A Walk to Remember: Polyurethane Throughout the Ages Chapter 5: 1980’s

During a time that would come to be labeled as the period of “tailor-made-plastics,” some very specific applications of polyurethane were introduced in the 1980s. From buildings, to car safety, to surfboards, polyurethanes did not disappoint over these ten years! The music over this period wasn’t too bad either, so we’ve thrown in our favourite hits too, let us know what you think!

Made of stone?
It is somewhat fitting that we discuss the revolution of the construction industry during the same period that marked the fall of the Berlin wall. No, buildings were no longer made of stone, as asked by The Stone Roses in their hit song in the eighties, because polyurethane based sandwich panels transformed the construction industry. The polyurethane panels came to serve multiple purposes as they were used for insulating large facades and roofs in industrial buildings. When used as a facade, they simultaneously functioned as a design element and, together with a coloured surface treatment, gave designers great creative freedom. The sandwich panels were used in industrial and commercial construction, as well as in cold stores, warehouses, exhibition halls, sports halls, office buildings and airports.

The Passenger
Between 1970 and 1980, the number of vehicles on the road doubled! More and more people came to be proud car owners as in the words of Iggy Pop; “I am a passenger, and I ride and I ride.” Fortunately for Iggy, polyurethanes were working wonders in the 1980s in the automobile industry, creating energy absorbing foam for passenger safety in cars. The production of more economical and flexible molds of polyurethane was ideal for the application of polyurethanes in cars, as the shock absorbing qualities and high resilience of polyurethane foams ensured the safety of drivers and passengers under static and dynamic conditions.

Everybody loves Surfing, Surfing USA
The Beach Boys were truly far ahead of their time when they sang Surfing USA in 1963 because it wasn’t until 1981 when surfboards came to be revolutionized and produced with 100% polyurethane foam. Before this, surfboards were originally made out of a solid wood and were large and heavy, even reaching weights of up to 45 kilos! In contrast, polyurethane boards were much lighter and responsive, and, most importantly, they were much cheaper. This was a big technological leap, which revolutionised the surfing industry and its culture. The invention decreased the price of surfboards dramatically, allowing more and more American youngsters to catch waves. Today, polyurethane remains the most widespread material used to make surfboards!

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