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Articles from 2009 In July


Rotomolded fuel tank meets upcoming emissions standards

that Centro would not reveal the barrier material used. RotoLoPerm can utilize existing tooling, says Centro, and is available in natural or pigmented PEX. Using CE10 fuel, the measured permeation rate of RotoLoPerm tanks is lower than EPA’s allowable limit of 2.5g/m2/day when tested at 28°C. 

RotoLoPerm is patent pending. Centro has been working on low gas emission fuel tanks for years. This technology was developed to address evaporative emissions requirements by both the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the EPA. In addition to the Certificate of Conformity issued by the EPA, Centro also has Executive Orders from CARB for its RotoLoPerm and its “Liquid Nylon’” polyamide 6 tanks. Find details of this latter technology, as well as a first mention of the RotoLoPerm name, here.

New EPA regulations for off-road and marine equipment to reduce the amount of allowable emissions will begin affecting evaporative systems for Class I engines and marine personal watercraft in 2011, and evaporative systems for Class II & Marine other vessels in 2012 with an Early Conformance program option. The EPA Certificate of Conformity allows Centro’s customers to use RotoLoPerm fuel tanks prior to the effective regulation dates of 2011 and 2012 and participate in EPA’s Early Conformance program, which can earn OEMs tank-for-tank credits and help the OEM to control the timing of low permeation fuel tank conversions, rather than be hit with all of the conversions on the same date. Upon implementation of the EPA regulations, RotoLoPerm will be assigned a Family Emission Limit (FEL) below the applicable standard of 2.5g/m2/day. At that time, OEM’s can participate in the Averaging Banking and Trading (ABT) program and bank permeation credits. [email protected]

Improve plastics’ conductivity with carbon nanotubes

By Manwar Hussein; Edited by Matt Defosse

The high aspect ratio and thermal and electrical conductivity of carbon nanotubes make them an attractive candidate for use in plastic applications requiring conductivity, which is why these fillers are gaining such attention from industries as varied as electrical/electronic, semiconductor, packaging, and automotive.

Conductive element carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are an effective filler because of their good electrical and thermal properties at low loading levels, leading to substantial mechanical property improvement at a relatively low density.



Schematic diagram of a bipolar plate (left), graphite plate (center) and metal plate



Carbon composite plate (left), polymer CNT plate (center) and polymer CNT plaste cell




Metal magazine rack (left) and plastics magazine rack




LED lights


The level of conductivity achieved depends on the loading rate of conductive fillers. Because of these fillers’ high aspect ratio (long size grain with nano-sized diameter), CNT particles remain in contact with each other even at low filler levels and thus allow for good conductivity at a relatively low cost and with improved mechanical, thermal, and physical properties. In contrast, spherical conductive fillers only match CNT-loaded compounds’ conductivity at higher loading levels.

Shinil Chemical started development work with CNTs in 2005 and has since patented its dispersion technique, which the supplier of thermoplastic compounds says ensures CNTs are dispersed homogeneously in a polymer matrix to ensure better electrical conductivity and mechanical properties. The surface of end products made with CNT-filled compounds are smooth and reveal no sign of the fillers used; over the years thousands of conductive compounds have been developed in the company for OEMs in the global electronic, semiconductor, and automotive markets.

New development: Bipolar plates for fuel cell separators

An important part of fuel cells are their bipolar plates, also known as interconnects. The main function of bipolar plates is to serve as the electrical contact for the fuel cells and to supply these with gaseous fuel. The fuel cell electrochemically combines air with fuel and converts it directly into electricity. The conversion is similar to that of a conventional battery, except the reducing agent and oxidant are continuously supplied to the cell instead of being contained in the cell. A fuel cell is analogous to a heat engine because its refillable fuel supply is converted into energy.

Current anode/cathode plates are fabricated by machining and densifying graphite, or by adding conductive fillers (typically carbon black [CB], carbon fiber [CF], or metal) to a polymer matrix. High conductivity (E-1~E-2 ohm.cm) is needed in this application. Compressed graphite plates fracture and are easy to break. Conductive plastic compounds with carbon black or carbon fibers are not as brittle but also do not meet graphite’s electrical conductivity, with the sacrifice about E-2~E-1. Shinil Industry says it has been able to develop a compound, trading as Shincon, for injection molding of bipolar plate using its CNTs incorporated into a polymer matrix. Although CNTs remain relatively costly, using CNT-reinforced compounds has proven a cost-saver when compared to the machining cost and time involved with densified graphite plates.
 
Semiconductor industry’s magazine racks offer potential


Magazine racks are used in the semiconductor industry to handle and dry printed circuit boards (PCBs) with electronic parts or circuits. Metal is the established material for this application as it offers good electrostatic dissipative (ESD) performance.  Metal magazine racks, however, are relatively heavy (1.2kg), can be costly. and there is the potential for metal particles to be created during the handling and processing of PCB boards. These are counter to the PCB industry’s desire for lightweight, low-cost magazine racks that do not introduce impurities to the process.

Shinil’s CNT-reinforced compounds are available for manufacture of bakeable (>180oC) magazine rack for semiconductor industries, with these plastic racks lighter (40-45%) than metal ones and showing no sloughing of any particles (due to friction between the PCBs and the magazine body) even after hundreds of iterations. Maybe most significantly, Shinil is now targeting the application with a 40% lower price than metal magazine racks. Many Japanese semiconductor companies have showed their interest and validation of these materials is ongoing at PCB manufacturers.

In another potential application, thermally conductive materials are useful for heat transfer for electrical components, especially products that generate heat during operation. Traditionally, heat removal has been realized using epoxy-based thermoset plastics filled with silica, which has a relatively low thermal conductivity of 1.5 W/mk.  In semiconductor devices, high heat dissipation is required for packaging materials. The use of ceramic fillers to enhance the thermal conductivity of molded plastics is well known but the loading rate of these fillers is high (>60%), which makes the materials heavy and costly.
 
LED lights

Shinil has developed compounds for LED packaging applications using modified thermally conductive ceramic nano-filler in a high-temperature thermoplastic matrix. The loading rate of the modified nano-fillers is lower than that of conventional ceramic fillers, reducing the parts’ weight and cost. 

About the author: Manwar Hussain is R&D manager in the Shinil Nano Research Center at Shinil Chemical Industry, a compounder based in Kyongi, South Korea.

WE09: Female engineers in the spotlight

Woman engineers seeking an opportunity to network and learn more about their careers and how to further them are the target audience for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Annual Conference (WE09) scheduled in Long Beach, CA from Oct. 15-17, 2009. 

More than 6000 engineering professionals, collegians, educators, and recruiters are expected to attend the event, which will feature more than 200 exhibitors, 120 seminars, and plenty of opportunities to network.

Workshops and seminars will cover a wide range of topics such as career and life transitions, inclusion and cultural awareness, and innovations in technology and business. 

At the WE09 Career Fair, more than 200 corporations, government agencies, and graduate schools are expected to be on hand seeking applicants to fill internships, graduate school programs, and both entry-level and experienced positions.

More information of the event is available at its website. [email protected]

Moldmakers’ Summer Business Forecast shows slight improvement

; Rolling Meadows, IL) Summer Business Forecast. AMBA members are hardly wallowing in wine and roses, but the most recent Forecast shows a slight improvement over the Spring Forecast, even though companies overall still are not seeing the amount of work required to boost hours or new employees. As a matter of fact, if you’re just seeking good news, then you probably should stop reading this article now.

The quarterly survey revealed that current business conditions have improved over the past three months, with 5% of the respondents saying that business is “Excellent”—up from just 2% in the last survey. Current business conditions are “Good” for 23% of the respondents (up from only 14% in the spring). “Fair” business conditions exist for 34% of the respondents, nearly the same as the last survey, and “Poor” for 26% (a drop from the 38% who had such a negative outlook in the spring). “Bad” conditions exist for 12% of the respondents, up just one percentage point from 11% in the spring.

Projections for business over the next three months show a lack of optimism among respondents with only 28% of the respondents expecting business to increase moderately, down from 38% in the earlier survey. Just more than half (51%) expect business to remain the same, an increase of 16%. Few respondents expect their business to increase substantially—just 4%, down a point from the last survey. On the positive side, fewer (4% in summer 2009 versus 10% in the spring) respondents expect business to decrease substantially.

Quoting activity is up for 34% of the respondents, unchanged for 37% and down for 29%. Profits in the Summer Business Forecast are up for 11% of respondents, the same for 32% and down for 58% of the respondents—slight improvements over the earlier survey, while employment is up for 12% of the summer respondents, unchanged for 41% and down for 47% of respondents. The current average number of shop employees increased by one to 21 for the latest survey. The current average number of design and engineering employees remains at four for the second consecutive survey. Workweek hours for shop employees increased just barely to an average of 41 for the summer survey; and for design and engineering employees the hours also increased slightly to 42, back to where it was six months earlier.

The number of respondents dropped considerably for this survey with only 76 compared to 116 in the spring. According to the AMBA, comments from some respondents reveal the pessimism of many shops: “We are seeing a real tough road ahead for the mold building industry, especially if the trend towards anti-manufacturing/small business policies continues from our government,” wrote one respondent.

Another commented, “Economic conditions have hit an all-time low. Never in our history have we had so many people laid off. Profitability is at an all-time low … we are in survival mode.”

Yet business is fairly good for another respondent who said, “Backlog is being stretched out by customers, so even through we have a lot of work in our shop, it seems as though delivery dates keep sliding further out which makes it difficult to manage production capacity in a job shop environment.” [email protected]

PP line’s upgrade improves efficiency, quality

An Asian supplier of polypropylene (PP) opted for an upgrade to its screen changer and melt pump and realized via this retrofitting a considerable boost in output and product quality.


The Asian supplier opted for this Kreyenborg melt pump plus screen changer.


The unidentified supplier opted for its retrofit for a completely new discharge unit from Kreyenborg (Münster, Germany), with the new piston screen changer and a melt pump replacing the established melt filter. The retrofitting had two primary goals:  increase throughput capacity of the whole line and increase filter fineness.

The filter area was increased by the replacement of the old slide plate screen changer by a continuous piston screen changer from Kreyenborg, type LK-SWE. Combining this with the new melt pump raised throughput to 9000 kg/hour. Additionally, the piston screen changer allows for continuous operation of the line, as it need not be stopped for changes of the filter media.

The new melt pump provided a sufficient increase in pressure to ensure a higher filter fineness can be achieved. [email protected]

A week at NPE

Though NPE2009 involved a lot of hard work for exhibitors, not to mention members of the press, there were also opportunities to sit back and relax (or learn) and take a break from touring the new technology. Here are a few things we found along the way.



Proving that plastics professionals can have many talents, Mical Jeck of Quality Service Products (Columbus, OH0 had the high score on the Guitar Hero Smash Hits game at the Canon Plastics Group booth and won a Nintendo Wii.

  

Aside from all the presentations given at colocated events, many exhibitors used booth space to teach visitors, such as RJG’s theme of helping molders succeed.








This PVC- free Herman Miller Embody chair uses 45% recycled content, is 96% recyclable, and is designed to remove stresses on your body. The Embody chair took the furniture award at the International Plastics Design Competition.


Versatility is key when purchasing new equipment, and the multidimensional Maxima from Milacron has the flexibility to perform seven processes on one machine.





The Hyundai QarmaQ displayed at the  Sabic booth stopped a lot of traffic in the aisles of the West Hall. By using more than 30 different Sabic materials, this advanced-technology demonstration vehicle is 132 lb lighter than a comparable vehicle using traditional materials, saving 21 gal of diesel fuel per year.

PUR window frames pose energy-saving alternative to PVC

According to officials at polyurethane (PUR) processing machinery manufacturer BBG (Mindelheim, Germany), which led the HWFF (German acronym for “highly-insulating windows and facade systems”) research project, their company already is in talks with window manufacturers on the construction of a first production line for commercial production of PUR window profiles. BBG intends to offer two differently sized processing cells, one suitable for output of up to 1.2 million linear profile meters per year and the second, smaller line for annual output from 200,000 meters onwards. 



BBG touts the energy savings possible with its TopTherm 90 windows. 


The larger line, called ContiPart, will allow for continuous automated production, but BBG reports its smaller SinglePart lines are drawing greater interest from the building and construction industry. The SinglePart manufacturing line can be equipped with molds for profile lengths from 4-6 meters and can be operated semi-automatically with the profiles fed and unloaded manually or with fully automatic feeding and loading. Eight encapsulation tools arranged in a carousel-shaped configuration on a rotating drum can be replaced independently of each other and can be fitted with molds for the production of different profile types.

Processing the profiles consists of several steps. After the profile cores are encapsulated in the molds, which are mounted on a rotating drum, they are cut to length, with spacers used to maintain the correct distance between core and sheath. The subsequent quality test is followed by a sheathing process in which the rigid-foam inner cores are coated with a 2-mm layer of impact-proof compact PUR foam in a second drum. After a short curing period, secondary operations such as painting of the profile cores can be completed. Eight 6-meter profiles can be produced in cycle times of 90 seconds each. Most vinyl profiles are extruded from pre-colored PVC, with no need for post-extrusion painting, and this certainly will be an issue before the PUR lines gain commercial status. BBG says its target price is around €1.5 million for the SinglePart line and about €3.6 million for the fully automatic ContiPart line.

BBG has devoted much of its development work in the past years to systems that use PUR to realize energy-saving products; it also has developed PUR processing lines for production of solar panels, for instance. During a trade show last autumn it displayed its “TopTherm 90” window (see photo), which is slender (width of 90 mm) and was offered in a triple glazing and in a “vacuum-thermopane” version. BBG claims this standard window is the world’s first with a polyurethane profile core and frame. The company says that tests early this year showed that PUR profiles are on par with PVC profiles in terms of impact strength and rain permeability statics and superior to vinyl in terms of heat insulation.

BBG is run by Hans Brandner, the managing partner, and the company predicts its 2009 revenue will reach €7.3 million. [email protected]

DuPont Teijin Films consolidating PET film extrusion, closing facility

DuPont (Wilmington DE) joint venture DuPont Teijin Films (Hopewell, VA) is consolidating its U.S. PET film production operations to a single site at Hopewell. The joint venture with Japan’s Teijin (Osaka) plans to shut down its Florence, SC plant by the end of 2010, resulting in a loss of 210 manufacturing jobs.

This move follows closure of its Circleville, OH operation in February 2009, and shutdown of a production line in Luxembourg in June 2009. DuPont Teijin Films continues to operate a film processing site in Richmond, VA that specializes in coated flexible packaging; it also recently announced job cuts there.

All of the job cuts are seen as part of DuPont’s efforts to cut costs. In May, the company announced plans to eliminate 2000 jobs as part of a restructuring that it estimated could save the company $225 million annually by 2010. Coatings and color technologies, electronics and communication technologies, performance materials, and safety and protection will be the sectors most hit by the reductions. In the last year DuPont has cut 4500 jobs and laid off 10,000 contract workers.

The restructured DuPont Teijin Films will focus on plant capability and productivity at the remaining U.S. plant as it addresses structural changes in the PET film industry. New investment efforts will focus on key markets such as electronics, medical, and industrial, as well as emerging green technology applications such as the photovoltaic market, say the JV partners. [email protected]

Brace yourself: Here comes the recovery

Good news, bad news, same news . . . the economy has found the bottom.

We all have been reading and hearing that the economy has to bottom out before we can have a recovery. The good news is, there is growing agreement, and even some supporting evidence, that the United States and other parts of the global economy have, in fact, bottomed out. In the future some pundit will be able to declare solemnly that this was our lowest hour. (Sincere apologies to Winston Churchill.) Things are looking up a bit. But just a bit.

New housing sales, a leader among the factors that took us into the current recession, turned up somewhat in June and July. Okay, the prices on those new homes averaged 15-17% lower than a year ago, but average house selling prices also have risen recently, albeit slightly.

However, since the bottom we are scraping along is lower than any since the Great Depression, it will be difficult for some time to hear upside news that doesn’t have a downside attached.

The deeper the hole you’re in, the harder it is to climb out, and the longer it will take. Everything I’ve read or heard about the economy bottoming out or turning up has been accompanied by a warning that the recovery may feel as bad as the Great Recession itself, and will last longer. How long? No one really knows, but they talk in years, not months.

So, the good news—we’ve hit bottom and are into recovery—is also the bad news: Welcome to a slow, protracted recovery.

The U.S. manufacturing sector, of which our molding/moldmaking business is a part, has been among the hardest hit in this downturn. But at long last there are some rays of light breaking through the fog of ignorance regarding how essential our work is to a healthy economy. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has proposed that the United States have a national manufacturing policy. Others in Washington are making similar noises, often responding to input from the SPI, AMBA, and others.

Each of us needs to support such efforts. One very important task is educating your neighbors and local government, the oft-cited grass roots. To do that well, we need to know what to say. For plastics, the SPI has many resources available through its website, as do other associations. And there are many books and websites dealing with the overall manufacturing sector, including a new book published late last month that I recommend highly.

Manufacturing a Better Future for America is a collection of articles by a variety of competent experts on the sorry state of U.S. manufacturing, how it got that way, and why it needs to rise once again to glory. It is published by the Alliance for American Manufacturing and you can buy it from Amazon.com and other booksellers. It’s crammed with info every American should know—not just us.

Allow us to start you off with one great talking point. Read the first two paragraphs of Glenn Beall’s “By Design” column for a little fortification.

Rob Neilley
Editor in Chief
[email protected]

Sweet success in sustainability

With apologies to Kermit the frog, it really is easy being green, as Plastikos found out when it began efforts nearly two years ago to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Are the efforts paying off? And just how expensive is it for a custom injection molding operation to become green?

When Plastikos Inc. started its “green” initiative, it looked at the low-hanging fruit first. “We started out with things that were easy to implement and provided quick returns, such as the lighting,” says Ryan Katen, engineering manager for this 27-press custom injection molding company in Erie, PA. “It was simple to do, didn’t require a lot of planning, and there’s a significant return reflected in our electricity bill, especially with a plant the size of Plastikos.” 



 

At Plastikos’ building in Erie, PA (top), the main press room (above) contains seven new all-electric presses that the company installed to replace older hydraulic ones. The new all-electric machines use about 20% less energy.



The company molds many parts for the electrical industry that require UL ratings, using LCP materials.



During its weekly Global Standards for Plastics Certification (GSPC) class, employees learn the fundamentals of a manufacturing environment.

Like most plastic processing plants, the 60,000-ft2 Plastikos facility burns a lot of electricity to support its operations. In 2008, the company consumed more than 3.157 million kWh of electricity. It converted its main molding floor from T12 to T8 fluorescent technology with electronic ballasts. The project cost approximately $25,000 to complete, but resulted in electricity savings of 150,000 kWh in the first year. This in turn saved 108 metric tons of CO2 (using an EPA calculation) from being released into the atmosphere. Also, Plastikos installed occupancy sensors on fluorescent bulbs in the breakrooms, supply closet, offices, and restrooms.

Using the savings realized from installing the lighting and sensors, the company invested in other initiatives that focused on significantly reducing the company’s carbon footprint, rather than on ROI. One of those—and one of the biggest costs for a custom molder—is raw materials.

The three Rs

While the use of regrind and the percentage allowed back into the parts are dictated by its customers, Plastikos found better ways of handling the regrind. Where regrind was allowed in molded parts, Plastikos worked with its customers on the allowable amount. In some cases, says Katen, Plastikos was able to increase the allowable percentage of regrind from 25% to 50% or from 10% to 25% without impacting the part’s performance.

In spite of those efforts, Plastikos still produces more regrind than it can use internally. Prior to the green initiatives, the company used to dispose of its regrind, sending it to the landfill. “We began to look for places that would buy our regrind, which does add a bit more work to the process,” says Katen. “We have to produce clean regrind if we’re selling it, so we have to clean the grinder after each use. And it takes warehouse space to store it in boxes or gaylords until we can find a buyer. We find it’s difficult to find buyers for the low quantities we usually have.”

Plastikos runs smaller electrical components in 25- to 130-ton machines that use a lot of engineering-grade resins, particularly Vectra E130 LCP (from Ticona), which represents 80% of the plastics the company runs. Many resin recycling companies won’t take LCP resins, Katen notes. “Instead of throwing [scrap material] away and paying Waste Management to haul it to the landfill, we can get someone to pay us to haul it away,” Katen states. Despite the extra effort involved, the results are worth it for the molder: 50,000 lb/year of regrind is now recycled instead of being landfilled.

In addition to resin reuse and recycling, Plastikos engineers and toolroom employees developed a proprietary technology that significantly reduces the amount of virgin resin consumed during the course of production and eliminates waste. “It took a lot of engineering work to figure out how to make this proprietary process work, but it saves a lot of money in terms of raw material,” Katen says. Total raw material savings attained thus far are in excess of 15%, which equates to more than 65,000 lb of raw material saved annually.

Other moves Plastikos has made to green its operations include:
• Starting replacement of all its old desiccant dryers with state-of-the-art compressed-air dryers, a project that will take about six months.
• Reducing its usage of paper and other consumables. “We used to print a lot of paper; now we do it electronically,” says Katen. “We’ve found it easier to control electronic documents than track 100 pieces of paper. And we save on toner, too.”
• Recycling all consumables—more than 10,000 lb of paper, plastic, cardboard, and aluminum were recycled in one year.

Getting buy-in

With 80 employees, getting buy-in for these initiatives wasn’t easy, Katen admits. “It’s tough. People don’t like to change how they do things even if it’s for the right reason,” he says. “We just use constant reminders, and provide examples of the cost of throwing things away vs. recycling. It’s actually cheaper to be green and recycle than to throw things away, but it’s a learning curve because they’re comfortable with the old way. We keep driving it home to get everyone to buy into it. There have definitely been some painful steps along the way.”

The company’s efforts are paying off in other ways as well. Plastikos recently received the Young Erie Professional’s inaugural “Green Company of the Year Award” in the for-profit category.

“One initiative won’t make a significant difference,” Katen concludes, “but doing a lot of different things adds up to a sizable savings.”