Sponsored By
Clare Goldsberry

June 21, 2016

4 Min Read
ZeMC2 and Zeon Technologies develop resin that redefines thermoset composites

A new thermoset composite molding compound has been created based on ZeMC2 resins developed by Zeon Technologies (Salisbury, NC) that incorporate novel materials from Asbury Carbons (Asbury, NJ). Randy Lewis, Director of Engineering for Zeon Technologies, presented his findings at the recent Plastics-In-Motion conference in Charleston, SC. Lewis has been working with thermoset materials for most of his career, and through a partnership with ZeMC2, he has developed a composite bulk molding compound (BMC) that, he claims, has outstanding performance capabilities. The ability of the new BMC to be used under the most extreme applications is made possible by Asbury’s carbon fiber and graphite material solutions, Lewis explained.

Lewis prides himself and Zeon with the ability to do what others say is impossible. “We look for things that can be done and make money doing it,” Lewis told conference attendees. Zeon is a proprietary manufacturer of BMC and after years of development and in-field testing, ZeMC2 has developed a wear-resistant product that spans multiple applications and industries. ZeMC2 is 50% owned by Zeon, which owns the resin. ZeMC2 owns the rights to use the resin in various applications. The other 50% of ZeMC2 is owned by P.R. Lewis Consulting, Randy Lewis’s company.

“We use BMC along with foo-foo dust as filler,” said Lewis, noting that the filler is proprietary information, but the material adheres to Kevlar and other fillers that cannot be chemically bonded, resulting in a material with extreme temperature and chemical resistance.

In one case study, ZeMC2 was approached by an industry leader in centrifugal pumps looking for a new bushing material capable of outperforming the typical metal or plastic industry standards. Centrifugal pumps can range in size from a few gallons per minute (GPM) to more than 10,000 GMP and can be found in a broad range of applications including irrigation, flood water evacuation, water circulation, refinery offsite loading and transfer and chemical transfers.

Centrifugal pumps typically have a bushing (or sets of bushings) around the outside of a spinning shaft to provide mechanical stabilization while the shaft rotates at high RPM. These bushings are usually made out of metal or a plastic material and have a limited life span (one to two years is typical, Lewis noted). Primary modes of failure of typical bushings are related to the high stress (both thermal and mechanical) developed during operation. Mechanical wear, chemical erosion and debris impact are also well known failure modes.

In the particular application studied, the pump design required a start up and dry run for one hour, generating extremely high temperatures and associated stresses on the bushing materials. Clearance tolerances for the shaft bearings ranged from 1/1000 to 1/20,000 of an inch. “When coupled with the required high temperature start-up test, this demands a thermally stable, conductive and lubricious material,” said Lewis.

Traditional bushings would expand, melt or bind in the application, as they lacked the necessary property combination described above, ultimately resulting in a variety of failure modes including pump seizure, shaft wobble and shaft wear.

During the development process, ZeMC2/Zeon Technologies sought conductive and reinforcing additives for resins and plastics from Asbury. The design trio worked collaboratively in formulating, testing and analyzing samples, and produced a revolutionary new product in just three weeks. “Asbury’s willingness to provide samples and technical support has been paramount to the success of our product,” commented Lewis. “This thermoset plastic material, now available as 3858A from ZeMC2, exhibits significantly improved thermal stability through a broad range of operating temperatures as well as improved strength and toughness made possible by Asbury’s graphite and carbon-fiber materials. 3858A has the capability to be machined and press fit, is chemically inert and can be manufactured in virtually bulk feedstock size.

The results were impressive. After 2,000 operating hours in extreme application conditions (dry run, high/low temperatures and so forth), 3858A samples were analyzed and benchmarked against other competitive materials. In short, 3858A significantly outperformed those materials (PPS API, PI), showing no signs of degradation. The pump has been in the field for eight years now. “This material has made almost all other bushing materials obsolete,” said Tim Creighton of Glide Bearings and Seal Systems, the customer in this project.

Given the material’s success in the pump application, Lewis wanted to further test the material and suggested that they build an internal combustion engine and run it until it failed. Lewis noted that the only failure came on the piston and combustion chamber. “The impact caused the material to come apart, so we put an aluminum cap on that part and it ran like a dream,” Lewis said.

Advantages of an engine made from this composite material include greater dimensional stability than aluminum and the capability of running at higher temperatures than aluminum or steel. The material also runs dry on itself or steel, does not generate appreciable friction heat and wears in and continues to seal when a marine shaft is installed off center. 

“This resin allows me to do things that just shouldn’t be done,” Lewis stated in his comfortable southern drawl. “It’s really starting to get traction and we now have two distributors worldwide to sell into the pump and down-hole industry. We’ve been told that the dang stuff works and we’re going to change the world!”

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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