The first thermoplastic, celluloid, was developed over 120+ years ago. The first serious use was by German researchers in the early 1930s. Their need was a substitute for a dwindling supply of strategic metals and alloys. Since WWII plastic has made big advances into almost all product lines and industries. The public wanted higher quality at less cost and were willing to accept change.
Plastics are divided into two categories. Thermosetting and thermoplastic, sometimes called structural thermoplastic. Thermoplastic will soften when heated and harden again when cooled without any chemical reaction taking place as long as the 250 degree melting temperature is not reached.
Continual heating and cooling polyethylene will not alter the chemical properties of the plastic. Upon cooling, it will return to the original shape.
The primary advantage of structural thermoplastics, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PRO) over other materials is its resistance to a wide variety of corrosive chemicals.
In addition, plastics are many times lighter than steel. Therefore, it is easier to handle and cheaper to transport. Thermoplastic has excellent electrical and thermal insulating properties. Polyethylene is nontoxic and very suitable for food and water processing.
The physical properties of nearly all thermoplastics permit the use of conventional tools and procedures for machining, cutting and welding.
It is hard to find an industry that does not use plastic in the process somewhere. The obvious industry segments are food, research laboratories, chemical, oil, nuclear, electronics, agriculture, bioscience, healthcare, plus hundreds of manufacturing operations (maple syrup being one of them).
The plastic industry is continually developing new plastics, which will withstand higher temperatures with better resistance to corrosion and chemical attack. Doctors offices, where the risk of bacteria is high, use plastics to contain used hypodermic needles. The cleaning and sterilization of plastic tools and apparatus is of paramount importance. One is easily convinced that plastic is a safe and durable product.
The Blind Pig (Russian River Brewing Company), once located in Temecula, where Mini was conceived, used polyethylene fermenters before moving on to much larger systems. Check out the article here.
Plastic is being accepted by industry as a viable alternative to glass and stainless steel. This is because it can be sterilized, is durable, safe and the cost is low.
The molding method used for polyethylene creates a product that is completely stress free. There are no seams or welds to break, metal to bend or places leaks can develop. MiniBrew equipment is molded into one continuous piece of polyethylene.
One of the latest repurposed uses for our Mash Lauter Tuns came from the USGS!
They will be collecting sediments from the bottom of rivers and lagoons in California. The sediments are collected in tubes and the tubes need to sit in a temperature controlled water bath for 48 hours while scientists make measurements of water quality in the tubes. With this information they can start to understand if the lagoon/river sediments are leading to poor environmental water quality.
Scientists are often Homebrewers.