What is Plastics Engineering?

Are you interested in plastic engineering? Find out what it is, what a plastic engineer does and how you can become one.

In our technologically evolving world, we continue to find ways to develop already existing products, materials and processes. One of the most popular mediums to create objects that we use on a daily basis is plastic. Although we see it everywhere, not everyone knows about what goes on behind creating these plastic products.

Plastics Engineering Basics

Plastic engineering covers the processing, design and development up to the manufacturing of plastics products. What we call plastic is actually a polymeric material in a semi-liquid state that exhibits the property of plasticity and flow. Mechanical properties of plastics, such as outdoor weatherability, thermal properties, electrical properties, barrier properties, and resistance to chemical attack, are often difficult to quantify and therefore poses quite a problem for plastics engineers because they have to design a plastic product that would meet certain specifications while keeping costs to a minimum.

What is a Plastics Engineer?

Plastic engineers design new plastics or refine old designs. They are also in charge of studying plastic properties as well as new applications for them. Both the private and public sectors offer plastics engineering jobs for their companies or for research organizations.

Since plastics are very workable, there are numerous ways that they can be used. They can be made into soft or hard materials, brittle of flexible shells, as well as other products that would need a material that is both durable and flexible. To help plastics engineers determine how new plastics can be used, they determine the chemical and physical properties of plastics through research and studies. These studies also help them find ways to improve on existing products by making them more durable and less prone to cracking, pitting or failure under strain.

Because most companies and organizations today are going into environmental and sustainable development, plastics engineers have been studying about and working on biodegradable and recyclable plastic products.

Becoming a Plastics Engineer

Plastics engineers usually require a degree from a college or a university, as well as experience in the industry. There are internship opportunities that are available for plastics engineering students for acquiring experience and building up their resumes for their future employment. It is also advised for students of plastics engineering to become members in professional organizations in order to get access to conferences, trade publications and other resources that may help them in their careers.

Since there are many ways of applying plastics engineering, there are also different fields of specialization that a plastics engineer can concentrate in. These are medical plastics, automotive plastics, recycled or recyclable plastics, biodegradable plastics, and many more. However, some plastics engineers may opt to receive cross training in other areas, especially depending on what their companies expect from them to do. To illustrate, let us take a designer of plastic medical products. He or she would also need to be knowledgeable in the limitations that are set on materials that are used in medical practice, as well as pathology and anatomy, since they can be relevant to the designing of the components of the plastic medical products. A more specific example would be a plastic engineer who designs bandages. He or she needs to understand and learn about wound care.