Instron Celebrates 70th Anniversary

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 15. March 2016

Starting with a material testing prototype in an MIT lab, Instron has made its mark with innovations in testing instruments for evaluating mechanical properties of plastics and components.


March 15, 2016 will mark the 70-yr anniversary of Instron, Norwood, Mass., a manufacturer of testing instruments that evaluate mechanical properties of materials and components. The company believes the milestone is a testament to the its products, support and service.


Seven decades on it continues to serve the market with new technologies. These include its latest generation of HDT testers, featuring touch-screen operation, faster testing, as well as enhanced safety and energy conservation; and, its new series of automatic tensile and flexural modulus testers with both a smaller footprint and lower cost.


Instron’s history began in 1946 with Harold Hindman and George Burr, who were working together at MIT to investigate suitable substitutes for silk that could be used in the manufacture of parachutes. Once they discovered that there was no testing machine available accurate enough to meet their requirements, the partners designed a materials testing instrument. The swift success of the prototype led to the formation of Instron Corp.


The company has been at the forefront of the industry, earning recognition as one of the first companies to use video strain measurement and as the first in its industry to offer automatic transducers and reverse stress loading, among many other accomplishments.


In October 2005, Instron was acquired by ITW as the first company in its Test and Measurement platform. “ITW arrived at a crucial time in Instron’s 70-year history. As we made the transition from a largely family-owned business. ITW’s philosophy guided us to maintain the high standards envisioned by the original owners and at the same time taught us to run a more responsive organization to best serve our customers. I see our management’s role as custodians to our innovative culture,” stated Yahya Charagozlou, group president for ITW Test and Measurement.


Throughout the 70 years, Instron has opened offices across the Americas, Europe, and Asia Pacific. With an expansive network of nearly 1700 employees globally, Instron employees collectively speak more than 40 languages—enhancing the company’s communication capabilities with global customers.

Some Highlights from SPE Polyolefins 2016

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 9. March 2016

This international conference featured several tracks with a broad range of topics addressed by industry and academia pros.


I attended this year’s Houston-based SPE International Polyolefins Conference in late February and was impressed by the breadth of topics addressed by industry and academia as well as the number of sessions, which totaled 88. The Polyolefins 2016 event had over 620 attendees, 12 sponsors, and 64 exhibitors.


Highlights included seven plenary sessions which focused on polyolefin industry trends domestically and globally and sessions on innovations. Here are some takeaways from these sessions:


• Global PE supply/demand balance within the next five years reverses itself after five years of demand exceeding supply, according to Houston-based IHS Chemical ( There is a looming historic overrun coming our way—expect at least two-years-worth (2016-2018) of excess PE capacity at low-cost production. Operating rates which have been over 90 percent, will drop.


• PE prices will be impacted by all this—expect prices to reach an equilibrium. While North American PE prices will take the biggest hit, expect to see a swifter move toward price parity for PE globally, ventures IHS. Through this year, PE prices could end up dropping a total of 10ȼ/lb or more.


• New North American PE entrants and those with major new capacity slated within next two years (e.g., Ineos/Sasol, Braskem, Nova) will offer some incentives to for processors to “switch suppliers and lock-up business,” projects IHS. Overall, buyers will have more leverage vs. worrying about locking-in supply.


• Addressing both PP and PE in terms of the North American supply scenario, Houston-based ICIS made the point that the two are in direct opposite trajectories—with the former tight and getting tighter and the latter long and growing longer.


• ICIS sees PP rapidly reaching full-out capacity domestically, noting that demand eclipsed production in 2015, and PP suppliers’ margins were three times what they had been in the past.


• The range of prices being paid for PP is much wider than ever before.


• PP imports are needed and will continue to be needed as the closest slated new capacity will not show up until late 2017. Major exporters are the Middle East and Southeast Asia.


• On the innovation front when attending industry conferences these days, it is rare not to hear something new about 3D Printing. Innovative Plastics and Molding (IPM), Sylvania, Ohio discussed its creation of a new 3D printing natural fiber (25% cellulose-based) in a polyolefin matrix developed to compete with PLA and ABS in the FDM prototyping and additive manufacturing process.


IPM came up with the “right polyolefin”—after trying both homopolymers and copolymers—in terms of crystallinity, heat resistance, and shear strength. Advantages cited over PLA and ABS filaments include having overcome warping and odor issues, and they have found that they can process at much higher temperature than previously thought. Parts printed so far are parts that could not be injection molded and are far closer to micromolding.


Meanwhile, tracks on advances in polyolefin stabilization & modifiers, and catalysts & process advances had top billing in terms of the number of presentations—17 and 14, respectively. Some highlights of the former track included:


• Sumitomo Chemical America, New York, N.Y. discussed high-performance processing stabilizers for enhancing LLDPE films and one for enhancing PP films. They are based on a hybrid-type antioxidant with both phosphonic and phenolic moieties. Higher heat stability, higher resistance to discoloration, and lower blooming are claimed.


• BASF discussed a permanent antistat Irgastat P for polyolefins, which is intrinsically dissipative and intrinsically conductive. It has been used in both LLDPE blown film and PP fiber applications. More recently, it had been shown to have excellent weatherability for use in outdoor PP applications.


Also discussed by BASF was non-sorbitol nucleation for PP. XT386 is a high-performance clarifier that has a positive effect on crystallization temperature and speed. Typical sorbitol clarifiers require 1500-2200 ppm use levels—an order of magnitude over XT386 clarifier, which only requires 150 ppm. Excellent thermal stability is claimed—with XT386 remaining stable up to 286 F. Recent work has found that this clarifier performs very well in gamma-irradiated PP copolymers used for medical applications. In addition, enhanced thermal stability and much less colorability is reported after irradiation.


Other interesting conference tracks, typically with an average of six presentations, included: advances in innovative reinforcements of polyolefins; applications in building & construction; advances in film & flexible packaging; and foams & high-melt strength PP.


There were also tracks on advances in characterization and properties; polyolefins and sustainability; and, recent advances in fibers & non-wovens.  


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SPE Polyolefins

Solvay Showcasing Thermoplastics & Thermoset Composites Technology at JEC 2016

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 8. March 2016

At this week’s JEC, Solvay will represent an even broader front in composites after last year’s acquisition of Cytec.


At the big international JEC composites show in Paris this week,  Belgium’s Solvay Specialty Polymers (U.S. office in Alpharetta, Ga.) will have an even broader presence in the overall arena of composites; the result of its mid-2015 acquisition of U.S.-based carbon fiber and prepreg manufacturer Cytec Industries, Woodland Park, N.J.


Cytec’s composites materials business sector now accounts for two-thirds of its sales and its principal market is primary and secondary structures for aircrafts. As part of the newly-formed Composites Materials (previously Cytec), this new Solvay global business unit is further accelerating the development of new technological applications for composites in automotive. Its aerospace prepregs and resin systems portfolio includes: thermoset prepregs; thermoplastic prepregs; and, preforms and resin-infusion systems.


At JEC, Solvay is showcasing synergies to further drive lightweighting innovation in both the aerospace and automotive markets, thanks to this acquisition. These range from thermoset and thermoplastic prepregs, structural and 3D-moldable foams, adhesives and surfacing films, resin and compound systems, impact modifiers, carbon fibers, textiles, tooling, and vacuum-bagging consumables.


In the thermoplastic composites arena, Solvay is highlighting its “Tegralite Thermoplastic Lightweighting Solutions” launched last year and initially targeted to the aerospace industry, but which is also expected to be transferable to automotive. Tegralite is a new family of semi-finished thermoplastic lightweighting materials that Solvay is developing and commercializing together with its alliance partners—Aonix Advanced Materials, JSP, and 3A Composites, including foams, composites and sandwich materials manufactures out of Solvay’s extensive portfolio of polymers.


Among the products being showcased is Tegracore PPSU foams (formerly Radel foams) for heavy-duty sandwich applications ranging from aircraft interiors to structural parts that require superior resistance to damage, fire, and liquids, including water. Sandwich materials made of Tegracore and sulfone-based prepregs manufactured by Aonix, for example, are being used in a new generation of highly damage resistant and tolerant airline service trolleys.


Editor’s choice

Solvay Launches New Thermoplastic Composite Materials for Aerospace


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Five-Year Old Biopolymer Conference Grows Broader

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 7. March 2016

NatureWorks’s Innovation Takes Root 2016 conference agenda is indicative of the mettle of biopolymers in a broader set of market sectors.


Later this month, I’m lucky enough to be filling in for my busy colleague, executive editor Matt Naitove, at the 5th edition of Innovation Takes Root (ITR), a three-day event sponsored by NatureWorlks LLC, Minnetonka, Minn., manufacturer of Ingeo PLA, a bioplastic made up of long molecular chains of the polymer polylactide derived from naturally-occurring plant sugars.


This time, the biennially-held ITR is taking place March 30-April 1, at the Orlando World Center Marriot, Orlando, Fla. This three-day event brings together global Ingeo channel partners from the entire bioplastic value chain to learn more about the innovations emerging in a host of different markets—from 3D printing to flexible and rigid packaging.  Market-focused sessions include in-depth discussions on:


  • Single-serve beverage delivery systems
  • New developments in Ingeo flexible packaging
  • Advancements in dairy, dessert, and chilled snack packaging
  • Food serviceware
  • New horizons for Ingeo in 3D printing
  • Ingeo fibers and nonwovens advancements


On March 30, there are three four-hour workshops offered. Two are technical in nature: the theory and practice of delivering heat resistance and practical approaches to impact modification. The third, Progressing the Ingeo Journey, offers an in-depth look at Ingeo feedstock diversification; feedstock sustainability and certification; relevant regional and global regulations; strategies and pilots for increasing Ingeo post-consumer and post-industrial recovery; and the latest Ingeo life-cycle assessment.


Meanwhile, the ITR 2016 plenary sessions feature global brands, leading academics, and non-governmental organizations. Plenary speakers include Ikea, describing the company’s vision for sustainable materials innovation—“Circular Ikea”. A speaker representing the Green Sports Alliance will address how the organization’s more than 300 member sports leagues, teams, and arenas are partnering with industry to drive societal change in terms of less waste going to landfills.


Also notable is the director of Duke University’s Center for Sustainability & Commerce who will discuss the place of bioplastics in the broader context of the U.S.’s $369-billion bioeconomy. A representative from World Wildfire Fund’s Bioplastics Feedstock Alliance will describe the NGO’s (non-governmental organization) partnership with brand owners on responsible applications of bioplastics and how these practices positively impact the environment.


The first-day opening keynote address by Kaihan Krippendorf, business strategist, best-selling author of “Outhink the Competition”, and Fast Company blogger sets the tone for the conference. He will address how companies can succeed by unlocking innovation and sizing opportunities others ignore. In a day-two opening keynote, a speaker from the non-profit e-Nable will describe how the creation of the first 3D-printed hand made for a five-year-old child has quickly evolved into a passionate volunteer network that is positively transforming the lives of children around the globe.


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Ingeo PLA pellets

DuPont Intensifies Research on Thermoplastic Composites

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 1. March 2016

DuPont Performance Materials (DPM), Wilmington, Del., will co-locate its thermoplastic composites research activities on the RWTH Aachen University campus in Aachen, Germany, extending its existing partnership with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) to a “Premium Partnership.”

DuPont is a founding partner of AZL, formed in 2012 to meet the increasing demand for mass production of lightweight, highly stable, chemically resistant components, mainly for transportation-related applications. This move will give DPM better access to the work of AZL research partners such as Aachen's world-renowned Plastics Processing Institute (IKV), and will also foster further collaboration with other companies based on-site.

“Co-locating our activities in Aachen is a first ever in Europe for DPM and represents a paradigm shift in how we do research and new business development,” noted DuPont business development manager Ernst Poppe. Co-location is an emerging collaboration model of increasing strategic importance, according to the partners. It brings together academic and industry research in a dedicated space to stimulate bigger and broader breakthroughs from a commercial, technological, and human perspective that go beyond what can be achieved through traditional bilateral projects.

The AZL lightweight competence network, along with its Aachen Campus partner institutes active in various fields of lightweight production technology, total over 750 scientists and 1100 graduate students. The AZL Partner Network consists of 60 industrial partners representing the entire lightweight production value chain—from material suppliers, molders, and manufacturing equipment suppliers to OEMs. As a service provider partnering with companies in the field of lightweight production technology, AZL offers industrial services in engineering, consultancy, and project management.


Conference Addresses Thermoplastic Composites in Automotive

Plastics Technology and its Gardner Business Media sister publications CompositesWorld and Automotive Design and Production have now finalized their agenda for the 2016 Thermoplastic Composites for Automotive technical conference (#TCCAuto16) to be held on June 15-16 in Novi, Mich., co-located with the amerimold conference. Our TCC2014 event attracted attendees from a broad range of companies including automotive and agricultural equipment OEMs, Tier 1 and 2 suppliers, material suppliers, molders, technology companies and research organizations.


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