First Vehicle to Have a Thermoplastic Composite Primary Suspension Spring

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 27. May 2016


Springs and upper control arms of the Polystrand GT-Lite racecar are made from nylon 6 with continuous glass reinforcement.


A purpose-built racing vehicle designed to highlight the application of thermoplastic composites in automotive applications recently competed for the first time at the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) Majors event at the Motor Speedway Resort (MSR) Houston—a 17-turn 2.38-mile road course race track located in Angleton, Texas.


Bodied as a 1987 Honda CRX, the Polystrand GT-Lite racecar reportedly is believed to be the first motor vehicle to use continuously reinforced thermoplastic composites as the primary suspension springs. “We strongly believe that reinforced thermoplastics offer an excellent opportunity in automotive lightweighting applications due to their ease and speed of processing, and offer a cost-effective, recyclable alternative to current materials,” says Ed Pilpel, president of Polystrand Inc., Engelwood, Col.


Here are some key details to this apparent milestone. The springs and upper control arms of this multi-link independent rear suspension system, which was designed by Polystrand senior engineer Jonathan Spiegel, are manufactured from nylon 6 and are reinforced with TufRov 4510 continuous E-glass from Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries.


The prototype springs were compression molded from Polystrand continuously reinforced thermoplastic tape at the Materials Processing and Application Development Center at the University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Engineering. Also featured on the car is a reinforced PP front splitter, which is an aerodynamic aid, and hybrid interior sandwich panels made of reinforced PETG thermally bonded between thin layers of aluminum and stainless steel, manufactured in-house at Polystrand utilizing PPG TufRov 4588 reinforcement.


“While we experience several teething problems in this first outing, chasing minor electrical and braking problems during the event that prevented us from finishing the races, the suspension system performed beyond expectations, allowing us to maintain a second place positon while on the track. The MSR track is known for being rough, so this was a good test of the suspension’s compliance. Handling balance was very good, and the car maintained excellent traction at high speeds even over the notoriously bumpy pavement.”


Want to keep abreast on the latest developments in automotive lightweighting enabled by thermoplastics composites? Do so by Registering for our second presentation of “Thermoplastics Composites for Automotive” (TCC Auto2016) conference on June 15-16 at the Suburban Collection Showcase in Novi, Mich. TCC Auto2016 is presented by Plastics Technology magazine and CompositesWorld, sister publications within Gardner Business Media, and will be concurrent with the Amerimold 2016 show and conference, presented by Gardner’s MoldingMaking Technology magazine.


Read more about applications and materials TCC Auto 2016


Read more about machinery and processes at TCC Auto 2016


Read more about carbon-fiber reinforced PP compounds at TCC Auto 2016

Thermoplastic composite primary suspension spring


Global Oversupply of PE, PP Better for Processors, Tougher on Producers

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 25. May 2016

As we approach the mid-year mark, IHS addresses how the competitive landscape is changing for global polyolefins.


Dull, is one thing pricing trends for polyolefins is not, particularly in the last few years as North American producers for both PE and PP became the leaders in low-cost production and enjoyed quite excellent profit margins. “The surge of shale gas derived feedstock has enabled North American polyethylene and polypropylene producers to achieve a level of cost-competitiveness that is unprecedented, since the Middle East has traditionally served as the world’s lowest-cost producer for these products,” says Nick Vafiadis, global business director of polyolefins and plastics at Houston-based IHS Chemical.


Meanwhile, a surge in new plastics chemical capacity coming from North America, the Middle East and China is driving the global market for PE and PP to oversupply, which will pressure margins for producers and change the global competitive landscape, according to IHS. Within the 2015-2020 timeframe, IHS has estimated that nearly 53 billion/lb of added new PE capacity will come on stream—more than one-third of which, about 18 billion, will come from the U.S. This will significantly increase the U.S. net-export position for PE and PP and other chemicals, rebalancing the global chemical trade flows that have favored the Middle East for decades.


Says Vafiadis, “In the near-term, this excess capacity is good news for North American converters, who will be more competitive on a global basis due to the increased competition associated with the PE capacity expansions. However, on the producer side, economics will be challenged in the near-term as global capacity expansions exceed demand growth and pressure margins.”


Beyond North America, China is also growing as a key, low-cost provider of PE, thanks to its production additions from coal-to-olefins technology. China is expected to add about 37.5 billion/lb of new PE/PP capacity within the five-year timeframe, which will drive further market volatility, according to Vafiadis. “The U.S. and China are now competing with the Middle East for global PE/PP market share, which should have significant impact on pricing and margins, so at IHS, we expect to see big changes ahead for the global industry…there will be significant imbalances as we see North America and the Middle East both add more PE capacity than is warranted for their domestic markets, so exports will be key for producers,” he says.


In Europe, imports from the Middles East in 2016 so far have surpassed 2015 numbers, as the region continued to see strong demand and offered attractive net-backs for Middle East producers. HDPE import figures for January and February 2016 overall, were the highest of the last eight years at 326 million/lb, while exports were the lowest for the same period at only 92.5 million/lb. According to IHS, a similar but less pronounced trend is occurring for other PE grades as well. 


“According to our IHS Chemical forecasts, we expect Asian pricing for PE to remain depressed for the remainder of 2016, and with European producers giving little margin away, this will mean netbacks from the Middle East to Europe will remain attractive in the coming months. The net result will mean PE imports will continue to arrive in Europe at relatively high levels from the Middle East,” Vafiadis says.


All this and more, will be discussed by IHS experts at the PEPP 2016: 24th Annual Polyethylene/Polypropylene Chain Global Technology and Business Forum, June 1-3, 2016, at the Swissotel Zurich in Switzerland. “One of the key issues of discussion will be the next wave of polymer capacity additions worldwide, and the ripples it will have throughout the supply chain. The additional supply will result in major changes in market dynamics, increasing trade flows and driving the need for improved supply chain management. We will also explore evolving consumer trends and regulations, which mean increasing demand for enhanced product quality in several end uses such as packaging and automotive,” says Vafiadis.


Low oil prices could make the environment even more attractive for new plastics applications, which will drive new innovations in PE/PP technology and applications, ventures Vafiadis.


Search for PE and PP resins in PT’s materials database.


The 5 M’s of Molding—Part I: Man (labor)

By: Garrett MacKenzie 24. May 2016

There are many areas in which personnel affect consistency and repeatability within a plastics operation.


As a plastics operation evolves there are numerous factors affect productivity, and these detractors can be small or large…consistent or sporadic…obvious or hidden. In any continuous improvement-minded facility, there is always a need for repeated analysis of each job being run. The overall success or failure of each individual operation hinges upon effective review of inconsistencies and system failures. The company then develops and implements improvements, approaches and/or corrections to address shortcomings that could potentially include the purchase of specialized tools or equipment to better equip personnel.


One of the key requirements for profitable continuous improvement is starting out with a solid base to build on. When a job is turned over from engineering to production, all facets of the production line need to be in stable working order. This helps to prevent costly down time and scrap directly related to poor set up, and will assure bad product does not reach the customer.


There are 5 key components that must not only be reviewed during engineering’s development of each work system, but also as the job matures through continuous improvement. The “5 M’s of Molding” make up the solid foundation upon which a company develops a successful molding operation. This article outlines these principles and suggests ways to use them for the evolution of a company’s production capabilities.


Man (Labor):
Labor is one of the most critical contributors to the success or failure of any production development. There are many areas in which personnel affect consistency and repeatability within a plastics operation as it evolves. Here are some of the primary points to consider when evaluating labor as an area for improvement:


Work area: Engineering does not end when parts have been removed from the mold. An evaluation must be made as to what steps need to be taken to provide the customer with a top quality part every time. Make sure the area is well lit and mark locations for tables, tools, scrap bin, etc. Area layout should be designed to maximize operator efficiency and great care should be taken to assure that waste-of-motion has been eliminated. Inspection, part preparation and packaging should flow smoothly allowing the operator both comfort and ample inspection time. It is important to remember that the more labor intensive a job becomes, increased quality problems directly related to human error could be the end result.


Tools: As continuous improvement efforts intensify, it is important to listen to the workers who are most involved with the production end. These are the people who day in and day out have their hands on the parts being produced. Listen to their concerns and suggestions for areas of improvement and provide them with the tools that best fits what needs to be accomplished, thoroughly and quickly.


Defects: It is important to note that quality should be molded in and not sorted. There are circumstances though where depending on operators is necessary. Be sure that they have been fully trained regarding what defects they are looking for, and whenever possible show them what area on the part a defect would normally be found. Track scrap data to identify what defects are most common and then look for solutions through mold modification, process change, etc. to eliminate or significantly reduce the defect.


Ergonomics: It is easy to overlook the importance of this category to the overall profitability of a company. Workplace injuries drive insurance costs, which inevitably reduce the overall profitability of every project on the floor. As you are developing work instructions, look for areas of the job that require frequent twisting, bending and turning. Evaluate methods and/or tools to improve the workflow of the station.


Work instructions: Operational instructions are a vitally important tool once the work pattern has been established. Great care should be put into providing all personnel responsible for the various tasks a job requires with very complete and concise directives. Pictures are a great tool that allow visual explanations of various components. Work instructions should be written in the simplest form possible with detailed explanations of all required information.


Human Error: As mistakes happen, review the fault for ways to eliminate failures from happening again. The “5 Why” system is an effective method for getting to the root cause of failures and developing solutions. Here is an example of this method:


Problem: 32 bad pieces were packed that had splay on the parts


Why? The operator did not catch the mistake

Why? It was a new defect that had never been seen on this part

Why? The dryer ran low on material which resulted in light splay

Why? The material handler did not check the material as frequently as he should

Why? He is new and needs retraining on the frequency of checking the hopper


Once the 5 why’s have been asked, it is now time to review the problems and establish solutions to prevent a reoccurrence. For instance, the operator missed the mistake because it had never happened before. To fix this we can implement a visual picture or defect part to be kept at the press in order to assure ourselves that the new problem has been passed along to everyone responsible for part inspection. The hopper also ran low due to an inexperienced material handler. The 5 why’s suggests that this person be retrained to prevent this situation from happening again.


Garrett MacKenzie is the owner and editor of Mackenzie started in plastics at the age of 19 as an operator, eventually moving up through the ranks to engineering and management over a 29-year timeframe. He currently works as a plastic injection consultant in engineering and training capacities. He can be contacted at


Next week, Part II in The Five “Ms” of Molding: the Mold.


Get Millennials To Work for You—Part 2, The Job Posting

By: Jim Callari 24. May 2016

Are your company’s job postings more like a smart phone or a rotary phone? Tips on how to post job listings that pique the interest of the next generation.


In part one of this three-part series, Paul Sturgeon, business manager at KLA Industries, a recruiting firm with offices in Cincinnati and Largo, Fla. that specializes in plastics, spoke about techniques you can use to determine how appealing your company is to Millennials. Sturgeon calls this your “Millennial Score.”


In Part 2 here, Sturgeon offers sage advice on how to post job listings that pique the interest of the next generation.


“If today’s typical job description were a telephone, it would be hanging on the wall, with a big round dial and 10 holes in it numbered from 1 to 0," Sturgeon states. “The baby boomers in the workforce, those currently between the ages of 52 and 70, could still use this old rotary phone and don’t have any problem with these job descriptions. But if you want to attract Millennials, it’s time to write the job description like a smart phone. Just as you would with any other marketing materials, think of these potential candidates as your customers and write the job description with them in mind.”


To drive this point home, Sturgeon came up with a few samples from “old school” job descriptions and some suggestions on how you could re-write that with your Millennial candidate-customer in mind. What follows is paraphrased closely from some of the top results off a leading job site search for “Injection Molding Engineer.”


Old School: Our company, a custom injection molder serving the ___ and ___ industries, is seeking an experienced and highly motivated individual for the following position in our molding division.


New School: We offer a competitive salary and benefits package with very friendly and relaxed work environment. We have just moved into our new facility located in ____. It is an exciting time to join ____. We are growing and moving into new products and markets and require an enthusiastic and dedicated teammate to help us realize these strategic goals. Come and see what ____ has to offer you and your future!


Old School: The successful candidate will be a “self-motivated” individual who has a minimum of three to five years of experience in a ____ environment or a Bachelor's Degree in Plastics Engineering. States Sturgeon, “Yes they actually used quotation marks for some reason.”


New School: We are smart, interesting, and sometimes quirky people solving problems big and small. We are seeking creative, curious, and intelligent people to join our ranks. Our company was founded on the power of a good idea. And we know that good ideas can only come from people. Because of this, we believe that self-managed people are our greatest resource and pride ourselves on our outstanding culture to support them.


Old School: Client is seeking qualified senior product engineers for its headquarters in ____. This position will report to the Engineering Director. This is an engineering position requiring independent decision making, project management and leadership. Senior engineers perform tasks or analyses of a complex nature and may coach or direct the work of less experienced engineers or technicians.


New School: We are working with some of the world’s largest companies, helping them solve problems, create efficiencies, and grow the economy. As a ____ employee you get to be on the ground level of innovation – producing new products, leading testing and rapid iteration, and propelling new technologies to the next level.


As far as Sturgeon is concerned, “To make room for the cool, interesting, attractive things you are going to say about your company and the opportunity, you can delete all of the following if they currently appear on your job description:


  • Detail oriented, excellent communication skills (both written and verbal);
  • Working knowledge of Microsoft Office products;
  • Ability to work as part of a team (even if your teams are cross-functional, or multi-disciplinary);
  • Self-motivated, driven, enthusiastic, multi-tasker, etc., etc., etc.;
  • An unwavering commitment to safety; and
  • A positive attitude.


“Just to be clear, I am not saying these things are not important,” Sturgeon notes. “But the desired outcome of your job ad is to attract potential candidates, and no one thinks they don’t have good communication skills or work well within teams, so it doesn’t further your objective."


Now that you’ve perhaps attracted the Millennials’ interest, Part 3 will focus on the interview process.


Part 1: Get Millennials to Work for You


job application description

More New LED Lighting Materials—LSRs, PPs and PCs

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 22. May 2016

Wacker’s LSR encapsulants, Trinseo’s advanced PC, and Panasonic’s light diffusion PP are among the latest options.


My third PT blog installment on interesting information that did not make it into New Materials Shine Bright in Growing LED Market, our upcoming June cover story, discusses new materials from Wacker Chemie, Trinseo, and Panasonic.


Wacker Chemie, LSR Encapsulants for LEDs and Optical Components. Wacker’s new LSR compounds Lumisil 590 and 591 are highly transparent, addition-curing silicone elastomers with a refractive index of 1.53, which means they rank among the high-refractive-index (HRI) encapsulants. Such grades are particularly well suited for manufacturing highly-efficient LEDs. The HRI silicone protects the sensitive LED chip against mechanical influences and corrosive gases. At the same time, the silicone’s high refractive index enables optimum light efficiency.


Semiconductor chips used to generate light in LEDs have a high refractive index. To maximize the amount of light emitted by the LED chip that can pass through the encapsulation, the refractive index of the chip and encapsulant must be roughly the same value. Thanks to their refractive index of 1.53, Lumisil 590 and 591 reportedly make LEDs highly efficient. What’s more, the highly transparent silicones are almost completely transparent for light in the visible spectra range (400 to 700 nm) and reportedly do not yellow even when radiation is extremely intense. Transmission tests with Lumisil 590 show that a one-millimeter-thick layer lets over 91% of visible light through. These two materials are said to protect the LED chip reliably against environmental influences. Corrosive gases such as hydrogen sulfide can damage the LED chip and reduce its performance. Tests show that LED chips encapsulated with these materials are protected against such damage longer and have a prolonged life.


These new HRI silicones are said to be easy to process, heat-resistant and absolutely tack-free after curing. They also exhibit optimized flow and crosslinking characteristics. With a viscosity of the mix of 2000 and 2500 mPas respectively, they enable efficient, cost-effective processing. Both products are suitable for encapsulating the LED chip via contact-free dispensing processes, and they form cured rubber grades of varying hardness. With a hardness of Shore A 65, Lumisil 590 is relatively soft, whereas Lumisil 591 is formulated to be significantly harder at Shore D 40.


 Trinseo, Emerge PC 8330LT Advanced Resin & Tyril 905UV SAN. Trinseo began supporting the LED lighting market sector early on in the industry’s evolution and offers a broad portfolio of materials under the Caliber PC and Emerge Advance Resin brands, including: transparent, light diffusion, ignition resistant, and reflective grades used by several global OEMs for lenses, optics, diffusers, reflectors, and housings.


Late last year, it launched next-generation materials including Emerge PC 8330LT, an advanced PC that has been recognized for its ability to fill the need for a transparent, thin-gauge, flame-retardant plastic. It is UL94 rated V-0 at 1.0mm and 5VA at 2.5mm. Also, new is cost-effective acrylic alternative Tyril 905UV SAN resin.


Panasonic Corp., Light Diffusion PP Molding Compounds. Panasonic has developed a light diffusion type PP molding compound which reportedly can extend the operating life of LEDs. Key applications include automotive interior lighting, outdoor sign boards, store lighting, and water-related lighting, as well as digital signage.


Branded Full Bright PP, the compounds are said to be an industry first in that, in addition to injection molding, they are applicable to injection stretch blow molding, enabling processors to form complex shapes with greater freedom based on individual customer applications. The new compounds are said to allow for the production of 0.02-9n. (0.5-mm) molding, which was previously unachievable; achieve less than 10% thickness accuracy by processing; and, unlike the company’s previously used conventional PP molding compound, they will not generate a hole when a product is blown to 0.02-in thickness.


The Full Bright PP compounds are also said to have overcome the weak light resistance of the conventional PP molding compounds and achieved excellent resistance to chemicals, contributing to extending the operating life of the LED lighting. Its UV resistance is as follows: under an environment of 90 C+ (UV radiation intensity of 400W mercury lamp-30cm distance), discoloration after 90 days of exposure (about 2000 hrs). Its ∆E is 2.0 or below, which is equivalent to 10 years in outdoor environments; this compared to the company’s previous PP molding compound with a ∆E of 17. Finally, the PP compounds’ low specific gravity contributes to lightweight design of LED lighting devices.


Read Part I, LSR Developments in LEDs for Automotive and Street Lighting


Read Part II, Plastic Heat Sinks for LEDs “Shine” for Two Lighting Component Manufacturers


Search for more of Wacker’s LSR and Trinseo’s PC and SAN offerings in PT’s materials database

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