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What may loosely be described as the leisure industries are widespread users of plastics. The
photographic industry was of course one of the earliest users of plastics, for photographic film. It
is now recognized that well-designed camera bodies made from the correct plastic materials are
more likely to be able to withstand rough usage compared to metal camera bodies, particularly in
resistance to denting.
There is also little doubt that the use of plastics has helped to raise the quality of life for a majority
of people.

A photopolymer or light-activated resin is a polymer that responds to ultraviolet or visible
light by exhibiting a change in its physical properties or its chemical constitution.

In Ancient Egypt, mummies were wrapped in linen cloths dipped in a solution of oil of lavender.
On exposure to light the product hardened and became insoluble. The evidence is that some form
of cross-linking occurred.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, an amateur Egyptologist, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce,
became interested in the process and in 1822 he adapted it to produce the first permanent
In essence, surfaces exposed to light become insoluble and cannot be removed by solvents whilst
unexposed surfaces remain soluble and can be so removed.
Photopolymers, in general, are used for various purposes and in numerous industries. Here, we
have listed some of the more important uses before we delve deeper into the Photographic

 Printing Plates - Photopolymers have replaced the bulk of rubber-based flexo plates.
Liquid photopolymers are also available to make flexographic and letterpress
printing plates.
 Dentistry - Dentistry is one market where free radical photopolymers have found
wide usage as adhesives, sealant composites, and protective coatings. These dental
composites are based on a camphor Quinone photoinitiator and a matrix containing
methacrylate oligomers with inorganic fillers such as silicon dioxide.
 Medical Uses - Photocurable adhesives are also used in the production of catheters,
hearing aids, surgical masks, medical filters, and blood analysis sensors.


 Photographic Films
 Camera Bodies
 Lenses
 Photoresists
 Theater Screens

The first place we look in the movie theatre is at the screen. Well, we're looking at polymers...
usually vinyl. Vinyl is a common material for theatre screens. It is flexible and a good carrier for
the reflective coating that makes the movie look nice and bright. It also can be made in large
sheets which can be connected almost seamlessly. The reflective coating is made with minerals,
including titanium dioxide and mica. The screen is usually one large piece stretched on a frame
and held with a lot of hidden hooks and springs. Some of the frames are even electric so they can
move to change the shape and size of a screen for different width films.

A photoresist is a light-sensitive material used in several processes, such
as photolithography and photoengraving, to form a patterned coating on a surface. They can be
used to make integrated circuits, printing plates, photocurable coatings, photo recorders and
energy exchange materials. Poly(vinyl cinnamte) is commonly used for this purpose.
It can also be used for fabrication of high resolution volume holograms and for xerography.
The first available film used in commercial movie projection was nitrate, a transparent,
plasticized film base. It produced a vivid, high contrast black and white image onto the screen.
The quality of the image was rich and precise. With precision came a drawback, however,
because nitrate film is incredibly flammable, and, because nitrocellulose is composed of oxygen,
it’s very difficult to extinguish once ignited.
To solve this issue, nitrate was discontinued in the 1950s. Polyester bases, which were stronger,
flexible, and, most importantly, not highly flammable, took its place. A polyester base was also
much more chemically stable and allowed for the construction of thinner films. Another place
polymers help to show the movie is in the projection booth. A stiff Mylar leader is used at the
head of the film so it's easy to string it onto the projector. The leader can even be encoded to tell
an automatic projection system when to change lenses for different films. Since the mylar leader
is crosslinked, it is not subject to melting or many other changes that extreme temperatures bring.
The film itself is often made from polyester which is used for distribution prints because it is
tougher and stands up better to repeated uses than cellulose acetate film, which is used to shoot
and edit the movie... but it will melt.

The camera chassis or body and back cover are made of a polycarbonate compound, containing
10-20% glass fiber. This material is very durable, lightweight, and shock-resistant as well as
tolerant to humidity and temperature changes. Its major disadvantage is that it is not resistant to
The camera lens is made of optical glass, plastic, or glass/plastic combinations. Acrylic is one of
the most commonly used optical plastics. Acrylic options are very hard and have very good
mechanical stability.

The definition of polycarbonate is “a synthetic resin in which the polymer units are linked
through carbonate groups, including many moulding materials and films.”


 Outstanding impact strength - even at low temperatures

 Good mechanical properties over a broad temperature range
 Excellent dimensional stability, even at elevated temperatures
 Good thermal stability
 Good electrical insulating properties
 Good ultraviolet (UV) stability and weatherability
 Very good flame retardancy

 More expensive than polyethylene, polystyrene and PVC.
 Special care required in processing.
 Pale yellow colour (now commonly masked with dyes).
 Limited resistance to chemicals and ultraviolet light.
 Notch sensitivity and susceptibility to crazing under strain.
It can be synthesized by several processes, the major of which are:

 Phosgenation Process: The process usually used is interfacial polymerisation. In a

typical process, the disodium salt of bisphenol A in an alkaline aqueous solution or
suspension is reacted with phosgene in the presence of an inert organic solvent such as
methylene chloride, chlorobenzene, tetrahydrofuran or dioxane. Reaction temperatures
are in the range 10-35°C. The polymer is recovered by washing the organic phase with
water, neutralisation of the caustic soda and either precipitation of the polymer by a non-
solvent or evaporation of the solvent by thorough washing.

 Ester Exchange Process: The temperature is gradually raised from 180-220°C to 290-
300°C and the pressure reduced from 20-30 mmHg to 1 mmHg or below. The melt
viscosity increases considerably during this period and the reaction is stopped while the
material can still be forced out of the kettle by an inert gas. The high melt viscosity limits
the molecular weights obtainable and although number average molecular weights of
50000 can be obtained it is difficult to attain values of above 30 000 without special

Some of the applications of Polycarbonate are:

 Electronic components
 Construction materials
 Automotive,
 Aircraft, railway, and security components
 Phones
In photographic application, Polycarbonate in used to make the body of the photographic devices
like camera. The chassis is made with Polycarbonate MG - 20% Glass-Filled (Standard Colour
Black) which is standard grade of polycarbonate mostly used in photographic devices.


Out of the many Cellulose Derivatives, 2 types of polymers have major photographic
applications. They are:
 Cellulose Acetate
 Cellulose Esters

Cellulose acetate is the acetate ester of cellulose. Cellulose acetate is used as a film base in
photography and as a component in some coatings. In photographic film, cellulose acetate
replaced nitrate film in the 1950s, being far less flammable and cheaper to produce.
Properties of these compounds depend on 3 major factors:
 Chain length of cellulose molecule
 Degree of acetylation
 Type and amount of plasticizers


The earliest preparations were done by heating the cotton with acetic anhydride in sealed tubes at
130-140 °C .
Later on, methods like homogeneous acetylation and hetrogeneous acetylation were used for it’s

 High water absorption
 Poor electrical insulation characteristics
 Limited aging resistance
 Limited heat resistance
 Textiles and Fibers
 Spectacle Frames
 Industrial uses - Industrial uses: cigarette filters and other filters, ink reservoirs for fiber
tip pens, playing cards


Cellulose esters are ester of cellulose with an inorganic or organic acid. They are versatile
problem solvers that can be used as binders, coatings additives, film formers, or modifiers in
automotive, wood, plastic, paper, and leather coatings applications.

 Water - white transparency
 Rigid
 Reasonable toughness
 Capable of after-shrinkage around inserts.

 Photographic films
 Uses in bicycle parts and in toys
 Spectacle frames
 Knife handles
 Table tennis balls

Poly(methyl methacrylate) or, PMMA, is generally produced by emulsion polymerization,

solution polymerization and bulk polymerization. Generally, radical initiation is used for
production of all commercial PMMA.

 Excellent clarity and UV resistance.
 Good abrasion resistance
 hardness and stiffness
 Low water absorption
 Low smoke emission.
 Good track and arc resistance.

 Poor solvent resistance
 Low continuous use temperature of approx. 50 °C (120 °F).
 Poor fatigue resistance
 Notch sensitive


 PMMA is a strong, tough, and lightweight material. It has a density of 1.17–1.20 g/cm3,
which is less than half that of glass.
 good impact strength
 low-molecular-weight
 Colourless
 PMMA transmit up to 92% of visible light and gives a reflection of about 4% from each
of its surfaces due to its refractive index.


 Transport
 Architecture
 Electronics
 Medical

Poly(vinyl cinnamate)’s ability to cross-link on exposure to light has led to important

applications in photography, lithography and related fields as a photoresist. The
photocrosslinking property has gained much importance as a photoresist for the production of
printed circuits.


It is prepared by chemical modification of another polymer rather than from ‘monomer’.

poly(vinyl alcohol) is dissolved in water .to this added a concentrated potassium hydroxide
solution and the cinnamoyl chloride in methyl ethyl ketone .The product was ,in effect a vinyl
alcohol-vinyl cinnamate copolymer.

Based on the chemical structure of photoresists, they can be classified into three types:

 Photopolymeric - are usually used for negative photoresist, e.g. methyl methacrylate
 Photodecomposing - are usually used for positive photoresist e.g. azide quinone,
diazonaphthaquinone (DQ)
 Photocrosslinking- are usually used for positive photoresist e.g. methyl methacrylate

 Electrical and electronic fields.
 Printing plates and imaging materials.
 Microcircuits and thereby reduced the size of digital computers.
 Photocurable coatings and photo recorders
 Semiconductor application

 sensitive to visible lasers

 Promote intermolecular crosslinking
 IN 3D printing they have longer mask life


 Are in soluble in water

 A long time elapse making a poorly soluble surface resulting in abnormal sensitivity

Polymers have a variety of uses in our everyday lives and therefore, it comes as no surprise that
the photographic applications of polymers are widespread and have had a massive impact on the
so called leisure industries. Almost every part of a camera is a polymer today.

Look at it’s sturdy body, that’s Polycarbonate. Strong, durable, and if I were to be objective, also
pretty good looking. Look at the lens, it’s probably Poly(methyl methacrylate), also known as,

The films, the screens, the process - polymers are used in every step of the way and we hope that
our presentation today was good enough to help you understand why these polymers are the best
bet we have right now. And, maybe even have a faint idea lurking in the back of your mind as to
what the world would be like without them.

Imagine not being able to post on Instagram about the new continental dish you just ate, would it
even taste that good then?