By Jon Evans
New material advances are leading to the development of novel polymers with a range of impressive properties. Last year, the US company Gelest reported the development of a silicone-based elastomer with unprecedented elongation and shape recovery abilities. The silica nanoparticle-reinforced material can be stretched almost 50 times its original length before breaking, allowing a 2-yard piece to stretch the length of a football field. Gelest envisions a wide range of applications for this elastomer in areas such as microfluidics, implantable medical devices, elasto-mechanical devices, diaphragms, and optical and electronic interconnects and devices.
More recently, Gelest unveiled its new SIVATE A610 activated amine functional silane, which improves adhesion, speeds reactivity and increases bond strength in packaging, polymer, micro-electronics and curing applications. Gelest is offering SIVATE A610 for use as a tie-layer between organic and inorganic substrates in multi-layer packaging, a coupling agent for high speed epoxy adhesive bonding, phenolic resins, polyurethanes and polyamides, and a primer for high-speed UV-acrylated urethane cure systems.
Luxembourg’s OCSiAl is offering its TUBALL brand of single-walled carbon nanotubes as an additive for enhancing the electrical and thermal conductivity as well as other physical and mechanical properties of plastic materials. For example, Euro Accent Saba, a manufacturer of waste treatment systems, has used the carbon nanotubes to produce anti-static fiberglass plastic tanks for storing and transporting oil waste.
Meanwhile, specialty coatings company Novatic has employed TUBALL carbon nanotubes to produce novel anti-static and static dissipative polyurethane coatings, which it recently launched. Adding just 0.01% by weight of carbon nanotubes produces polyurethane coatings with uniform and permanent conductivity, enhanced mechanical properties and higher corrosion resistance.
Developing polymers with a greater range of properties places more demands on the instruments required to test them. US company Thermo Fisher Scientific offers a range of analytical instruments specifically designed for testing polymers and production processes. These include: the HAAKE MARS rheometer platform, which combines dielectrical analysis with Rheo-Raman spectroscopy for investigating structural changes on the molecular level under shear or deformation; and the Process 11 parallel twin-screw extruder, a benchtop instrument designed to simulate and optimize production processes with as little as 20 grams of polymer per hour.
In addition, many of Thermo Fisher Scientific’s more general analytical instruments can also be applied to polymers. Examples include the Nicolet iS 50 Fourier transform-infrared spectrometer for determining chemical composition and the DXR2xi Raman imaging microscope for high-performance chemical imaging.
Fellow US company TA Instruments develops instruments for thermal analysis, rheology and microcalorimetry. These include the newly-launched SDT 650, a simultaneous differential scanning calorimeter/thermogravimetric analyzer able to measures changes in energy as a function of time and temperature while concurrently measuring sample weight changes. The company has also recently launched three new dilatometers – DIL 820, DIL 830 and ODP 860 – which can measure dimensional changes in a polymer specimen brought about by dynamic thermal events at a resolution of up to 1nm.
Yet another US company, Testing Machines, focuses on developing instruments for measuring physical properties. These include a new coefficient of friction tester, the Model 32-76, which measures both static and kinetic coefficients of friction using the horizontal plane method. There are also new versions of its digital micrometer series, the 49-86 and the 49-87, for accurately testing the thickness of very thin materials, including plastic films and nonwovens.
Several manufacturers of extrusion machines are exhibiting at this year’s ANTEC, showcasing their latest technologies. Germany’s Reifenhäuser recently launched the latest generation of its Reicofil line for the production of spun-bond, melt-blown and composite nonwovens. Known as RF5, this new generation is faster, more productive and more energy efficient that the preceding RF4 generation, and can produce filaments that are 20% thinner. It also boasts the latest in digitalization technologies, allowing more intuitive operation, continuous process and quality monitoring, predictive maintenance and detection of anomalies.
US company ENTEK has developed a new co-rotating twin-screw extruder, the QC3-33MM, which is designed for small lots and incorporates many of the company’s Quick-Change, Quick-Clean and Quality Control features. These include self-aligning and keyed screw-gearbox couplings to facilitate fast and fool-proof screw installation, a lock and key feature on splined shafts to prevent screw timing errors, and a new extruder frame design that deflects dust and keeps the machine clean under the hood.
Germany’s Coperion has also developed a new twin-screw extruder, the STS Mc11, which offers a range of new features. These include a manifold with coaxial solenoid valves, improved heat covers, quick-release clamps to facilitate easy replacement of the feed hopper and a die head specifically developed for masterbatch applications. Coperion also recently launched the UG 750W underwater pelletizer and a deflector elbow for material transport that can prevent the build-up of angel hair.
Meanwhile, US company Parkinson Technologies has developed a new slitter rewinder within its Dusenbery brand. The DC4 offers faster speed, higher capacity and easier thread-up, and boasts exceptional web handling accuracy by maintaining consistent web strain throughout the finished roll structure.
Software plays an increasingly important role at every stage of the plastic production process, from design to simulation to production control to data analysis. As a wholly-owned subsidiary of Altair, many of US company solidThinking’s design tools are now available through Altair’s HyperWorks suite. The latest release of this suite came out in March and includes several new functionalities in areas such as model-based development, nonlinear structural analysis, modelling and meshing, and lightweight design and optimization.
Just a month earlier, solidThinking announced the release of the latest version of its Envision data analytics tool, which the company says offers a complete set of capabilities for industrial analytics and the ‘internet of things’. This allows companies to obtain data from multiple sources, combine and collate it, and then display it in the form of continuously-updated reports, dashboards and charts.
Taiwan’s CoreTech System (Moldex3D) offers a dedicated design module for its Moldex3D simulation tool for plastic injection molding. Known as eDesignSYNC, this module helps to accelerate the design and manufacturing process for both plastic parts and molds through greater simulation accuracy and efficiency. It includes functions such as Result Advisor, which can speed up problem detection by offering users a quick summary report of potential design problems, and Batch Run, which allows multiple designs to be analysed with different process settings at the same time.
In March, the company issued the latest release of Moldex3D, Moldex3D R15.0, which offers enhanced performance, accuracy and efficiency to streamline simulation workflow and provide faster turnaround times. New features include runner meshing technology that better captures the intended geometric shape of the runner design and delivers more accurate predictions, and simulation capabilities for in-mold decoration and polyurethane chemical foaming processes.