A Brief Look into Polymer Processing

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1. Introduction
Polymeric materials play a functional role in every aspect of daily life, from clothing to infrastructure. Polymers differ greatly from other materials, such as ceramics or metals, based upon the types of bonding. Metals bond metallically, creating a sea of electrons, and ceramics generally bond ionically, strongly tying electrons to lattice points. Polymers bond covalently in carbon chains, which (in general) make their properties more variable due to the possibilities of arrangement in bond length, angle, and molecular configuration. Polymers, on average, tend to be more lightweight, have a greater range of colors, lower thermal and electrical conductivity, less brittleness, more resistance to acids, bases, and moisture, and higher dielectric strength than their ceramic or metallic counterparts, but with great range. This variety of properties leads to a variety of classifications, and therefore differing processing methods based on the classification of polymer.

2. Polymer Classifications
Polymer processing differs greatly based on the category of polymer within the system. Polymers can be classified by chemical composition, structure, or testing behavior (thermal or mechanical).

2.1. By Chemical Composition
Most polymers are organic molecules, based upon a repeating carbon skeleton, but can also include other elements within the chain, most often oxygen, nitrogen, or sulfur. The base unit of a polymer chain is known as a monomer, or mer. The composition of the monomer will greatly affect the properties exhibited. Monomers can either be natural or synthetically created. Examples of common monomers can be seen in Figures 1-4. Within the monomer, the electronegativity and bonding properties of the constituent e...

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