet but it has certainly unlocked many possibilities. I could conquer the world with polymorph plastic! Mwahahaha! Ahem… Seriously, the age of cutting and filing is over, now comes the age of moulding. One thing to note though, one can still file/sand/drill the polymorph plastic. The waste can then be collected and be reused for the next project. Sweet!

You can also check out Crabfu MotionWorks. Many of his cute robots have parts made from a brand of polymorph plastic called ShapeLock.

(I really need to start taking better pictures)

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