Acrylic (acrylic resin)
Common name for a group of thermoplastic resins known as acrylates or methacrylates. Most familiar methacrylates are crystal-clear products in the form of sheet, rod, tube, or moldings; but acrylics can also be colored, transparent or opaque. Most common acrylic trade names are Plexiglas and Lucite.

Trade name for the first thermosetting phenol-formaldehyde resin, named for its synthesizer Dr. leo Hendrik Baekeland (1863-1944) in 1909. Although still used generically to indicate "plastic," it is properly applied only to phenolic and other plastic materials produced by the Bakelite Corporation, later Union Carbide.

A plastic film composed of regenerated cellulose (a high grade chemical wood pulp), water, and a plasticizer.

A trade name for cellulose nitrate, invented by John Wesley Hyatt in 1868.

Computer-aided design and manufacture (CAD/CAM)
The use of computers in designing a product and in controlling its manufacture.

Electronic –textiles (e-textiles)
The use of yarns that can transmit electrical signals or currents to create woven or knitted fabrics that have conductive properties.

A molding process in which a heat-softened plastic material is rammed into a relatively cool closed cavity where it cures and is then quickly ejected. Used in mass-production of small objects such as jewelry, buttons, combs, toys, etc.

Light-emitting diode (LED)
Light-emitting diodes are like tiny lightbulbs; they use minimal electricity and generate relatively little heat, making them suitable for incorporating into textiles and clothing. Widely used to create illuminated displays and in electronic devices as status lights.

Trade name for acrylic manufactured by DuPont.

Molecular manufacturing, molecular nanotechnology
A type of manufacturing technology that will be achievable once things can be built at the atomic or molecular level, with every atom in a specified place. So, a nanofactory will create diamond structure to fill a specified volume by rearranging matter with atomic precision instead of a shape being created by cutting a block of material or carving out a mold.

Natural plastics
Resins and other substances derived from plant or animal sources that have molding properties. They include (1) amber – a fossilized tree resin; (2) shellac – an insect secretion; (3) animal protein substances such as ivory, horn and tortoiseshell.

A thermoplastic resin obtained from organic compounds called polyamides that can be formed into yarns and fibers, but which also can be injection-molded.

Broadly, any material that can be shaped under heat and pressure; in the strict modern sense, a synthetic organic compound known as a polymer.

A chemical agent incorporated into a plastic substance before molding to make it softer and more flexible.

A thermosetting resin formed by the reaction between an acid and an alcohol, both organic. Extremely strong and hard, with dimensional stability and minimal water absorption, polyester resins cure without pressure or heat and thus can be cast in low-cost open molds or used to produce laminates and reinforced plastics of exceptional size and contour, such as ships’ hulls.

A natural or synthetic substance made of many relatively simple repeating chemical units or molecules, e.g. starch or Perspex.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
A thermoplastic resin derived from a gas obtained from the reaction of acetylene and hydrogen chloride. PVC is familiar in film form as shower curtain material; in extruded form as electrical insulation pipe.

Rapid prototyping
Term used to describe those technologies that additively "grow" a design in order to produce a 3D component or object. Processes used in Rapid Prototyping include Stereolithography (SLA), Object 3D printing, Laminated Object Manufacture (LOM), Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).

Radio-frequency identification (RFID)
A system designed to carry information in tiny mobile transponders known as tags. These discrete tags can inform on the location of goods in transit, the location of and details about people and the location/stage of an item in a manufacturing line.

A term that describes fibers made from regenerated cellulose, called viscose rayon; and from cellulose acetate, called rayon acetate (trade names Celanese and others); and from cellulose triacetate. Viscose rayon fiber was first spun in 1911; rayon acetate was first spun in France in 1918, although not produced in American until 1925.

Natural rubber, or latex, is a milky substance with elastic properties obtained from tropical plants. It is described chemically as a hydrocarbon. Although rubber has many plastic qualities such as moldability, it is categorized for its elasticity as an elastomer.

Sensors are electric transducers that translate a physical property such as humidity, heat or light into electrical signal, e.g. thermostats (which control temperature). BY connecting a variety of sensors through short-range wireless connections, sensors will develop into complex networks that will enable people to control more of the physical world.

Smart system (active smart, passive smart)
Materials that respond to differences in their environment (e.g. temperature, light) and respond to those conditions by changing in some way. Smart materials appear to "think" and can exhibit "memory" as they revert back to their original state.

A plastic substance that can be repeatedly softened by heat after it has been hardened by cooling. Examples include the cellulosic plastics, acrylics, styrenes, polyethylenes, vinyls, and nylons.

Tissue engineering
A field that brings together biology, materials science and biomedical engineering with the goal of long-term repair and replacement of failing human tissues and organs.

Ubiquitous computing
Ubiquitous computing is that third wave in computing, now just beginning. Initially, there were mainframe computers, shared by lots of people. Now we are in the personal computing era: one person, one computer. The next stage is ubiquitous computing, or the age of calm technology, when technology will recede into the background of our lives – one person, many invisible computers embedded in everyday objects.

Common name for a group of synthetic thermoplastic resins that include polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Vinyl in sheet form is often referred to as vinylite.

Wireless networking
Refers technology that enables two or more computers to communicate using standard network protocols, but without any network cables. Any technology that does this could be called wireless networking, however it generally refers to wireless Local Area Network (LAN) that uses a specific industry standard called IEEE 802.11