PT Blog

Last year, I reported that NASA is using a machine in space that 3D prints plastic parts and recycles them back into reusable raw materials to make more parts. Well, there’s more development in using reclaimed material for 3D printing, this time from the U.S. military.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and the U.S. Marine Corps are exploring ways to use recycled plastics for 3D printing parts that soldiers may need on the battlefield, according to a report from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

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Plastics Technology’s editors have been fully immersed in all things NPE2018 over the last few weeks, sifting through the show plans of the leading exhibitors as we prepare our special show preview issue. Poring over those releases and reviewing those interviews, one theme has been omnipresent: Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 or a related variation—smart factory, industrial internet, the cloud—hasn’t been mentioned in every release we’ve gotten, but pretty close. New industry trends almost inevitably reach a hype phase with companies claiming at times dubious connections to the buzz du jour (sustainability definitely got there with trade show booths bathed in green), but, if you peel away all the marketing-ese, Industry 4.0 (or whatever you want to call it) will have a real impact at NPE2018 and beyond.

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Over the years, we have seen a continued evolution in fiberglass reinforcements for thermoplastics ranging from hollow glass spheres and chopped strand glass for high-temperature engineering resins to long-glass-fibers to hybrid long glass/carbon fibers. A key aim is lightweighting as well as improving mechanical properties. Likewise, a key challenge is ease of processing. Recently, a unique family of fiberglass products with a flat rather than round cross-section was launched by Chongging Polycomp International Corp. (CPIC), Amsterdam (Albany), N.Y., which may address these key issues.

Headquartered in Dadukou, China, CPIC is a subsidiary of YTH Group—a global conglomerate of fiberglass, mineral, composites, textiles, financing, and trading companies, and is reportedly the world’s third-largest fiberglass manufacturer by installed volume. The new flat vs. round fiberglass is said to facilitate higher fiber loading levels and better mechanical properties—including higher impact strength, in injection-molded thermoplastic composites. This, while reducing warpage in thin-wall sections.

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Over the last few years, the frequency of reporting on new and improved flexible food and non-food packaging that is swiftly replacing rigid container versions has increased significantly. Among the new developments are improved barrier technologies, all-PE packaging, and innovative flexible stand-up pouches such as those produced with the PacXpert PE Technology from DowDupont. Dow tradenamed the technology as PacXpert after acquiring the global license to the innovative Smart Bottle technology on which PacXpert is founded.                                                                  

Flexible packaging company Maco PKG of Newark, N.Y. has become the third North American licensee of the this technology, joining KRW Packaging Machinery and Ring Container Technologies. As a licensee, Maco will now drive the technology through manufacturing and sales in North America. The company’s manufacturing expertise enables not only the ability to manufacture PacXpert, but also to fill it through Maco’s co-packing capabilities, which provide a turnkey approach for brand owners.

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Senvol is a New York-based company that develops database and additive manufacturing (AM)-related software and data sets. The company recently announced it is developing data-driven machine learning AM software for the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR). Senvol’s software analyzes the relationships between AM process parameters and material performance. ONR’s goal is to use Senvol’s software to assist in developing statistically substantiated material properties in hopes of reducing conventional material characterization and testing that is needed to develop design allowables.

Senvol President Annie Wang says that the company’s software’s capabilities will allow ONR to select the appropriate process parameters on a specific additive manufacturing machine given a target mechanical performance. “This presents a unique opportunity to reduce the high level of trial and error that is currently required, which would save a tremendous amount of time and money,” she says.

Wang continued, “In addition to our machine learning capabilities, we have also developed a computer vision algorithm that analyzes, in real-time, in-situ monitoring data. This enables us to detect irregularities in real-time and begin to quantify the relationships between irregularities in the build and the resulting mechanical performance.”

A modularized ICME (integrated computational materials engineering) probabilistic framework for AM data serves as the foundation for Senvol’s software. In this framework, AM data is categorized into four modules: process parameters, process signatures, material properties and mechanical performance. The software being developed is powered by an algorithm that quantifies the relationships between the four modules. The algorithm is AM material, machine and process agnostic. The development is being funded through Navy Phase II STTR N16A-002.

The software under development will be made commercially available to any company looking to qualify AM parts.

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