Rotary Switches

Series 2: Bakelite and Duroplast.

In the first half of the 20th century, the name Bakelite was virtually synonymous with plastics. With the emergence of later thermoplastics, “Bakelite” has come to be used to describe the old heavy thermosets (melamine, phenolic resins) as distinct from other types that are somewhat disparagingly referred to merely as “plastic”. Contrary to what one might expect from the common usage of the term, “Bakelite” is not a generic name. Instead, it is a trademark, and in the case of Germany it is registered to Bakelite AG, which is based in Iserlohn (and, since being sold by parent company Rütgerwerke to Borden Chemical in 2005, has changed hands between various American chemical companies and is now owned by Momentive Specialty Chemicals). This situation has created some confusion in terminology. Bakelite is a thermosetting polymer (a thermoset, for short), but not every thermoset is Bakelite. Hence the distinction on our part: The black and white switch series are both made of thermosetting polymers, but only the black one is Bakelite in the trademarked sense, while the white one is moulded from a related resin. For more about Bakelite, its place in the history of materials and cultural history, and its career as a cult favourite material, please see www.thpg.de/en/material.

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