Vinyl Education continued

The world’s most versatile material was discovered by accident.

A BF Goodrich Tire Company scientist named Waldo Semon during the 1920s discovered the world’s most versatile plastic. He stumbled onto the new material by accident as he was trying to create a synthetic adhesive to bond rubber to steel. Intrigued with his new discovery, Semon began experimenting with this remarkable material he called polyvinyl chloride or PVC. His first products were shock absorber seals, golf balls and shoe heels.

It didn’t take long for this multi-purpose material to show up in a wide range of products such as insulated wire, raincoats and shower curtains. As more and more uses for vinyl were being discovered in the 1930s, an entire industry grew around it as companies around the globe sought innovative ways to produce and process the new plastic. When flexible vinyl was invented, it was used to develop the first American synthetic tires, which we have on our cars today.

As the prospect of war loomed in the early 1940s, PVC manufacturers focused their attention on assisting the war effort. Rubber was hard to come by so vinyl-coated wire was used aboard U.S. military ships, replacing rubber-insulated wire. As World War II wound down, manufacturers quickly began working on new products and new markets for their durable plastic. As the country expanded after the war so did America’s appetite for vinyl’s versatility and flame-resistant properties, leading to dozens of new commercial applications.

Innovative uses for vinyl continued to be developed during the ’50s and ’60s. A vinyl-based latex product was developed for use on boots, fabric coatings and inflatable structures, and ways for increasing vinyl’s durability were being explored in the 1970s, which would open up even more applications in the construction and building industries.

Vinyl breaks new ground in construction industry.

Vinyl-based products rapidly became a cornerstone of the building industry. PVC was ideal for this market due to its resistance to corrosion, light and chemicals. PVC piping was also the product of choice for transporting potable water to thousands of homes and industries, due to improvements in the material’s resistance to extreme temperatures. By 1980, there were a total of twenty companies manufacturing various forms of PVC.

Today vinyl is the second largest-selling plastic in the world, and the industry employs more than 100,000 people in the United States alone. Since Waldo Semon’s accidental discovery more than seven decades ago, vinyl’s use has grown and expanded in virtually every facet of life. Vinyl is durable, waterproof, flame-resistant, inexpensive and versatile making it the material of choice for dozens of industries such as health care, communications, aerospace, automotive, retailing, textiles and construction.

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