Injection Molding Machines Gets Its Start

The first injection molding machine was produced by the Hyatt brothers in 1872. It all began when a billiards company, looking to find an inexpensive alternative to ivory, a dwindling resource, offered a substantial prize to anyone who could come up with a viable solution. John Wesley Hyatt, an American inventor, took up the challenge. Through trial and error he eventually developed a substance known as celluloid. Even though the synthetic plastic he invented had the weight and hardness necessary to supplant ivory in the manufacture of billiard balls, Hyatt was never actually awarded the prize. Undeterred, he sought to monetize his new discovery in his own way. He realized he needed a more efficient means of production, a machine which could compress the plastic material into a compact form with ease. To that end, he built an injection machine which worked by plunging the molten celluloid material into a mold. The molten material would cool and produce a product. His amazing machine could create piano keys, combs, chess pieces, and dentures. Around this time, he and his brothers formed manufacturing companies, one of which was devoted to the production of billiard balls.

Hyatt’s invention not only helped the billiard industry, but it turned out to be a boon for certain animal populations. The cheaper more abundant alternative to ivory spared the lives of many elephants. It also had a profound effect on tortoises as well…their shells were no longer needed to make combs.

Since plastic injection molding machines were first used to make rather common things such as combs, game pieces, buttons, and of course billiard balls they were not considered essential to industry. The advent of World War II changed all that. Suddenly, mass-produced plastic parts were in high demand. Plastic components have since become essential in some very extensive industries such as automobile manufacturing, aerospace, and medical equipment manufacturing.

That can-do spirit coupled with patience, which Hyatt had in spades is an essential ingredient in developing new products. Thanks to Hyatt and those who followed in his footsteps, today’s developers have the material and tools necessary to turn their designs into reality.

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