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What Does a Polymer Engineer Do?

Sheets of colored polycarbonate, a thermoplastic polymer.
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  • Written By: K. Reynolds
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2014
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A polymer engineer is a person who specializes in designing, analyzing, and modifying polymer materials. Initially, the duties of this position were considered to be a subset of those done by a chemical engineer, but over time the role of a polymer engineer has evolved into its own specialty. Polymer materials are a group of natural and synthetic materials that encompass plastics, rubber, and nylon, just to name a few. A polymer engineer must use his or her skills to design new polymer materials, as well as resolve existing issues related to the creation of new polymer compounds.

The duties of a polymer engineer can vary greatly due to the vast size of the polymer materials industry. Ultimately, the company that employs the engineer will determine the role he or she plays in the production of polymer materials. Some polymer engineers are responsible for creating processes that will enable polymer materials to be created more efficiently and cost effectively, while other engineers will be responsible for creating new applications for polymer materials that will ultimately be developed into new products and introduced into the marketplace. These engineers also operate in a managerial capacity as they are responsible for managing projects and overseeing development teams. It is the responsibility of the polymer engineer to ensure that all team members complete procedure protocols, and that all polymer materials are designed for large scale processing and manufacturing, as well as adhere to all quality control standards.

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Polymers are generally categorized as either thermoplastics or thermosets. Engineers who specialize in thermosets are responsible for the creation of building materials, such as fiberglass and aramids. These materials are generally used in the construction of lightweight structures and must be certified due to safety regulations. Thermoplastics are a type of transparent, low-density polymer. It is because of these unique features that thermoplastics are often used in consumer products such as food storage containers.

A polymer engineer must be proficient in all facets of polymer technology, including the chemistry, processing, and synthesis needed to create polymer materials. The extreme complexity of polymer technology requires a background in chemical engineering with a specialization in polymer science. Although polymer engineers operate in a specialty field, many of them work in a similar fashion to other engineers outside of the polymer industry and hold similar job titles such as production manager, materials technologist, product development specialist, and quality control manager.

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