Dell Uses 1 Million Pounds of Recycled Carbon Fiber This Year

Global computer manufacturer Dell Technologies says it will use approximately 1 million pounds of recycled carbon fiber this year, more than double the volume from the previous two years—880,000 pounds.

The carbon fiber recycling program was announced in 2015 as part of the company’s 2020 Legacy of Good Plan, which includes using 100 million pounds of recycled-content plastic and other sustainable materials in its products.

Carbon fiber was first used in the Latitude 7440 and is now being used across the entire Latitude 5000 line (14 products to date). “We are looking to expand use beyond just Latitude into other notebook enclosures, where this material is best suited to be used  – which will lead to volume growth,” Stephanie Schafer, a senior engineer who heads Dell’s sustainability efforts, told The Molding Blog.

 In 2014, Dell became the first IT company to use UL-environment certified closed-loop recycled plastics in a computer when it launched the OptiPlex 3030 All-in-One desktop. Since then Dell has shipped 95 products with closed-loop recycled plastics.

Also as part of the 2020 program, Dell earlier this year shipped its first packaging diverted from becoming ocean waste. Recycled plastics are collected from waterways and beaches for use in the new packaging tray for the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. The ocean plastic is mixed (25 percent) with other recycled HDPE plastics (the remaining 75 percent) from sources like bottles and food storage containers.

Since 2008, Dell has included post-consumer recycled plastics in its desktops, and as of January 2017, reached its first 2020 goal of using 50 million pounds of recycled materials in its products.

For the carbon fiber initiative, Dell partnered with resin compounds’ supplier SABIC, which uses virgin and recycled polycarbonate in the carbon composite. SABIC sorts, chops and pelletizes off spec, excess, or scrap from carbon fiber manufacturing processes after it has been respooled and resized. The parts are produced by Dell’s existing injection molders.

Use of the carbon fiber fits into a trend toward lighter and thinner notebooks, Schafer said at a webinar today on “Closing the Circle in Manufacturing Through Eliminating Barriers to Using Recycled Content”. Schafer also said that potential use of PCR is limited in engineering applications because repeated histories compromise the mechanical properties of the compound.

The webinar,  part of a series, was organized by the North American Plastics Recycling Alliance (NAPRA) and  the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).  NAPRA membership includes PLASTICS and the American Chemistry Council.

Those organizations want manufacturers to significantly increase use of recycled plastics because of growing challenges, including low fossil fuel prices and China’s coming ban on plastics’ waste imports.

Carbon Fiber, Electronics, North America, Polycarbonate , , ,

Making Magnetic Molded Parts Faster, Cheaper

Two inventions point to new ways to create magnetic properties in molded plastic parts.

Sabic applied for a for a method of manufacturing a functionally graded part in which magnetic fields are applied within a mold to separated portions of a plastic compound containing a magnetic filler.

The magnetic filler comprises magnetic particles, magnetic fibers, iron, nickel, cobalt, ferrites, or/and rare earth magnets.

The inventors say that the invention overcomes cost and efficiency problems with currently used ways to make functionally graded magnetic parts.

In a separate patent application, two North Carolina inventors eliminated the in-mold magnets in an effort to create a less costly and faster approach to magnetic molding.

An electric current is applied to the mold while forming apart from polyamide and a metal to align the poles of the suspended metal in a single direction before the mixture has hardened. A magnetic field is then applied to the hardened mixture to provide the product with magnetic properties. The loading of ferrite particles is 30 to 33 percent.

In the magnetic plastic induction system, a DC transformer (206) applies a current to an injection mold (209), aligning the poles of barium ferrites particles loaded in polyamide. (USPTO)

Magnetic Material, North America

Kurz Eyes 3D Printing On Foil

German foil maker Kurz is developing a technology that will replace in-mold decorating (IMD) with 3D printing for specific applications that create a whole new look of customized decorated and functional plastic parts, including the  incorporation of electronics.

In the new Kurz approach,  decorative foil ply is clamped (or held with vacuum) to a support with a predefined surface geometry. The ply has a plastic-facing layer with a heat-activated adhesive. Plastic molding compound is applied by a robotically guided 3D print head.

The robot arm carries and guides the print head of the 3D printer to follow the contour of the curved surface.

As more plastic is applied dot-by-dot, the plastic is heated only slightly above its melting temperature, so that it solidifies immediately, eliminating the potential for running. “Thus, a high printing resolution can be achieved,” states the patent, which was published Nov. 14.

“Since the plastic molding compound is successively applied in small quantities, only minimal heating beyond the melting point of the plastic is necessary. In addition, the application of the plastic molding compound is performed in an unpressurized manner.”

As a result, “foil plies having sensitive decorative or functional elements can also be used, which would not survive the pressure and/or temperature conditions during injection molding.”

“The drop-by-drop or layer-by-layer application of the plastic molding compound additionally opens up significantly expanded design possibilities for the molded body in relation to injection molding…The properties of the plastic molding compound, for example, the color or the conductivity of the plastic molding compound, can be varied over the volume of the molded body, for example, to provide further decorative or functional structures inside the molded body.”

Advantages of the approach over insert injection molding include:

·         The opportunity for internal decorative or functional (such as magnetized)  features, including use of plastics with different optical properties,

·         The ability to customize each piece,

·         The ability to adapt to rapid design changes,

·         Elimination of tool cost, and

·         The ability to use sensitive electronic foils that would be destroyed by the high heat and pressure of injection molding.

The cons are also significant and will ensure the continued use of IMD for most production parts. They include higher cost and slower production speed.

Plastic (12) such as ABS, polycarbonate or ABS/PC is deposited by a printhead (3) on a foil ply 11, which is thick enough to overcome the inherent stairstep roughness of a 3D-printed object. The foil is supported by a polished substrate (5). (USPTO)

ABS, Additive manufacturing, Europe, In-mold labeling (IML), Polycarbonate , ,

Thermoplastics Break Out In 3D-Printed Autoclavable Tools

Additive Engineering Solutions of Akron Ohio has successfully printed autoclavable composite molding tools in 16 different thermoplastics using a Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine from Cincinnati Inc.

AES was formed two years ago as a spinoff from a metal-forming contract manufacturer. The company’s focus is on tool and mold production and says it can process almost all materials in pellet form that can be used in an injection molding machine.

“With our BAAM, we’re able to print parts at a scale of 12ft long, 5.5ft wide, and 6ft tall,” says Andrew Bader, a cofounder. “The pieces we print can also be bonded together to build even larger parts.”

The concept of printing autoclavable tools for the aircraft and other industries was demonstrated last year by a consortium headed by the Deposition Science and Technology group at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, Tennessee. Digital tool manufacturing reduces costs and leadtimes. Tools can be printed and machined in hours, compared to an average lead time of 14 weeks for conventional production methods. The tools were tested in Boeing autoclaves.

Vlastimil Kunc, who heads the research effort at ORNL, told The Molding Blog that there are several commercial sites using or testing polyphenylene sulfide and other materials for 350ºF cure cycle applications.

“Cincinnati Incorporated has printed in a variety of high temperature materials on our BAAM machine,” says Rick Neff, the company’s additive manufacturing products and sales manager. “We have used PPS and PEI both with carbon fiber reinforcing. There are seven other CI customers (besides Additive Engineering Solutions) using BAAM either for materials research or tooling applications. 

Techmer PM collaborated with ORNL and BASF to design two new, 3D-printable, engineering thermoplastic compounds – Electrafil PPS 3DP and Electrafil PPSU 3DP– for high-temperature autoclave tooling applications. They are provided in pellet form. Previous high-performance composites lacked adequate thermal capabilities.

Tom Drye, Techmer’s vice president for emerging markets and innovation, said that both compounds are optimized to withstand a 350°F, 100 psi autoclave cycle with minimal dimensional changes (CTE) through the cure cycle of the printed tools and parts. The composition and rheology of each have been developed for deposition rates exceeding 50 pounds/hour through a 1-inch extruder. He said the compounds are designed to tolerate process changes during long build times and extended residence times.

The materials also are fully recyclable, according to Drye. The molded parts, which can exceed 900 pounds each, often go through several iterations.

Drye told The Molding Blog in an email: “These new engineered plastic tools will replace expensive metal tooling used to make pre-preg composite parts used in aerospace, automotive, and other demanding applications such as: engine cowlings, interior cabin panels, trim tools, liftbacks, etc.  Major OEM’s are investing heavily into this technology to reduce costs, increase design freedom, and improve speed to market.”

A 3D-printed thermoplastic mold manufactured at ORNL withstood testing in an industrial autoclave. The concept is now being widely adopted. (ORNL)

Additive manufacturing, Aircraft, Engineering Thermoplastics, Molds & Moldmaking, North America, Polyphenylene sulfide , , ,

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 ,