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Americhem, LPKF Collaborate on Delivery of Colorful Laser Plastic Welding Results

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 2. August 2016

Technology allows weight, time and money savings while optimizing aesthetics.

 

Since the early 2000s, laser plastics welding has been coming into its own, starting with electronics and gaining in acceptance in other key industries such as automotive. One of three non-friction welding processes, laser welding is a gentle and clean joining process that enables welding of complex geometries and materials that are difficult to bond with other techniques.

 

Just within the first half of this year, we have reported on new laser welders from major players like Branson and Dukane, including clear-to-clear plastic welding and large format welding for complex geometry parts. Other news included Japan’s Panasonic Corp.’s Automotive Systems Company (U.S. office in Peachtree City, Ga.) announcing the development and start of mass production of PBT molding compounds for laser welding. The target: automotive switches and sensors, where these new compounds reportedly enhance design flexibility and long-term reliability.

 

Now, Americhem, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and Germany’s LPKF Laser & Electronics (U.S. office in Tualatin, Ore.) have collaborated on a laser plastic welding technology that allows manufacturers to save weight, time and money vs. using traditional materials, while maintaining and optimizing part aesthetics.

 

Two plastics are joined together using laser radiation in the laser plastics welding process. The plastics being welded have a transmissive upper layer and an absorbing lower layer, allowing the laser to heat the materials in the lower layer and bond them to another compatible material.

 

The lower layer is often based on high-absorptive pigments such as carbon black. In their partnership of this technology, LPKF provides the production equipment and process solutions used in laser plastic welding while Americhem provides custom coloring technology for both the upper and lower layers.

 

In order to provide the ultimate in design aesthetics, Americhem says it can match colors in the transmissive upper layer that enable the laser to pass through this visible layer and create the laser weld using the absorbing lower layer.

 

This technology is gaining wide use in the automotive, medical and consumer products industries. Brett Conway, group director, plastics for Americhem gives this example of the technology’s advantage: a car taillight cover, where laser plastic welding helps ensure a tight seam. “With LPKF’s welding equipment and Americhem’s color, this seal along the top of the taillight is visible and was actually used as part of the taillight’s creative design.”

 

Adds LPKF President Stephen Schmidt, “Though laser plastic welding has existed over a decade, the demand has grown recently as automobile manufacturers sought better quality solutions, lightweighting, and robotic assembly in their manufacturing processes. Because of the ability to custom color most parts, the welds can match the other components in the interior or exterior of the vehicle.”

 

For more on Americhem color and additive concentrates and compounds, see PT’s additives and materials databases.

 

How Important is China to Your Materials Suppliers?

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 1. August 2016

 

Look at what DuPont did.

 

Having a presence in China is not new for most major material suppliers—both resin makers and compounders such as BASF, Dow, ExxonMobil, PolyOne, and Teknor Apex to name a few.

 

DuPont, which is about to merge with Dow Chemical, has opened up its largest yet engineering plastics compounding plant in Shenzhen, China. Last month, my colleague Tony Deligio reported on the company’s “pre-announcement” of the new facility during the Chinaplas 2016 Media Day in late April.

 

Further expansion into China was a definite theme among materials suppliers at this year’s Chinaplas, according to Tony. “If they weren’t adding/expanding local production, they were adding/expanding local design/application engineering.”

In DuPont’s case, its journey in Shenzhen started 27 years ago. The old facility was shuttered and its production folded into the new state-of-the-art facility.

 

A variety of compounds are being produced at this facility based on Zytel nylon, Crastin PBT, Delrin acetal (POM), Fusabond resins, and Bynell adhesive resins, intended to serve the automotive, industrial, consumer, and packaging markets in China and the broader Asia Pacific region.

 

The facility boasts the latest compounding technologies and reportedly features a number of innovations to deliver high quality and increased productivity. For example, DuPont collaborated closely with its extrusion equipment supplier to create a production setup that is said to allow for faster transitions between different product families, resulting in greater asset flexibility to meet customer needs with shorter delivery cycles.

 

The largest extruders installed in the new facility, which is designed with further expansion in mind, are said to deliver a high volume output with increased efficiency. The Shenzhen facility also boasts a high level of automation—from silo to extruder, which further bolsters product uniformity and quality. Product packaging is also fully automated.

 

For more on DuPont engineering plastics, see PT’s materials database.

 

PolyOne Expands Into Thermoplastic Composites

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 29. July 2016

Through acquisition of two key businesses, PolyOne positions itself for “next-generation” composites development.

 

Just last month, my colleague senior editor Heather Caliendo reported on how PolyOne, is part of a consortium of corporations which includes three processors that make up the Composite and Nanocomposite Advanced Manufacturing (CNAM) Center at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City.

 

Heather quoted Joe Golba, lead scientist, reactive extrusion at PolyOne, who told her, “What is compelling about CNAM is the overall intent to bring composites more into the mainstream for applications like transportation, infrastructure and energy.”

 

So, it was not entirely surprising to hear this week that PolyOne has acquired two key Colorado-based specialty businesses from Gordon Holdings—Gordon Composites of Montrose, and Polystrand of Engelwood, which design and produce innovative, lightweight, high-performance solutions, utilizing advanced composite technology and state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities. Here is what this important move does:

 

• It strengthens PolyOne’s existing portfolio of thermoset composites, with the acquisition of Gordon Composites, which develop high-strength profiles and laminates for use in vertical and crossbow archery, sports and recreation equipment, prosthetics, and office furniture systems.

 

•  The acquisition of Polystrand, which has been a pioneer of continuous thermoplastic composite technology that delivers the high strength and lightweight characteristics of composites along with the design flexibility to form more complex shapes, places PolyOne at the vanguard of this next-generation technology. Current applications include materials for the aerospace, transportation, outdoor and security and protection markets.

 

• The acquisition, which totaled $85.5 million and comprised all assets related to the businesses, including intellectual property, trademarks and production assets, will join PolyOne’s existing portfolio of complementary products in a comprehensive platform which will form the new PolyOne Advanced Composites group.

 

Back in 2012, PolyOne entered into a cooperation and supply agreement with Italy’s Xenia Srl Unipersonale, a specialist in development and production of high-end polymer solutions reinforced with carbon fibers.

 

Their agreement offers customers support to transition from metal or thermoset resins to thermoplastic composites in high-end applications. Both PolyOne, with its OnForce long-fiber reinforced materials, and Xenia, with its Xecarb carbon fiber reinforced materials, have had substantial experience helping customers make such transitions.

 

For more on PolyOne’s broad range of compounds and additive concentrates, see PT’s materials and additives databases.

Photo courtesy: CompositesWorld

Novel, Vivid, and Durable Blue Pigment Could Soon Debut

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 27. July 2016

First new blue pigment in two centuries created accidentally in a university lab.

 

Shepherd Color has partnered with Oregon State U. chemists to bring the new blue to the market. Stumbled upon by materials science professor Mas Subramanian and his students at Oregon State University back in 2009, the pigment came about while they tested the electronic properties of chemical compounds. The team named the new vivid blue YinMin, after the elements from which it is composed—yttrium, indium and manganese.

 

Now, through an exclusive partnership with Shepherd Color Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, the new blue is on the way to commercialization. It is making its debut in paint, but its use in plastics is surely to follow.

 

With roots dating back to the 1920s ceramics industry, the family-owned company has been offering a full range of complex inorganic color pigments for the premium coatings and plastics markets since the early 1960s.

 

According to the company, the new blue’s beauty extends past the visible spectrum into the near infrared spectrum. As such, it allows for the formulation of darker shades that stay cooler than standard blues. It is for this reason that scientists are exploring its use on the development of an energy-saving roofing material, as this compound has water and UV resistance that outperforms other blues, including the last one created, cobalt blue.

 

Shepherd Color is completing its production scale-up and is aiming to obtain regulatory compliance from the EPA for this new pigment chemistry, for which it does not anticipate any obstacles. The company states that approvals to gain commercialization for new material chemistries are fastidious and well-controlled.

 

“Care and attention to the safe handling and processing of the materials used in manufacture to the final product as well as regulatory compliance, environmental impacts and even perspectives from global chemical inventories need to be taken into consideration.” Such inventories are used to manage the safe use of materials within different regions and countries; TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) is the relevant inventory in the U.S.

 

Shepherd Color provided limited samples to specific industrial users for R&D and market evaluation purposes. The company’s filing for commercialization approvals with the EPA was bolstered by the very encouraging feedback it received. While the company is not certain of the timeframe for full commercialization, it has noted that because the materials used in the manufacture of the new pigment are expensive prices are expected to be $1000/kg ($454/lb) plus shipping.

 

Meanwhile, Artnet Worlwide Corp.’s art market website has reported that the brilliantly bright and durable YinMin has been entered in a Harvard Art Museum pigment collection that preserves the “world history of color”. Artists are calling the new blue “Más Blue” (más in Spanish means “more” and also happens to be professor’s Subramanian’s first name.)

 

For more on Shepherd Color and pigments for plastics, see PT’s additives database.

 

A Discussion on the Value of Materials Testing

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 26. July 2016

The top three reasons processors should consider materials testing.

 

I found this brief discussion on how plastics processors can benefit from materials testing, offered to us by Americhem, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, extremely interesting. The company, a longtime global masterbatch and additives manufacturer, also made its entry into the plastics compounding business with three important acquisitions over the last four years.

 

The discussion features two of the company’s key research analytical scientists addressing why many processors are missing out by overlooking the value-added services from their material suppliers.

 

Pavan Maheswaram and Russ Howard, provide the brainpower behind Americhem’s Analytical and Physical Testing value-engineering services. Their key job: analyze raw materials and their customers’ products to assess quality and provide technical services.

 

“We spend most of our time developing, improving and implementing analytical testing methods, formulations and manufacturing processes,” says Maheswaram. Adds Howard, “There is a number of reasons we run tests, but we are ultimately providing technical data that customers and other Americhem experts can use to design, improve or otherwise engineer products.”

 

Their jobs entail doing testing for just about every business unit in the company. “We work with producers of residential and industrial carpets, vehicles and transportation equipment, architectural products, packaging, and specialty products—like nonwovens in dryer sheets. There is plenty of value to be found in taking a closer looks at the composition of your product, regardless of what that may be,” says Howard.

 

According to Maheswaram, the top three reasons for doing testing are:

 

Providing customers with documentation to serve as proof of a product’s composition or performance properties;

Troubleshooting—looking for problems or causes of problems with products or processes;

Assessing quality of certain types of products after they’ve been manufactured.

 

These pros conduct a broad spectrum of tests. With regards to analytical testing, says Maheswaram, thermal analysis is a core competency—whereby they look at how properties of materials change as temperature increases or decreases.

 

They also do a lot of spectroscopy work—seeing how light reacts with materials, when analyzing a masterbatch, as well as some microscopy when looking at particle sizes, for example. Adds Howard, “We are also focusing more on chromatography lately—separating mixtures to look at proportions of different ingredients to make sure ratios are right or to look for contamination that may have occurred during processing.”

 

How Long Does Testing Take?
It depends on the application and type of testing, according to these experts. They say the process could range from a few hours to perform some qualitative tests, with other tests taking much longer; generally, tests rarely take more than two weeks to perform, and almost never more than a month.

 

Greater Interest in Chromatography
A trend they are seeing, according to Maheswaram, is an increased interest in chromatography, as people want to better quantify and analyze the composition of various compounds. “We are also seeing interest in elemental testing super-microscopy, which requires very specialized equipment to carry out.”

 

Testing Challenges
Asked about testing challenges of which plastics processors should be aware, these pros say it’s important to know that testing methodologies are often proprietary. Says Howard, “If a company doesn’t have knowledge internally about how to conduct certain testing, it can be difficult to look up externally sometimes. You have to develop the tests yourself sometimes, so it isn’t as if someone can just decide one day they are going to conduct a new type of test.”

 

According to Maheswaram, not everyone has the same expertise. “It takes a lot of time, effort and money to establish certain testing capabilities, which is why we have people all over the world sending things to Americhem’s headquarters for testing.”

 

Don’t Miss Out
Asked what is the key takeaway from this discussion, Maheswaram advises not to overlook the value of testing—particularly if it is a service an “industry partner” provides at minimal cost.

 

“There is a lot you can learn from testing that can influence the way you design or improve your products, and you are missing out if you don’t take advantage.” Howard adds that processors should stay in touch with their material suppliers. “We are always looking for ways to expand our capabilities as we work with customers to overcome challenges, so don’t assume you know the full extent of a lab’s testing abilities. They might have changed since the last time you checked.”

 

For more on Americhem additives and compounds, see PT’s additives and materials database.

 




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