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Articles from 2016 In October


Freudenberg Medical unveils accelerated time-to-market resources for medical device OEMs

Freudenberg Medical

Accelerating time to market is a priority among many medical device manufacturers, but that is easier said than done in a highly regulated industry that must meet compliance and safety requirements. Freudenberg Medical (Carpinteria, CA), a contract manufacturer serving the global medical technology industry, has developed what it calls a “novel device, design and process solution” to compress the product development timeline.

Freudenberg Medical debuted its FlexSeal Introducer Sheath, FlexSeal Hemostasis Valve and Composer Deflectable Catheter Handle platform today at the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics Conference (TCT) in Washington, DC, the annual scientific symposium of the Cardiovascular Research Foundation. The devices are designed for companies seeking to accelerate time to market with a unique white label device, access new design options for improving next-generation catheter and delivery systems, or reducing time when building new feature sets into products, said the company.

The FlexSeal Introducer Sheath with a hydrophilic coating enables support access for large-bore catheter procedures. The FlexSeal Hemostasis Valve improves hemostasis performance when integrated into next-generation catheter or delivery systems. The Composer Deflectable Catheter Handle platform offers customers a commercialization-ready, modular and versatile design technology that can help reduce project lead times and costs while adding next-generation features into product lines that use catheters, introducer sheaths and delivery systems.

Part of the 166-year-old Freudenberg Group, Freudenberg Medical operates 11 manufacturing centers and employs more than 1,500 associates worldwide. Its services range from the fabrication of high-precision silicone and thermoplastic components and tubing to coating technology, finished devices and solutions for minimally invasive, handheld, and catheter-based devices.

Walmart rolls out playbook for evaluating packaging sustainability

Walmart rolls out playbook for evaluating packaging sustainability

Retail giant Walmart will begin using a voluntary labeling system on food and consumable products to help customers understand how to recycle packages.

Laura Phillips, Walmart’s Senior Vice President for sustainability, said last week during the company's Sustainable Packaging Summit that "How2Recycle" labels will appear on its private-brand packages. The system was created by industry group Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC; Charlottesville, VA) with the goal of reducing the amount of packaging that is thrown away.

According to statistics cited by Walmart, more than 35 million tons of packaging were discarded in 2013 and only 14% of plastics were recycled. The retailer said 90% of customers want to recycle, but 67% indicate it would make it easier to recycle if the product was better labeled.

“We believe a best practice is to use labeling that helps customers recycle, such as the How2Recycle label, to communicate the recyclability of a package. The How2Recycle label is also a great conversational tool between merchants and suppliers to discuss if a package is designed with recyclability in mind.” Jack Pestello, SVP, Private Brands, Walmart U.S.

“We cannot understate the importance of the support of retailers like Walmart in the How2Recycle program, who are leveraging their influence in the supply chain to make a true difference to support the accuracy of recycling claims,” says Kelly Cramer, Senior Manager at SPC. “We very much look forward to welcoming more suppliers to How2Recycle in the near future.”

Also at the summit, which was attended by several hundred suppliers, merchants and NGO partners, Walmart released a comprehensive 20-page Sustainable Packaging Playbook for its suppliers gathered from 10 years of experience working toward a reduction in packaging across its supply chain as part of its zero-waste aspirations.

The playbook gives an overview of sustainable packaging best practices for suppliers interested in improving and innovating packaging. While the focus is on consumer-facing packaging, practices may impact or also be applied across the entire packaging system.

The priorities of the playback encourage suppliers to:

Source sustainably: maximize recycled and sustainably-sourced renewable content, while enhancing the health of the materials they use in their packaging.

Optimize Design: find ways to reduce unnecessary packaging materials, such as extra boxes, ties or layers, while maintaining what is necessary to protect the product.

Support recycling: increase use of recyclable content, while working to improve infrastructure for hard-to-recycle materials; as well as clearly communicate recyclability using consumer-friendly labels, such as the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s How2Recycle label.

To date, Walmart has made good progress towards its zero waste goal—by the end of 2015, Walmart U.S. achieved 82% diversion of materials from landfill and diverted an average of 71% in international markets.

Ineos Styrolution announces acquisition of K-Resin business

Puzzle by Bluebay

Ineos Styrolution, the global leader in styrenics headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany, announced today that it signed an agreement to acquire the global K-Resin styrene-butadiene copolymers (SBC) business of Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. LLC and Daelim Industrial Co. Ltd., the current joint venture owners. The transaction, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals, includes purchase of the equity interests of K R Copolymer Co. Ltd. (KRCC), K-Resin SBC intellectual property and other assets related to the SBC business. Once completed, the deal will allow Ineos Styrolution to supply its customers from production sites in the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific. Financial details were not disclosed.

Image courtesy Bluebay/
freedigitalphotos.net.

The acquisition underlines Ineos Styrolution’s commitment to its Triple Shift growth strategy with a strong dedication to its styrenic specialties business, well-balanced split across all focus industries and improved global presence, said the company in a press release.

The combined business will offer a broad selection of SBC products, including K-Resin SBC and Ineos Styrolution’s existing SBC brands Styrolux and Styroflex, to customers across the globe.

“This measure marks our first acquisition and drives the further implementation of our Triple Shift growth strategy. We will strengthen our ability to offer specialty styrenics products to our customers, and increase our production capacities in Asia. Our customers will benefit from our ability to supply and support their world-wide demand from our expanded geographic footprint, with SBC manufacturing and research and development centers in all major regions, and from the well- known premium K-Resin SBC brand,” said Kevin McQuade, Ineos Styrolution CEO. “With this investment we will further enhance our global presence in styrenics.” 

Chevron Phillips Chemical and Daelim Industrial Co. founded KRCC as a joint venture in February 2000. The K-Resin SBC plant is located in Yeosu Petrochemical Complex, the largest petrochemical complex on the southern coast of South Korea. 

“I am impressed by the quality of the production site, a formidable operation and by the strong motivation of the staff,” says Steve Harrington, President Asia Pacific, Ineos Styrolution. “We are looking forward to integrate the local Korean assets quickly into our Korean Ineos Styrolution operations.”

Ineos Styrolution reported sales of €5 billion in 2015 and employs approximately 3,100 people and operates 15 production sites in nine countries.

Lanxess offers new polyamides and polyesters for welded components

Lanxess offers new polyamides and polyesters for welded components

Lanxess has developed four polyamide and two polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) compounds for welding plastic parts. The new materials have been optimized for applications under the hood and for high-volume production.

“They meet all the latest requirements, such as high engine compartment temperatures, higher internal pressures in hollow components and the trend towards smaller installation spaces. One advantage of all the products is their wide processing window, which supports a stable, cost-efficient welding process,” explains Frank Krause, joining technologies expert at Lanxess.

New laser-weldable grade features greatly-enhanced tensile strength at break after extensive heat aging.

Durethan BKV 30 XWP, BKV 30 XWP HV and BKV 30 XWP XT were developed specifically for the heated tool, infrared (IR) and vibration welding processes, and Durethan BKV 30 XWP LT for laser transmission welding. All four polyamide 6 grades are reinforced with 30 percent glass fibers. The abbreviation “XWP” stands for “Xtreme Welding Performance”.

Durethan BKV 30 XWP reportedly fulfills higher demands with respect to process reliability, weld strength and weld resistance in IR, vibration and heated tool welding. Its flexural strength is slightly higher than that of the standard polyamide 6, Durethan BKV 30 H2.0. Potential applications include air intake manifolds and modules.

The advantage of Durethan BKV 30 XWP HV (High Viscosity) over BKV 30 XWP is its higher melt viscosity, which is a major plus in vibration and heated tool welding, because it widens the processing window of both methods. “The compound results in very mechanically strong welds. For example, the bursting strength of air intake manifolds for two four-cylinder engines improves compared with equivalents made of a standard polyamide 6 (30 percent glass fibers) by more than 16 percent for the one module and nearly 40 percent for the other,” says Krause.

Heat-stabilized BKV 30 XWP XT (Xtreme Temperature) can be used for continuous service temperatures of up to 200°C. “As far as we know, this premium polyamide is unique on the market thanks to its high post-aging weld strength – both at room temperature and at the high temperatures typical of engine compartments,” explains Krause. The melt viscosity is comparable to that of Durethan BKV 30 XWP HV, meaning it also offers advantages in terms of processing. Conceivable applications include charge air tubes and intake pipes as well as hollow components in the oil circuit.

Durethan BKV 30 XWP LT (Laser Transparency) displays elevated laser light transmission in the wavelength range typical of laser transmission welding. “It ensures a high and rapid delivery of heat to the weld region, which promotes cost-efficient manufacturing,” explains Krause. The new polyamide will be available naturally colored and in a special black. Potential applications include housings for oil, airbag and other sensors, housings that are welded to a cover, and hollow components with complex, mechanically sensitive internal geometries, such as air intake chambers.

The PBT compounds Pocan B3235 LT and B3235 HR LT likewise were tailored to laser transmission welding. They are available in natural color tones and in a laser-transparent black for near-infrared. Virtually no comparable products with the same high level of laser transmission and the same high level of properties are sold on the market according to Lanxess. “Pocan B3235 HR LT is hydrolysis-stabilized and especially suitable for parts in the engine compartment that must be impervious to heat and moisture.

We see good application opportunities for our material in housing components for control devices, such as electronic parking brakes, which are assembled by means of laser welding,” says Joachim Morick, Product Developer for Pocan. Compared to Pocan B3233 HR, its laser transmission is more than twice as high in the wavelength range of 800 to 1,200 nanometers typical of laser welding. Pocan B3235 LT is the material of choice for laser-weldable PBT components not exposed to high temperatures and moisture. It is almost twice as laser-transparent as the standard PBT Pocan B3235.

An optimized part-design workflow for structural injection molded parts

Cogger

As more companies turn to engineering thermoplastics to access high-performance material properties at lower cost, finite element analysis tools increasingly are called upon to assist in efficient part design. Importantly, the use of a coupled engineering process between mold-filling simulation, non-linear structural analysis and advanced optimization tools is providing answers for discrete manufacturers in search of solutions.

With many of today’s engineering thermoplastics, simplified isotropic representations of material properties have limited accuracy in the prediction of structural performance. The use of more advanced material models, as well as a product development workflow that accurately captures the “as-molded” condition of a structural injection molded part, are keys to high-performance product design. The “as-molded” condition can and often does significantly change injection molded part behavior; capturing this behavior is key to robust analytical predictions.

This paper outlines and discusses a computer-assisted engineering (CAE) centered product design workflow that successfully integrates material testing at the coupon level and injection molding simulation, and subsequently imports these as-molded simulation results directly into a finite element solver for high-fidelity performance predictions and, ultimately, into optimization software that can help determine optimal topological feature construction for the best performance at the lowest cost.

Material properties for mold-filling simulation

CAE-centered product design workflow described in this paper is based on a close interaction of the mold filling (MF) and finite element analysis (FEA) simulations. Results of MF simulations such as shrinkage, warpage and residual stresses act as inputs to the FEA simulations. Therefore, the accuracy of the FEA simulation is a function of the MF simulation results, which are governed by the rheological, pressure-specific volume-temperature (PVT) and thermal properties of the thermoplastic resin. As such, the properties of the simulated material have a direct effect on final part performance as predicted by FEA simulations. Hence, they are a crucial element of the CAE workflow.

Figure 1 shows the set of properties for a typical thermoplastic material that are needed to perform an MF simulation. Complex flow behavior of thermoplastics is characterized by the viscosity vs shear rate curves as obtained by means of a capillary rheometer. PVT curves are the backbone of the MF simulation, as they govern the state of the thermoplastic for a given temperature and pressure combination. Thermal properties such as thermal conductivity and specific heat govern the overall heat transfer between the melt front and the mold base.

These properties must be available for multiple temperatures, which are relevant to the processing conditions of the subject thermoplastic material. For common materials, these properties are available in the simulation software (Moldex 3D, for example) database. However, for customized proprietary materials these properties can be easily tested for a relatively low cost to gain maximum accuracy in MF simulation results.

Figure 1: Material properties needed to run a mold filling simulation.

In addition to the aforementioned properties, standard datasheet properties such as coefficient of linear thermal expansion (CLTE) and Young’s modulus are needed to perform the MF simulation. If unavailable, these properties can be tested as well, along with the other properties. As such, obtaining the desired material properties is the first and most important step in the proposed part design workflow.

Mold-filling simulation

The second step in the workflow is to perform the MF simulation on a given thermoplastic part using the material properties previously obtained. MF simulation can be performed using commercial tools with the capability of simulating the various phases in the injection molding process, such as injection, packing, cooling and warpage. Commercial tools do offer standardized templates that can be used to quickly set up an MF simulation. However, several factors influence the final results, and the analyst must consider the following points before accepting the results from a simulation run:

  • Standard procedure for analysts is to take “as-designed” CAD from part designers and perform the MF simulation on the same. It is important to understand that the part undergoes shrinkage in the molding process and that the same effect is predicted in the simulation. To compensate for part shrinkage, molders and tooling engineers apply a shrink correction factor to the cavity, so that the “as-molded” part matches the “as-designed” dimensions. Similar corrections should be applied to the CAD model before meshing and running the MF simulation to predict consistent and accurate results. High-fidelity meshes are very important to capture the complex multiphysics of the injection molding process. Shear rates within the material are highest near the walls and dissipate toward the core. Also, there are significant temperature gradients at the cavity walls caused by the temperature difference between the melt flow and mold base. As such, it is very important to mesh the cavity with a boundary layer mesh (BLM) that captures the highly sensitive parameters near the walls accurately. This results in accurate predictions of the pressures, melt front temperatures and other key process variables. BLMs are also helpful in accurately predicting the fiber orientations in filled parts.
  • During early stages of the design cycle, reasonable assumptions for mold geometry, cooling channels, gate locations, hot/cold runner systems, gate types and gate sizes should be made following the injection molding processing guidelines. If available, actual tooling geometry should be used to produce accurate results.
  • Finally, reasonable values for the process parameters (injection time, hold time, cooling time, core/cavity side temperatures, melt temperature, pressures) should be used based on the type of thermoplastics and supplier guidelines. “As-molded” part quality (shrinkage, warpage, density, defects) is highly sensitive to these process parameters. As such, during the early design stage it is ideal to perform a design of experiments study to determine the sensitivity of the process parameters with respect to the part quality. Such a process optimization exercise can significantly improve part quality and can guide both part designers and tooling engineers.

Injection molding process simulation that is set up with a careful choice of the aforementioned parameters usually yields accurate results. The most common results include shear rates, melt front temperatures, gate freeze and sink mark predictions, weld lines, fiber orientations, cooling rates, volumetric shrinkage, warpage and residual stresses. These results should be used to optimize the process to achieve desired part quality. Also, as we will discuss in the following sections, these results are used to run structural analysis on “as-molded” parts.

Effective treatment of molding defects

A brief review of the treatment of common molding defects is presented here before moving on to the third step in the design workflow—structural analysis.

One of the most common cosmetic defects in injection molded parts is the presence of sink marks. Sink marks occur when the part has non-uniform thickness distribution and/or more than the recommended thickness for a given material. They can also be an artifact of insufficient packing, or premature gate freeze during the packing phase. An accurate MF simulation will indicate possible sink-mark locations. Process and design modifications should be performed to eliminate or reduce sink marks using the MF simulation.

Another critical factor to watch for in MF simulation results is the shear rates: They are higher at the gate location, where material is pushed through a small opening into the cavity. Shear rates that are higher than the recommended limit for a material can lead to damage of the thermoplastic at the micro level, reducing its mechanical strength. As such, overall part strength and quality are degraded. This effect is even worse for fiber-filled materials, as the higher shear rates break down the fibers, leading to significantly lower strengths. MF simulation is again very helpful in predicting shear rates and avoiding harmful shear rates.

Non-uniform cooling of thermoplastic parts can lead to non-uniform volumetric shrinkage and warpage. MF simulation results should be carefully analyzed to determine the root cause of these defects. The cooling system can be modified to encourage uniform cooling, and part geometry can be modified to achieve uniform thicknesses, mitigating these types of defects.

Weld lines are most critical when it comes to the structural performance of the thermoplastic part. Weld lines are produced by colliding flow fronts, influenced by part geometry and gating locations. It is ideal to eliminate all the weld lines in the part, or push them to a region of the part that is not structurally critical. However, this is not always possible because of part design and geometrical constraints. As such, it is necessary to account for weld line effects in the structural analysis, and predict the part performance accordingly. Mechanical properties at the weld line are a function of flow-front temperatures and flow-intersection angles. These variables can be extracted from the MF simulation and used to mold a weld-line coupon to perform a tensile test. Figure 2 shows a difference between the tensile stress-strain curves of a typical thermoplastic material, with and without the weld-line presence. It is evident that because of the weld line, there is a significant reduction in tensile properties of the material. If multiple weld lines are present with different mating angles, properties can be interpolated based on the tested properties. This information is then transferred to an FEA model in the form of reduced strength and stiffness of elements at weld line location via a mapping algorithm. This leads to realistic predictions of part performance during structural analysis.

Figure 2: Effect of a weld line on tensile properties of a thermoplastic material.

In this way, MF simulation should be used to optimize the injection molding process, minimize defects and improve part quality. Only a few crucial defects are discussed in this paper; MF simulation is helpful in predicting many more such defects.

  1. Structural analysis on “as-molded” thermoplastic parts

The third step in design workflow is to perform structural analysis on “as-molded” thermoplastic parts. Experienced analysts have determined that process effects such as residual stresses, warpage-induced deformations and defects such as weld lines can affect structural part performance significantly. It is common practice to ignore these process effects, and to analyze the part without consideration of these potentially deleterious effects. However, field results can show a failure in the operating conditions caused by unanticipated process residuals. As such, it is very important to account for process residuals in the structural analysis.

Primarily, the deformed or warped shape of the thermoplastic part should be used for structural analysis to account for the dimensional changes along with the process and flow-induced residual stresses. This can be achieved in two ways. In the first method, a 3D FEA mesh of the “as-designed” part is mapped with “end-of-packing” temperature distribution from the MF simulation. Heat-transfer analysis is then performed in the FEA solver to predict the warpage along with the thermally induced residual stresses, which can then be used for further structural analysis. If the part has significant differential shrinkage caused by non-uniform pressure distribution along with high flow­–induced residual stresses, then a second method of exporting the deformed geometry from the MF simulation should be used. In this method, the deformed geometry is meshed for structural analysis and residual stresses are mapped from the MF simulation for further structural analysis. Similarly, the density distribution can also be mapped to the FEA mesh, if dynamic analysis has to be performed on the part.

For unfilled materials, because of the isotropic constitutive response, stiffness mapping is usually not required unless weld lines are present. In that case, as mentioned in the previous section, additional data from the weld line coupon tests are used to topographically map the reduced stiffness on to an FEA mesh. For fiber-filled materials, the mapping is needed to capture the inherent anisotropic nature of the mechanical and thermal properties in the part. MF simulation is used to predict the fiber orientations throughout the part. To correlate this with anisotropic properties, additional coupon-level tests are performed in fiber and cross-fiber directions to determine the stress-strain response in those directions and the CLTE measurements. Fiber orientations along with test data are then used by a micromechanics algorithm to generate orthotropic elasticity tensors throughout the part. These tensors are then mapped to the FEA mesh to perform the structural analysis.

Once the mapping for process residuals and stiffness is completed on an FEA mesh, structural analysis can be performed as per the design/service requirements for the part. The most common type of analysis performed on thermoplastic components is the quasi-static analysis, where the stress-strain and deflections for the part under service load are predicted, and changes, if necessary, are made to the design. In addition, all classes of thermoplastics are prone to creep/visco-elastic relaxations even at lower temperatures, unlike metals, where creep effects are prominent at elevated temperatures. As such, it is necessary to understand the long-term effects of the part-loading conditions. By performing low-cost creep tests, visco-elastic properties of the thermoplastic materials are measured and used in FEA simulations to predict the shelf life or service behavior of the part. These creep simulations give vital insights to designers and can support the findings of the accelerated aging tests typically carried out to evaluate long-term performance. Process induced residual stresses tend to relax due to visco-elastic behavior of the polymers. Creep analysis can simulate these effects, as well. For time-varying loads, net stress-strain distribution can be calculated by considering the process induced residual stresses. This distribution can then be used to predict fatigue performance of the part.

If the material is deformed plastically because of operating loads, or if there is interest in predicting the failure loads for the part, then a non-linear structural analysis can be performed with process residuals acting as initial conditions. For unfilled materials, such analysis is a straightforward process. However, for fiber-filled materials, micromechanic-based tools, such as Digimat, are used in conjunction with standard commercial FEA software to predict non-linear material response as a function of fiber orientation.

Structural analysis performed using molding process residuals has a very high fidelity. It is useful to make any necessary design changes to the thermoplastic parts based on realistic predictions. The redesigned parts are then run through the design workflow to make sure that optimized process parameters are still relevant and part quality is maintained. This integrated approach leads to an improved design in a short amount of time without having to build prototypes.

Design optimization

Three steps in the design workflow are sufficient for most applications to produce a better design with high fidelity. However, stringent requirements on part weight and performance can be satisfied using a faster, mathematical approach called topology optimization, which yields an optimized low-cost design.

Topology optimization is a mathematical approach, which looks to modify material layout based on applied loads and constraints, so that the given performance targets are met. This approach guides part designers to use minimal material at only required places that are structurally critical. Modern topology optimization tools allow the designer to impose injection molding constraints, such as uniform thickness, mold opening directions, parting line constraints and so on. Additional constraints on part weight and initial conditions such as process residuals can be incorporated in the optimization. With these constraints, the optimization can lead to a moldable design with minimal iterative effort. Figure 3 shows an example of a typical topology optimization applied to a large thermoplastic part. 

Figure 3: Topology optimization applied to a thermoplastic part.

In this way, topology optimization can be used to solve the high-performance, low-cost design problem in a short amount of time by adhering to injection molding process constraints. It is recommended to integrate such optimization in design workflow to minimize the product design cycle time.

Conclusion

This paper focuses on a three-step, CAE-centered design workflow along with a design optimization module that looks to implement a process-driven design and analysis methodology. Many current methods tend to ignore process effects in the analysis, which can lead to erroneous performance predictions and, thus, part failures. The methods detailed in this article seek to correct these errors by incorporating the injection molding process effects in the structural analysis and, thus, predict realistic performance outputs. Overall, the presented methodology is a low-cost and faster approach to high-performance design.

Article authors John Cogger is President and Sagar Bhamare, PhD, an employee at Innova Engineering (Irvine, CA), which provides engineering services to discrete manufacturers in the medical, aerospace, automotive and consumer product industries. Specializing in product development, Innova utilizes advanced computer simulation CAE tools to solve difficult engineering problems and help bring products to market, as well as sustain existing products in the marketplace. For more information, visit innovaengineering.com.

Frigel extends popular 3PR control technology to portable chillers and other product lines

Frigel

Portability and connectivity were watchwords at Frigel’s stand at K 2016, which ended its one-week run in Düsseldorf, Germany, on October 26. Headquartered in Scandicci, Italy, near Florence, Frigel has been a global supplier of intelligent process cooling technology since the 1960s.

Frigel's Microgel combo chiller and temperature control units now come with 3PR control technology.

The company’s 3PR controller, which was launched at NPE in 2015 on its Ecodry line of cooling systems, has been extended to its Microgel machine-side combination chillers and temperature control units, Heavygel air-cooled chillers and Aquagel pumping reservoir and filtration components. Frigel is the only company to offer common control capabilities for three different cooling systems, stressed CEO Duccio Dorin. “Since NPE, we have installed more than 100 units worldwide,” he added, attesting to the popularity of its technology and explaining why the company decided to roll it out across other product lines.

Key features of the intelligent process control system include an intuitive, 7-inch full color touchscreen through which users can access data in real time to optimize their equipment and improve productivity, and automatic adjustments that are calculated based on a range of operating parameters. On-board maintenance recommendations, troubleshooting guides and processing history logs contribute to maximizing equipment uptime, according to the company.

3PR technology also enables Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity, a first in portable chillers, Dorin added. It allows users to access crucial operating data, including temperature, pressure, flow rate and energy consumption. The latter is a key concern at Frigel, said Dorin, noting that the Ecodry and Microgel lines achieve considerable savings in energy usage. Moreover, the closed-loop Ecodry system can reduce water consumption by as much as 95% compared with traditional open cooling towers, said Dorin.

UK medical PVC recycling program earns sustainability award

RecoMed

RecoMed, a UK recycling program for PVC-based medical devices, has won the sustainability category of the 2016 Inovyn Awards for its innovative approach to sustainable healthcare recycling. The Inovyn Awards, led by an independent panel of expert judges, recognize achievements in the vinyls industry. Accepting the award at a ceremony coinciding with K 2016 in Düsseldorf, Germany, on behalf of Axion (Meadway, UK) and the British Plastics Federation (BPF; London), which run the RecoMed program, Axion’s Principal Consultant Jane Gardner said: “We’re delighted and very proud to win this award, which recognizes the tremendous achievements of all participants and hospitals in recycling plastics from the medical waste stream.”

This is the second accolade in just over a year for the two-year-old RecoMed initiative, which supplies recycling containers, communication materials and collections to participating UK National Health Service (NHS) and private hospitals. 

Jane Gardner (center) of Axion accepted the sustainability award for the RecoMed program at K 2016.

Funded by VinylPlus, the voluntary sustainable development program of the European PVC industry, the scheme provides an alternative, sustainable disposal route for waste medical items made from high-quality medical-grade PVC.

Philip Law, Director General of the BPF, said: “RecoMed is helping to extend the already impressive list of sustainability credentials underpinning PVC. Not only does it spotlight the efficient use of resources, it is also helping participating hospitals to save cash at a difficult point for the NHS. Plastics are very widely used throughout the health service and RecoMed is a pioneer not just for PVC but for other plastics, as well.”

In 2015, RecoMed’s excellence in sustainability was recognized with the 2015 Association for Anaesthetic and Respiratory Device Suppliers (Barema) and the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) Environment Award.

It is estimated that up to 2,250 metric tons of PVC could be recycled by collecting items such as anesthetic face masks, oxygen masks and associated tubing from UK hospitals. Nine hospitals are currently taking part in RecoMed, with more expected to join in the coming months.

Participating hospitals save money on waste disposal costs by recycling non-infectious PVC medical items instead of sending them to clinical waste steams, where they are either incinerated or sent to specialist landfill sites.

Automotive Tooling Barometer shows shift from slow start to recovery

OESA Tooling Barometer

The Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA; Troy, MI) and Harbour Results Inc. (HRI; Southfield, MI,) recently completed their Automotive Tooling Barometer containing data from Q2 2016. While the industry experienced a slow start to the year, with more than $2 billion in tooling capacity not leveraged during the first quarter, it has since taken a turn in the right direction. Not only have capacity utilization rates stabilized for die (83%) and mold (76%) tool makers in the fourth quarter, overall work on hold has decreased by six percentage points since January. HRI estimates the on-hold impact to industry in the second and third quarters to be around $1.6 billion, a decrease from more than $2 billion in January. 

Not only does the research show industry recovering from a downturn, but shops also are expressing a positive outlook about business in the coming months. Year over year, the tooling sentiment index has experienced a 32% change, with sentiment now up eight points since January to 74. HRI’s analysis of the survey results revealed the cyclical nature to sentiment, as there is some level of correlation to the amount of work on hold reported.

“Automotive forecast data shows the industry can expect to see a significant increase in tooling during the next two years,” said Laurie Harbour, President and CEO of HRI. “Although the average price per tool is down, it is important that shops increase quoting to maintain revenue and meet demands.”

Mold and die shops reported an increase in tools shipped, averaging a 16% overall increase from 2014. Mold shops saw a 4% increase in revenue per tool. Additionally, the research assessed sales and marketing activities within the tooling industry and found that sales efficiency and quoting levels varied greatly by tool shop revenue. Larger shops demonstrated greater levels of efficiency, with shops over $20 million earning 22% more revenue per salesperson and quoting 32% more per estimator than shops under $20 million.

The Tooling Barometer collected insights from a diverse group of shops with a total of more than $1 billion in tooling revenue across nine different industries. Although 82% of responses came from automotive, HRI deems this to be a good reflection of the overall industry, as the automotive industry accounts for a majority of the tooling industry’s revenue.

On Nov. 10, 2016, OESA and HRI are hosting the 2016 Automotive Tooling Update, a meeting where automotive tooling market intelligence and insights, as well as an in-depth analysis of current tooling practices and trends, will be shared.

The OESA Automotive Tooling Barometer survey series was created by the OESA Tooling Council with the partnership of Harbour Results Inc. to provide an indicator of the current state of the automotive tooling industry and perception of near-term prospects for the industry. The OESA Automotive Tooling Barometer captures the sentiment of the major companies in this market. A full copy of the September OESA Automotive Tooling Barometer results is available on the OESA website.

Harbour Results Inc. is a business and operational consulting firm for the manufacturing industry offering operational and strategic advisory expertise and proprietary assessment programs to help optimize performance. Focused on small- to medium-sized manufacturers, many of which are family owned or privately held, HRI uses its knowledge, experience and relationships to build upon the established foundation with sound strategies and operational improvement.

Injection molder Bright Plastics adds resources to cater to medical device OEMs

Bright Plastics

Custom injection molding company Bright Plastics (Greensboro, NC) announced the purchase of a CNC machine and new all-electric injection molder.  

The Hurco CNC system will allow Bright Plastics to build and repair more molds in house. “Keeping this process at home saves time and expense,” said Vice President of Manufacturing, Todd Poteat. “We can review the design on the monitor to make sure our data is accurate before cutting.  Almost all material waste is eliminated. Our customers will reap the rewards.”

The company also has added a fourth all-electric molding machine to its ISO Class 8 (Class 100,000) cleanroom, bringing its machine total to 31. The 200-ton Nissei NEX 180 III is perfectly suited for medical device components, notes Bright Plastics, and it operates in conjunction with a Wittmann W823 robot, which can handle multiple applications including runner removal, packaging and sorting. 

Poteat has seen increased production and decreased operator error since the installation of the new machine and robot. “It’s exciting to see our medical division growing,” says Poteat. In addition to providing custom molding services to medical device OEMs, Bright Plastics offers assistance in the certification process. It is certified to ISO 13485, the international quality standard for the medical manufacturing supply chain.

Bright Plastics believes strongly in a machine management program, adds Poteat. “That means regular maintenance for existing machines, sending some out to pasture when necessary and replacing them with new technology,” he said.

Solvay to construct compounding unit in Mexico

Solvay to construct compounding unit in Mexico

Polyamide-based performance materials supplier Solvay is building a Technyl polyamide (PA) compounding unit in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, with initial annual capacity of 10,000 tonnes/yr. This new facility is expected to become operational in the third quarter of 2017 to serve the region’s and America’s growing automotive and consumer goods markets.

Solvay’s polyamide compounding plant will be co-located with the molding facility of Korea’s Chunil, sharing infrastructure such as power, water and waste treatment.

The Solvay facility will share infrastructure with Korean Tier 1 auto parts molder Chunil Engineering, a leading supplier of transmission components who has been voted GM Supplier of the Year multiple times. The Chunil plant is scheduled for completion in November this year.

Mexico is the second largest producer of automobiles and commercial vehicles in the Americas and is ranked seventh worldwide with annual production exceeding 3,5 million units in 2015 according to the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles (OICA).  In addition, many consumer goods and electrical equipment players are located close by, offering new opportunities for Solvay.

“This new plant will help us to support our fast growing Technyl polyamide business in North America, in addition to our current capabilities,” states Vincent Kamel, President of Solvay Performance Polyamides. “Many of the world’s top automotive OEMs are located in the region, which makes it an ideal base for us to serve both local and U.S. markets and contribute with our solutions to cleaner mobility.”

To minimize investment cost and time to market, Solvay is partnering with Chunil Engineering, one of its major customers. Solvay is planning additional investments to serve the NAFTA market.

“Our collaboration with Chunil Engineering - a global automotive tier 1 - enables us to optimize the site’s infrastructure including the use of power, water and waste treatment,” explains Peter Browning, General Manager of Solvay’s Engineering Plastics Business Unit. “As our business develops we will expand this modular 10,000-tonnes/year unit’s capacity to meet the rapidly growing needs of our customers in the region.”

Solvay supports customers worldwide with a complete array of advanced services designed to speed the development of new applications, from material characterization to application validation. This offering includes 3D printing of functional prototypes in Sinterline PA6 powders, predictive simulation with MMI Technyl Design as well as part testing at fully equipped APT Technyl Validation centers.