Updated: Apr 13
Lightweight, chemically resistant and incredibly durable, techno-polymers have been a buzzword in the manufacturing industry since their discovery in the 1990's. Today they are widely used in mechanical components, with unique chemical compounds suited to different applications. But where did they come from?
The word techno-polymer stems from three separate Greek words: tekhnē meaning “art” or “craft”, polloi meaning “many” and méros meaning “part”. Put together, techno-polymer can be interpreted as an art of many pieces! As they are composed of chemical compounds designed specifically to withstand heat and stress, the name of techno-polymers relating to skilful crafting is apt.
Plastic itself has a long and storied history. The world’s first synthetic polymer was created in 1855 as a substitute for ivory. The value of ivory came from its strong yet pliable nature, and it was used in the manufacture of luxury goods from billiard balls to bagpipes.
Alexander Parkes treated cellulose (derived from cotton fibre) with nitric acid and dissolved the output in alcohol. The result was a transparent, elastic material that could be moulded when heated. Parkes dubbed it Parkesine and patented it in 1862. This first plastic could be crafted into a variety of shapes and made to imitate natural substances like tortoiseshell, horn, linen, and ivory.
At the time, the development was considered a success for the environment. Plastic was praised as the saviour of the tortoise and elephant, and the reliance on natural resources diminished as humans were able to generate new materials. Moreover, the increased use of plastics freed ordinary people from the social and economic constraints of expensive and scarce resources. Material wealth was suddenly more widespread and obtainable.
Over 150 years later, plastics have become a key component of modern life. They are widely used in modern medicine, packaging, technology and textiles. Advancements were still to come, however, as techno-polymer were only discovered in the 1990s.
A polymer is a substance that consists of molecules made up of repeating subunits. They can be natural (like proteins and DNA) or synthetic (like polystyrene). The plastics that are usually grouped as polymers are made up of linked chains of chemical molecules. For this reason they can be designed to withstand extreme heat, mechanical stress, and retain longstanding durability: what we call techno-polymers.
Today, techno-polymers are widely used in mechanical components such as gears, pulleys and screws – often replacing metal counterparts. As they are often more lightweight, durable, cheaper and versatile, the benefit of performance, cost and overall sustainability.
The state-of-the-art REFLEX techno polymer used in Kite’s Flexible Protection range was designed to absorb and reduce heavy impact, thereby protecting workers, vehicles, products and the workplace itself from harm. The material attends to safety in every regard: from its bright yellow colour enabling bold visible demarcation to the acid-resistant, mould-resistant, scratch-proof and easy-to-clean surface.
Kite’s Flexible Protection line caters to workplace safety in a multitude of ways – here’s
11 industries that can benefit from this unique safety system.
The specially designed REFLEX has been applied to several different products on the FPS line, including bollards, guard rails, pedestrian barriers, corner protection and traffic barriers. Additionally, Kite are proud to supply the innovative Cold Line Protection system which retains its high impact-resistant performance in temperatures down to minus 30 degrees Celsius. Resistant to humidity and salinity, the guardrails and kerb protection are perfectly suited to workplaces involving cold rooms such as food storage, floristry and medicinal storerooms. Find out more applications of Cold Line Protection that may surprise you here.
Plastic has a long and storied history, however the chapter of techno-polymers has just begun. Why not look at Kite’s Flexible Protection range to see how this material is transforming the safety industry.