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Articles from 2018 In May

Trump tariffs put U.S. plastics companies at risk, says industry association

trade war button

The response to the Trump administration’s announcement today that it would go forward with imposing tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Canada, the European Union and Mexico was swift and often harsh.

Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb) called it a “dumb” move. Republican governor of Ohio John Kasich asked on Twitter, “By imposing damaging tariffs, do we really want to treat our allies like enemies? That’s not how America leads.” And from that paragon of politeness to our north, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the tariffs “totally unacceptable.” Referencing the Trump administration’s justification that the tariffs amounted to a national security measure, Trudeau added, “Canadians have served alongside Americans in two world wars and in Korea. From the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, we have fought and died together." Considering Canada a “national security threat to the United States is inconceivable," he added.

The U.S. plastics industry also has a dog in this fight because it relies on steel and aluminum to manufacture goods. In a statement made public today, William R. Carteaux, President and CEO of the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS; Washington, DC), called on President Trump to reconsider this “dangerous, disruptive approach to trade policy.”

“The Trump Administration’s decision today to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Mexico, Canada and the EU—America’s strongest trading partners—will benefit America’s trade rivals and cost American jobs, plain and simple,” said Carteaux.

Carteaux noted that injection molds made out of steel and aluminum are used by U.S. companies to shape raw plastic materials into consumer products. “The steel used by many mold builders comes from the EU, because it cannot be sourced in the U.S. These tariffs could quite simply put these companies at risk of going out of business, all while increasing costs that will be felt throughout the domestic supply chain,” he said.

There are roughly 140,000 people employed in the U.S. steel industry, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, and approximately 160,000 people work in the U.S. aluminum industry, according to the Aluminum Association. By contrast, the plastics industry accounts for about 1 million jobs, according to PLASTICS.

In his statement, Carteaux argues that American manufacturers need stable, consistent trade policies and should not have to suffer constraints due to a trade war. “These tariffs will erode the manufacturing sector’s ability to grow, create jobs and, perhaps even worse, they threaten to poison the well for NAFTA negotiations and more positive trade talks in the future.”

As many others have pointed out, pursuing trade policies on an isolated transactional basis could have profound unintended consequences in many other areas of foreign policy. But the three-dimensional chess that is geopolitics appears to be absent from these decisions.

Carteaux concludes his statement by urging “President Trump and his administration to reconsider this dangerous, disruptive approach to trade policy and to work collaboratively to deliver real benefits to American manufacturers and the families and communities that depend on them.”

Universal Robots’ Esben Østergaard receives automation industry’s highest honor

Universal Robots' Chief Technology Officer Esben Østergaard

Denmark’s Universal Robots (UR; Odense) played an instrumental role in the development of collaborative robots, commonly called cobots, which have transformed the industrial automation landscape in a few short years. The company’s Chief Technology Officer Esben Østergaard was a pioneer in this field, and his contribution was recognized this month when the Robotics Industry Association (Ann Arbor, MI) awarded him the Engelberger Robotics Award, which has been called the Nobel prize of robotics.

Esben Østergaard, Chief Technology Officer at Universal Robots, is the youngest recipient of the Engelberger Robotics Award in the program's history.

Universal Robots is credited with launching in 2008 the world’s first commercially viable robot able to operate safely outside enclosures. The concept was not an easy sell at the time, but Østergaard and his team prevailed by developing a lightweight robot that was easy to use and did not raise safety concerns in the workplace. Programming via an intuitive tablet interface enabled users with no previous programming experience to quickly set up and operate the UR robots. Today, Universal Robots reportedly has a 58% share of all cobots sold worldwide; the company posted a stunning 72% growth rate in 2017.

Universal Robots is exhibiting in booth 2303 at the co-located PLASTEC East and Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) East, part of the largest advanced design and manufacturing trade show and conference on the East Coast. The event comes to New York from June 12 to 14, 2018. Register now!

“I’m deeply honored to win the award named after Joseph Engelberger, who revolutionized industrial manufacturing with robotics,” said the 44-year-old Østergaard, the youngest recipient of the award in the program's history. “Engelberger’s view that a robot should be able to handle a range of tasks in a factory aligns with Universal Robots’ core mission, and I’m a great admirer of his work.”

Østergaard and his team notably developed force and safety control features, which ensure that if the robot risks coming into physical contact with a human, it automatically stops operating to prevent bodily harm. These features have eliminated the need for safety cages in a vast majority of UR robot applications currently installed and remain a trailblazer for the “collaborative robot” concept, said UR.

But safety is just “the cost of entry” into the cobot market, said Engelberger, who has larger ambitions. “We want to place control of factory automation back into the hands of operators—instead of replacing people, we want to give them a tool to do their work more efficiently. We want to remove them from working like robots to becoming robot programmers and handling more value-added tasks.”

“This redeployment of human creativity interspersed with the robot’s repeatability addresses the market evolvement and customer requirements demanding a high degree of product individualization. It’s a qualitative change both in the products made and for the people making them,” said Østergaard.

Østergaard will accept the award at a ceremony on June 20 at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany, as part of Automatica and the International Symposium on Robotics.

Kraiburg TPE develops custom-engineered thermoplastic elastomers with renewable raw materials

Kraiburg TPE

Climate change, finite oil resources and environmentally sensitive customers are leading materials manufacturers and users to turn to renewable and bio-based solutions. By developing customer- and application-specific compounds using renewable raw materials, Kraiburg TPE (Waldkraiburg, Germany) aims to meet the growing demand for environmentally friendly and sustainable thermoplastic elastomers in a meaningful way.

Kraiburg TPE recommends caution when using the term bio-based, as it is a broad term that is not synonymous with sustainable in the sense of a strategy for saving resources and protecting the environment, said the company. Even renewable raw materials have carbon footprints, as well as “water footprints that can have an impact on the environmental balance, depending on their provenance and the way they are grown.” Factors that play a decisive role in this regard include irrigation, fertilizers, energy for transportation and energy consumed for reprocessing.

“Part of the challenge involves taking into account the environmental balance of the materials’ whole life cycles, including their impact on ecosystems and people’s health,” emphasized Kraiburg TPE CEO Franz Hinterecker. “It has also become apparent that what our customers expect from the properties of ‘bio-materials’ varies widely depending on the application. At the same time, we have to meet strict criteria regarding the materials’ conformity and performance.”

In its code of conduct, Kraiburg TPE has committed itself to sustainable business operations and to protecting soil, water, air and biological diversity. Environmentally harmful impacts are to be prevented by appropriate environmental protection measures, and resources are to be conserved. Based on these principles, Kraiburg TPE’s modular system makes it possible to develop customer-specific materials with different proportions of renewable raw materials. Typical performance characteristics include mechanical properties such as tensile strength and elongation, as well as processability, heat resistance and adhesion to ABS/PC or PP and PE, for example. The requirements are determined in close collaboration with each customer and translated into a sustainable and cost-effective solution by its developers, said Kraiburg TPE.

It is technically possible to produce bio-based materials with very high proportions of renewable raw materials. However, these materials usually suffer from high raw material costs, while providing only limited mechanical properties. Kraiburg TPE’s modular system reportedly resolves this contradiction almost completely by following a new, innovative approach.

The initial pilot projects are showing a trend toward bio-based, certifiable proportions of 20% and more. Their potential use extends to all TPE applications in the consumer, industrial and automotive markets. Examples range from toothbrushes and hypoallergenic elastic watch straps to fender gaskets.

“The approach we’re taking is being well received particularly by customers who are looking for sustainable solutions [as well as] cost effectiveness and performance,” Hinterecker added.

NPE2018 watch (literally) and 4 more cool things from the show

NPE Holographic bottle square

PlasticsToday reported on 5 cool things we saw during the 5-day run of NPE2018 (those links are found at the end of this report), which covered 1.2-million square feet of exhibition space for 2,180 exhibitors. Because there was so much in Orlando to draw from, our daily reports barely scratched the surface of what we saw as interesting and innovative. 

Which brings us to this sequel that supplements the original quintet of cool with five more worth pointing out that are just as innovative, based on my 30 years’ experience as a packaging reporter.

In short, the largest-in-history NPE NPE2018 was awesome and overwhelming, everything anyone could want in a tradeshow.

Our cool sequel starts with a booth that literally stopped attendees in their tracks and compelled them to stand dozens deep in line for about 30 minutes (photo above).

What was worth that kind of wait that drew many hundreds of visitors to the booth of Arburg (Lossburg, Germany)? It was the incentive for them to receive a souvenir watch assembled before their eyes by a robotics-driven work cell that itself helped pass the time in line.

The demo was an example of Industry 4.0 for the individualized automated production of single-unit batches by an electric two-component Allrounder 570 A that produced two, two-color wrist straps molded from Liquid Silicone Rubber. Thanks to the Multilift V 15 linear robotic system and an assembly station, the watches were complete with housing and fastening and ready to use in 70 seconds. Besides watches, the system is appropriate for packaging, medicine and additive manufacturing.

Ironically, I didn’t have time to wait in line for a watch as my natural curiosity and the fact that there were so many dozens of aisles to explore beckoned me more.

It wasn’t the only attention-getter in the booth: A separate line formed on another side of the packed and expansive booth where visitors could leave with a molded and assembled small folding stepstool.

At a show of this magnitude, getting attention amid the considerable “noise” meant going way over the top. I’m sure there was more to see here, too, but it was time to move on.

EastPack 2018 held June 12-14 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City offers the latest in manufacturing and automation, a dedicated 3D Printing Zone, hundreds of exhibitors and a jam-packed 3-day packaging conference. For more information, visit the EastPack website.

Next: The incredible waste-reducing additive

A. Schulman (Fairlawn, OH) specializes in functional additives for value-added packaging, and that is as true of its latest innovation as any: Polybatch EasyPour masterbatch. The product enhances customer experience and improves dispensing from stand up pouches and other packaging formats and directly addresses the challenge of product and food waste. The additive influences the inner surface properties of polymers to enable the contents to pour more smoothly, and is applicable for both flexible and rigid multilayer constructions.

My initial impression when chatting with Chris Kerscher, the company’s market development manager for packaging, was that it sounded akin to LiquiGlide (see LiquiGlide slips into higher commercialization gear, published June 2017). A key difference is Polybatch EasyPour uses different chemistry and is added prior to extrusion where it becomes part of the polymer makeup rather than a coating like LiquiGlide, which requires a secondary step to apply.

A. Schulman supplies Polybatch EasyPour as a pelletized, additive masterbatch.  “Typical use rates are less than 10% by weight and can vary depending on formulation and performance requirements,” Kerscher points out.

He notes that the FDA-cleared material is scalable, “applicable from sachets to refill pouches to bag-in-box films to bulk IBC bins.”

It’s appropriate for use across the spectrum of packaged products from household items including soaps and detergents to personal care products to foods and beverages. When asked to identify where he felt the initial applications may be headed, Kerscher anticipates that to be in foodservice packaging.

“Either restaurant/catering markets that include products such as ketchup, peanut butter and sauces or for bulk processing of industrial food ingredients,” he responded. “Interest is also strong in consumer applications such as liquid refill pouches for soap and detergents.”

Next: An ultra-light-weighted hologram bottle

When vendors have important breakthrough to share at a major tradeshow, they have a number of options of how to present the news, but KHS Group (Hamburg, Germany) decided to take the rarely-used holographic route. And it worked because as I scoured the show aisles for new and innovative products the display specifically got me to step into the booth to watch a projected 3D holographic video presented on a small stage inside a display cabinet.

It was a riveting and edutaining holographic infomercial of a revolutionary PET water bottle, Factor 100, in development jointly with preform-making machinery supplier Husky Injection Molding Systems (Bolton, Ontario). The name references the fact that the weight of the 500-mL bottle is a meager 5 grams. The video pointed to the amazing leafcutter ant, which can carry nearly 50x its weight, which is only half the capability of the even more amazing Factor 100 bottle.

That yields a dramatic 30% material reduction from the previous lightest weight bottle for this volume, and makes it a double win for brands and the environment, with as much a material-saving sustainability improvement as it is a cost savings.

Preform and bottle molding require extremely precise distribution of the PET with optimum stretching. KHS notes that the bottle’s grip is optimized and the sophisticated geometry was derived from virtual prototypes.

I asked the company’s product manager Arne Wiese, “Doesn’t this degree of thinwalling make it more of a pouch than a bottle?” His response:  “The bottle is actually thinner than a pouch, but the special support rings designed in the mold give it structural strength.”

That fact was as amazing as the hologram. Wiese said that the bottle and design needed to be further top-strengthened to allow the filled bottles to be stacked six high “without losing the sustainability benefits.” With major companies indicating “high interest” in the development, Wiese expects a “technical solution” to the above challenge in 2018.

Next: Breakthrough booths including the world’s first (and only) made of 100% in-mold labeling materials.

We usually don’t report on booths, but this was not your typical tradeshow and these two examples were highly unusual booths. Both were distinctive and impressive due to the layout, design and/or materials that tied directly to the exhibitor’s proposition.

One was the World’s First Booth Made 100% using In-mold Labeling (IML) technology,  done by IML specialist Creaprint USA (Miami). The entire 30ft x 30ft booth including flooring, walls, tables and chairs was IML. The concept was executed so thoroughly seamlessly it came across as an amazing over-the-top integration of branding and NPE presence.

According to Creaprint’s Ignacio Guillem Pico, ceo, it took three months’ development to source, execute and bring all these diverse and unusual IML elements together.

Floor and walls were sourced in the United States, he told PlasticsToday, and the chairs were sourced from Europe. Because it would have to withstand a lot of foot traffic, “the flooring took extra consideration and was the most complicated,” Pico explained, “and required a strong, scratch-resistant 100-micron label.”

From among a wide range of IML markets that include food containers, electrical and medical parts and household items, Pico said “IML is growing more in packaging than other applications.”

And yes, the booth displayed plenty of IML packaging and products, including a child’s plastic motorcycle; the decoration was provided by an impressively single large IML label that followed the contours of the molded toy.

One other vendor also similarly impressed me as creatively marrying branding with the booth’s physical makeup as well, and could be noticed from a distance.

Next: The dramatic molecular matrix

The goal of Tosaf (Tnuvot Industrial Zone, Israel) for NPE2018 was to introduce the company to the American market as one of the leading global masterbatch producers, with a new state-of-the-art plant in Bessemer City, NC.

And it did so with a dramatic booth design that could be seen from several aisles away: An artistically captivating "molecular lattice” or matrix that extended from waist level to the girders above the booth as a kind of virtual wall. The matrix, which changed in perspective as you walked around and through the booth, pointed to the molecules of the company’s plastics additives and tied to the supplier’s dot-pattern branding via textured brochures and more.

It may have been the most distinctive of thousands of booths I've seen over the years.

The molecules were soft, blue rubber balls 2.5-inches in diameter and imprinted with the company logo. I learned from global communications manager Ronit Segal Hayoon that 2,816 of them were strung on 330 nylon cords to create the 20x30-foot booth’s striking molecular look. Designed, manufactured and assembled in Israel over a five-day period, it was the first time Tosaf has used this booth setup.

According to the company, “we’ve had a lot of great feedback about the booth. It creates a wall without having a wall.”

The company provides additive and color solutions for film and packaging as well as agriculture and construction.

For more cool things from Orlando, here’s a summary of the daily compilation of the coolest things we saw on…

Day 1 A large cutaway filter built entirely of the iconic plastic bricks

Day 2 3D-printed mask sleeved over a limited-edition PepsiCo Black Panther can

Day 3 Large, 3D-printed aerodynamic roof fairing that could be viewed using AR

Day 4 Color-changing thermochromic PET bottles

Day 5 Shell Polymers makes a big splash

Also visit PlasticsToday’s NPE2018 news page.

Conference explores new metal replacement opportunities in automotive and electronics applications

Conductive Plastics conference

Taking place at the Austria Trend Hotel Savoyen in Vienna on Nov. 6 and 7, 2018, the Conductive Plastics 2018 conference, organized by AMI (Bristol, UK), will explore developments in electrically and thermally conductive polymers for emerging applications in autonomous vehicles, smart devices and LED lighting.

In the automotive sector, the market for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) is growing at almost 50% a year and could be worth as much as $132 billion by 2026, according to ABI Research. However, implementing safety-critical technologies such as pedestrian detection and collision avoidance means developing robust and affordable electronics. 

Meanwhile, smart devices continue to penetrate every area of modern life. Growth in smart home devices alone is running at more than 18% annually, according to International Data Corp., but maintaining these growth forecasts assumes ongoing success in reducing cost, improving durability and simplifying manufacturing. 

Electrically and thermally conductive plastics will be among the technologies enabling these future markets to develop. The ability to deliver plastics that meet these new application demands will result in a host of new material replacement opportunities for plastics conversion from both metal and ceramics. Conductive Plastics 2018 will examine the latest innovations in the development, processing and application of all types of conductive plastics, reviewing their potential in fast growing markets.

The two-day programme will commence with Dr. Tamim P. Sidiki of DSM Engineering Plastics discussing conductive plastics in automotive electronics. The rest of day one will include sessions on modifying electrical conductivity and enhancing thermal conductivity.

On day two, a session on electrically conductive applications will feature a paper from Dimitri Rosseaux of Total Research and Technology FELUY on carbon nanotubes for industrial ATEX applications.

Energy innovation, advanced manufacturing are putting Pittsburgh on new path to prosperity

Penn State Behrend

Construction of the Shell cracker plant in Beaver, PA, as of November 2017. Image courtesy Shell Chemical.

Having never been to Pittsburgh, I wasn’t sure what to expect when the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development invited me and a handful of other journalists on a press trip last month. I knew that the city’s steel- and coal-fueled past, which brought prosperity but at a considerable human and environmental cost, was a dim memory. I didn’t have a notion of what the city and environs looked like today or if there was a blueprint for the future. By the end of a whirlwind three-day tour visiting businesses and universities and conversing with local and regional officials, it was clear to me that the best may be yet to come for Pittsburgh and, indeed, western Pennsylvania. Part of that future is being built in Beaver, a few miles northwest of Pittsburgh, where Shell Chemical is constructing a massive $6 billion ethylene cracker plant that taps into the Marcellus shale formation. Alongside that project, a concerted effort by public officials, industrial leaders and academic institutions to promote advanced manufacturing and energy innovation is also leading the way to a cleaner, brighter future.

Sharing the shale

Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia all own a piece of the Marcellus and Uttica shales that hold massive deposits of oil and natural gas. The governors of those states have formed the Tri-State Shale Coalition to develop a petrochemical hub that can compete with the Gulf Coast. Inevitably, there is competition among the neighboring states to lure investment dollars, but the breadth of the shale reserves argue for a more collaborative approach, according to the coalition.

Noting that the natural resource doesn’t stay within state lines, “we don’t want to be competing with each other,” said Denise Brinley, Senior Energy Adviser for the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. “Our biggest competitor is the Gulf Coast, not neighboring states.” Still, Pennsylvania has pulled ahead in the regional race, with Royal Dutch Shell investing $6 billion to build the ethane cracker. Ohio may be nipping at its heels: There are reports that PTT Global Chemical is considering building a cracker plant there that would call for a $10 billion investment.

A key objective of the regional partners is to parlay the cracker plants and gas extraction into infrastructure improvements, regional job creation and off-shoot investments. In fact, the Beaver project is projected to have a five- to seven-time multiplier effect on associated business activity, according to Brinley.

“With regard to natural gas liquids (and ethane, in particular), we are currently exporting 100% of our ethane to other domestic and international markets and that won’t likely change until Shell Pennsylvania Chemicals comes on line in 2021-2022. This project represents the first in-state use of ethane, and we have a compelling economic case if the resource is both extracted and used as close to the source as possible. We want to encourage other 'Shell-like' projects to consider this region for investment because of that strong value proposition,” said Brinley.

A study conducted by Shell determined that 70% of its potential North American polyethylene customers lie within a 700-mile radius of the Beaver site. Moreover, unlike the Gulf Coast, the region has no disruptive hurricane season. Those factors have kept the project on track, even when oil prices took a dip. When all is said and done, the plant will have created approximately 6,000 construction jobs and 600 permanent jobs.

Downstream demand

The plastics industry already has a strong foothold in the region, notably the so-called Plastics Cluster in Erie County and northwest Pennsylvania. Companies well-known to the PlasticsToday community, such as Micro Mold/Plastikos, Silgan Plastics and Berry Plastics, have a decades-long presence in the area.

Advanced polymers producer Covestro, known as Bayer MaterialScience until Bayer spun out the business in September 2015, has been a high-profile presence in the Pittsburgh area for many years. Its expansive facility sits alongside the Bayer plant.

And near the airport, GE opened its $39-million Center for Additive Technology Advancement (CATA) in 2016. A year later, GE announced that it was developing the CATA into an externally focused Customer Experience Center. Equipped with an array of industrial additive manufacturing equipment, the center enables clients to glimpse the potential of 3D printing under real-life conditions.

Penn State Behrend's Plastics Engineering Technology program is one of only six such programs recognized by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission. Image courtesy Penn State Behrend.

A third pillar of the region’s advanced manufacturing framework is a supportive educational ecosystem. For the plastics industry, that begins with Penn State Behrend: Its Plastics Engineering Technology (PLET) program is one of only six such programs recognized by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission. The university's plastics processing laboratory is the largest undergraduate educational facility of its type, housing millions of dollars’ worth of computers, materials, and processing equipment.

With its high density of plastics manufacturers creating downstream demand for ethylene and an engaged academic environment, the “Erie region is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this opportunity,” according to Amy Bridger, Senior Director of Corporate Strategy and External Engagement at Penn State Behrend. “Our plastics companies are well established and positioned for growth. Expansion of the Plastics Engineering Technology program at Penn State Behrend and the development of new curricula and research will help those companies and others across the industry meet the workforce demands of a larger, Pennsylvania-focused market,” Bridger told PlasticsToday. “Our students also will benefit, through opportunities for industry research, increased exposure to potential employers and the sort of experiential learning that you can’t offer in a classroom.”

As it stands, 63% of PLET graduates are still living in Pennsylvania, according to the school. If all goes according to plan, even more graduates will have fewer reasons to leave the region in the years ahead.

Sabic introduces formable hard-coated polycarbonate sheet for glazing applications

Sabic introduces formable hard-coated polycarbonate sheet for glazing applications

Sabic has introduced a new polycarbonate (PC) sheet material to its expanding automotive glazing portfolio. Lexan Margard FHC10 is engineered to comply with the stringent visibility, strength and abrasion resistance requirements of ECE R43 (Regulation No. 43 of the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations).

Sabic’s new Lexan Margard FHC10 sheet can be used for moderately shaped glazing components for lower unit production vehicles where injection molding is less cost effective.

The new product features a tough PC base with exceptional optical quality, combined with a unique, formable hard coating that is pre-cured sufficiently to allow processing like regular PC sheet. In addition to ECE R43 compliance, Lexan Margard FHC10 sheet can enable customers to avoid post-coating operations and gives automotive OEMs and tiers an option for creating simple, curved glazing designs.

“Market analysts, such as Grand View Research in the United States, predict strong growth in automotive glazing, propelled by technological advancements in materials such as polycarbonate and continued demand for increasingly lightweight components – particularly in electric vehicles,” said Peter Chedd, segment leader, Glazing Functional Forms for SABIC.

Lexan Margard FHC10 sheet’s proprietary silicone-based formable hard coating uses dual-cure (thermal/thermal) technology. The coating is pre-cured to the point that it can be easily handled and fabricated like any regular PC sheet, but it maintains enough flexibility to be formed within specified limits. Following forming, using any of a variety of methods (drape forming, high-pressure forming, thermoforming, etc.), the coating requires post-curing for three hours at 130°C to optimize abrasion resistance and meet ECE R43 requirements. The advanced coating technology ensures excellent adhesion under exposure to temperature cycling, water and humidity.

Lexan Margard FHC10 sheet also reportedly offers superior mechanical properties, including outstanding impact strength, as well as high optical quality. It features crystal-clear transparency with low ripple and distortion, including an extremely low number of optical defects. This advanced new product is also resistant to common chemicals, weathering and ultraviolet (UV) light.

Primary applications are moderately shaped glazing components for lower unit production vehicles, where Lexan Margard FHC10 sheet can be more cost effective than injection molding. Additionally, Lexan Margard FHC10 sheet is a highly versatile product that can be used for non-automotive glazing, such as machine guards, cabin glazing for heavy equipment and many other typically formed and post-coated applications. Lexan Margard FHC10 sheet is initially available globally in 3-5 mm gauges. Sabic plans to make thicker gauges available at a later date.

Sandia team builds telescope through additive manufacturing

Sandia team builds telescope through additive manufacturing

Sandia’s three-year Laboratory Directed Research and Development project proved the feasibility of using additive manufacturing as an entirely new design tool, vastly different from the standard technique of moving from hand drawing to computer-assisted design to machining parts, said Ted Winrow, a mechanical engineer who led the project.

Sandia National Laboratories project lead and mechanical engineer Ted Winrow with the telescope he and his team built using advanced manufacturing techniques. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Instead of concentrating on printing precision parts, the project focused on how to put less precise 3D printed parts together with precise tools, taking advantage of the rapid prototyping, design and manufacturing possible with additive manufacturing.

“That’s the nuance that seems to get lost, that you have to design differently,” Winrow said. “It doesn’t plug into a standard design process.”

The team created a lighter weight, less expensive ground-based telescope in about a third of the time of a traditionally made telescope for about a fifth of the cost, he said. They used 3D printed components, modular design and, for the telescope optical design, image-correction algorithms that also helped save money.

The technique shifts money from recurring costs, “where every part has to be precise, to nonrecurring costs, where you’re just buying one set of tools that you can use for maybe 10 years,” Winrow said. “So when you’re making production runs you get cost savings. You’ve got time savings because you’re not waiting for each piece to be made” by machining.

There are two ways to approach building any precision structure: make every piece to exact tolerances so assembly is simple, or make rougher pieces and use a very precise assembly process that compensates for shortfalls in dimensions.

Machining creates parts with extremely precise dimensions, but it can’t cheaply make, or in some cases, make at all, the strange 3D printed designs that may have advantages in function and weight. Additive manufacturing forms the material — polymer, ceramic or metal — at the same time it creates a part. Research is ongoing into how that affects the properties of materials and whether changes in properties matter in a particular use.

“Can we design a system that doesn’t care if your material is not as good as you expected it to be? Can you design a system that doesn’t care that your parts aren’t as dimensionally accurate?” Winrow said. “If you make yourself insensitive to the things that additive’s not very good at, you take advantage of all its good things.”

For example, a standard camera has a ledge, which must be very precise because the position of that ledge defines exactly where a lens sits. Sandia’s project, working with lenses for the telescope, created a straight cylinder with no ledges. Instead, “we hold the lens at a very precise position using very precise tooling. We hold the lens in the right spot and then we inject epoxy around it and lock it into place,” Winrow said. “We can make parts that are less precise as far as dimensions are concerned because of the epoxy in the process. It’s the tooling that’s precise.”

Sandia applied for a patent for a monolithic, titanium flexure that’s part of the telescope mirror mount. A flexure refers to a broad range of elements used like joints between rigid bodies. The joint motion, either linear or rotating, is produced by bending the element. Rigidly mounting metal to glass doesn’t work because the two materials expand and contract at different rates as temperature changes, and the glass could deform or even crack.

A flexure acts like a spring, although it doesn’t look like a coil spring. Sandia’s design is roughly cylindrical, about 2 inches long and 3/4 of an inch in diameter, with very thin flexure blades. Three flexure mounts attach to the mirrors with epoxy, relieving expansion and contraction stress where mirrors attach to a carbon fiber backbone.

The precision mechanical design team worked on the project with Sandia optical designer Jeff Hunt and algorithm authors Dennis Lee and Eric Shields. Winrow said the lens design creates a raw image with distortions and other errors. The software algorithms correct certain types of errors better than others, so errors in the lens design are the type the algorithms are good at correcting, he said.

“The thought was you could have less precise optics and correct for it with software, essentially after the fact. Similar to how we designed the mechanical hardware to be insensitive to additive manufacturing shortfalls and take advantage of its benefits, Jeff optimized the optics of the system so the software maintained the image properties the algorithms could not have done as good a job correcting,” Winrow said. “You could get the same performance you could have if you spent three times as much money on better optics.”

The project has ended, but Sandia structural designers now are using information from it, he said. “That was what the project was looking at, how these ways could make it faster and cheaper and just as good,” Winrow said. “If you talk about things you can give up, things you can compensate for after the fact, it opens up realms on the design side.”

World-first 3D-printed airless bicycle tire hits the road

World-first 3D-printed airless bicycle tire hits the road

German 3D fused filament fabrication (FFF) printer and materials supplier BigRep has developed what it describes as the world’s first 3D-printed, full-scale airless bicycle tire. The tire leverages the flexible properties of the company’s new Pro FLEX filament.

BigRep product designer Marco Mattia Cristofori says: “We were able to replace ‘air’ as a necessity in the tire by customizing the pattern to be one of a three-layered honeycomb design. Based on the same principle, the design can be altered to fit the requirements of specific kinds of biking, such as mountain biking and road racing, or for different weather and speed conditions.” Perfecting the design is the trickiest part according to Cristofori. “Even small changes to the infill percentage or pattern can lead to different results in terms of weight and performance.”

3D printed airless tire never goes flat.

Printed on the BigRep ONE large-scale 3D printer, the tire prototype utilizes the full potential of BigRep’s latest filament: Pro FLEX. What reportedly separates the Pro FLEX from other 3D printing filaments is its unique flexible properties, coupled with high temperature resistance and durability. The rigidity and the internal pattern, known as the infill, can be controlled and customized to suit different weather conditions or terrain. The current tire prototype uses a three-layered honeycomb pattern adapted for urban use.

The main advantage of airless tires as opposed to your average run-of-the-mill tires is that they simply never go flat. Once a luxury, airless tires are now looking to become standard practice in the transportation sector. This is not BigRep’s first foray into the mobility world – BigRep has worked on a wide range of automotive, aerospace and transportation projects for such clients such as Aerobus, BMW, Deutsche Bahn, Etihad and Nissan. Following a recently announced high-temperature resistant wheel rim, BigRep’s portfolio of use cases continues to expand. It is also possible to print a fully-functioning bicycle frame on the BigRep ONE – as engineers of Aalborg University demonstrated in a recent project.

Pretium Packaging’s SureHandle bottle wins Ameristar ‘Best of Show’ award

SureHandle duo side by side

Plastic containers and closures manufacturer Pretium Packaging (Chesterfield, MO) won three Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP) Ameristar packaging awards for its SureHandle polyethylene terephthalate (PET) container that offers an integrated handle.

The SureHandle bottle was awarded Ameristar’s top “Best of Show” honor, in addition to winning the Beverages, Non-alcoholic and Food, Shelf Stable categories.

“The Best of Show Award honors a package that surpasses all judging criteria and that judges unanimously rated ‘outstanding’ in every category,” explained Jane Chase, executive director, IoPP.

Pretium Packaging used technology from Practically Impossible Labs (Houston) to develop the SureHandle stock container line. It is currently available in a 64-ounce (red bottle above), 38-400 mm finish, as well as a 2-Liter size (yellow above). The line was developed to provide brand owners with significant shelf differentiation, handling convenience and aesthetics that were not previously possible.

There have been a variety of attempts over the years to develop handled PET containers, but most have fallen short of the mark, the company reports. SureHandle is a “first-of-its-kind” bottle because it comes out of the injection mold with the handle already in place.

Unlike traditional preforms, the SureHandle preform features an injection molded handle integrated into the side wall.

This new technology creates new possibilities for many products—including beverages, foods and household and industrial chemicals—that could benefit from a monolayer PET container with an ergonomic handleware solution.

Ameristar judges considered more than 70 packages for nine category awards. The entries were evaluated for package innovation, product protection, economics, performance, marketing and environmental impact.

For more information, see Pretium adds new 2-L PET bottle with integrated handle, published February, 2018.

EastPack 2018 held June 12-14 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City features the latest in manufacturing and automation, a dedicated 3D Printing Zone, hundreds of exhibitors and a jam-packed 3-day packaging conference. For more information, visit the EastPack website.