The First Man-Made Plastic - Parkesine:

The first man-made plastic was created by Alexander Parkes who publicly demonstrated it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. The material called Parkesine was an organic material derived from cellulose that once heated could be molded, and retained its shape when cooled.

Celluloid:

Celluloid is derived from cellulose and alcoholized camphor. John Wesley Hyatt invented celluloid as a substitute for the ivory in billiard balls in 1868. He first tried using collodion a natural substance, after spilling a bottle of it and discovering that the material dried into a tough and flexible film. However, the material was not strong enough to be used as a billiard ball, until the addition of camphor, a derivative of the laurel tree. The new celluloid could be molded with heat and pressure into a durable shape. Besides billiard balls, celluloid became famous as the first flexible photographic film used for still photography and motion pictures. John Wesley Hyatt created celluloid in a strip format for movie film. By 1900, movie film was an exploding market for celluloid.

Formaldehyde Resins - Bakelite:

After cellulose nitrate, formaldehyde was the next product to advance the technology of plastic. Around 1897, efforts to manufacture white chalkboards led to casein plastics (milk protein mixed with formaldehyde) Galalith and Erinoid are two early tradename examples. In 1899, Arthur Smith received British Patent 16,275, for "phenol-formaldehyde resins for use as an ebonite substitute in electrical insulation", the first patent for processing a formaldehyde resin. However, in 1907, Leo Hendrik Baekeland improved phenol-formaldehyde reaction techniques and invented the first fully synthetic resin to become commercially successful, tradenamed Bakelite.

•1820s - vulcanised rubber, gutta percha, parkesine, cellulose

•1823 – Macintosh uses rubber gum to waterproof cotton and the ‘mac’ is born

•1845 – Bewley designs extruder for gutta percha

•1850 - First submarine telegraph cable in gutta percha laid between Dover and Calais

•1862 – Display of Parkesine, predecessor of celluloid (cellulose nitrate), at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London

•1872 – Hyatt brothers patented first plastics injection moulding machine

•1885 – George Eastman Kodak patents machine for producing continuous photographic film based on cellulose nitrate.

•1880 – Fashion for long hair leads to cellulose nitrate replacing horn as the preferred material for combs

•1890 – Thermoforming introduced and used to make babies rattles from cellulose nitrate

•1892 – Viscose silk (rayon) developed by Cross and Bevan (Chardonnet Silk)

•1898 – Beginning of mass production of rpm gramophone records from shellac

•1899 - Krische and Spittler in Germany awarded patent for Casein Plastic from milk. Artefacts introduced at the Plastics Universal Exhibition in 1900

•1900 – 1929 - early synthetics::casein, bakelite, ureas

•1909 – Casein plastics, derived from milk, developed by Erinoid.

•1910 – stockings made of viscose (CA) begin to be manufactured in Germany

•1915 – Queen Mary sees casein products at the British Industries Fair and orders several pieces of jewellery made from it

•1916 – Rolls Royce begins to use phenol formaldehyde in its car interiors and boasts about it

•1919 – Eichengrun produce first cellulose acetate moulding powder

•1921 – Beginning of rapid growth of phenolic mouldings especially for electrical insulation, with addition of phenolic laminates in 1930

•1922 – Staudinger publishes his work that recognises that plastics are composed of long chain molecules – leading to Nobel prize in 1935

•1924 – Rossiter at British Cyanide develops urea thiourea formaldehyde resins, subsequently commercialised as the first water white transparent thermosetting moulding powder.

•1926 – Harrods hosts first display of new coloured thermosetting plastic tableware produced by Brookes and Adams, The Streetly Manufacturing Company and Thomas De La Rue and Co.

•1926 – Eckert and Ziegler patent first commercial modern plastics injection moulding machine.

•1929 – Bakelite Ltd receives its largest ever order for phenolic moulding powder for the casing of the Siemens telephone

•1930 – ‘Scotch’ tape, the first transparent sticky tape invented in US by 3M Company

•1932 – Screw per-plasticisation in injection moulding patented

•1933 – Fawcett and Gibson at ICI discover polyethylene

•1933 – Crawford at ICI develops first commercial synthesis of poly(methyl methacrylate)

•1935 – Troester in Germany produce first extruder designed for thermoplastics.

•1935 – Carothers and DuPont patent nylon

•1936 - First production of aircraft canopies made from ‘Perspex’.

•1937 - Columbo and Pasquetti in Italy produce first twin screw extruder machine

•1937 – First commercial production of polystyrene by IG Farben, Germany

•1938 – Full scale production of nylon 6 fibre begins in United States

•1938 – First toothbrush with nylons tufts manufactured

•1938 – Plunkett (DuPont) discovers PTFE

•1939 – First commercial production of polyethylene in UK by ICI

•1940s - Use of polyethylene in radar

•1940 – First production of PVC in UK

•1940 – DuPont introduces polyacrylonitrile (PAN), an early engineering product

•1941 – Whinfield and Dickson, of the Calico Printer's Association of Manchester, patent "polyethylene terephthalate" (PET); followed by the creation of the first polyester fiber called Terylene.

•1942 – ‘Super Glue’ (methyl cyanoacrylate) first discovered by Dr Harry Coover, Eastman Kodak

•1943 – First pilot plant for polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) ; to be marketed under trade mark ‘Teflon’

•1945 - The production of LDPE the Sqezy bottle by Monsanto caused a rapid expansion of the industry, with containers produced to replace glass bottles for shampoos and liquid soaps.

•1947 – Formica melamine faced decorative laminates introduced into the UK

•1948 – Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) produced

•1948 – George deMestral invents Velcro, patented in 1955

•1948 – Introduction of 12” long playing records made from polyvinyl chloride (pvc)

•1949 – First Airfix self-assembly model produced, made of polystyrene

•1949 – High impact polystyrene introduced as a commercial plastic

•1949 – Launch in USA of Tupperware made from low density polyethylene

1949 – ‘Lycra’ based on polyurethane, invented by DuPont

•1950s – the polyethylene bag makes its first appearance

•1950s – Introduction of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) copolymers

•1950 - ICI opens new factory at Redcar to produce Terylene

•1953 – Commercialisation of polyester fibres introduces the concept of ‘drip dry’ and ‘non-iron’

•1954 - Polystyrene foam (introduced by Dow Chemical Co.)

•1955 – First production of high density polyethylene in UK

•1956 – Reliant Regal 111, first commercially successful all glass-reinforced-plastic bodied car goes on sale

•1956 – Eero Saarinen’s Tulip Chair launched, consisting of seat made of glass-fibre-reinforced plastic.

•1956 – DuPont files patents for first acetals (POM)

•1957 – First production of polypropylene by Montecatini using Ziegler-Natta catalysts

•1958 – First production of polycarbonates (Bayer and General Electric)

•1958 – Lego patents its stud and block coupling system and produces toys of cellulose acetate, later Acrylonitrile- butadiene-styrene polymer.

•1959 – Barbie Doll unveiled by Mattel at American International Toy Fair

•Early 1960s – introduction of water based acrylic paints

•1960 – Ethylene-vinyl acetate co-polymers launched by DuPont

•1962 – DuPont launches polyimide films and varnishes

•1962 – Silicone gel breast implants pioneered successfully

•1965 - Kevlarฎ is first developed by DuPont

•1966 – Blow moulding of fuel tanks introduced

•1967 – Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) ‘Blow’ chair designed by Scolari, De Pas and Lomazzifor manufactured by Znaotta

•1969 – Neil Armstrong plants a nylon flag on the moon.

•1970 - First Yellow HDPE pressure pipes for gas introduced into UK by Wavin/British Gas.

•1973 - Polyethylene terephthalate beverage bottles introduced

•1976 - Plastics in its great variety of forms becomes the most used type of material in the world

•1977 – Polyaryletheretherketone (PEEK) was first prepared by ICI

•1979 – Introduction of first commercial mobile/ portable ‘phones

•1979 - First PVC-U double glazed windows installed

•1980 – First production of linear low density polyethylene

•1980 - First Blue HDPE pressure pipes for potable water introduced into UK.

•1982 – First artificial heart made mainly of polyurethane, introduced implanted in a human.

•1983 – ICI and Bayer launch PEEK, PPS (polyphenyene sulphide), and PES (polyether sulphone)

•1987 - BASF in Germany produces a polyacetylene that has twice the electrical conductivity of copper.

•1989 - First light-emitting polymers (poly-ethyne) discovered in Cambridge

•1990 – ICI launches Biopol, the first commercially available biodegradable plastic

•1994 – Smart car with lightweight flexible integrally coloured polycarbonate panels introduced

•1998 – Free standing Zanussi Oz fridge, with insulation and outer skins made in one process from polyurethane foam introduced

•2000s Nano-Technology applied to polymer and composit applications

•2000 - First commercial metallocene catalysed polyolefins introduced.

•2005 – NASA explores the advantages of a polyethylene based material RFX1, as the material for the spaceship that will send man to Mars

•2008 – Airbus 380, comprising 22% carbon-fibre reinforced plastics flies into Heathrow

•2009 - Boeing 787 (nicknames 'Boeing's Plastic Dream') comes into service, its skin is made up of 100% Plastic composites with plastic making up 50% of all materials in the plane.