Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is the third most widely used polymer in the world, falling behind only polyethylene and polypropylene in terms of high volume use. A highly versatile and cost effective material, it has distinguished itself internationally as a durable and proven plastic material with the widest range of applications of any plastic.
The material can come in several different forms, which allows it to be so versatile. It can be shaped and reshaped fairly easily by heating the material, and it always hardens again upon cooling. These and other adaptabilities are made possible by the insertion of additives that can change its color, elasticity, conductivity, and chemical resistance.
Before PVC can be made into a specific product, a variety of these special additives are combined with the original polymer base. These additives can consist of lubricants, stabilizers, fillers, pigments, and others. The chosen additives are mixed with the polymer in a process called compounding, which can be accomplished through different methods that incorporate blending and/or melting.
The two main types of this material are rigid and flexible PVC compounds. For the flexible variety, plasticisers must be incorporated. Once added, plasticisers allow the once hard material to become more elastic while still retaining its shape. This form has properties similar to those of rubber. Soft PVC is distinguished by its ability to be used in a large variety of ways.
The difference between rigid and flexible PVC compounds is fairly straightforward. The rigid compound is firm and unyielding, while the flexible version is more malleable and adaptive to your needs. Thanks to its chemical stability, resistance, and biocompatibility, the three most popular fields that utilize this material are the construction, healthcare, and automotive industries.
More than any other function in the United States, rigid PVC is used to make construction materials, such as siding, shutters, molding, and pipes. Flexible PVC, meanwhile, is used to make more delicate products, such as IV bags and tubing, gloves, and catheters. Both are used in the automotive industry for dashboards, door panels, upholstery, car seats, and wire coating. This is due to their resistance to grease, oil, and other chemicals.
Because of its prevalence, you probably come in contact with items made from this material every day. Here is a list of common products made with either rigid or flexible PVC compounds:
– Apparel: bags, boots, shoes, luggage, raincoats, watchbands
– Household Items: clothes racks, containers, shower curtains, straws
– Office Supplies: binders, clipboards, keyboards, paper clips, tape
– Outdoor Items: swimming pools, hoses, outdoor furniture, balls
– Personal Care Items: baby oil, liquid soap, hair gel, lotion, mouthwash
– Other: cell phones, credit cards, various sports equipment