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Bakelite /ˈbɛkəˌlaɪt/ is a material based on the thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin, polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride developed in 1907–1909 by Belgian-American Dr. Leo Baekeland. Formed by the reaction under heat and pressure of phenol (a toxic, colourless crystalline solid) and formaldehyde (a simple organic compound), generally with a wood flour filler, it was the first plastic made from synthetic components. It was used for its electrically nonconductive and heat-resistant properties in radio and telephone casings and electrical insulators, and was also used in such diverse products as kitchenware, jewelery, pipe stems, and children's toys. In 1993 Bakelite was designated an ACS National Historical Chemical Landmark in recognition of its significance as the world's first synthetic plastic.
The retro appeal of old Bakelite products and labor intensive manufacturing has made them quite collectable in recent years.
The name Bakelite was originally a brand, trademark name, but it is currently considered a generic term for all phenolic resin products, though some phenolic products besides Bakelite are brand-named. .
Bakelite AG (a German company) claims to own the trademark in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Benelux, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia.
Bakelite Corp. was formed in 1922 from General Bakelite Co., Condensite Corp. and Redmanol Co and subsequently merged into the Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation in 1939. The American Catalin Corporation acquired the Bakelite formulas in 1927 and currently manufactures Bakelite cast resins.
Bakelite Limited was formed in 1926 from the amalgamation of three suppliers of phenol formaldehyde materials: the Damard Lacquer Company Limited of Birmingham; Mouldensite Limited of Darley Dale and Redmanol Chemical Products Company of London. Around 1928 a new factory opened in Tyseley, Birmingham. (The building was demolished in 1998.) The company was later acquired by the Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation.
Phenolics are little used in general consumer products today due to the cost and complexity of production and their brittle nature. An exception to the overall decline is the use in small precision-shaped components where their specific properties are required, such as moulded disc brake cylinders, saucepan handles, electrical plugs and switches and electrical iron parts. Today, Bakelite is manufactured and produced in the form of sheets, rods and tubes for hundreds of industrial applications in the electronics, power generation and aerospace industries, external living, and under a variety of commercial brand names.
Phenolic sheet is a hard, dense material made by applying heat and pressure to layers of paper or glass cloth impregnated with synthetic resin. These layers of laminations are usually of cellulose paper, cotton fabrics, synthetic yarn fabrics, glass fabrics or unwoven fabrics. When heat and pressure are applied to the layers, a chemical reaction (polymerization) transforms the layers into a high-pressure thermosetting industrial laminated plastic.
Bakelite Phenolic is produced in dozens of commercial grades and with various additives to meet diverse mechanical, electrical and thermal requirements. Some common types include:
- PAPER REINFORCED PHENOLIC NEMA XX per MIL-I-24768 PBG Normal electrical applications, moderate mechanical strength, continuous operating temperature of 250°F.
- CANVAS REINFORCED PHENOLIC NEMA C per MIL-I-24768 TYPE FBM NEMA CE per MIL-I-24768 TYPE FBG Good mechanical and impact strength with continuous operating temperature of 250°F.
- LINEN REINFORCED PHENOLIC NEMA L per MIL-I-24768 TYPE FBI NEMA LE per MIL-I-24768 TYPE FEI Good mechanical and electrical strength. Recommended for intricate high strength parts. Continuous operating temperature 250°F.
- NYLON REINFORCED PHENOLIC NEMA N-1 per MIL-I-24768 TYPE NPG Superior electrical properties under humid conditions, fungus resistant, continuous operating temperature of 160°F.
- U.S. Patent 0,942,809—Condensation product and method of making same
(After following the patent link, click on the "Images" button to view the patent. You will need a TIFF (.tif) viewer to view the patent.)
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- Holton (Leblanc) once used Bakelite in the manufacture of saxophone mouthpieces.
- Eastman Kodak used Bakelite when making the Brownie 127.
- Due to Bakelite's hardness and durability, it was considered as a material for making pennies in the United States during World War II because copper was needed for shell casings. Several patterns were made in 1942, but steel was used instead in 1943 from recycled shell casings in 1944 and 1945.
- Bakelite was used for the first solid body electric guitar, the Rickenbacker "Electro Spanish model B".
- In the United Kingdom, many people refer to traditional black rotary dial telephones as "Bakelite phones" or "Bakelite telephones", regardless of the actual material used to make the device. A Bakelite telephone typically carries a kitsch or retro image.
- A variant of Bakelite called catalin became very popular in the 1930s, especially in making radio cases. Colorful "Bakelite Jewelery" (non-dark brown in color) is probably misnomer of catalin for its Bakelite predecessor. Catalin is a trademarked name.
- Bakelite is mistakenly used as a term for many vintage guitar parts made of polystyrene, urea-formaldehyde, or other early plastics. An example of a true bakelite part is the pickguard found on early 1950s Fender Telecasters.
- The Russian material 'Shpon', which was used widely in WW2 for aircraft structures, is a wood laminate impregnated with phenolic resin and cured in a heated mould. The aft fuselages and outer wing panels of the Polikarpov I-16, early MiGs, and the early Yak fighters are Shpon mouldings, for example.
- The Russian AK-74 assault rifles used magazines made of Bakelite and were an unusual orange in color.
- When rubbed, original Bakelite has a telltale odor.
- The original triangular handguards of the M16 rifle were composed of Bakelite.
- Ansco panda — children's Bakelite box camera
- Bayko — A construction set toy in which most of the parts were made of Bakelite
- Phenol formaldehyde resin
- ↑ http://acswebcontent.acs.org/landmarks/newproducts_t.html#bakelite
- ↑ http://www.bakelite.de/eng/D_04.htm
- Jörg J. Zimmermann's Virtual Bakelite Museum in Basel, Switzerland: one of the largest private collections world-wide
- Bakelite: The Material of a Thousand Uses
- Bakelite: Collectible Plastic
- Virtual Bakelite Museum of Ghent 1907-2007cs:Bakelit
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