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Needs Vs. Wants: A Guide to What Customers Actually 'Need' When They 'Want' Certain Material Properties

By: Tony Deligio 8. July 2015

Over the years, Oliver Franssen, global marketing director of silicone supplier Momentive Performance Materials GmbH, Leverkusen, Germany, has curated a collection of part drawings that highlight the general apathy around choosing a resin for a part. In many cases, materials aren’t an afterthought, they’re a ‘neverthought.’

 

“Materials are often not specified,” Franssen said, “despite the fact that the elastomer parts can be critical to the function of the entire system.” Speaking at the Molding 2015 Conference (June 16-18; Chicago), Franssen noted that even when materials are specified, the right questions about their properties are not always asked.

 

“Functional relevant points frequently are not specified,” Franssen explained, noting a lack of guidance for key parameters including: hardness/modulus, tensile strength, elongation at break, tear strength, working environment and compression set.

 

Such generic requests for a “plastic” fail to acknowledge the breadth and depth of the elastomer catalog. “The silicone world covers a very broad temperature and polarity range,” Franssen said, with different metrics for those materials’ properties depending on the standard used (ASTM, ISO, etc.). “It is difficult to compare materials for use in an application without knowing the details—stuff like compression set, tear resistance, vulcanization, viscosity—it’s hard to do that using data sheets.”

 

Needs vs. Wants
Among Franssen’s slides was one translating customers’ property requests of what they say they want to what they’ll actually need.

 

  • Asks for hardness/Needs modulus
  • Asks for oil content in percent/Needs lubrication, weight loss of oil
  • Asks for FDA approved/Needs FDA compliant
  • Asks for cohesive structural bonding/Needs adhesion
  • Asks for approval by OEM/Needs qualification at tier supplier
  • Asks for a low-cost material/Needs a low system cost
  • Asks for samples/Needs datasheets

 

The answer from Franssen’s view at a material supplier:

 

“There is no ‘best material available on the planet,’” Franssen said. “You have to look at every particular case and find the right material. We have to help the customer get through this jungle. As far as the path forward, instead of just longer specifications, put a clear description on the drawing; put in post curing, molding process, color.”

 

Other steps on the path:

  • Talk to internal experts
  • Share expectations
  • Look for reference applications
  • Don't rely solely on brochures and databases
  • Develop or use existing meaningful tests

 

“Your customer may not be interested in a new material,” Franssen said, in which case you should consider simulation to prove out a potential resin switch. “Test real parts in real applications,” Franssen said. “Know the exact raw material and curing process.”

Momentive Silopren Matrix liquid silicone rubber (LSR)

What It Takes (And Doesn’t Take) To Be a Medical Molder

By: Tony Deligio 1. July 2015

Drawing from her nearly four decades in the medical market, Joanne Moon shared some unexpected insights into what it takes—and doesn’t take—to be a medical molder. Speaking at the Molding 2015 Conference (June 16-18; Chicago), Moon’s presentation was informed by her stints all along the medical supply chain, from  time with an OEM and a device maker to experience at a material supplier and, these days, a custom molder.

 

What she learned over that time is that many things which are taken as undeniable prerequisites to being a medical molder are far more malleable then you might think. Moon noted that when she and her partner, Lynn Momrow-Zielinski, founded Extreme Molding in 2002, they consciously made the decision not to be ISO certified—a decision they have not regretted.

 

“Remember a few years ago, when you’d see these big signs everywhere, saying a company is ISO certified,” Moon said, “well you don’t see that as much anymore.” In addition to the time and expense involved initially, the process continues to weigh on companies as a “huge administrative burden” that never seemed worthwhile to Moon (who freely acknowledged that in some markets, like aerospace and automotive, suppliers might not have a choice).

 

“With ISO you have an auditor come in who basically takes your watch and tells you what time it is,” Moon joked. “I don't need someone else to come in and tell me how to do reporting.” Extreme Molding is extremely meticulous when it comes to process control. When the company first started, Moon said they simply downloaded a quality manual template, but since then have expanded and enhanced that original document and process, adopting FMEA (failure mode and effects analysis) processes.

 

Today it maintains strict guidelines for validations, including first article inspection, change control, incoming inspection, material review boards and more, with reviews on a daily basis.

 

“Make sure you undertake ISO for the right reasons,” Moon told the crowd, noting that in Extreme’s 13 years, only one prospective customer walked away because the company wasn’t ISO certified, and that company was simply going through a supplier validation checklist.

 

To Cleanroom Or Not To Cleanroom
With regards to cleanrooms, Moon noted that at Extreme Molding the company has gotten by with a white room. “A lot of times, people build elaborate cleanrooms, putting in all this time and effort,” Moon said. “We use a white room—a clean area—but no special air control.”

 

Moon noted that many companies which go the whole nine yards—airlock, booties, gowns, hair nets—are often engaging in overkill since often times components will be assembled into finished devices, sterilized and packaged elsewhere.

 

“For common medical molders, full clean rooms are totally unnecessary,” Moon said, noting that more important is monitoring, reporting and traceability. “You must have traceability of materials and product,” Moon said. “You need lot numbers and every work step, from start to finish,” with accuracy of lot number and raw material at each workstation, including reconciliation of good and bad product counts.

 

“If you say you had 1000 bad parts, but only find 950, they'll want to find that last 50,” Moon explained.

 

Commit or Get Out
“If medical is not at least 35% of your total revenue, don't do it.” That was the simple advice Moon had for Molding 2015 attendees who might be attracted by the margins—Moon said Extreme doesn’t accept jobs with a gross margin of less than 35%—without fully appreciating the commitment.

 

“If medical is not your core business, don't dabble in it,” Moon said. “Unless your plants and manufacturing management team have a full appreciation of what they're getting into, I would not do medical lightly.”

Extreme Molding

Slideshow: Chinaplas 2015 In Pictures

By: Tony Deligio 9. June 2015

From robots and flowers to massive crowds and May showers, check out Chinaplas 2015 in pictures

Fibers Pair With Foam for High-Bending Stiffness at Low Surface Weight

By: Tony Deligio 2. June 2015

Marcel Holzner, research engineer at the Fraunhofer Project Centre for Composites Research at Western University in London, Ont. will address those benefits and offer more details on the promising technology during a presentation at Molding 2015 (June 16-18, Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, Ill.).

 

In foam injection molding, a blowing agent is added to the melt during plastification, causing the material to expand due to a pressure drop during injection, according to Holzner. In addition to the previously mentioned benefits, the process also reportedly reduces part density while imparting high specific bending stiffness. When fiber-reinforced materials are used, Holzner notes that the reduced melt viscosity of gas-loaded thermoplastics leads to fiber preservation, adding that when it comes to preserving fibers, ultimately there are many parameters that influence fiber length.

 

The technology applies what’s called a “breathing mold,” which Holzner explains is synonymous with technologies like core back injection molding, negative embossing, foaming with decompression and precision mold opening. “With this foaming technique—a high-pressure process—the cavity is filled completely,” Holzner explains. “After a short packing pressure and delay time, the mold opening stroke can be launched to a defined part thickness. Additional venting is not necessary but molding techniques like gas counter pressure injection can assist to improve surface quality of foamed parts.”

 

The process differs from structural foam molding in that with structural foam molding, continuous fibers and polymer are utilized, with plasticizing and injection as discrete process steps that require an extruder, melt buffer and injection unit. In foam injection molding (FIM), long fiber granulates are used as feed material.

 

At the Fraunhofer Project Centre, the researchers have two different injection units available for testing: standard and MuCell. Holzner says that to achieve long fiber integral foams, LFT granulates can be used in combination with chemical (masterbatch) or physical blowing agents (MuCell super critical fluid). “The use of long fiber optimized screws maintains the use of LFT granulates and the low shear screw design preserve fiber length,” Holzner says. For FIM, precompounded long-fiber pellets with fiber lengths up to 12 mm are used

 

The integral foam structure, featuring a compact skin layers and foamed core, is promising for automotive applications like door panels, seat shells, underbody assemblies and instrument panel support thanks to the resulting high bending stiffness at low surface weight.

 

In terms of surface finish, Holzner says FIM parts exhibit reduced warpage and sink marks, but they can show flow marks. To overcome this, the researchers noted that gas counter pressure could be applied. The appeal to automotive is the combination of lower weight and strength. “With breathing mold technology, up to 20% to 30% further light weighting is considered realistic,” Holzner says. “Keywords are density reduction and thin wall injection molding.”

 

To learn more about Molding 2015, visit the event’s website where you can view the full agenda and register.

China Serves Up Stiff Competition in Table Tennis and Plastics Machinery

By: Tony Deligio 27. May 2015

Billed as a live-action personification of energy efficiency, a table tennis match between Germany’s professional ping ponger, Timo Boll, and two up-and-coming Chinese youth players more closely reflected the shrinking gap between the two country’s plastics machinery sectors. (Check out a slide show of the action).
 

Staged by the VDMA, Germany’s machinery association, and Adsale, organizer of Chinaplas 2015 in Guangzhou, the exhibition pitted 34-year-old German national Timo Boll, currently placed 7th in ITTF World Rankings, against two rising youth stars in Chinese table tennis, ages nine and 12.
 

Boll, the world’s No. 1 player as recently as 2011, towered over his youthful competition in size and game, and was certainly energy efficient in his play, dispatching the boys 11-2 and 11-3 in action that took less than 10 minutes, including warmups.
 

In game play, the Chinese youth showed flashes against the German veteran, with brief, albeit early leads, impressing Boll in the process. Of the 9-yr-old, Boll, who started playing at age 4 coached by his father, said the youngster’s skills were ahead of his own at the same age, with the potential to keep improving.
 

“He has the motivation, he will practice,” Boll said. “He’s still a little small and a bit nervous, but I think he’s a player who will practice hard and wants to be a good player, and I wish him luck.” Of the 12-yr-old, who dueled Boll to several lengthy rallies, the Germany professional spoke highly of his technique and aggression.
 

At the show, machinery executives also acknowledged the rising credibility of China’s game on the machinery front. In a sector that continues to grow, Chinese equipment makers’ share of the domestic market has risen every year since 2008, jumping from 49% in 2008 to 78% of the total “plastics machines” consumed in China in 2014, according to CPMIA.
 

Despite declines in 2012 and 2013, overall exports of Chinese made equipment have risen from nearly $1.12 billion in 2010 to just over $1.45 billion RMB in 2014, according to the CPMIA.
 

A key component for growth at China-based injection molding machine maker Haitian, which had record revenues ($1.21 billion) and gross profits ($395 million) last year according to Chief Strategic Officer Helmar Franz, was derived from record exports, which were up 13.1% in 2014 fiscal year to $375 million.
 

At the show, Ralf Pampus, director of strategic sales for Reifenhäuser’s blown film division and managing director for the company in China, acknowledged China’s rise as a rival to Germany. “The competition against local machine manufacturers is challenging,” Pampus said, acknowledging that firms like his can still differentiate but also noting that Chinese machine makers continue to improve.
 

The day before the match VDMA held a press conference to promote its Blue Competence energy efficiency push, featuring leading figures from top German firms. One of those, Karlheinz Bourdon, senior VP technologies at KraussMaffei, said of the exhibition match: “I’ll tell you what tomorrow is—the present playing the future.” He was of course, talking about table tennis, but in the years to come, the same sentiment could be said about Germany and China’s respective equipment industries.




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