Instructables
Picture of How to "make" plastic
I have always searched for a quick and simple way to make plastic. I have tried many but the one in this instructable the best I have found. It uses materials that you probably already have in your house,
it is fun to do and can be completed within minutes. I hope you will enjoy doing this instructable and will be able to learn something at the same time.
 
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Step 2: Prepare the acetone

Open the canister of acetone and pour some acetone into the glass container. You don't need much, 1 centimeter should be enough for a little batch of plastic. If theres not enough you can always add some more later.

Step 3: Melt the Styrofoam

Start by breaking your block or blocks of Styrofoam in pieces that fit into your glass container. Then take the pieces and push them into the acetone. Continue pushing Styrofoam into the acetone until the blocks you put in don't melt anymore.

Then wait one to five minutes for some of the acetone to evaporate. Wait one minute if you want it to mold the plastic and five if you want to shape it. The more you let the acetone evaporate the more solid it will be. You might even want to mold it while its still "liquid".

Here's a video that demonstrates the melting process.

Step 5: Safety

Acetone is a very dangerous chemical, read the safety instructions before using it. You should never drink or inhale it. Also, do not do this project near any kind of flames because acetone is very flammable. Wash your hands after touching the uncured plastic or the acetone and don't do anything stupid. Do this project in a well ventilated area, preferably outside.

Here's an extract of the MSDS safety sheet: "May be harmful by inhalation, ingestion or skin absorption. Irritant. Liquid may cause permanent eye damage (corneal clouding). Contact with skin may cause defatting, leading to irritation. Long-term exposure may cause liver damage." Wearing gloves is a good idea, but you'll have to use butyl rubber gloves or some other kind of acetone resistant glove. For more information on chemical resistant gloves follow this link.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any harm done to you by your negligence or misinterpretation of this project and by using this information you agree to defend and hold me harmless from any and all claims, demands, damages, costs and liabilities.

Step 6: The science behind it

Polystyrene is a polymer made from the monomer styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon that is commercially manufactured from petroleum by the chemical industry.

The chemical makeup of polystyrene is a long chain hydrocarbon with every other carbon connected to a Phenyl group.

Expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) is produced from a mixture of about 90-95% polystyrene and 5-10% gaseous blowing agent, most commonly pentane or carbon dioxide.The solid plastic is expanded into a foam through the use of heat, usually steam.

Pure solid polystyrene is a colorless, hard plastic with limited flexibility. It can be cast into molds with fine detail. Polystyrene can be transparent or can be made to take on various colors. It is economical and is used for producing plastic model assembly kits, license plate frames, plastic cutlery, CD "jewel" cases, and many other objects where a fairly rigid, economical plastic of any of various colours is desired.

When Styrofoam is added to acetone (a common organic solvent) it very rapidly dissolves, making it look like it is disappearing. The melted plastic can be recovered from the acetone to make hard solid Styrofoam plastic (polystyrene). In other words, you don't actually make plastic you just transform an existing form of plastic. The acetone sort of serves as a molecular "lubricant" between the polymer chains, allowing them to slide around each other. The Styrofoam becomes soft, releasing the air bubbles trapped in the foam, and the polystyrene ends up as a soft blob in the acetone. When the blob is removed and the acetone is allowed to evaporate, it solidifies into a piece of hard plastic.

Their are two type of solvents, polar solvents and non polar solvents. Bio-plastics will dissolve in polar solvents like water, while polystyrene will dissolve in non-polar solvents like acetone.

Let's consider two solvents that are pretty different in their polarities in order to explore this topic. Water, which we said is a polar solvent, dissolves almost anything that is polar, such as salt and many other ionic compounds. Water can't dissolve everything, though. Try removing fingernail polish with water and you'll see what I mean. Acetone, a solvent with some non-polar properties, is commonly used to do that job. Acetone is an effective solvent for all sorts of non-polar substances.

The resin identification code symbol for polystyrene, developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry so that items can be labeled for easy recycling, is 6. However, the majority of polystyrene products are currently not recycled because of a lack of suitable recycling facilities.
Hence, even tough this is a petroleum based plastic, you probably are helping the environment since you reuse a plastic that would usually go to waste and that would take thousands of years to decompose.

source: wikipedia
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nerd122 years ago
i made some of this stuff recently and filled a short length of PVC pipe with it as a mold. the next day i pick up the pvc to find that the plastic had not dried and also the PVC was going soft! i think that acetone is a solvent for PVC but won't dissolve it. i will experiment more and let you guys know.

PS. the pipe was standard 20mm plumbing PVC pipe
Fredfly nerd125 months ago

the mealting works with most solvents eg terps petrol and PVC is also plastic so it would mealt

smoak nerd122 years ago
Acetone breaks down and reconstitutes almost all plastics. You could also use Acetone and Legos. Acetone and any ABS plastics will cause the plastics to melt essentially. That's why the PVC was going "soft". If you had more acetone there it would have melted it and could have caused a very large mess. I wouldn't recommend this type of "plastic" for injection molding.
nerd12 smoak2 years ago
it went only a little soft. i actually tried to shove this stuff(acetone + thermocol) into a paper mold but even though i had painted it with resin it tore. any suggestions as to mold it? also i want to make a look alike spartan spear for a costume out of 3/4 in CPVC piping but i do not know how to shape the blade into one. any ideas for molding this?
please respond.
paqrat nerd122 years ago
Could you line your paper mold with aluminum foil?
nerd12 paqrat2 years ago
the mold tore, so i don't think it would make a big difference. this would work though if it was just sticking.
MacMatthias7 months ago

Ccan you add black dye?
How long does it take to harden?
How hard does it get?

critopadolf9 months ago
I did this but the inside of my ball won't dry... How can I fix this?
kbarthoulemuen10 months ago
What does the MOHs rating look like on this?
Umm, idk if anyone else noticed but he made 'napalm' along with his plastic *-*
Yeah, don't keep that near an open flame...
Can I use this kind of plastic for making "teeth" to hide my braces? And can I use clay for the mold of the teeth? Help would be gladly appreciated. :)
Lia762 years ago
I can make my own plastic products by using some recycle plastic in my home. I am using the step that just same like the "plastic injection mold machine". I can make any think with different colour and I can make it just a few minutes.
Is there an instructible which shows actually making things from this kind of plastic? I made some as an experiment but it was so sticky it's hard for me to imagined making anything useful from it. I can't find a site anywhere showing how to use it.
You mentioned how the Acetone could damage your eyes. I'm wanting to make a pair of cosplay glasses with this how-to, and I was wondering if wearing said glasses would damage my eyes at all?
I'd say that it's safe. After all all of the acetone has already been evaporated, but I'd wait a day before putting them on, just to make sure.
Tonyod2 years ago
You need to look up Material Safety Data Sheets for any chemical you use they are very practical, giving lots of information about the safety aspects of solvents and other chemicals. Acetone can remove some of the oils and fats from your skin . There is also flammability issues as you all know. All industrial chemicals have some issues it just depends how you use them. MSDS's are full of practical info, just google them
kwazai2 years ago
adding gasoline is do it yourself napalm.
wonder if the 'coffe cups' make a better plastic with acetone than the 'packing peanuts' do?
Nagarok3 years ago
Looking at the science behind it, you theoretically don't need to use acetone to make this react.

You just need a non-polar solvent that could be potentially less dangerous, but they may not be as readily available as acetone.
I had this thought myself, but acetone is good because it evaporates quickly. I Made a test batch of this stuff about - 10-15 millilitres - using turpentine. It dissolved well enough, but 2 weeks later it's still squishy.
knoxarama2 years ago
Yeah, I was too lazy to find acetone so I just used gasoline
Congratulations, you now have a napalm-esque substitute.
nerd122 years ago
i tried to take a blob of hardened plastic(this stuff) and melt it to pour into my mold. i still can't get the smell out of my lab and the stuff didn't work out. took ages to even get gooey.
nerd122 years ago
i tried to force this stuff into a mold made from cardboard made with the help of pepakura. the paper completely tore. any one have any ideas on how i can make similar molds and perhaps inject the plastic into it?
de.das.dude2 years ago
how is this for moulding PC case parts for mods? is this stuff hard to paint? my thoughts are solvent based paints should work.
Slon2 years ago
Polystyrene solution in acetone. Polić doughy mass. Then. Add gradually, stirring with turpentine. Get a totally transparent thick liquid. How do I use? Think for yourself.
Slon2 years ago
Polystyrene solution in acetone. Polić doughy mass. Then. Add gradually, stirring with turpentine. Get a totally transparent thick liquid.
stu2theMax3 years ago
You do know this is how u make napalm right?
???
you make napalm by adding aluminum soaps to petrol (gasoline)!
this would be flammable due to the acetone and the drying plastic would be like napalm (sticks 'n' burns) but not when dry. where did you get that idea from?
I was just experimenting when I realized the common ingredients. There is an easier way to produce napalm tho. I believe someone even made an instructable how to do so. Which surprised me. Just be careful. Napalm can be very useful if not used for its original purpose.
How are the ingredients common?
Napalm=Gas+Al Soap
weird plastic=Acetone+Styrofoam

i know that you could also use gas as the solvent but 2 things- gas is more flammable and it rather volatile as compared to acetone.
here acetone is used instead of gas

(PS- Textbook explainiation for 'volatile' means it evaporates easily, not explosive but often is.)
A styrofoam does the same thing when acetone eats it. Stop questioning me and try it both ways if u don't believe me dubie. Then talk to me about what I don't know. :)
i though this site had moderators on language. i am betting you are an American.
napalm, when lit almost explodes then starts to burn. do you really think i want to go to hell directly?
this 'might' be an explosive but it won't be napalm. it will be somthing else.
"napalm" is sticky flamable goo

so acetone + styrofoam :-)


also you can sniff acetone :-)
Arano useraaaaa3 years ago
napalm contains by definition gasoline and a thickener...
nerd12 Arano3 years ago
Which is where the Al Soap comes in...
Arano nerd123 years ago
or other substances... Napalm B contains polystyrene as thickener
Then u don't know how to make it. Sorry I thought u understood English. My bad.
no need to start trying to act smart
i work with weapons as a living. i know my stuff. i most certainly understand English and spoke nothing but all my life. I'm just not fimiliar with slang terms like 'dubie' so i looked it up on urban dictionary
I'm sorry I have to say this, because this kid is being a but of an ass [Canadian] about it, but acetone can actually form a very short-living napalm substitute, albeit not all that effective.
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