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Samples of plastic insulating material

Made 1946

Plastics have been described as “materials that can be moulded or shaped into different forms under pressure or heat.” They were a cultural phenomenon in the twentieth century when they changed the way objects were produced, designed and used. It was also in the twentieth century that most plastic products moved away from natural raw materials to synthetically produced ones.

The museum’s plastics collection began in the 1930s with the acquisition of specimens of plastic raw materials and finis...


Sample of urea-formaldehyde insulating material, 'Bumaxit', maker unknown, Switzerland, 1946


Urea, also known as Carbamide, is an organic compound that is very soluble in water. It was synthesised in 1828 by Friedrich Wöhler. Urea moulding powders are used in the manufacture of plastics: 'Urea and formaldehyde are reacted with a catalyst to form a water soluble resin.' The result is a water-white and translucent powder that is suited to make colourful plastic products. Some qualities of these moulding powders are that they are non-flammable, resistant to corrosion, and free from odour and taste, making them ideal for many domestic applications.

Resin products made by heating urea with formaldehyde were patented by Hanns John in 1918. The first commercial moulding powders using thiourea and formaldehyde were developed by the British Cyanides Company (later to become British Industrial Plastics Ltd). These moulding powders became known as 'Beetle' moulding powders.

J. Hayes, 'From Cyanide to 'Beetle'', in Plastiquarian no. 14 Winter 1994/5, viewed online, accessed 02/08/2007.
Plastics Industry Association, Know Your Plastics, Plastics Institute of Australia Inc., Australia, 1992. Plastiquarian, 'Thiourea formaldehyde', available at, accessed 03/08/2007
Albert Attwood, Plastics Afloat, Journal of the Plastics Historical Society, Winter, No 31, 2003


Gift of Wunderlich Ltd, 1946
29 July, 1946

Cite this Object

Samples of plastic insulating material 2015, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 November 2017, <>
{{cite web |url= |title=Samples of plastic insulating material |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=24 November 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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