Apple Invention Combines Ceramics and Plastics

Apple is developing a comolded plastic and ceramic phone housing that combines the benefits of both materials.

Traditionally phone housings have been molded plastic, but ceramics and glass are being used increasingly because of their superior strength, aesthetics and optical properties. “However, such materials present drawbacks of their own,” a new Apple patent states. “For example, small retaining features for coupling housing components together (e.g., clips, arms, detents, grooves) may be relatively simple to mold into a plastic piece, but may be difficult or impossible to form out of glass or ceramics.”

The visible part of the ceramic would be polished while the part next to the molten plastic would be sanded or etched to promote adhesion. Posts or pegs may be added to increase the strength of the comolding. A fixture may be used to hold the ceramic insert in place before plastic is injected under high pressur

Design, Electronics, Insert Molding, North America , ,

DuPont Takes Historic Exit From Plastics

For more than 80 years, The name DuPont was almost synonymous with plastics. Some of the industry’s greatest innovations emerged from the company’s famous labs in Delaware. Nylon, DuPont’s name for polyamide, was the first commercially successful synthetic thermoplastic. Until then, the industry was dominated by hard-to-process thermosets resins such as phenolic. DuPont later made significant advances in acetals, elastomers, and polyesters, and more recently in bioplastics that have made big headway in fiber.

Those plastics will definitely survive, but the attachment of DuPont is in name only. And even that will end soon. They are now part of a company in Midland, Michigan that clearly is placing its emphasis elsewhere, including  on a newly acquired silicone business.

It will be interesting to see how well DuPont’s engineering and renewable plastics fit into the new DowDuPont Materials Science Division, which became a legal entity on Sept. 1 and is scheduled to be spun out as a standalone company no later than March, 2019.

The new operation is very Dow-dominated. It will be headed by Andrew Liveris, the former CEO of Dow. The only DuPont member of the advisory committee (a kind of board in waiting) is former CEO Edward Breen, a cost-cutter who earned his stripes at Tyco, not DuPont.

A fact sheet distributed by the new entity says it will be focused on three molecules: ethylene, propylene and silicone. The key chemistries in the DuPont Performance Plastics business are polyamides, polyacetal and PBT-type polyester. Dow assets dwarf those of DuPont, which had long ago divested commodity-type polyethylene assets. A $100 million Innovation Center in Midland, Michigan is being built to drive growth in the silicone sciences and organic chemistry from new acquisition Dow Corning Corp. Interestingly, Dow divested its stake in engineering plastics (Calibre polycarbonate) seven years ago. In another footnote, Dow had tried to largely exit the ethylene and propylene businesses 10 years ago. The 2008 financial meltdown derailed a plan to create  K-Dow with Kuwait Petroleum Corp. For $9.5 billion, Dow agreed to give up 50 percent of its interest in five global businesses: polyethylene, polypropylene and polycarbonate plastics, and ethylenamines and ethanolamines.

Sure, the global  plastics business has looked something like “As the World Turns” as investors pushed global giants to emphasize high-return businesses such as pharmaceuticals. GE and Bayer–two other historical giants in plastics –also set new courses.

It wouldn’t be a stretch, at least in my view, to see much of the DuPont performance plastics assets divested before the new materials company is formed. Not surprisingly, BASF—a global giant in polyamides—was rumored to have had interest. That obviously would make no sense from a competitive aspect. But the DuPont assets would be a good fit for several other companies.

DuPont’s global-leading effort to find new, renewable ways to make chemical feedstocks looks to me like an unfortunate loser in the new DowDuPont. Under investor pressure, DuPont had already begun cutting overall R&D, except in ag seeds–an investor sweet spot. The industrial bioscience business looks like an orphan in the new Specialties group.

DuPont’s “performance” chemicals business is now owned by an entity called Chemours, which took over the DuPont building in Wilmington, Delaware. DuPont donated significant art collections to local museums and charities and sold the DuPont Hotel.

The new DowDuPont companies centered on agriculture and specialties will be based in DuPont’s new home at Chestnut Run, a suburban research site in Delaware.

It’s possible that the new ag business will retain the DuPont name, and maybe even some of its culture of innovation. From gunpowder to seeds in 200 years. Performance plastics? Didn’t make the cut.

Management, Phenolics, Polyacetal, Polyamides

Invention Targets Mechanical Weakness of Molded-In Antennas

Mitsubishi Engineering-Plastics Corp., Tokyo, says it has developed a superior compound for making three-dimensional antennas in cellphones.

The glass-reinforced alloy of polycarbonate and ABS contains as much as 30 parts per weight of a laser direct structuring (LDS) additive comprising antimony and tin.

LDS, developed by a German company called LPKF, has become an important approach to manufacturing molded-in cellphone antennas that conform to the shape of the part, allowing significant space savings. Addition of the metals that allow plating, however, has negatively impacted the mechanical properties of the molding.

The patent states: “As a result of intensive studies by the present inventors, it has been found that when the amount of glass filler is increased, although the mechanical properties are enhanced, the LDS activity is lowered.”

The Mitsubishi invention is an effort to overcome that problem. In one aspect of the invention, talc surface-treated with organopolysiloxanes is used to replace some of the glass fiber. In another aspect, some of the glass fiber is replaced with glass flake or a plate-like glass. Elastomers may be added to improve resistance to shattering. White pigment is also used in the compound for coloring.

Recycled polycarbonate can be used.

Mitsubishi is one of 19 materials companies that have developed proprietary compounds for the LDS process.

ABS, Asia, Electronics, Filler, Injection Molding, Laser Structuring, Polycarbonate, Polystyrene, Reinforcing Material , , ,

Unique Micro Molder Makes Internal Threads

Successful micro molding machines are highly customized. Some players such as Accumold build their own machines to meet demands of specific molds.

Franz Hirt

A relatively new German micro molder is working with Wittmann Battenfeld to develop new molding technology. microtechnik HIRT (abbreviated MTH), a specialist in hybrid parts based in Schramberg, Germany, helped developed the 5-axis MicroPower into a 6-axis production cell to facilitate manufacturing of parts  with unscrewing functions, helical micro cogwheels and shafts with inclination profiles.

Following mold opening, the mold cavity is driven by a toothed belt installed on the side of the mold to release the molded part for ejection. The ejector subsequently demolds the part with a servo-electric drive, and a new cycle starts as soon as the contour element has been returned to its original position.

It’s also possible to drive thread cores inside the mold to produce high-precision internal threads on molded parts. One example is a focusing device used in cameras to hold lenses in place and/or focus them, or in medical measuring devices to focus optical measurement systems.

The unscrewing unit is integrated into the machine’s Unilog B6 control system

MTH is itself a tiny company with a staff of just three. Founder  Franz Hirt sees rapid growth coming for micro hybrid parts in medical technology, electronics, communication and satellite technology, as well as in the automotive industry.

Mold with integrated unscrewing unit (mikrotechnik HIRT)

Focusing device with an internal thread.

Automation/Robots, Electronics, Europe, Medical, Micro Molding, Molds & Moldmaking ,

Research Shows Path To Improved Thermal Properties

Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a specific plastic compound that releases heat 10 times faster than a typical plastic compound. The invention has no short-term commercial implications, but shows the potential to design compounds that could create more powerful electronics packages, while saving weight and cost.  

Gun-Ho Kim, a research fellow in Jinsang Kim’s research group, holds a sample of a polymer. (University of Michigan)

The researchers linked chains of polyacrylic acid (PAA) with short strands of polyacryloyl piperidine (PAP) to form hydrogen bonds that are described as 10 to 100 stronger than the van der Waals forces in most other plastics.

“People have spent a lot of time designing polymers that conduct electricity for organic LEDs or solar cells, but no one has looked at how to engineer the thermal properties and we need polymers that conduct heat a lot better than the ones we have today,” said Kevin Pipe, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and corresponding author of a paper.

Jinsang Kim, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and another corresponding author of the paper, said: “There’s still a long way to go, but this is a very important step we made to understand how to engineer plastics in this way. Ten times better is still a lot lower heat conductivity than metals, but we’ve opened the door to continue improving.”

Usually metal or ceramics are added to plastics compounds to improve their thermal properties. The new approach could improve overall properties of the compound, while maintaining a lower mass. Obviously getting the right polymers to work with good thermal characteristics will be the real challenge.

The paper is titled “High thermal conductivity in amorphous polymer blends by engineered interchain interactions.” The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences as part of the Center for Solar and Thermal Energy Conversion in Complex Materials, an Energy Frontier Research Center. 



Highly Integrated Thermoplastic Composite System Debuts In Automotive

The first major production applications of Engel’s thermoplastic fabric technology (called organomelt) in the automotive industry will be launched soon.

Engel did not disclose the applications or customers (identified as well-known Tier Twos), but did provide technical details showing the extent of integration involved in complex new composites projects.

Organomelt refers to continuous-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic semi-finished products developed at Engel’s Center for Lightweight Composites Technology. In one of the applications, several metal inserts are directly overmolded using thermoplastic fabric with wall thicknesses of only 0.5 to 0.6 mm. A vertical IR oven located directly above the clamping unit of the injection-molding machine was developed for rapid processing. The Engel-developed units can be monitored and controlled from the machine control.

Engel says that thermoplastic tapes reinforced with glass or carbon fiber are rising in demand with layups consisting of up to 20 tape layers. Usually tapes are only 0.14 to 0.3 mm thick. Engel has designed its own system for building layups directly upstream of the injection-molding process. Based on the pick-and-place principle, it works in sync with the injection molding process.

The resin system was not identified, although polyamide is often used.

The new tape layup cell is based on the pick-and-place principle. A high-speed high-definition camera system optimizes the layup precision of individual tapes. (Engel)

Automation/Robotics, Automation/Robots, Automotive, Carbon Composites, Europe, Injection Molding, Insert Molding, Reinforcing Material ,

KraussMaffei System Doubles Pultrusion Speed

The staid process of pultrusion is getting a substantial facelift with a new approach from KraussMaffei that includes aspects of injection molding.

Traditional pultrusion is a form of extrusion in which reinforced reactive plastics are pulled (rather than pushed) through a die to form a constant cross section. Think ladder rails, one of the main applications for the process, which dates to the 1950s.

In the new iPul system by KraussMaffei, fibers are encapsulated in a closed “injection” box, which it says permits use of fast-reacting systems of epoxy, polyurethane, and polyamide 6. Production speeds rise from the usual 0.5 to 1.5 meters per minute to approximately 3 meters per minute, approaching extrusion speeds of thermoplastic PVC profiles, according to KrassMaffei.

Visitors had an opportunity to view the system in operation at KraussMaffei’s headquarters in Munich, Germany on July 13. Four of the ten largest global pultruders attended as did manufacturers of sporting goods, windows and automakers.

Development partners for the technology include Covestro (polyurethane matrix resins), Evonik (pultruded glass fiber reinforcement in construction), Huntsman (wind power applications), and Thomas Technik (curved pultrusions).

KraussMaffei readies new pultrusion line for July 13 demonstration.

Automotive, Construction, Europe, Industrial, Polyamides, Reinforcing Material

Injection Molded Ammo Wins Over Skeptics

Intellectual property and sales are growing for injection molded ammunition.

While the original goals of the technology were to reduce use of copper and other

Patent images depicts an exploded view of the polymeric cartridge casing having an over-molded primer insert. (USPTO)

expensive metals, other benefits are starting to win over an army of skeptical sportsmen. One is the lighter weight of the plastic composite cartridge, which translates into less wear and tear on guns as well as flatter—and more accurate—trajectory, according to manufacturers and patents, which exceed 100. Lead replacement is also an important benefit of the new ammunition.

Conventional ammunition for large caliber weapons is made from machined brass or lead that is machined, cast, molded or coated.

At least three companies are now injection molding ammunition: PCP Ammunition of Vero Beach, Florida; Polycase of Savannah, Georgia; and True Velocity, which is opening a new manufacturing plant in Garland, Texas.

A patent application published last Thursday by True Velocity shows the nature of the technology.

The polymeric cartridge casing could be made of a glass-reinforced polyamide, although several other plastics are mentioned in the patent application. Top and bottom halves would be welded together, a common practice in plastic processing. Injection molding would permit faster mass production with easier implementation of design features such as multiple cannelures that would improve effectiveness of the projectile. The projectile is injection molded with metals or ceramic alloys and can also include complex design features.

Polycase, which began making molded ammunition in 2012, operates two 80-ton Sumitomo Demag injection molding machines. It partnered with PolyOne to develop a special high-density compound for lead-replacement.

Defense, Injection Molding, Metal Injection Molding (MIM), North America, Polyamides, Sports

Printable Steel Powder Targets Molds, Tools

An improved additively manufactured steel suitable for use in injection molds may be on the way.

NanoSteel, a producer of nanostructured steel materials based in Providence, Rhode Island, is launching BLDRmetal L-40, a case-hardening steel powder that provides high hardness and ductility (case hardness >70HRC, 10%+ core elongation).

SLS can produce complex shapes such as die set made with new steel. (NanoSteel)

Robyn Kennedy, marketing communications manager of NanoSteel, told The Molding Blog: “We haven’t tested this material in an injection molding application yet. However, we believe the BLDRmetal L-40 material would be suitable because it has superior hardness and ductility than materials currently available for additive manufacturing, such as M300 maraging steel. Injection molders would like to use P20, but this material cracks when used in in the laser powder bed fusion process, and we believe that the L-40 material will be able to deliver competitive performance without cracking, thereby delivering on the benefits of 3D printing.”

In a demonstration with printing partner CFK GmbH of Kriftel, Germany, an 8-inch roll thread die set was printed with the new ferrous printing material.

“We tried nearly every combination of material and conventional CNC machining process to create our dual-thread die sets, none of which could cut or grind the complicated dual-thread geometry,” said Mark Doll, President and CEO of Perfect Lock Bolt America Inc., the only manufacturer of dual-thread fasteners in North America that are said to be resistant to self-loosening. The new die set is going into production this year.

“For us, the most important attributes of NanoSteel’s BLDRmetal L-40 are that it is easily implemented and creates crack-free high hardness components, which sets it apart from the many other tool steels we have tested” said Christoph Over, CEO at CFK.

Use of SLS to make tool inserts has been around for more than 20 years, but has not taken off. The new material claims superior material properties over those currently available. Most 3D printing of tool inserts is done for short runs with plastic materials.

Founded in 2002, NanoSteel is a privately held company funded by investors including GM Ventures, Lear Corporation and SPDG.

Additive manufacturing, Molds & Moldmaking ,

Gardner Takes Over NPE Dailies: A Changing of the Guard?

There may be an important changing of the guard at NPE2018, which will take place in Orlando, Florida May 7-11, 2018.

The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) announced yesterday that Gardner Business Media, publisher of Plastics Technology, MoldMaking Technology and other media, will be the official publisher of the NPE2018 Show Daily.

That will end a 27-year run for Crain’s Plastics News, which first published a show daily in competition with Modern Plastics in 1991, and then exclusively since 2000.

The change is interesting because PLASTICS (formerly the Society of the Plastics Industry) is a conservative organization that does not make changes lightly.

No one could claim that the show daily was wrested from Plastics News because of poor performance. Its show dailies both for the NPE and the K fairs were of consistently high quality, featuring excellent, fresh reporting by a very good editorial staff. And content was timely. Modern Plastics, the longtime industry leader, had gotten fat and lazy, often preprinting large sections of early show announcements.

It seems that Gardner put forth a first-class bid centered on its breadth of technical reporting and expertise as well as its experience in publishing a show daily at the giant IMTS show at McCormick Place. Its flagship plastics publication, Plastics Technology, has consistently emphasized technical and product news with excellent interpretation by industry mavens. That may be a better fit for many of the equipment exhibitors at the NPE. The focus at Plastics News was often corporate or business news, and not product news.

The PLASTICS official announcement hints at that.

PLASTICS President & CEO William R. Carteaux said: “We look forward to seeing how Gardner uses its technical expertise to capture the spirit of the show, and the spirit of the industry, in new and exciting ways with their singular vision for the show’s print and digital media.”

Rick Kline, Jr., president of Gardner Business Media, said: “We are very excited to be partnering with the PLASTICS team to deliver a one-of-a-kind Show Daily to the attendees of NPE2018. Gardner has a strong commitment to the plastics industry and to American manufacturing as a whole, and we look forward to highlighting the amazing technology and new products that exhibitors will have on display at the show.”

Don Loepp, the longtime head of editorial at Plastics News, provided this statement to The Molding Blog: “Plastics industry readers know we excel at covering NPE, we’ve been doing it since 1991 and we’ll do it again in 2018…Our dailies, at NPE and other trade shows, have eight times been honored with Azbee awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. That’s a competition where we go up against the best editorial work from all business-to-business journalism, not just the plastics industry. Even though we won’t be doing daily print issues at NPE2018, we’re already planning to cover the show the same way we always have, with a full editorial team and lots of digital products including breaking news stories and video.”

Jim Callari, editorial director and associate publisher of Plastics Technology, provided this comment to The Molding Blog: “Throughout its 64-year history, Plastics Technology has focused its editorial efforts on delivering unparalleled coverage of new technology—and how it can be deployed at plastics processing plants. The NPE Show Daily will bring that editorial expertise to attendees of NPE2018. Plastics Technology has assembled a powerhouse team of highly experienced editors who know the technology developments that are important to processors inside out. What’s more, as part of Gardner, we will also be tapping into the editorial know-how of sister brands MoldMaking Technology, Composites World, Automotive Design & Production, AutoBeat Daily, and Additive Manufacturing to provide complete coverage of all new technologies that will be exhibited. Gardner is no stranger to show dailies, having produced and delivered the IMTS Show Daily since 1994 for AMT-The Association for Manufacturing Technology. As part of our arrangement with PLASTICS, Gardner will also produce a half-day Additive Manufacturing workshop tentatively scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.” 

It’s not clear what all the issues were that factored into the decision to change NPE show publishers.

PLASTICS wanted the dailies to be branded as NPE dailies. Gardner agreed to that. It’s probable that some type of revenue sharing was involved.

Whatever, it’s an important change. First of all because it’s close to a million-dollar business. Also, it establishes significant exposure and credibility for the publisher. Modern Plastics was clearly the industry media leader when it published the show daily. That flipped to Plastics News by 2000.

Is Gardner now the plastics industry media leader? Maybe. I remember 17 years ago when Plastics Technology was an orphan ditched by VNU, which had purchased it from a private equity group.  Rick Kline took a flyer on PT as a way to hedge against continuing declines in the machine tool industry. Then he added Moldmaking Technology, composites publishing assets, industry conferences, and beefed up the editorial staff with a particular focus on improving digital properties.

It’s not clear if this development will have any bearing on who publishes the English K Show daily—another gem taken over by Plastics News when Modern Plastics collapsed.

Loepp comments: “The 2019 K Fair is more than two years away; it’s early in the planning process to discuss that project. But we will be doing show dailies at Fakuma in Germany and Plastimagen in Mexico later this year. This is the second time we’ve done dailies at Plastimagen, which are entirely in Spanish.”


Injection Molding