Summer In History Of Plastics
PLASTICS HAVE RADICALLY CHANGED THE PRODUCTS WE USE. IT IS POSSIBLE TO SEE THE TOUCH OF PLASTICS IN EVERYTHING WE USE IN THE SEA AND ON THE BEACH IN THE SUMMER.
Plastics began to be used in the 19th century, but it wasn’t until after World War II that they virtually overtook every part of our life. During the war, the US industry grew tremendously while the importance of natural resources as well as the need for synthetic materials to replace natural ones rapidly increased. All of these caused the plastics industry and technology to become more prominent than ever. Especially with the increase of consumption after the war, plastics came to be used in almost every product. Today, most of the products we use during the summer are made of plastic.
The emergence of swimsuits as we know them goes back to the 20th century. Up until the 20th century, both men and women would swim in bathing suits that covered a great majority of their bodies and looked like regular outfits. In early 1900s, water sports enthusiasts gradually started wearing tighter fitting suits that left the arms and legs bare, but these suits were not approved by the society and those who wore them even got fined at times. As swimming beaches and especially sunbathing became more and more popular by the 1930s, bathing suit that left large portions of the body bare gradually became prevalent and men started swimming wearing no tops.
In 1939, E. I. duPont de Nemours & Company developed a revolutionary nylon called 6.6 polymer. In the years to come, other synthetic materials such as Dacron, Orlon, Lycra, and Spandex were invented. During this period, textile manufacturers also began to experiment with woven patterns and bright colors. In 1946, when the bikini, a two-piece suit for women, was introduced in Paris, it was received as a kind of revolution. In the 1970s, the use of materials such as Lycra became popular.
The real revolution in swimwear technology came in the 2000s, with the investments made in competitive swimming. The materials used in the swimsuits that were developed in these years reduced frictional force considerably. So much so that, after the introduction of 100% polyurethane swimsuits, records were broken in every race; even those regarded as record of the century were suddenly broken by multiple swimmers. And then, 100% polyurethane swimsuits were banned. However, today different types of plastics being used in swimsuits that are worn by ordinary people as well as swimmers.
Pool floats can be regarded as beach versions of the airbeds used at homes and in campsites. Easy to inflate and deflate, floats can be packed very small and carried to almost anywhere. Even though the first floats were introduced in London, at the British Industries Fair of 1949, those floats were nowhere near as sturdy as the ones we have now and they quickly lost air. Nowadays, airbeds and floats can be used for several days without losing any air and thanks to the use of high-quality plastics they have become very impact-resistant.
Even though Medieval and Chinese sources mention the use of shaded and colorful glasses, sunglasses in the modern sense only appeared in the beginning of 1900s. The founder of Foster Grant Co., Sam Foster, started manufacturing sunglasses in 1929. At first, the glasses were used by Hollywood stars to protect their eyes from harsh studio lights, but then, thanks to these celebrities, they quickly became popular. Another reason why Hollywood stars were early adopters of sunglasses was that they provided a degree of anonymity for them out on the streets. In the 1930s, US Air Force ordered sunglasses to accommodate needs of its pilots, and with that, the production and technology of sunglasses rapidly developed. The Aviator glasses produced by Ray-Ban also became a fashion trend during World War II. In 1950, Ray-Ban produced the Wayfarer using its own proprietary plastic molding technology. With the plastic molding technology, sunglasses could now be produced quickly and affordably. This increased the accessibility of sunglasses and today they have become an accessory that is used by pretty much everyone.
With their tremendous opportunities and myriad advantages, access to the sea and other water masses has been of vital importance throughout human history and it still is. But until very recent times, water transportation was carried out with wooden boats that were constructed by putting together specially formed pieces of wood obtained from cut trees. As both the construction and maintenance of wooden boats required deep know-how, experience and labor, they were burdensome means of transportation. This only changed with the discovery of fiberglass.
The first patent for fiberglass was granted to the Prussian inventor Hermann Hammesfahr in the U.S. in 1880. But its mass production would take another 50 years. In 1932, Games Slayter, a researcher at Owens-Illinois, inadvertently produced fibers when he directed a jet of compressed air at a stream of molten glass. The first glass fiber production with this method was made in 1933. Owens merged with the Corning company in 1935 and Owens Corning started producing its own patented Fiberglas product in 1936. Fiberglas was actually a glass wool with fibers entrapping a great deal of gas, and was used as an insulator, especially at high temperatures.
In 1936, du Pont developed the proper resin for combining the fiberglass with a plastic to produce a composite material. The Germans further improved this. During World War II, the British got a hold of this information and passed it on to the US, which allowed American Cyanamid to develop the ancestor of today’s polyester resins. With the combination of fiberglass and resin, the gas content of the fiberglass was replaced by plastic. This greatly increased the material’s strength, allowing it to be used in the construction and building industry. From then on, all glass fiber composites got to be called fiberglass.
Even though Ray Greene of Owens Corning is credited with producing the first fiberglass boat in 1937, due to the brittle nature of the material, production did not proceed further at the time. In 1939 Russians constructed a passenger boat out of plastic, while the United States produced aircraft fuselage and wings. Ray Greene who had continued experimenting with various plastics finally built a small sailboat using polyester resin in 1942. Trials of boat construction out of fiberglass gained a lot of speed during those years. In 1947, B. B. Swan built a fiberglass canoe. Carl Beetle also produced some fiberglass boats and exhibited them in 1947. The first sailing auxiliary made from fiberglass appeared in 1951. Ray Greene, who was still continuing with his work, started his own company. In 1957, he produced a boat called New Horizon and built 175 of them. From then on, fiberglass technology kept improving dramatically and fiberglass boats became ever more durable and sturdier. Today, fiberglass is one of the most widely used materials in boatbuilding.
The emergence of plastics, especially the increasing interest in the sector and the introduction of new types of plastics that serve different purposes (more durable, more robust, lighter) led to the advent of new products, while old ones evolved in terms of both form and structure, and, in some cases, mass production became possible thanks to plastics.
Plastics are now an indispensable element of our summer holidays.