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Career in Plastic Engineering and Technology

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Overview
The plastics industry makes products both for industrial and domestic use. It is also involved in moulding, laminating and finishing products. From a modest beginning in the 1950s, the plastics industry in India has acquired a great degree of versatility and sophistication, The growth of this industry has essentially been supply-led. In the post-liberalisation eta, the new-found business environment and abundant domestic availability of raw materials has aided the doublt-digit growth for plastic consumption in the country. Today, plastics are an integral part of out daily existence.
Plastics play an important role in conserving out natural and man-made resources. They have enabled the designing of down-sized lightweight, fuel-efficient vehicles which save fuel consumption by us much as 15-20%. It has been calculated that by using eco-friendly plastic crates for apples in place of wooden crates we can save more than 7 lakh trees annually.
Plastics have played a vital role in the growth phase of the Indian economy. From packaging to agriculture, automobiles and teletronics, plastic has revolutionized all areas because of its functionality, economics, aesthetics and reliability. Plastics claim the highest growth rate among all packaging materials in India.
Through plastics are used widely in various sectors, India’s per capita consumption of polymers at 2.45 kg is still well below the world average of 18 kg. The figure is 9 kg for China and even as high as 80 kg for many developed countries. Even to meet the world average, Indian demand will leap to a whopping 16 million tones- a huge potential waiting to be tapped.

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Nature of Work
Plastic engineers deal with the taking apart of raw materials such as coal tar, coal, petroleum, wood natural gas and salt and then rearranging their molecules to make synthetic materials. Plastics today are chiefly derived from petroleum; most are polymers.
Plastic engineers may work in design and development, research, teaching, consulting, technical services and marketing. With the global wave of environmental consciousness plastic engineers are today also involved in coming up with measures to alleviate the polluting effects of plastic usage, recycling and disposal. Along with plastic engineers there are plastic processing technologists, plastic testing and conversion technologists, plastic mould technologists and designers who constitute the professionals working in the plastics industry.
Work Environment
Plastic engineers may be in teaching, pure research and development, consultancy, design, technical services and marketing. Their workplace would be laboratories, factories, in offices and includes a lot of traveling for marketing and sales, Researchers have to attend symposiums and work in consultancy projects.

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Specialisations
Depending upon one’s level of basic education, training, and areas of interest, professionals working in the plastics industry may specialise in the following areas:
  • Plastics engineering
  • Polymer science & technology
  • Plastics processing
  • Plastics testing and conversion technology
  • Plastics composite technology
  • Plastics mould design
Physical and Psychological Requirements
An interest in solving practical problems, the ability to work as one of a team, high standards of professionalism are required for those who wish to work in the plastics industry.
A scientific bent of mind; mechanical aptitude; powers of observation; creative imagination (especially for research and development); resourcefulness, a practical approach; common sense; an analytical mind, curiosity; and keen interest in problem solving are useful for careers in the plastic engineering professions. Technical staff needs practical skills.
Study/Training
Plastic engineering is a 4-year degree programme after Plus Two in Physics, Chemistry and Maths. Admission is through the usual engineering admission procedure either all India or state-level.
Chemical Engineering/Technology or Polymer Engineering/Polymer Science & Technology graduates and postgraduates also work in the plastics industry. Polymer is the name given to materials that are made up of large molecules of identical or similar units and united by chemical bonds. The main polymers are natural and synthetic rubbers, plastics and natural and synthetic fibres. Masters of Polymer Science also work in the plastics industry.
Other professional training programmes for the plastics industry are diploma courses in Plastic Mould Technology, Plastics Mould-Making Technology, Plastics Composite Technology, Plastics Processing Technology and allied subjects.
Employment Prospects
A booming consumer market, strategic location and the availability of highly skilled but relatively inexpensive manpower have made India one of the world’s promising markets for the plastics processing industry. In the post-liberalisation era, the processing sector is also transformed with modern machines and upgradation to face the challenges of globalization. There is a growing recognition of India’s capabilities as a manufacturer of mass product articles as well as specialty goods. Alliances of multinationals with Indian firms are already in place and expected to come up too in the field of plastic processing.
Spiralling demand for plastics is coming from the combined demand from the sectors of automobiles, agriculture, electronics, telecommunication, packaging and consumer goods. There exists also a huge area of new and untapped markets such as in areas like geotextiles, non-woven fabrics, aseptic packaging, multilayer bottles, speciality flexible films and multilayers, stretch and cling films. Leisure and recreational products are projected to emerge as a segment in itself.
In the field of medicine, the use of plastics has steadily increased in the last few years in diagnosis and treatment. In the household sector traditional materials like glass and metals in kitchenware, sanitary ware and thermoware have been replaced by plastics due to its versatility of characteristics, application and utilization.
Career Progression
There appears to be a huge potential to be tapped. Those trained to tackle jobs in the various areas of expertise will be in a position to choose the best placement options for themselves. Advancement comes with experience, innovation, and the ability to think and plan ahead. Entrepreneurial ventures are often the route taken by those who have been working long in this field. Those with doctoral/postgraduate qualifications and experience get to take on advisory and consulting roles.
Demand for commodity plastics is expected to touch 8 million tones by 2006 and engineering plastics demand will touch 600,000 tonnes by 2005 as per industry projections.

Siddartha is a Blogger from India. He is currently working as a Java Front End developer and he loves writing about tutorials, technology, algorithm, etc. You can follow him on Twitter | Facebook | Google+. You can subscribe to GadgetCage RSS Feed or Email Notifications.

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