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Polyamide wins CARB certification for small fuel tanks

A blowmoldable, polyamide 6 has been awarded a CARB (California Air Resources) Executive Order (EO) for use in small-engine fuel tanks. The EO will allow manufacturers and users of small-engine fuel tanks to avoid the lengthy and expensive testing process needed to confirm adherence to the stringent requirements for all off-road equipment sold in the state of California.

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Certified polyamide ready for use in fuel tanks California-bound.

Akulon Fuel Lock FL40-HP from DSM Engineering Plastics (Geleen, The Netherlands) is used as mono-material in fuel tanks The EO stipulates that tanks blow molded from the resin with a minimum wall thickness of 1.2 mm (0.047 inch) need not be tested to the CARB test standard TP-901. Akulon Fuel Lock FL40-HP yields permeation rates that are less than 5% of the maximum value of 2.0 g/m2/day allowed by CARB under their test rules.

Akulon Fuel Lock FL40-HP is a polyamide 6-based material, designed to be blow molded into fuel tanks that are used for engines that power handheld and ground-supported lawn and garden equipment, as well as recreational, professional landscaping and marine applications.

Akulon FL40-HP achieves this low permeation level without the use of additives or post-molding processes, such as fluorination. Risks of non-conforming tanks due to improper or inadequate processing are almost completely eliminated. Tanks molded from this grade also exhibit excellent cold impact resistance, even in temperatures as low as -40°C (-40°F).

Due to the regulation of maximum levels of hydrocarbon permeation by both CARB and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), the material most commonly used for fuel tanks can no longer be used in its current form. Akulon Fuel Lock can be processed with conventional injection or blow molding equipment, using existing HDPE tooling. All scrap material can be reused in the molding process, with virtually no degradation of physical or mechanical properties.

Akulon Fuel Lock is a cost-competitive material that reduces evaporative emissions from small engine fuel tanks by more than 99% compared to HDPE according to the supplier. —[email protected]

Delphi to acquire leading connector manufacturer

Delphi Automotive (Troy, MI) has entered into exclusive negotiations and has made a binding offer to acquire the Motorized Vehicles Division (MVL) of FCI Group (Versailles, France), a business that is currently one of its key suppliers.

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Electric and hybrid vehicle powertrains are one growth area that Delphi will target through its acquisition of FCI's auto-related business.

MVL is a leading global manufacturer of automotive connection systems with a focus on high-value, leading technology applications. The transaction is valued at €765 million (approximately $972 million) and is expected to close by year-end 2012, subject to acceptance of the offer and regulatory approvals.

MVL, which will become part of Delphi's Electrical/Electronic Architecture segment ("E/EA"), is the leading global provider of high-performance interconnection systems for a wide range of applications. These include connectors for the high-growth safety restraint systems (SRS) market, powertrain and electrical vehicles. MVL had revenue of €692 million in the year ended December 31, 2011, and is owned by affiliates of Bain Capital.

"This transaction will solidify Delphi's position as one of the premier global automotive suppliers and will create significant shareholder value," said Rodney O'Neal, chief executive officer and president of Delphi. "The addition of MVL strengthens the high growth connector product portfolio of our E/EA segment, broadens our mix of global customers and furthers our strategy of providing our customers with solutions to address the trends of Safe, Green and Connected. As a result, following the acquisition, we will be better positioned to further drive growth in electronic content in motor vehicles. As MVL's largest customer, we respect their accomplishments and share a commitment to developing innovative products and delivering solutions that meet a wide range of needs and applications."

Liam Butterworth, president of MVL, stated, "The opportunity to join a global organization like Delphi, with an outstanding reputation in the connector and electronic architecture industries, will better position us to pursue future growth opportunities. By leveraging both parties' strong innovation and R&D capabilities, we will continue to provide the market with the highest quality innovative interconnect systems, while exceeding the expectations of customers worldwide."-[email protected]

Lightweight door panels incorporate natural fiber

The German subsidiary of Johnson Controls in Burscheid is supplying a series of innovative door panels, seat structures and instrument clusters for the new BMW 3 Series.

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Johnson Controls makes the hybrid door panels for the new BMW 3 Series using a combination of natural fibers and plastic.

The non-visible door panel elements employ a combination of wood fibers and polypropylene (PP) that are 20% lighter than conventional components. The natural-fiber carrier is directly molded with the plastic matrix.

A state-of-the-art process known as groove lamination is used to apply the fabric or leather trim onto the door panel. This process involves the trim being joined in recesses, eliminating the need for an additional component and further reducing weight.

Four special features characterize the seat structure of the new BMW 3 Series. The use of high-strength steel means it is both stable and lightweight. The low seat back pivot point makes the seat particularly comfortable as it snugly fits the occupant's back. The structure also offers a very finely graduated recliner to ensure the best sitting position. Finally, adjusting motors using four-pole technology, in some cases with rare-earth magnets that have a stronger magnetic field than conventional ferrite magnets, are used in the electrically adjustable seats. This means they need a smaller installation space and are approximately 200g lighter. With up to four motors per seat, this also enables a significant weight reduction. The seat structures are modular in design and in the case of the driver's seat, a weight reduction of three to four kilograms is possible depending on the model.

The basic instrument cluster for the new BMW 3 Series has day and night design and not only offers high-quality analog displays and LED pilot lights but also a 2.7-inch TFT display. The instrument cluster features a bidirectional Automotive Pixel Link (APIX) high-speed point-to-point connection that facilitates robust image and control data transmission using just one interface. This technology is used in displays and stepper motors on the design circuit board to communicate with the electronics on the PCB (printed circuit board) behind it.—[email protected]

No Hollywood ending for plastic bags in L.A.

Los Angeles made history this week and it's not for any reasons related to Brad Pitt or Kim Kardashian. 

As we reported earlier, the L.A. City Council voted 13-1 on Wednesday to phase out plastic bags over the next 12 months at an estimated 7,500 stores, which made L.A. the largest city in the nation to ban plastic bags.

Once this law is enacted, consumers will need to bring reusable bags or purchase paper bags for 10 cents each.

L.A. now joins 47 other California cities that have also banned plastic bags.

But this is L.A., a population of 4 million people. Once the law is set in stone, it's hard not to wonder, what's next? How will this ban impact the L.A. community? And will it cause other cities to follow suit?

It's important to note, the city will study the issue again in two years to see whether the 10-cent fee was enough to reduce paper bags.

Trash facts

This ban came after years of outcry from various environmental groups who state that banning single-use plastic bags will help reduce the amount of trash in landfills, and in the city's waterways and oceans.

In fact, I recently talked with Miriam Goldstein, lead author of a study that reported the amount of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean has grown 100-fold in the past 40 years.

"I think everyone - activists, scientists, and the industry, agrees plastic has no place in the ocean," she told me.

An estimated 12 billion plastic bags are used in California each year, with about 2.7 billion plastic bags in L.A. alone, but less than 5% of the state's plastic bags are recycled, according to clean-water advocates.

Members of the L.A. City Council said that 43% of Los Angeles' trash is plastic and that the largest component of that plastic is plastic bags at 19%.

Potential jobs impact

Now here's the next item to consider: how will this bag ban impact jobs? Reports from the city council meeting stated that 750 jobs at companies making plastic bags in the area are not in the city, but in the county.

According to the American Progressive Bag Alliance, an organization representing the U.S. plastic bag manufacturing and recycling sector, which employs 30,800 workers in 349 communities across the nation, about 1,900 plastic bag manufacturing and recycling employees are located in California.

As you can image, the L.A. bag ban did not go over well with the organization.

"Bag bans have not been proven to reduce litter," said Mark Daniels, chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance. "With this draconian bag ban, the city takes a simplistic approach that misses an opportunity to provide a more effective solution for consumers and the environment - programs that encourage greater recycling of plastic and paper bags and preserve jobs."

Is recycling the answer?

Many in the plastics industry argue that instead of banning plastic bags, there needs to be better management of the material and an increase awareness of recycling. Recycling the material could be a comprehensive approach to litter prevention.

A study by Moore Recycling Associates stated more than 91% of the U.S. population can recycle their plastic bags locally.

Here are a few tidbits about recycling plastic bags and wraps, according to the American Chemistry Council:

  • Plastic bags and wraps aren't typically recycled in curbside programs, but they are widely recycled through located collection bins at grocery and retail stores.
  • Check local grocer or retailer (e.g., Target, Lowe's) to see if they collect plastic bags and/or wraps. Most stores provide a bin at the entrance or sometimes at the checkout area.
  • When recycled, plastic bags and wraps can be made into new bags and wraps, durable outdoor decks and fences, homebuilding products, and lots of other things.

To wrap up this post, if more local governments begin to ban plastic bags, the industry may feel a ripple effect across all sectors.

Talk with us about your thoughts regarding the L.A. bag ban.

Plastics recycler to open research center focused on closed-loop recycling

Plastics recycling company SirNaik LLC has invested $10 million in a 200,000-ft2 facility dedicated to closed-loop recycling of post-consumer plastics.

The facility, called the Green Research Center, will house a variety of recycling processes and is scheduled to open Fall 2012 in West Virginia.

Saurabh Naik, founder and CEO of SirNaik, told PlasticsToday the goal of the center is to help the plastics industry find solutions for materials that are difficult to recycle.

"Many streams require multiple processes, but there's really no place in the world where all of the necessary recycling equipment and processes are under one roof," he said. "We're opening the center now because the U.S. is finally turning green. Businesses are talking more about the value of being green and the value of sustainability, and we want to play an active part in that discussion and in carrying out green initiatives."

SirNaik was founded 25 years ago with a focus on post-industrial scrap recycling. Since then, the organization has spread globally with facilities in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, India, and Europe.

"Ample opportunity exists to engage a new stream of feedstock," the company stated in a press release. "But a tremendous amount of research is required because post-consumer feedstock has a high degree of variability. By utilizing multiple unit processes, the Green Research Center will develop the best continuous process for recycling post-consumer material."

The facility will accept almost any kind of plastic that is currently landfilled, whether post-industrial or post-consumer material, according to the company. It will use flotation, density separation, optical sorting, mechanical washing, among other sorting technologies.  The center will process the plastics scrap, certify the material, and return it to the manufacturer in a reusable form.

The company stated it wants to work with businesses that want to improve its green ranking, and are invested in product stewardship and closed-loop recycling.

Naik said the research center has three long-term goals.

"First, we want to continue updating our equipment and processes based on new research developments," he said. "Second, we want to measure the elimination of landfill waste and space to witness the environmental benefits, from improvements in environmental quality to new uses for unused landfills. Finally, we want to offer similar solutions at a global level. Currently, our Green Research Center is focused on solutions for North America."

3D-printed bikini hit of the RAPID 2012 Fashion Show

The 3D Fabulous Fashion Show was one of the kick-off events at the RAPID 2012 additive manufacturing conference in Atlanta (May 22-24), sponsored by Materialise of Leuven, Belgium. The show featured all things 3D printed, including hats from Brussels master milliner Elvis Pompilio, necklaces by renowned designer Daniel Widrig, and the top 20 designs from the “Hats off to 3D Printing Challenge” conducted by Materialise’s consumer division, i.materialise.





But the “Wow factor" came when a model hit the runway in a two-piece, 3D-printed bikini "N12," named for the material the bikini is made from: polyamide 12 (nylon). To manufacture the swimsuit, the PA-2200 nylon powder was processed on the FORMIGA P 100 laser-sintering system from EOS (Electro Optical Systems) GmbH.

The N12 bikini is the world’s first, ready-to-wear, completely 3D-printed article of clothing. All of the pieces, including the closures, are made directly by 3D printing, and snap together without any sewing. Designed by Jenna Fizel and Mary Huang of Continuum Fashion, and made possible by laser-sintering technology, N12 represents the beginning of what is possible in fashion for the near future.

According to a release from EOS, one of the main principles behind Continuum Fashion is pushing the possibilities of digital fabrication tools to create designs that specifically reflect the technology behind the manufacturing process. With the N12 bikini, the designers were trying to reinterpret the textile design through a computational lens, and they have initiated a kind of paradigm shift in the textile industry.

In creating the fabric, the designers’ idea was to subdivide the surface into small patches that are connected to each other by thin elements in order to achieve both coverage and flexibility. The shape of the elements had to conform to the curves of the body, enable movement and support the transition of the pattern from one size to another. Triangles and polygons can only approximate curves, said EOS, but circles don’t suffer from this issue. “They are, of course, always perfectly round,” noted EOS.

“With the N12 system we are attempting to use the variability, continuity and precision of complex 3D modeling in combination with laser sintering to produce a textile with new and unique properties,” said Fizel.

In the finished bikini design, the top is composed of four pieces that hook together to provide a modular system for sizing. It packs flat in the build chamber, which means a comparatively small amount of material is needed. “We felt it was important to design something that could be produced affordably enough for retail,” explained Fizel. “And of course, it makes it easy to put on and take off.”

Since it requires no additional finishing, the top can be ordered and shipped directly from the online community and market place (www.shapeways.com).

“The design of the bikini fundamentally reflects the beautiful intricacy possible with laser sintering, as well as the technical challenges of creating a flexible surface out of a solid polyamide,” said Huang. “Thousands of circular plates are connected by thin strings, creating a wholly new material that holds its form as well as being flexible. The layout of the circle pattern was achieved through custom-written code that distributes the circles according to the curvature of the surface. In this way, the aesthetic design is completely derived from the structural design.”

Fizel added that there is much potential in automating custom fit, and creating a “bespoke design from a 3D body scan more immediately.”

According to EOD, the combination of accessible rapid fabrication and direct interaction with consumers presents many exciting possibilities for the future of fashion and the future of products in general.

Material validation expedited

This effort is, of course, focused on automotive—specifically fuel systems. But the shortage also impacts all industries that use nylon 12, including key medical, electronic, and packaging products.

Algoryx Inc. is offering to help companies expedite material evaluation and selection, including dimensional qualification of injection molded parts. "This is not help in the form of a guideline, but real methodology and analytical techniques to achieve dimensional Cpk requirements across all critical dimensions," said Steve Tuszynski, Algoryx president.

Most injection molded parts have multiple critical dimensions that must meet Cpk requirements regardless of the material that is being used. This could mean tool changes, tolerance relaxations, or a whole new mold depending on the fit of one material versus another. Molded part qualification alone may take months to complete, but it doesn't have to, according to Algoryx.

Conventionally, injection molded part dimensions are evaluated individually throughout all cavities in the mold. Therefore, high cavitation molds with multiple critical dimensions may take months to qualify as all critical dimensions must essentially align to meet Cpk requirements. Tuszynski said Algoryx's technology doesn't look at part dimensions individually, instead comparing them against all other critical part dimensions. In addition, all aspects of mold development and optimization are analyzed at the same time.

Metallic glass inserts eyed for 'lab-on-chip' microfluidics

Metallic glass inserts eyed for 'lab-on-chip' microfluidics

Bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) have been in the news because of Apple's research into their potential in consumer electronics devices such as iPads.

They also have significant potential to create injection mold inserts with nanoscale features.

In an article published in Materials Today, Michael Gilchrist, David Browne and colleagues at University College

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Nano surfaces are visible in bulk metallic glass part. Source: "Zhang, N., Byrne, C.J., Browne, D.J. & Gilchrist, M.D., Towards nano-injection moulding. Materials Today, 15 (5) pp. 216-221 (2012)".
Dublin describe the potential for BMGs, which were discovered at CalTech about thirty years ago. They are a sophisticated brew of exotic metals which—if processed very carefully—form amorphous structures. Most metals have crystalline structures.

The amorphous structure means that BMGs can be injection molded like plastics and they can be machined with microscopic precision below the grain size of conventional metals. They also retain the strength and durability of normal metals.

Gilchrist and his colleagues showed how microscopic features can be machined on to the surface of a BMG. The tool steel typically used in molds cannot be machined with better than 10-micrometer precision because of its crystalline grain structure.

"Our technology is a new process for mass producing high-value polymer components, on the micrometer and nanometer-scale," says Gilchrist. "This is a process by which high-volume quantities of plastic components can be mass produced with one hundred times more precision, for costs that are at least ten times cheaper than currently possible."

Plastics components can have surface features of a similar size to mammalian cells at 10 micrometers or even the smallest viruses at less than 100 nanometers. The new manufacturing process could thus allow "lab-on-a-chip" devices to be constructed that could handle and test samples containing single cells and viruses or large biomolecules including DNA and proteins.

"These precision plastic parts are the high value components of microfluidic devices, lab-on-chip diagnostic devices, micro implantable components and MEMS sensors," Gilchrist adds.

Once the technology is extended to the tens of nanometers length scale, the team suggests that it could be used to make high-volume, low-cost, information storage systems. The team is currently optimizing their technology with this goal in mind.

The research team concludes, "The worldwide trend of miniaturization means that these devices and components are getting progressively smaller and smaller; the problem faced by today's technologies is that they will soon be unable to manufacture at these smaller dimensions at competitive prices. If you just consider the microfluidic devices market without the biological content: this is forecast to reach $5 billion by 2016."

The components are formulated from  high-purity metallic components by arc melting in an inert atmosphere and then cast. The castings are then machined via EDM, ground and polished. Sub-micron features are imparted onto the BMG surface typically be FIB (Focused Ion Beam) milling. The castings are an alloy of zirconium, copper, and aluminum.

"We are at an advanced stage of developing prototypes for microfluidic chips for a medical device company," Browne told Plastics Today in an email interview. .

This is a plastics website. Why go heavy on metal?

Frequent visitors to the Automotive/Mobility Channel at PlasticsToday might have noticed that this week non-plastic materials have featured heavily. We’ve talked advanced high-strength steel (AHSS), magnesium, aluminum and even an efficient process for casting high temperature nickel and titanium alloys.

But we at PlasticsToday are still firm believers that plastics will play one of the key roles in vehicle lightweighting moving forward. We’d just like to convey to our readership that there are other options out there for lightweighting and the industries promoting these are not going to sit back and concede the market to competing materials. I hope the recent postings have given the plastics sector a few inklings as to what they may be up against in terms of inter-material competition.—[email protected]

LED lighting concept proven through prototyped acrylic light pipe

LED lighting concept proven through prototyped acrylic light pipe

A prototype of a light pipe that illuminates an integral subassembly for the 2013 Dodge Dart center console cup holder was taken from tool design to finished parts in the space of three-and-a-half weeks by Urgent Plastic Services (UPS), part of rapid prototyping and low-volume specialist 3-Dimensional Services Group (Rochester Hills, MI).

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Light pipe shines in cup holder illumination application.

"Complicating the task was the fact that these light pipes weren't your ordinary, run-of-the-mill lighting fixtures, but rather, part of a bold new concept in automotive interior lighting," says Steve Kelly, senior sales engineer with the 3-Dimensional Services Group. "Fed by two LED light sources, the color and intensity of the light at each point in the light pipe is the same as at every other point," Kelly explains. "In other words, there is no drop off in intensity or color as the light travels away from its source. This is an example of homogenous lighting, a concept which opens the door for a single LED light source to supply light to multiple devices."

At first glance the light pipe design is a simple one: a thin acrylic tube that approximates a figure eight in shape, with two tabs, one on each side, into which the LEDs project the light but appearance in this case is deceiving. "These plain looking plastic parts actually incorporate precision optics," says Kelly. Creating those optics requires superior accuracy in production along with a high degree of cleanliness in the manufacturing process. This is because any flaw, or any piece of foreign matter in the pipe, can hinder or even halt the flow of light through the pipe.

The steel mold for the light pipe was cut on a Makino V56 high-speed vertical machining center. In most cases, tools machined on the V56 require relatively little hand polishing because of their superior surface finishes. In this case, however, intensive hand polishing was needed to achieve the exceptional level of surface finish required to provide the homogenous lighting color and intensity all around the light pipe.

Further, the light pipe's precision optics consisted in large part of minute optical prisms imparted to it by the tool. These ensure continuous transference of the light throughput the light pipe and were cut into the mold in part by the machining center but some smaller, more delicate features required EDMing. These procedures were followed by "graining," which is the physical acid etching of the mold designed to ensure the homogenous spread of light throughout the pipe. This is a manual operation requiring high precision.

Tool fabrication was followed by molding on a Cincinnati 220-ton injection machine. Here, too, attention to detail was a must. "The acrylic raw material had to be pure," says Kelly, "and the work area kept scrupulously clean."

Despite all this effort, and with the project's deadline fast approaching, the results weren't exactly what Federal Mogul had envisioned. UPS engineers joined with the Federal Mogul team to scrutinize the design and ended up making changes to the design of the tabs on either side of the pipe through which LED light is injected into the pipe in order to facilitate the entry of light and its correct spread throughout the pipe.

The auto sector is turning to LED light sources to replace traditional incandescent light bulb whose energy efficiency is only 2-5% and service life around 1000 hours. LEDs on the other hand, use 80% less energy to provide the same amount of light, and last between 25,000 and 50,000 hours. Further, they do not contain toxic metals or gases found in incandescent bulbs. Energy to power lighting is ultimately provided by the vehicle's engine so any reductions in consumption impact fuel efficiency. —[email protected]