Polymer production and processing in the Faculty of Materials Engineering

Prof. Michael Mirke

In 2013, there were 413,000 staff in Germany producing rubber and plastic goods in over 7000 companies [1]. This number does not include the figures from the production of the plastic raw materials and is far exceeded when we consider the use of rubber and plastic goods, which are indispensable in practically all areas of life.

As part of lectures and practical sessions, students are taught about plastic production methods (= polymerization reactions) to give them the knowledge and skills, for example if working as a materials engineer, to make the right choice of plastics with suppliers. Knowing the characteristics of polymerization reactions allows our students to make targeted use of these, e.g. in the case of reactive resins, and facilitates the understanding of the plastic properties that are based on molecular structure.

Students are introduced to plastics processing through typical methods such as extrusion, injection moulding, and calendering, as well as generative processes, often referred to as “3D printing”.
The corresponding processes that are applied practically in teaching and research are 

  • Mass and emulsion polymerization of acrylates
  • Formulation and processing of reaction resin concrete
  • Extrusion of thermoplastics
  • 3D printing of plastic filament
  • UV polymerization (e.g. in stereolithography).

Students are also given lectures on organic and physical chemistry, in which they gain basic knowledge that helps them to understand more than just polymers and their properties.


1] Federal Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbook 2015