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Articles from 2018 In November


Loop Industries signs multi-year supply deal with Coca-Cola for 100% recycled PET

Loop Industries

On the heels of a multi-year supply agreement with PepsiCo for 100% sustainable plastic announced in October, Loop Industries Inc. (Montréal) has just secured a multi-year supply deal with Coca-Cola.

Working with Coca-Cola’s Cross Enterprise Procurement Group (CEPG), Loop will supply 100% recycled and sustainable PET plastic from its joint venture facility with Indorama Ventures Ltd. in the United States to authorized Coca-Cola bottlers who enter into a supply agreement with Loop. Indorama Ventures is a chemicals company and global integrated PET and fibers supplier serving major customers in diversified end-use markets, according to Loop.

“Like all responsible companies, we need to be selective in choosing our packaging materials so that we continue to eliminate waste and work to reduce our environmental impact,” said Ron Lewis, Chief Supply Chain Officer, Coca-Cola European Partners, a bottler member of CEPG. “Investments like this one with Loop Industries support our goal to ensure that at least 50% of the material we use for our PET bottles comes from recycled plastic, and will help us divert more materials from landfills and build a stronger circular plastic economy.”

This arrangement continues the rapid progress made by Loop as it commercializes its breakthrough depolymerization technology, which will help reduce global plastic waste and enable major global brands to meet their sustainability goals, said Loop.

In a separate announcement in July, Loop announced a new program that allows consumers of Gatorade, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, to return and upcycle used Gatorade Gx pods into products of greater value using Loop’s upcycling technology. Gatorade Gx is a sports fuel customization platform that, Loop said, “will change the way athletes hydrate and fuel now and into the future.” The Gx platform combines science-backed products with newly designed formula pods and custom squeeze bottles.

Consumers can order their Gx bottle and pods on Gatorade’s website and elect to receive the free Gx/Loop mail-back pouch. Consumers just drop their used pods into the pouch, seal it once full and drop it in the mailbox. The pre-paid pouch is sent to Loop’s facility, where the PET segments of each pod are deconstructed into their base monomers, purified and upcycled into new virgin-quality, food-grade PET.

As the demand for sustainable packaging solutions continues to grow, Loop Industries’ transformative technology allows no and low-value plastics to be diverted, recovered and recycled endlessly into new, virgin-quality Loop PET plastic, said Loop.

Industry’s tone deaf response to the ‘Implant Files’ exposé

Hip implant

“If it bleeds, it leads” has been a guiding principle of journalism since the advent of newsprint. So, when the results of the “Implant Files” investigation landed at the beginning of the week, yeah, they made headlines.

A massive yearlong project that involved more than 250 journalists from dozens of media outlets across the world under the aegis of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the report compiled adverse events involving pacemakers, artificial hips, contraceptives and other medical implants that injured patients and sometimes contributed to their death.

“In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has collected 5.4 million ‘adverse event’ reports over the past decade, some from manufacturers reporting problems in other parts of the world,” reported the Guardian, which participated in the project. “These included 1.7 million reports of injuries and almost 83,000 deaths. Nearly 500,000 mentioned an explant—surgery to remove a device.”

The report casts much of the blame on regulatory authorities in the United States and Europe.

Unlike drugs, many new medical devices are not required to undergo a clinical trial, the report noted.

FDA’s 510(k) process lets low- to medium-risk devices on the market as long as the manufacturer can show “substantial equivalence” with a predicate device, which may be decades old. (The day after the Implant Files were made public, FDA released a statement describing plans to modernize the approval process. You can read about it here.)

The European Union has a new Medical Device Regulation coming into effect in 2020 that is more intrusive than the Medical Device Directive that it replaces. It may not be tough enough, however, according to a German member of parliament, Dagmar Roth-Behrendt, who led the move to overhaul regulations. “Lobbying by the industry and trade associations was ‘the blackest I’ve seen,’” she told the Guardian. The British newspaper adds that [ICIJ] reporters uncovered a trove of documents showing that plans for “tougher EU rules [had] been watered down after industry lobbying.”

The medical technology industry has largely stayed silent on the report, letting its representative associations take the front line. Their response has been predictably dismissive, and a bit tone deaf, if you ask me.

The coverage cherry picks a handful of adverse outcomes at the “exclusion of the nearly 200,000 medical devices currently on the market improving patient care,” wrote Mark Leahey, President and CEO of the Medical Device Manufacturer’s Association (MDMA) in a statement posted on the MDMA website. “This only serves to frighten the millions of patients who benefit from medical technology innovation every day, while inaccurately portraying the rigorous regulatory pathways that are in place to ensure patient safety.”

So, a couple of things.

A medical device that works as intended is not news, just like “dog bites man” is not news (except, perhaps, during a slow news cycle when the dog happens to be a pit bull). “Man bites dog” or a medical device that ends up harming a patient is news.

Maybe it’s selective perception on my part because I have been reporting on the medical device supply chain for a couple of decades now, but I routinely see very positive coverage of the modern miracles enabled by medical technology.

Rather than immediately striking a combative posture to respond to the claims made in the report, why not try this: Note the objective fact that thousands of medical procedures are performed every day without incident but that nobody is perfect and that there is always room for improvement. Risk cannot be completely eliminated, but the medical technology industry recognizes that it must do all it can to ensure that its products do not harm patients.

Regulators have been more thoughtful in their response to the exposé. As previously mentioned, FDA has issued a fairly comprehensive plan to modernize its regulatory process. Health Canada has released an action plan that focuses on three areas: Strengthening processes for premarket approval of devices, enhancing post-market surveillance and making both systems more transparent to members of the public.

It’s been a rough year for the medical device industry, no doubt. As noted by sister brand MD+DI, the ICJI report follows a 60 Minutes segment on the fraught history of transvaginal mesh devices as well as the disturbing Netflix documentary, The Bleeding Edge.

“One of the most controversial products highlighted in The Bleeding Edge is Bayer's Essure birth control system, which has been the subject of nearly 30,000 adverse event reports to FDA and thousands of patient lawsuits,” writes Amanda Pedersen in MD+DI. As PlasticsToday reported last July, Bayer will cease sale and distribution of the device at the end of this year. At the time, the company stated that the decision to discontinue the product is for business reasons only, "not for any safety or efficacy concerns about Essure." Did I mention that Bayer pulled the product out of all markets except the United States in 2017?

Sometimes industry and its mouthpieces don’t do themselves any favors, and that includes manufacturing outrage at the media for doing its job, however imperfectly at times.

Image courtesy Alexandr Mitiuc/Adobe Stock.

Get Ready for the Newest EV Media Sensation

Get Ready for the Newest EV Media Sensation

Rivian Automotive LLC launched the era of the electric pickup at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, and did it with a bang.

The startup, which plans to build vehicles in a former Mitsubishi plant in central Illinois, unveiled its R1T battery-electric pickup at the historic Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, joined by pop icon Rihanna clad in high-heeled boots.  

The intro was, in short, a media sensation. Autoblog called Rivian “the start-up that stole the auto show.” TIME called the unveiling a “pickup truck event with star power.” Reuters and Wired compared the new company to Tesla. Slashgear went one better, opining that Tesla could learn from Rivian’s business plan. And the Los Angeles Times quoted a source as saying Rivian’s MIT-educated CEO, R.J. Scaringe, is “the version of Elon Musk you’d want your daughter to marry.”

Rivian calls its R1T pickup an “electric adventure vehicle.” (Image source: Rivian Automotive LLC)

The vehicle that inspired all that excitement, however, was an unlikely candidate—not a sleek sports car, but a 7,600-lb, five-passenger pickup truck. Called the R1T, it won’t reach the market until late 2020. But early data reveals that the R1T is decidedly different. Rivian calls it an “electric adventure vehicle,” saying the R1T was “developed to help customers get out and explore the world.” In its press information, the company emphasized storage space that allows users to haul surf boards, fishing rods, and snowboards. Similarly, integrated locking cables enable users to secure bicycle frames to the truck bed. The company also highlighted the R1T’s torque specs, which are said to be good for high-speed cornering and low-speed rock crawling.

Cost Challenge

The key to its capabilities lies in the truck’s use of a “skateboard”—not unlike the ones previously employed on the Chevy Volt and Tesla Model S. The skateboard houses a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack (specific chemistry still unknown) sized to either 180 kWh (400+-mile range) or 135 kWh (300+-mile range). A smaller pack of 105 kWh (250+ miles) will follow about 12 months after the start of production.

R1T’s design includes a 350-liter “gear tunnel” for storage of such items as snowboards and fishing rods. It also serves as a step for users to lace up their hiking boots. (Image source: Rivian Automotive LLC)

The company’s skateboard houses a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack, sized to either 180 kWh (400+-mile range) or 135 kWh (300+-mile range). It is used on the R1T pickup and the R1S SUV. (Image source: Rivian Automotive LLC)

The skateboard will serve not only as the foundation for the R1T, but as the power source for Rivian’s other vehicle: the R1S, a seven-passenger SUV. The R1S was introduced at the LA Auto Show the day after the pickup and is also expected to hit the market in late 2020.

Both vehicles will employ a quad-motor powertrain. The motors, deployed at each wheel, will deliver a maximum torque of 826 lb-ft and provide an extraordinary 0-60 mph launch time ranging from three seconds flat to 4.9 seconds, depending on the battery configuration.

Industry observers described Rivian’s approach as a sensible one, given the direction of the American market. Today, they said, most big automakers are shedding their sedans in favor of pickups and SUVs. “Instead of coming out with a tiny compact electric car that’s not in the center of the market, why not try to produce what is already popular in the US, and put it into an electric package?” asked Mike Ramsey, a senior director and analyst at Gartner, Inc.

The challenge, however, might lie in the price of the vehicles and the cost of its batteries. Even at an optimistic pack cost of $200/kWh, a 180-kWh battery pack would run $36,000, experts say.

Hence, the R1T electric pickup will start around $69,000 before the federal tax credit of $7,500. Similarly, the R1S SUV will start around $72,500 before credits.

Those starting prices would place the two new vehicles squarely at the high end of the market. The R1T, for example, would be at least $30,000 more expensive than the two most popular US pickups: the Ford F-150 and the Chevy Silverado. For that reason, it is believed the vehicle will compete more directly with luxury pickups and SUVs, like those from Land Rover.

The all-electric R1S SUV seats seven and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 3.0 seconds. (Image source: Rivian Automotive LLC)

The question, Ramsey said, is whether there’s enough consumer interest in SUVs and pickups at that level of the market. “They might be able to build a market, but will it be a significantly sized market?” he asked. “Is it going to be a big enough market for them to survive? The market isn’t always there when you’re talking about $70,000, $80,000, and $90,000 vehicles.”

Ramsey pointed out that luxury manufacturers, such as Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover, have struggled at the high end.

Thirty-five-year-old CEO Scaringe clearly believes the market has room for Rivian, however. An engineer, he earned his PhD while working in MIT’s Sloan Automotive Laboratory, and launched Rivian in 2009. During the past nine years, he has kept the company in stealth mode while developing its new vehicles and reportedly acquiring backing from such companies as Sumitomo Corp. of America and Saudi Arabian conglomerate Abdul Latif Jameel Co.  

Rivian’s plan to launch its business at the high end of the market mirrors that of Tesla, which started a decade ago with the all-electric Roadster—a sports car with a base price of $80,000. But analysts point out that Tesla’s survival as an automotive startup is rare. And even then, the company still is not profitable after almost 16 years.

“With all startups, the question is always, is it real?” Ramsey said. “This is an interesting company and an interesting car, but we’ll see how it goes.”

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

DesignCon 2019 engineering educationBy Engineers, For Engineers. Join our in-depth conference program with over 100 technical paper sessions, panels, and tutorials spanning 15 tracks. Learn more: DesignCon. Jan. 29-31, 2019, in Santa Clara, CA. Register to attend, hosted by Design News’ parent company UBM.

Zeus offers medtech OEMs offer they can’t refuse: Free sample runs of heat-shrink tubing

Zeus Inc.'s Fluoropeelz tubing

If you’re close to my age, you may remember an ad for Tarreyton cigarettes showing someone with a black eye and the slogan, “I’d rather fight than switch.” It seems that medical device OEMs have a similar, if less pugilistic, approach when it comes to plastic tubing used in their catheters. So how do you increase market share if you're a supplier of medical-grade tubing? Extrusion technology company Zeus Inc. (Orangeburg, SC) has come up with an incentive for qualified companies to check out its products—a free custom run of its peelable heat-shrink tubing.

Offering free samples to gain new customers is a gambit as old as commerce, of course, but it is novel in the medtech supply chain. Some say it’s a first. Regardless, Zeus believes the superior quality of its medical-grade FluoroPEELZ peelable heat-shrink tubing and etched liners will win over customers once they have had a chance to experience it. There is another, legalistic reason to consider the offer.

The FluoroPEELZ line offers the highest clarity on the market, claims Zeus, which is a result of proprietary technology that it developed. Zeus licenses the clear, peelable heat-shrink technology to a single company worldwide, which reportedly is using it primarily for its internal supply. Consequently, Zeus cautions industry that any other suppliers offering clear peelable heat shrink are encroaching on its patent rights and could be subject to legal action. That could cause a supply disruption among companies that have obtained this product from unlicensed suppliers, because of potential re-qualification of a non-transparent, heat-shrink formulation, said Zeus in a press release. Sourcing the tubing from Zeus, it notes, ensures a continuous supply of clear, peelable heat shrink.

Visit Zeus at booth 3113, along with hundreds of other suppliers serving the medical technology industry, at MD&M West. The medical manufacturing trade show is co-located with PLASTEC West at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA, on Feb. 5 to 7, 2019. For more information and to register to attend, go to the PLASTEC West website.

Companies that qualify for the Switch Suppliers and Save program will receive:

  • A free custom run;
  • up to 50% off Zeus' list/minimum order quantity price on up to two repeat validation orders; and
  • preferred pricing when companies bundle both Zeus heat shrink and etched liners.

By participating in the program, manufacturers will also gain access to Zeus applications scientists who can help ensure that the custom products satisfy customers' specific requirements.

When FluoroPEELZ tubing is combined with the company’s etched liner products, medical device manufacturers are able to accelerate production, increase yield and improve safety during the catheter construction process, according to Zeus.

"Zeus understands the time, effort, and cost involved in switching suppliers,” said Bob Chaney, Senior Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing, in a prepared statement. “However, we're making it easier than ever for companies to decrease costs and switch to Zeus. Our heat-shrink solutions and etched liners offer superior quality over the competition. This program allows manufacturers a way to increase the overall value their polymer supplier contributes to their company's goals,” said Chaney.

Volvo targets 25% sustainable plastic in cars by 2025

Volvo targets 25% sustainable plastic in cars by 2025

Rondo Plast, a member of the Polykemi Group, is supporting Volvo Cars ambition to have at least 25% of the plastic in their cars being made from sustainable materials by 2025. The Volvo Cars demonstrator vehicle that was revealed this summer exemplifies their commitment to this ambition, which reportedly is the most progressive by any premium automotive manufacturer.

Volvo aims for 25% recycled plastics in every new car by 2025.

The car originates from the existing XC60 model. Plastic parts weighing in at about 60 kg are replaced by recycled plastic in this project. As a compounder, we have been involved since the beginning of the development of the car, says Fredrik Holst, product manager at Rondo Plast. The company suppliers Repro compounds based on polypropylene (PP), polycarbonate/acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (PC/ABS) and other resins.

The sources of Rondo's recycled plastic materials are both industrial and consumer waste. The materials from Rondo in the demonstrator car are used in air ducts, the central console behind the radio and the display, the wheel arcs, and the loading floor support structure, among other applications.

“Our material is often used in load-bearing and technical components which are covered by a surface material,” Fredrik Holst continues. It is among these components that Volvo Cars has the best opportunity to achieve their ambitious goal, where at least 25% of the plastic in their cars will be recycled raw materials by 2025. 

“We take our hat off to Volvo Cars for being the first vehicle manufacturer in the premium segment to take this stand. It is our absolute intention to continue to be the partner in quality assured compounds based on wholly or partly recycled raw materials,” concludes Fredrik Holst.

Self-tapping composite nut molded from polyamide

Self-tapping composite nut molded from polyamide

The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) has awarded the global plastics compounder Asahi Kasei Plastics North America, Inc. (APNA) with the SPE Automotive Innovation Award, "Most Innovative Use of Plastics," in the Chassis/Hardware category. The prize honors the "High Strength Self-Tapping Composite Nut" which was developed jointly with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and ITW Deltar Fasteners. The SPE Automotive Division awarded the prize at the 48th annual Automotive Innovation Awards Gala held on November 7, 2018 in Livonia, Michigan/USA.

Polyamide self-tapping nut maintains torque even when stripped.

The composite nut, which is used in the automotive industry and created with Asahi Kasei’s Leona 90G55 polyamide (PA) 66 engineered material, was identified as top in the Chassis/Hardware category because it has underlined significant benefits compared to the alternative metal or polymer nuts that currently exist in the market. In this regard, it has – unlike the metal nut that this composite nut replaces – self-healing properties enabling it to maintain sufficient torque and clamp load even after it has been stripped. Additionally, Asahi Kasei’s innovation offers a weight reduction of about one kilo, reduced CO2 footprint and over $9.00 dollars in cost savings per vehicle produced.

"At Asahi Kasei, we always strive to increase the value of our customers' applications," said Rob Linker, Sales Account Manager. "Whether it is large components like a Thermylene PP cargo box for trucks or small ones like the composite nut Leona 66+6i – we offer engineering at the highest level".

This is the fourth SPE Award APNA has received in the last seven years, including the cargo box for the “Dodge Ram Truck” in the “Body Exterior” category in 2011 and two more products in the “Materials” category in 2012 and 2013.

“It is great to be in the winning circle at SPE again” said Ramesh Iyer, President of APNA. "This award confirms Asahi Kasei's corporate guidelines such as creativity and ambition, it motivates us to continue providing innovative plastics and services to our customers."

A primer on six methods for forming plastics

injection molding machine

Globally, nearly 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year. Plastics are part of every facet of our daily lives because they are highly versatile and have varying characteristics based on composition and how they’re manufactured. As such, product designers need a keen understanding of the many ways to form plastics for commercial and industrial use to meet specific applications. These six methods have been around a while, but all of them are still undergoing continual refinement to improve speed, lower cost and enhance quality.

Plastic injection molding

The granddaddy of mass production processes, plastic injection molding is indispensable for medical equipment, aerospace, automotive and consumer goods. With this process, plastic is melted and then injected into a mold under high pressure. There, the material is cooled, solidified and afterward released by opening the two halves of the mold. This technique results in a plastic product with a predetermined, fixed form. Like other molding or casting processes, there is some reverse engineering involved.

First, the product engineer designs the ideal finished part. Then, a tooling engineer needs to design a tool that can make that part, which is finally transferred to a moldmaker who machines the mold, taking into account the variables of raw material, complexity, tolerances and so forth. Plastic injection molding is ideal for making large runs of identical parts quickly. Using plastic injection molding, a low-cost part can be made with an excellent surface finish.

Reaction injection molding

Reaction injection molding is common in the automotive industry because it produces lightweight parts. The rigid skin on these parts is easily painted to make body panels, dashboards and other components. Unlike injection molding, reaction injection molding uses thermoset—not thermoplastic—polymers. Through a variety of chemical reactions, these polymers expand, thicken and harden only after they’re injected into the heated mold, accommodating much more intricate designs than ordinary injection molding. Raw materials and molding techniques can be selected and even customized to precisely deliver desired weight, strength, density and hardness characteristics.

Unlike thermoplastics, thermosetting is non-reversible and the parts can’t be recycled; the raw materials also are more expensive. Tooling costs for prototypes are relatively low, while production tooling is moderately expensive because of the increased production time.

Rotational (roto) molding

Rotational molding is ideal for making large hollow or concave shapes, often for outdoor use like canoes and tubs. This process involves a heated hollow mold that is filled with a charge or shot weight of material. Then, the mold is slowly rotated (usually around two perpendicular axes), causing the softened material to disperse and stick to the walls of the mold. To maintain even thickness throughout the part, the mold continues to rotate at all times during the heating phase. This helps to avoid sagging or deformation during the cooling phase. The finished parts are stress-free and have no seams, ensuring high strength. The tools are also relatively simple and inexpensive to make. One caveat of this process is that tools don’t last more than a few thousand cycles before they need to be replaced, and the part finish quality is average, at best, so it’s not suited for precision forming.

Extrusion blowmolding

Extrusion blowmolding provides designers with the ability to make thin-walled, inexpensive containers such as disposable drinking cups or bottles. Using this process, plastic is melted and extruded into a hollow tube (a parison). This parison is then captured by closing it into a cooled metal mold. Air is then blown into the parison, inflating it into the shape of the hollow bottle, container or part. After the plastic has cooled sufficiently, the mold is opened, and the part is ejected. This process is fast and simple. However, parts cannot be overly complex or require high precision.

Injection blowmolding

Injection blowmolding is used for the production of hollow objects in large quantities such as bottles, jars and other containers. Bottles of superior visual and dimensional quality can be created compared with extrusion blowmolding. During injection blowmolding, melted plastic is injected into a mold to form a plastic tube. Then, blowing the tube into a cavity mold forms a hollow part that is later ejected after cooling. This process is easily controlled and repeatable with excellent surface quality. Both narrow and wide-mouthed containers are produced fully finished.

Vacuum casting

Vacuum casting is an ideal choice for making a small number of high-quality rapid prototypes, without a large investment in tools or material. Vacuum casting begins by producing a master pattern—typically using stereolithography or laser sintering—with a high-quality surface finish. Then, a silicone mold is produced by casting silicone around the pattern, partially under vacuum to avoid air bubbles. After curing, the silicone mold is cut according to pre-defined parting planes and the master is removed, leaving a cavity to make copies. In this process, the surface finish quality and detail are excellent and pourable resins can imitate many engineering grades of plastic. However, the molds are not durable and will degrade after 20 or so copies.

Regardless of what method you consider for your next plastic project, ensure that it meets all the criteria needed for the prototype or end-product you want to create.

Gordon Styles is the founder and president of Star Rapid, a provider of rapid prototyping, rapid tooling and low-volume production services. Utilizing his background in engineering, Styles founded Star Rapid in 2005 and under his leadership the company has expanded to 250 employees. With an international team of engineers and technicians, Star Rapid combines advanced technologies—such as 3D printing and multi-axis CNC machining—with traditional manufacturing techniques and high-quality standards. Prior to Star Rapid, Styles owned and managed the United Kingdom’s largest rapid prototyping and rapid tooling company, STYLES RPD, which was sold to ARRK Europe in 2000.

Injection molding machine image courtesy Moreno Soppelsa/Adobe Stock.

Wilmington Machinery installs second complete pallet molding system for European customer

Wilmington Palleteer

Wilmington Machinery (Wilmington, NC) introduced its first Pallateer molding machine in 2010 to satisfy increased demand for plastic pallets. Recently, a European company that had no experience making plastic pallets was looking to mold them in house. That led it to install its first Wilmington Pallateer.

The metric size pallet designed by Wilmington’s engineers has static capacity of 17,500 lb, dynamic capacity of 8,800 lb and racking capacity of 4,000 lb. The pallet is molded of propylene or polyethylene or a blend of the two, plus color and other additives.

Because of the success of the initial Pallateer, the customer ordered a second machine. Once again, the machine underwent testing at the plant in Wilmington and was disassembled for shipping and reinstalled at the customer’s facility, according to the company.

The Pallateer molding machine for this customer included variable frequency hydraulics and other state-of-the-art machine features. It uses the structural foam injection method to achieve a high strength-to-weight ratio, and it performs well with 100% recycled material. Systems come complete with the molding machine, mold(s), robot, mold chiller, nitrogen generator, resin blending/loading equipment, plus training.

Since its founding in 1972, Wilmington Machinery has been building high-performance, low-pressure structural foam molding machines. Additionally, the company has built custom extrusion, thermoforming and industrial blowmolding machinery, along with a primary line of high-capacity rotary blowmolding systems for polyolefin monolayer/multilayer barrier packaging. The company operates from a modern 65,000-square-foot facility and can easily meet any customer’s need for extra-large plastics machinery. International shipments can also be arranged through the nearby deep-water Port of Wilmington.

Bendable, conductive polymer film developed for consumer electronics has health-monitoring potential

Bendable, conductive polymer; Purdue

A glass-like, conductive polymer under development at Purdue University that could make smartphones and other electronics more bendable also has designs on healthcare applications.

The polymer film, which is said to have the look and feel of glass, can be sustainably produced on a large scale because it comes from “earth-abundant materials,” writes Chris Adam in a press release published on the Purdue University website. The material reportedly is also cost-effective compared with currently used polymers in electronics that rely on expensive chemistry and chemical doping to achieve high conductivity.

Purdue’s polymer is made from long chains that contain radical groups. “The radical polymer has a fundamentally different chemistry and mechanism for creating conductive plastics,” explains Brett Savoie, Assistant Professor, Davidson School of Engineering at Purdue University, in a video featuring the technology. “We are able to coat the film, which stays transparent at relatively large thicknesses, and make uniform films without defects,” adds Bryan Boudouris, the Robert and Sally Weist Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, who led the research team. “Now, you have something you can sell, especially for high-end electronics,” says Boudouris. “We have made a giant leap in polymer production by better matching the mechanical properties of organic materials used to create them and helping to avoid catastrophic failures with electronic display screens.”

Purdue’s radical polymer is not quite as conductive as indium tin oxide, which is the current state of the art in displays, says Savoie, but it is much less expensive. “And it is competitive with other organic plastics and is orders of magnitude better than the next-best radical polymer,” he adds.

The new polymer is also the central platform for research at the Purdue-based Materials Innovation for Bioelectronics from intrinsically stretchable Organics (Mi-Bio) center. Researchers there are using the polymer film to create custom sensors that could non-invasively monitor glucose levels, heart rates and other biomedical metrics.

The film could be modified, using specific molecules or ions, to target and selectively interact with various biological components inside the body, notes the press release. It could be worn as a nearly invisible patch on the skin.

Researchers are working with the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization to patent the technology, and they are looking for partners to continue developing it.

Dew point monitoring prevents damaging moisture condensation during process chiller operation

Delta T Systems

Industrial processes that require thermal energy management can now incorporate ambient dew point as a control system variable. Delta T Systems (Richfield, WI) has incorporated this feature as standard on all process chillers it produces.

The Delta T Systems controller is designed to monitor and adjust the chillers’ set point temperature at or above ambient dew point temperature. When the dew point temperature increases above the process control temperature, the controller automatically adjusts the set point to track with the dew point. This automatic adjustment yields numerous benefits, including decreased scrap rates, increased polymer strength, improved polymer appearance, decreased unsanitary conditions and extended equipment life.

The major benefit of automated dew point/set point process control is condensation prevention. When process temperature is kept above an ambient dew-point, no condensation occurs. Conversely, when it is below, potentially damaging condensation can occur. By preventing condensation, Delta T Systems’ proprietary controller can help decrease production equipment damage or catastrophic failure.

The variable speed chillers come standard with an on-board ambient temperature and humidity sensor that allows the controller to monitor the dew point in a production area. With this sensing capability, Delta T Systems is the only process chiller manufacturer to control all aspects of water-cooled applications, claims the company.

Delta T Systems manufactures water and oil temperature control equipment, as well as portable air- and water-cooled chillers. The company’s full line of system solutions come in a range of sizes and with temperature control ranges from 0° to 650°F (-18° to 343°C).