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Accurate, reliable evaluation of foamed plastics will benefit industries ranging from automotive to packaging.

Stephen Moore

March 11, 2024

2 Min Read
ultrasonic transducer inspecting plastic foam
Ultrasonic transducer inspecting extruded plastic foam.Image courtesy of SKZ Plastics Center

The SKZ Plastics Center has entered into a partnership with Sonotec GmbH for non-destructive in-line testing of foamed plastics. The effort is part of the Digiress program, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUV) that is pursuing innovative solutions in materials testing.

SKZ Plastics Center is a leading research and development institute in the field of plastics technology and part of the Zuse Association. The institute is pooling its expertise in response to the increasing demand for efficient testing methods for foamed plastics.

Lightweight, efficient materials

Together, the partners are establishing advanced testing technologies based on ultrasound. This will enable accurate and reliable evaluation of foamed plastics, benefiting industries ranging from automotive to packaging as lightweight and efficient materials become increasingly important.

The measurement technology employs innovative air-ultrasonic transducers to record specific measurement data. This data is then correlated with relevant foam parameters. Further, an artificial intelligence–driven neural network, is created, trained, and optimized for this purpose. This enables reliable and reproducible in-line process monitoring.

“We are correlating a number of ultrasonic signals attributable to the bulk density and the cell size of the foams,” said Pierre Pfeffer, senior scientist in the field of non-destructive testing at SKZ Plastics Center. “Our previous research with terahertz and microwave radiation also proved quite reliable for the surveillance of foam parameters during production.”

Benefits over manual measurement

Added Pfeffer: “The digital-ecological character of the innovation leads to resource-efficient, transparent production based on real-time data — a real added value for the realization of a sustainable digital transformation."

Direct and automated measurement offers many benefits, including savings over current time-consuming manual processes, linking measurement data to process and system data, and developing models for predicting failure.

"Beyond the current project, there is technological potential to sustainably design production processes in the manufacturing industry for a wide range of materials and components," concluded Pfeffer.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Moore

Stephen has been with PlasticsToday and its preceding publications Modern Plastics and Injection Molding since 1992, throughout this time based in the Asia Pacific region, including stints in Japan, Australia, and his current location Singapore. His current beat focuses on automotive. Stephen is an avid folding bicycle rider, often taking his bike on overseas business trips, and a proud dachshund owner.

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