The first patent on the condensation product of urea with formaldehyde was by Hans John in about 1920 but he used no catalyst. F Pollak and his co-workers in Vienna used a variety of catalysts and took out a number of patents between 1920 and 1924. One of which was for a glassy transparent resin which was given the name Pollopas. Their efforts were directed towards the so-called 'organic glasses' but this was not achieved until much later by thermoplastics materials, especially acrylics.
Goldschmidt and Neuss in Germany also worked on urea formaldehyde but the first commercially successful thermosetting moulding material was produced by the British Cyanides Co. - based on a mixture of thiourea and urea formaldehyde in 1928.
I G Farben developed urea formaldehyde especially as adhesives and stoving lacquers with patents in 1925 and 1928. In 1933 the various firms making urea formaldehyde materials agreed to exchange patent rights in order to avoid possible disputes and rapid development followed.
Thermosetting urea formaldehyde moulding materials, unlike phenol formaldehyde, was not limited in colour range and could be produced in white and translucent shades, but generally found similar applications. Being somewhat more expensive than the phenolic moulding compounds urea formaldehyde tended to be used only where colour was important. Initial uses were for electrical fittings, telephone handsets, radio and other electrical housings, cigarette boxes, lampshades, etc. and tableware until replaced by melamine. Urea formaldehyde impregnating resins are used in decorative laminates.