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Robot Builder's Bonanza, 4th Edition, 4th Edition by Gordon McComb

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Chapter 9Working with Plastic

It all started with billiard balls. In the old days, billiard balls were made from elephant tusks. By the 1850s, the supply of tusk ivory was drying up and its cost had skyrocketed. So in 1863, Phelan & Collender, a major manufacturer of billiard balls, offered a $10,000 prize for anyone who could come up with a suitable substitute for ivory. A New York printer named John Wesley Hyatt was among several folks who took up the challenge.

Hyatt didn’t get the $10,000. The material he promoted, celluloid, carried with it too many problems—like occasionally exploding during its manufacture. While Hyatt’s name won’t go down in the billiard parlor hall of fame, he will be remembered as the man who helped start the plastics ...

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