Supplier Sees Value in TPV Portfolio and Strengthens Investment

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 18. January 2016

Sarlink TPV duct


Teknor is strongly supporting its Sarlink TPV brand through technology and capacity expansion.


Since its acquisition of the Sarlink thermoplastic vulcanizate (TPV) elastomers business of DSM (U.S. office in Evansville, Ind.) just five years ago, Teknor Apex Co., Pawtucket, R.I. has significantly strengthened its support for the brand, which has had 20 years of commercial success.


According to Teknor, this has been taking place as other major compounders of TPVs have been cutting costs by rationalizing and commoditizing their product portfolios and limiting service levels. Despite these current trends in the TPV marketplace, Teknor has seen fit to do the opposite, with a focus on building strong relationships with its customers. “This is fundamental to our philosophy as a privately-held company focused on custom compounding. While companies often lose the personal touch as they grow, this has not happened with Teknor Apex. When you call us, you get a live person to talk to,” says Nicholas Sandland, director of sales for Teknor’s Thermoplastic Elastomer Division.


Within the last five years, Teknor has expanded the Sarlink brand to include many customized TPV formulations as well as compounds based on new technologies, such as those for styrenic TPEs and special blends. It has also boosted its customer service and technical support capabilities significantly.


Automotive constitutes the largest market for TPVs. Sandland says that Teknor now has an entire team of specialists in place devoted to Sarlink for the automotive, industrial and consumer markets. Moreover, the company has invested in an extensive in-house application development laboratory for trials and testing, and a staff of engineers that provide support from design through scale-up to commercialization. Adds Sandland, “Depending on the customer’s needs, we can provide offsets to competitive products or unique materials specifically designed for complex and demanding applications.”


Among the most widely used families of TPV products, is the Sarlink 4100 Series, which ranges in hardness from 45 Shore A to 47 Shore D and spans the full spectrum of physical properties required in the market. This series of materials boasts over 40 automotive OEM approvals covering a broad range of applications. In the case of Sarlink 4165, a typical 65 Shore A “workhorse” TPV, the physical properties closely match that of a long-established competing product (see table), and in most cases can be used as a drop-in replacement.

Properties of Sarlink TPV

Sarlink TPVs are characterized by faster crystallization compared to competitive TPVs, according to Sandland. In injection molding, this translates to parts that solidify faster and can be de-molded earlier and at higher temperatures, resulting in shorter cooling and faster cycle times. The Sarlink 4100 Series TPVs, available in natural and black, can also be processed by extrusion and blow molding, and can be used in such automotive applications as ducts, boots, bellows, grommets, seals, and gaskets, and in components in industrial and consumer goods. 

Industrial Bulletproof Lenses Made with New PC

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 15. January 2016

Covestro’s “extremely” impact-resistant PC used for safety glasses, face shields.


A serious occupational hazard with significant consequences for both employees and employers is the occurrence of eye injuries. According to the CDC, about 2000 workers/day in the U.S. alone suffer job-related eye injuries and require medical treatment. OSHA estimates the cost of such injuries—lost production time, medical expenses, worker compensation, to be over $300-million/yr. As such, advancements in eye protection are welcome and warranted. Check out OSHA’s eye and face protection eTool.


The development of a reportedly “extremely” impact-resistant PC from Covestro (U.S. office in Pittsburgh) for eye protection of workers appears to be an excellent breakthrough. Lenses made of the new Makrolon 3207 are lightweight and have the transparency of glass, meeting the strict requirements of MCR Safety, Collierville, Tenn., a prominent supplier of personal protective equipment. MCR’s new Crew Glasses and U.S. Safety series of safety glasses and face shields, which feature lenses made with the new PC, are also certified according to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z871.1 standard.


Lenses made of the Makrolon 3207 PC are "industrial bulletproof" and, according to Covestro, have passed tests with 45-gram solid steel bullets fired at the lenses at speeds of 150 to 400 ft/sec. The company says such extreme test conditions are needed in order to cover all of the loads that could possibly occur during routine work and lead to eye injuries: falling or flying objects, sparks, metal slivers, wood chips, nails, or contact with harmful substances.


MCR has developed its new US Defense safety glasses primarily to meet the more stringent product safety laws in Asia, where these glasses are also produced. Says MCR Safety’s product manager David Smith, “These goggles are tough, offer premium optical quality and impact resistance, plus offer good UV protection.” He says the company, which has over 40 years of experience in setting industry standards in the personal safety equipment arena, looked for a world-class product and a partner that could deliver it, referring to the new PC and Covestro.


“Another advantage of Makrolon 3207 is the high design freedom. This allows for thinner lenses and thus greater comfort with lower production costs,” says Covestro’s Paul Lin, key account manager Taiwan.


Robots as a Remedy to Shopfloor Tedium

By: Tony Deligio 13. January 2016

In any industry, at any company, there are jobs that while being 100% necessary are nonetheless menial, and that tediousness can generate high turnover.


Manufacturing in general, and plastics specifically, has its share of these tasks, which oftentimes fall to temporary employees, but as U.S. companies more aggressively automate their shop floors the need to ask people to do the boring (and at times potentially dangerous) work might be going away.


In our February issue, myself and Plastics Technology Executive Editor Matt Naitove look at a new concept in automation: the cobot (a combination of words collaborative and robot). Over the course of our interviews and in the subsequent story, a theme appeared where these so-called cobots were often tasked with the more tedious and repetitive work in a plant precisely because they wouldn’t get bored (with that boredom upping the chances for mistakes and/or injury).


For the article, I spoke with Michael Engler and Jim Hanke of Riverside, Calif.-based custom molder AMA Plastics. Hanke only recently joined AMA as its VP of operations, after Engler was promoted to president, and he was hired in part for his expertise in automation.


Hanke recalled a program at his previous employer where he and his automation crew were able to create cells for a sanding and buffing operation that cut down workers required from around 140 to 15, with half of those jobs that were obviated being temps and the other half regular employees. “I redeployed most of our own people,” Hanke said, “and I was able to move our people into better more key positions—move them up into the assembly operations, move them up into the lead operations—stuff like that, and it allowed them to get a better role.”


Engler noted that the automation can help molders like AMA fast track more promising hires sooner. “I think most people that are doing a perfunctory task don’t feel threatened when they lose that work to a robot,” Engler said. “We really try to redeploy people. In our industry if someone comes through the door and they function at a higher level; have common sense; have some mechanical aptitude; it really doesn’t take them long to move into a different role.”


Robots are nearly always viewed on a plant floor with suspicion—if a person can be replaced in one job by automation couldn’t robots adapt to replace them in all roles—but the promise of cobots holds out a less threatening, more cooperative future.


In researching the article, the most official definition of cobots and collaborative automation I could find came from Germany’s Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (IFA):


“Collaborative industrial robots are complex machines which work hand in hand with human beings. In a shared work process, they support and relieve the human operator.”


Hand in EOAT towards a more efficient (less boring) future. 


Emerging Technologies in the Spotlight

By: Tony Deligio 13. January 2016

Smart packaging, additive manufacturing, Industry 4.0, completely reimagining the injection molding machine—those are just some of the topics to be tackled in the Emerging Technologies session at Molding 2016. 


A fundamental portion of the Molding Conference since its inception 26 years ago, emerging technology presentations will once again be front and center in New Orleans this March, with that session set to kick off the two-and-a-half-day forum on the morning of March 29.


Speakers in the session represent industry leading suppliers and manufacturers, including molders Proto Labs and Nypro, and injection molding machine suppliers Milacron, Arburg, and Engel. Also featured in the session will be RocTool, purveyor of cutting edge conductive tooling technology and Xtrude2Fill, a new machinery supplier with a press that turns traditional molding principles on their head.


Rounding out the first session of the first day will be Thomas Blaige—the chairman, CEO and managing partner of the eponymous plastics, packaging and chemicals investment bank, Thomas Blaige & Company LLC. The desire to add complementary technologies often plays a key role in molding mergers and acquisitions, and Blaige will discuss the global consolidation in molding, which has seen the majority of the top 50 injection molding companies in 2001 undergoing a change in ownership or being eliminated over the past 15 years.


Nypro’s Martin Johnson will address the leading edge of packaging technologies, discussing hybrid rigid/flexible materials, embedded smart codes and new materials and substrates that communicate product freshness or temperature directly to the consumer.


Proto Labs, the publicly traded proponent of rapid manufacturing, will be represented by Jeff Schipper who will discuss recent advances in manufacturing technologies that allow “iterative design and development.” Exploiting these, Schipper notes, allows processors to speed time to market via additive manufacturing and other quick-turn technologies. Learn how to “manage the volatility of demand and reduce inventory costs with on-demand manufacturing,” Schipper promises.


A veteran of household molding/manufacturing names like Flextronics, Capsonic and Courtesy, Rick Fitzpatrick will discuss how his experience with traditional injection molding processes—high press and high shear—lead him to his new venture, Xtrude2Fill. The patented machines minimize pressure and shear, allowing the injection molding process and machine to be simplified and downsized.


As chief technology officer at one of the plastics industry’s most diversified equipment suppliers, Milacron, Bruce Catoen brings a unique perspective to his presentation on the prospect of smart factories. Catoen will address two-way communications between equipment, enhanced intelligence, predictive maintenance, remote monitoring and process optimization to see how molders can increase their OEE [Overall equipment effectiveness].


Arburg’s Juergen Giesow, whose career in molding began in 1983, will address the difficulty molders tasked with lightweighting face when they must create parts that use less material but still maintain functional strength. Giesow’s talk will address Arbug’s new solution to that particular problem, the Profoam physical foaming process, as well as lightweight thermoplastic composites.


Engel’s Joachim Kragl will address what he calls “one of the remaining gaps in injection molding process control.” In particular, Kragl will discuss automatic water-flow monitoring and control in individual cooling circuits, a technology gaining traction in Europe but as of yet without a foothold in North America, leaving a key influencer of part dimensions and quality neglected.


Mathieu Boulanger, CEO of RocTool, the provider of injection molding, composite and induction equipment, will introduce what he calls “high-definition plastics” at Molding 2016. Boulanger will review an analysis of the primary resin families and how the technology helped achieve high-end surface finishes without secondary operations while improving functional properties like weld-line strength.

Molding 2016 Conference

Dutch EU Building Features ‘XXL’ 3D-Printed Bioplastic

By: Heather Caliendo 12. January 2016

The Leadership of the Council of the European Union is conducted on a rotating schedule, meaning each country holds the presidency for six months at a time. The Netherlands took over on Jan. 1, 2016 and needed a place to hold the European meetings for the next six months. The group decided to use innovative resources in constructing the building for the meetings.  


The entrance façade, designed by Amsterdam-based DUS Architects, consists of unique 3D printed elements made of bioplastic that the company says can be fully recycled after the presidency is over. The entrance of the building is partially constructed with shaped sails that refer to the historical sailing ships that used to be built in this area. This creates alcoves, which house EU-blue colored 3D-printed benches.


According to DUS Architects:


The printed patterns build up from large to small and round to square and depict the variety and community of the EU countries. Every seating element is parametrically designed and fits perfectly within each alcove. They are prototypes developed especially for the EU presidency, and printed locally with the XXL 3D printer of the 3D Print Canal House in Amsterdam. This life-size printer can print elements up to 2 x 2 x 3.5 meters. The prints are made of a specially developed bioplastic and the seating surfaces are filled with a light-colored concrete. The bioplastic can be shredded and reprinted after the presidency is over.


DUS Architects says this is the first time in the world that these kinds of XXL 3D prints are being shown in the public domain.


The project is the first commercial spin-off resulting from the collaborations on the 3D Print Canal House, which is an initiative of DUS architects and partners. The production of the 3D prints has been done by Actual, an Amsterdam-based start-up that develops online customizing software for building elements linked to XL 3D printing. The façade has been developed due to to the close collaboration between the various parties: DUS (design), Actual (parametric development & 3D printing), Neptunus (temporary structures), TenTech (engineering), Henkel (material development), Philips (light), and Heijmans (construction and assembly).


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