Plastics As An Innovator In Technology & A Martyr of Modern Times

Photo of author

( — October 7, 2013) Anaheim, CA — 

If you were to take plastics away from our daily lives, what would you lose?

You would lose your phones, your cars, your kitchen appliances and even indoor plumbing. Plastic materials are essential components in these and other industries, like Medical devices and most electronics.


“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things” from Steve Jobs at the Apple Worldwide Developers’ Conference, 1997.


Steve Jobs was referring to computers and the challenges in development and innovation of computers. The world of plastic materials has experience many of the same types of challenges. The plastic industry has acted as a catalyst, in the sense that it has gone through many transformations over the years bringing new innovations and breakthroughs in development of plastics for Electronics.


Without plastics, there would be no electronic industry. At the beginning of the development of electricity for homes, electric conductor consisted of three parts:

a) the conducting wire,

b) a cotton braid separator over the wire, and

c) an outer covering of rubber compound.

These wires were then held in glass insulators and mounted on walls.


In the early development, it was common for these wires to ‘short out’ due to the minimal insulation properties of cotton braid and rubber. New insulators were required to prevent fires and shorting wires. The development of a phone required a much improved insulator, and a vinyl compound was employed as the outer jacket of the wire.


During the development of many electronic components, a thin plastic film, thinner than a human hair, are used as insulators. Current production of electronics have eliminated the rigid circuit board, that used to be produced from G-10 Epoxy Sheet High Pressure Laminate. Now, instead of the rigid sheet, a very thin and flexible sheet is used as the circuit board material.


Plastics have played a key role in the development of technologies relating to electronics. Why Plastics? They can be made with a low flammability, are natural insulators, and can be made with a very low smoke generation. Plastics in electronics can also be chemical, UV and abrasion resistant. Here are some applications in which plastic are used:


  • – insulation of wire and cables
  • – capacitor housings
  • – high voltage circuit breaker housings
  • – connectors — data, automotive, telecommunications, fiber optic
  • – circuit boards
  • – Aircraft electrical hardware components
  • – Microwave applications
  • – Computers and computer peripherals (i.e. memory, mouse, printer, monitor, keyboard)


Electronics in any form of communication or transportation is critical.  You probably have never thought that most automobiles have some kind of computer chip monitoring critical systems. It is common to have electronic sensors for: Speed and RPM, tire pressure, seat belts and motion detection alarms or cameras.  Navigation systems in cars or smart phones are made possible through plastic memory chips, capacitors and circuit boards.  As noted in the previous article, ”It’s not about the plastic, it’s about the people”, it is discussed that most plastic pollution is from people.


Plastic materials are used to develop dramatically better products, with significantly less raw material, using less energy to produce and lighter weight finished parts. Take a moment and think of all the plastic materials that you came in contact with today.


Plastic sheets and plastic rods are not normally thought of as a material that made things like electronics possible.



Industrial Plastic Supply, Inc

2240 S. Dupont Drive
Anaheim, CA 92806