Phenol formaldehyde resins (PF) or phenolic resins are synthetic polymers obtained by the reaction of phenol or substituted phenol with formaldehyde. Used as the basis for Bakelite, PFs were the first commercial synthetic resins (plastics).
They have been widely used for the production of molded products including billiard balls, laboratory countertops, and as coatings and adhesives. They were at one time the primary material used for the production of circuit boards but have been largely replaced with epoxy resins and fiberglass cloth.
One reacts phenol and formaldehyde directly to produce a thermosetting network polymer, while the other restricts the formaldehyde to produce a prepolymer known as novolac which can be moulded and then cured with the addition of more formaldehyde and heat.
There are many variations in both production and input materials that are used to produce a wide variety of resins for special purposes.