Polyoxymethylene (POM), also known as acetal,polyacetal, and polyformaldehyde, is an engineering thermoplastic used in precision parts requiring high stiffness, low friction, and excellent dimensional stability. As with many other synthetic polymers, it is produced by different chemical firms with slightly different formulas and sold variously by such names as Delrin, Celcon, Ramtal, Duracon, Kepital, and Hostaform.
POM is characterized by its high strength, hardness and rigidity to −40 °C. POM is intrinsically opaque white, due to its high crystalline composition, but it is available in all colors. POM has a density of 1.410–1.420 g/cm3.
Typical applications for injection-molded POM include high-performance engineering components such as small gear wheels, eyeglass frames, ball bearings, ski bindings, fasteners, guns, knife handles, and lock systems. The material is widely used in the automotive and consumer electronics industry.
Around 1952, research chemists at DuPont synthesized a version of POM, and in 1956 the company filed for patent protection of the homopolymer. DuPont credits R. N. MacDonald as the inventor of high-molecular-weight POM. Patents by MacDonald and coworkers describe the preparation of high-molecular-weight hemiacetal-terminated (~O−CH2OH) POM, but these lack sufficient thermal stability to be commercially viable. The inventor of a heat-stable (and therefore useful) POM homopolymer was Stephen Dal Nogare, who discovered that reacting the hemiacetal ends with acetic anhydride converts the readily depolymerizable hemiacetal into a thermally stable, melt-processable plastic.