Medical Micro Is A Hot Business

Micro molding capabilities continue to grow among an elite supply base as demand accelerates at about 10 percent annually, more than triple overall American economic growth.

At the Compamed trade show in Germany, machine builder Wittmann Battenfeld is showing a micro filter made of polyacetal with an 80 µm grid and a part weight of 1.1 mg. The part, which is produced in a two-cavity mold with thee-platen injection, is manufactured on a MicroPower 15/10 with a clamping force of 150 kN. Target applications are micro pumps and inhalators.

In another development, MTD Micro Molding of Charlton, Massachusetts, is expanding its overmolding services capabilities with a new vertical injection molding machine.

Executive Vice President Gary Hulecki said that OEMs benefit from precision overmolding by improving shot-to-shot consistency and overall part quality for their medical device parts including catheter tips, suturing devices, sports medicine implants, and orthopedic devices where a PEEK polymer is molded over or through metal. A more unusual project was a five-piece micro assembly device overmolded with glass-filled liquid crystal polymer.

Founded in 1972, MTD Micro Molding has 13 molding presses and 31 employees.

Micro medical projects reported by veteran engineer Donna Bibber include:

·         3 micron molded channels in a glucose monitoring/delivery system,

·         A 5mm endoscope device with 22 parts in 1.5mm space, and

·         A 25 micro wall thickness Class III neuro implant.

Bibber is vice president of Isometric Medical Molding, New Richmond, Wisconsin, which, operates six Sodick two-stage plunger presses from 20 to 60 tons.

Another player, Accumold of Ankeny, Iowa, manufactures its own custom molding machines, including two-shot. Its smallest commercial part to date measures 800µm x 380µm x 360um. 144,000 parts weigh 1 oz. Handling of the microelectronics part is more of an issue than the molding.

Other American medical micro molders include SMC of Somerset, Wisconsin; BMP Medical of Gardner, Massachusetts; Precision Engineered Products of East Providence, Rhode Island;  the newly formed Spectrum Plastics Group of Alpharetta, Georgia; Phillips-Medisize (Molex) of Hudson, Wisconsin; Makuta Technics of Shelbyville, Indiana; American Precision Products of Huntsville, Alabama; and Rapidwerks of Pleasonton, California.

Actual micro molded parts are highly confidential. This micro filter for a show demonstration is made of POM with 80 µm grid. (Wittmann Battenfeld)

Medical, Micro Molding , ,

The Future of DuPont’s Global-Leading Bio Materials Looks Murky

As the DowDuPont saga unfolds, one of the more interesting story lines will be the fate of DuPont’s best-in-class biomaterials business, which began with a collaboration more than 10 years ago and evolved into a fascinating R&D effort to produce basic chemical building blocks from plants.

Today, its Bio-PDO propanediol and Sorona polymer operate manufacturing plants  in the US and China and have sales exceeding $250 million in more than 25 countries. That’s not bad for a startup biomaterials business in a time frame that saw a major global economic collapse  and weak oil prices.

The group is now investigating the commercialization of a completely new way to make high-performance polymers directly from sugar. This novel enzymatic process is said to closely mimic the way nature builds polymers like cellulose.

This type of work took place at  a company with deep pockets, a commitment to world-leading research, and a belief in making the world a better place. DuPont was one of the last relics of a deep American manufacturing commitment to corporate research. Think Bell Labs.  

Now great American companies from GE to DuPont are being ripped apart by aggressive minority investors who want companies built to produce maximum short-term profit. One of the last stalwarts, Procter & Gamble remains, but is under attack.

Dow and DuPont, which had significant synergy only in crop sciences, were forced together into DowDupont on Sept. 1 in what was clearly a poorly though-out exercise. Just 12 days after its formation, many businesses were spun out of a Dow-heavy group into one of the two Delaware-based divisions, one of which is a hodgepodge of specialty businesses including biomaterials. The goal is to spin the businesses into three separate companies within 18 months, led by the Dow group, which seems to be driving the bus.

The crop sciences group—the smallest of the three– will do fine, and may become a darling on the stock market. It may be branded as a DuPont company. The massive Dow business is an olefins-silicon behemoth that will ride the shale gas boom.

The Specialty Products Division includes:

  • Electronics & Imaging,
  • Industrial Biosciences,
  • Nutrition & Health,
  • Safety & Construction (Kevlar, Nomex, Tyvek, Styrofoam, and Corian brands),
  • Sustainable Solutions (management consulting), and
  • Transportation & Advanced Polymers. (Dow jettisoned Zytel, Hytrel and Delrin here 12 days after the merger took effect).

It’s hard to imagine that this grab-bag of businesses will make a coherent whole. It resembles the Tyco business formerly headed by cost-cutting specialist Edward Breen, who is now CEO of DowDuPont. Breen was brought in to break up DuPont.

Most of the businesses are very valuable, such as the performance plastics and construction brands,  and will find a home with no problem.

It’s harder to imagine the future of the biomaterials’ business, which will require forward thinking and deep pockets, both of which are in short supply today.


Bioplastics, Green, Management, North America

Where is Zytel Now? Back In Wilmington

DuPont’s Performance Plastics business is back in Wilmington, Delaware after a very brief 12 days as part of Dow’s Materials Sciences group in Midland, Michigan, where it clearly did not fit under the new DowDuPont, which is delighting stock investors and confusing everyone else.

Bowing to pressure from activist investors (and common sense), DowDuPont’s board announced that several businesses were reassigned from the group that will still be known as Dow to the awkwardly named and organized Specialty Products Division.

The reassigned groups are:

  • Dow’s Water and Process Solutions business,
  • Dow’s Pharma and Food Solutions business,
  • Dow’s Microbial Control business,
  • DuPont’s Performance Polymers business, and
  • Several silicones-based businesses aligned with applications in industrial LED, semiconductors, medical, as well as Molykote brand lubricants and Multibase, a  compounder.

 “Our DowDuPont Board is fully aligned and confident that these targeted portfolio adjustments are the right actions to take and will benefit all stakeholders over the long term,” said Andrew Liveris, executive chairman of DowDuPont. “They bear out the clear results of a significant comprehensive analysis the Dow and DuPont boards undertook over the past many months, which benefited from a fresh look provided by independent, third-party external advisors, in particular McKinsey & Company.

Capacity and technical advances continue for Zytel. Photo shows a Daimler engine bracket that was a finalist in the 2017 SPE Automotive design competition. (SPE Automotive)

Following the portfolio realignments, the three intended (interesting word choice) companies of DowDuPont are:

An agriculture company based in Wilmington that includes DuPont Pioneer, DuPont Crop Protection and Dow AgroSciences.

A materials science company based in Michigan focusing on packaging, infrastructure and consumer care.

A specialty products company with market-focused groups: Electronics & Imaging, Transportation & Advanced Polymers, Safety & Construction, and Nutrition & Biosciences.

Last week, DowDuPont Transportation & Advanced Polymers announced that it is increasing production capacity at its Belgium, site for DuPont  Zytel HTN high-performance polyamide resin used in the automotive, consumer and electronics markets.

“We continue to invest in our compounding capacity across regions to ensure we can meet the strong growth in demand for highly engineered specialty polymers such as PPAs,” said Richard Mayo, global business director for DowDuPont Transportation & Advanced Polymers. “Investing in this compounding capacity expansion, coupled with recent investments made in Germany and China, demonstrates the traction for our innovative materials and solutions tailored to meet the evolving and often challenging requirements of our customers, wherever they are in the world.”

How much longer will Zytel and DuPont’s other iconic performance plastics be based in Wilmington? They would seem to be a better fit in a company with a deep research and marketing bench in the plastics business.

And the biomaterials business? A topic for another day.

Management, North America

Two-Shot Molding Replaces In-Mold Decoration

Ford cut costs 30 percent by using an innovative two-shot injection molding approach for an interior decoration bezel on the 2018 Fiesta subcompact.

A three-dimensional decorative effect was achieved with a process that Ford describes as two-component reverse injection molding. A tinted polycarbonate is injected in a mold followed by pigmented ABS. The plastics are supplied by Lotte Advanced Materials, which built a compounding plant in 2010 in Tianjin, China. The toolmaker is JP Grosfilley SAS, a specialist in 2K molds based in Martignat, France. The moldmaker also has a location in Erie, Pennsylvania.

“This is the first time this process was used to achieve the 3-D visual effect (color and texture) for a part of this size and geometry,” Ford said in an entry for the SPE Automotive design competition, where it won a category award.

The previous process was IMD/IML/high gloss painting.

There was a 20 versus scrap reduction vs conventional two-layer high-gloss piano black appearance.


Two-shot process replaced in-mold decoration and painting, achieving a 30 percent cost savings. (SPE Automotive)


ABS, Design, Polycarbonate, Two-Shot

Bio Foam-In-Place Is SPE Finalist

A next-generation sustainable foam is a finalist in the 2017 SPE Automotive design competition.

Weight and costs are cut with castor oil foam. (SPE Automotive)

A castor oil-based foam is used in an innovative way  on the 2018 Ford Fusion sedan. The material is BASF’s Elastoflex 13/4 Iso polyurethane. It’s a foam-in-place material that provides for a lower molded density and ability to be foamed in as little as 4 mm cross sections with superior bond strength to mating materials, according to Ford.

A cast PVC, TPE, or TPU skin is placed in the mold with a hard plastic retainer and the foam is injected between  them. A weight savings of 20 to 40 percent (depending on foam thickness) and a cost savings of $2 per instrument panel is said to be achieved.

Use of castor oil in foam at Ford dates to 2012.

It’s part of a 17-year Ford effort to replace fossil fuels with sustainable materials led by Debbie Mielewski, senior technical leader, Materials Sustainability.

Use of material from soy and castor plants is one aspect. In another, efforts to replace glass fiber and talc with sustainable materials continues to grow. Materials under study (including a few limited commercial programs) include wheat straw, kenaf fiber, cellulose, wood, coconut fiber and rice hulls.

“There are about 400 pounds of plastic on a typical car,” says Mielewski. “Our job is to find the right place for a green composite like this to help our impact on the planet. It is work that I’m really proud of, and it could have broad impact across numerous industries.”

One of the more interesting and most recent efforts is with Jose Cuervo to find an automotive application for waste fiber from the agave plants used to make tequila.

Soy replaces oil in Ford slap pad. (SPE Automotive)

Her research team did pioneering work—with financial help from a farmers’ trade group—to make soybeans fit for use as a component in polyurethane foam now widely used in Ford cars. Soy oil is used in seat cushions, seat backs and headrests of every vehicle Ford builds in North America.

“Now, 18.5 million-plus vehicles and half a trillion soybeans later, we’ve saved more than 228 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere,” says Mielewski. “This is the same amount that would be consumed by 4 million trees per year, according to North Carolina State University.”

Ford continues to collaborate with the United Soybean Board to develop soy-based materials for rubber components like gaskets, seals and wiper blades.

Ford is replacing up to 40 percent pf the petroleum in a slap pad from natural rubber in another innovation recognized as a finalist in this year’s SPE Automotive design competition. The part in the 2018 F-150 pickup and the technology can be translated to any vehicle line with leaf springs including trucks, vans and SUVs.  The compression molded part is made by Rasini.

Benefits include durability and reduced noise.

Ford is also exploring innovative uses of carbon itself, and says it is one of the first in the industry to develop foams and plastics using captured carbon dioxide.

The brains behind Ford’s sustainability efforts is Debbie Mielewski, who heads a talented–and patient–team of scientists. (Ford)


Automotive, Bioplastics, Compression, Filler, Injection Molding, North America, Reinforcing Material , , ,

Ford Cuts Costs with Recycled Carbon Fiber

Ford is using a reinforced polypropylene made from recycled carbon fiber in the 2018 Explorer sport-utility vehicle (SUV) for the rigid portion of an “A” pillar bracket.

The material can be used with existing tooling and is compatible with thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), a new soft material for the application. Significant improvements in coefficient of linear thermal expansion are achieved, according to Ford engineers. The carbon fiber is recycled from airplane bodies, bicycles, and other sources.

The new hard/soft material system is described as more cost-effective for carbon fiber-based applications on exterior and interior trim parts. This new material usage resulted in a 14 percent component weight reduction and $186,000 annual savings.

The part is made by the Windsor Mold Group and the carbon composite is Borealis Fibermod CB061SY PP. The previous rigid material was ASA.

The part is a finalist in the 2017 SPE Automotive design competition.

Bracket is used on the A pillar. (SPE Automotive)

Automotive, Carbon Composites, Carbon Fiber, North America, Reinforcing Material ,

BASF Backs Hydrophobic Additive Startup

BASF is leading an $8 million financing for a Boston startup that says it has invented a plastic additive that is highly resistant to water.

NBD Nanotechnologies uses functionalized fluoro polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane (“F-POSS”) molecules as additives to polymers for providing hydrophobic and oleophobic properties. Loadings are around 5 percent and NBD claims the additive does not change the properties of the host resin.

The additive is said to possess high thermal stability for compounding and injection molding.

NBD stands for “Namib Beetle Design” because the technology was inspired by the Namib Desert Beetle, an insect that is able to harvest fog in the African desert by alternating hydrophobic and hydrophilic regimes on its back. The company was founded five years ago by two biology majors at Boston College.

Leading the plastic additive technology development at NBD is Cheng Diao, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut, Materials Science and Engineering Program in 2015, focusing on development of biodegradable polymer and composites.

The first in NBD Nano’s line of RepelShell  products was introduced last year. “NBD Nano RepelShell is unlike any solution on the market because it delivers thermal stability and high surface performance through an injection-grade solution that gets added directly to the plastic,” said Deckard Sorensen, president of NBD Nano. “Imagine a professional soccer star playing on a super-muddy pitch – if the bottoms of the player’s cleats have RepelShell for Plastic, they will remain permanently and completely mud-free. The NBD additive provides end-product properties that are simply not possible with existing coatings or plastics.”

BASF is joined in the financing round by new investor Henkel AG & Co., along with existing investors including Phoenix Venture Partners.

“NBD Nano’s products allow for a tremendous variety of applications in electronics, consumer goods, and automotive,” said Markus Solibieda, managing director at BASF Venture Capital. “In addition, the company’s technology platform provides them with a strong base for future innovations.”

NBD Nano has also developed InvisiPrint coatings that reduce fingerprint visibility on a variety of surfaces.


Additives, Automotive, Electronics, Industrial, North America ,

CFRP Tube Connects Engine To Transmission

The torque tube housing in the 2017 aluminum-bodied Mercedes GT R sports car is made from aviation-grade carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) in a one-shot production process.

The CFRP tubular shell with heavily loaded connecting flanges that replaces weight-optimized aluminum weighs 30.6 pounds, a 40 percent reduction. It allows a highly direct as well as extremely flexurally resistant and torsionally stiff transaxle-type connection between engine and transmission. The tube and the drive shaft, which is also made of CFRP can easily handle the huge torque of 700 Nm from the 585 hp Mercedes AMG-GT R, according to Mercedes-Benz engineers.

“The torque tube not only absorbs the high forces and torque during vehicle operation, but can also withstand the dynamic load cycles and peak loads that come with a sporty driving style,” the company said.

The component, finalist in the SPE Automotive design competition, was developed by Mercedes AMG with the materials specialists from Daimler Research and the fiber-composite supplier ACE GmbH. The resin is Huntsman 8625 epoxy.

According to the SPE, the part was produced with a new process (first time in auto industry) that is a combination of resin transfer molding and a process from blow molding flexible tubes.  The component was inflated in the interior of the tool by vacuum and overpressure.  The injection from the resin takes place from the outside.

Carbon composite tube replaces a multi-part aluminum tube. (SPE Automotive)

Automotive, Blow molding, Carbon Composites, Europe, Resin Transfer Molding ,

Korean Auxiliaries Target Automotive Foam Molding

Steam-assisted molding is taking on physical and chemical foaming as a preferred way to lightweight automotive components.

The technology is already well established in Asia to make parts for consumer electronics, such as television frames.

For example, there are more than 500 installations globally of Yudo Sun’s Rapid Isolation Cooling & Heating – (RICH) Steam Heating Technology. Major customers include Samsung and LG electronics.

Yudo has an integrated Steam Generator (Electric Boiler System) that can produce saturated steam at pressures of up to 25 BarG giving a Maximum Steam Temperature of 225 Celsius (437F)

It’s a variation of “heat/cool” that involves bringing the mold cavity surface temperature close to the plastic melt temperature to improve the component surface aesthetics. The mold is heated by flowing steam through channels located close to the cavity surface. Steam is replaced with chilled water in the same mold channels to cool the mold.

A new generation of RICH Equipment was launched last year in which (on the larger models – RICH5–R and RICH7-R) the Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment System is integrated into the main cabinet with steam generation and control equipment. A heat exchanger was incorporated to utilize the energy from steam coming back from the mold tool..

Raymond Foad, a UK representative of the technology, tells The Molding Blog that development efforts are focusing on automotive components that can be lightweighted. That’s an area where foaming technologies such as MuCell have been making headway. Foad claims that the steam-assisted approach can achieve a better surface finish.

He says there are also process advantages: “Reducing the wall section of a plastic part typically increases the plastic filling pressure significantly however, with RICH technology, the retardation of the instantaneous frozen skin layer can result in filling pressure reductions of over 50 percent.”

There are no royalty requirements, a lesson Foad learned from the gas-assist business.

The RICH system is not being used now in series production in the United States or Canada. Trials are under way, however.

There are several suppliers of steam heating auxiliary equipment in Asia.


Asia, Automotive, Auxiliary Equipment, Electronics

Improved Polyamide Yields Big Fuel Savings

Years of research into improving the wear resistance properties of polyamide 46 is starting to yield major dividends for DSM as auto manufacturers accelerate replacement of polyamide 66 used in chain driven valve timing systems in new turbocharged engines.

New formulation Stanyl HGR1 polyamide 46-based material was used in the launch of a new version of the Pentastar V6 engine, developed by Fiat Chrysler, DSM announced last year.  

“By substituting PA66 with Stanyl HGR1 in the timing systems chain contact surfaces, frictional torque can be cut by 0.65 Nm,” said Bill Burnham, DSM business development manager. “This equates to a fuel efficiency improvement of over a mile per gallon (over 0.4 km/L) over the drive cycle; that’s a substantial amount!” In comparison to PA66, Stanyl HGR1 delivered 10% lower frictional torque within the critical engine speed range between 650 and 1800 rpm.”

Now a new improved grade designated Stanyl HGR2 is being rolled out by Ford in truck and series car production models, including the Fiesta. A friction reduction of 20 to 40 percent yields a 1 percent improvement in fuel economy, according to DSM. Testing was done by BorgWarner on Ford’s engine timing drive and valve train.

Nissan, Suzuki, and other OEMs are also using Stanyl HGR2 in new engine designs. The price premium of HGR2 is repaid in a year by fuel savings, said DSM.

Automotive, North America, Polyamides , ,