Sponsored By

September 1, 2003

4 Min Read
Plastics testing services expand online

“What the [expletive deleted] kind of resin is this? Is it contaminated? How the [expletive deleted] do I find out?” Why, with Fourier Transform Infrared analysis, or FTIR, of course. “Four-e-air? What the [expletive deleted] is FTIR?”

Analytical, rheological, thermal/flammability, mechanical/physical, optical, electrical—you name the materials test, PTLI does it. Its main lab is temperature and humidity controlled.

Thousands of frequently asked questions like these from frustrated molders, materials suppliers, and part designers are answered every day in real time, absolutely free, at www.ptli.com. That website belongs to Plastics Technology Laboratories Inc. (PTLI, Pittsfield, MA), a premier supplier of a full range of testing services. PTLI is exclusively dedicated to serving markets using plastics, composites, and elastomers.

Its ample online resources include PTLI’s easy-to use “Testlopedia,” which provides descriptions of all major plastics test methods in plain English. There are technical articles online so you can learn more about plastics properties and testing. And there are links to resin manufacturers and other resources, plus e-mail links to PTLI for questions and quotes.

Offline, PTLI has the resources to perform everything from ash content to yellowness index testing. The tests usually cost between $105 and $175. Turnaround times range from less than 10 days to less than 48 hours. Its test experts know all the proper procedures. As a matter of fact, PTLI often helps ASTM and ISO write them.

James J. Beauregard, president, and his wife Margaret E. Beauregard, VP, started PTLI in 1986. Today, ISO 9002-certified and A2LA ISO 17025-accredited, PTLI’s business is booming. It’s actively expanding its resources to keep up, both in Pittsfield and in cyberspace.

PTLI’s Carl Olson (foreground) and James Galipeau demonstrate one of the company’s four new Xenon-arc accelerated weatherometers.

Cashing in on Change

R. James Galipeau, laboratory manager, was the Beauregards’ first hire. Galipeau says starting PTLI was the right idea at the right time. One reason why is that the materials suppliers actively began outsourcing their in-house testing capacity in the mid to late 1980s. Today, practically all of it is jobbed out to independent labs, like PTLI.

Jim Galipeau believes this trend owes a lot to what he calls his “ladder theory.” From their perch up high on the ladder, materials suppliers have to keep their eye on big-picture issues, like expansion of their business in China and India. It’s more economical for them to farm out lower-rung activities, like testing.

At the same time, he says that the growing use of engineering thermoplastics over the years has transformed them into the new commodities. Fewer brand-new types of resins have hit the market in recent times. To reduce the cost of materials and improve their value, many molders have been blending their own formulations, or multimolding various combinations. More molders also are being called on to design parts for their customers, which may involve recommending the best material for the job.

Extensive use is made of computer-networked instrumentation. This microscope is capable of e-mailing photos of what it spots—the good, the bad, and the tiny.

Meanwhile, Galipeau says the level of testing itself has evolved into an entirely new area. It’s much more exacting today. For example, more attention is now being paid to how one property affects another, such has how hardness affects flexibility in a TPE.

At the same time, time-to-market pressures have intensified. A mistake could cost millions of dollars in a material approval for an automotive PPAP (production part approval process). And, as mentioned, business is global. Test results and answers to technical questions have to be delivered worldwide just in time or sooner.

Many materials suppliers and molders are finding it too expensive to keep up with the price of change required to run a modern testing and research center, Galipeau says. That’s why PTLI’s business is booming.

Keeping Pace

Beauregard says PTLI has invested millions into equipping its two-story, 17,000-sq-ft facility in Pittsfield with the best computer-networked materials testing instrumentation the world has to offer.

Its capital equipment investments continue. In March, for instance, PTLI installed a sophisticated Xenon-arc accelerating weathering station. Since March, three more stations have been added.

Beauregard also has expanded PTLI’s human resources. Carl Olson, formerly of GE Plastics and moldmaker/custom molder Hi-Tech Mold & Tool Inc. (both of Pittsfield, MA), is now PTLI’s sales and marketing manager. In addition to his materials background, Olson is fluent in “molder-ese,” an important asset for PTLI because molding is its biggest market.

In addition, PTLI’s free online services are being expanded. It has recently launched PTLI Neighborhood on its website. It is a new data retrieval and storage system. Absolutely secure and confidential, users will be able to search and download all of their previous test data by project number or keyword.

Contact information
Plastics Technology Laboratories Inc.
Pittsfield, MA; Carl Olson
(413) 499-0983; www.ptli.com

Sign up for the PlasticsToday NewsFeed newsletter.

You May Also Like