Industry News • Paul Murphy Plastics

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November 5, 2018by admin

he global medical device industry is experiencing robust growth—it is forecast to grow at a 4.5% compound annual growth rate through 2023, according to business forecaster Lucintel Services—and, as the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. That would seem to be the case for thermoformed packaging supplier Placon (Elkhart, IN), which has doubled its thermoforming capacity with the addition of a Class 8 cleanroom. The company also announced that it will install a new press that is expected to be operational by the end of this month.

The new cleanroom was designed to hold three additional thermoforming presses, and plans are already underway for installation of the second press, said the company in a press release. “The expansion will allow us to provide better customer service to our partner accounts, get their products to market faster, and supports our corporate strategy for growth in the medical packaging market,” said John MacDougall, Medical Sales Manager, in a prepared statement.


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November 5, 2018by admin

Flexible packaging is experiencing notable growth in all market segments. Totaling approximately $31 billion in annual sales in 2017, the major flexible packaging markets include retail and institutional food and non-food (medical and pharmaceutical), industrial materials, shrink and stretch films, retail shopping bags, consumer storage bags and wraps, and trash bags. That was the message delivered by Alison Keane, CEO of the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA; Annapolis, MD) at its annual meeting last month in Phoenix, AZ.

Flexible packaging represents approximately 19% of the $167 billion U.S. packaging industry, and is the second largest packaging segment behind corrugated paper and just ahead of bottles and miscellaneous rigid plastic packaging. Flexible packaging’s solid long-term strength, coupled with its use in replacing other packaging formats, resulted in the growth of flexible from 17% in 2000 to the current level of 19% in 2017.

In spite of a wave of consolidation in the industry—FPA has gone from 668 member companies to 411 because of mergers and acquisitions—sales are up as companies are “making more with less,” Keane reported. “Twenty years ago, we saw big companies buying small and mid-sized firms, but in 2017 we saw the big guys buying the big guys. The top 10 converters today account for 54% of the market.”


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November 5, 2018by admin

The requirements for long-term resistance to cyclic mechanical loads, also known as fatigue strength, are increasing, particularly in the case of plastic components found under car hoods. Responding to this trend, Lanxess is building a new polyamide 6 product range dubbed Durethan Performance.

The grades are reportedly several times more resistant to fatigue under pulsating loads than standard products with the same glass fiber content. The first products in the range are the thermally-stabilized Durethan BKV30PH2.0, BKV35PH2.0, and BKV40PH2.0 compounds with glass fiber contents of 30, 35, and 40 percent, as well as the impact resistance-modified Durethan BKV130P compound, which is reinforced with 30 percent glass fiber.

“With these new products, we are targeting applications in automobiles, such as air-intake systems and oil-filter modules or parking brakes. There is also great application potential for housing and structural components of power tools, such as drilling or grinding machines. And with regard to the furniture industry, for example, parts for furniture locking systems could be manufactured from the impact-resistant modified product type,” explains Dr. Thomas Linder, an expert in materials development of Durethan at LANXESS.

In addition to the dynamic behavior, the static mechanical profile of the new construction materials has also been improved. For example, they offer more tensile strength at higher temperatures than standard products with the same glass fiber content. “Its mechanical properties makes the polyamide 6 based Durethan Performance in many cases an alternative material for polyamide 66 compounds, which have become much more expensive in recent years. This substitution can often be carried out without increasing the glass fiber content, so that no higher material density and thus a higher component weight need to be accepted,” explains Linder.

Lanxess has investigated the dynamic behavior of the new compounds on a demonstrator resembling lightweight structural components. This so-called HiAnt element is an injection-molded U-shaped profile that is reinforced on the inside with crosswise ribs. Among other tests, three-point-bending fatigue Wöhler experiments were carried out with this practically oriented test specimen. Linder: “In these tests, Durethan BKV30PH2.0 showed a service life around three times longer than a standard polyamide 6 material with 30 percent glass fiber reinforcement at a bending load of 2.75 kN.”


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October 31, 2018by admin

In addition, ADC is now available on XC300 Navigator, the company’s new PC-based extrusion touchscreen control system. Navigator leverages the multi-core PC computing power without the need for a PLC. This allows Graham Engineering to cost-effectively retrofit ADC technology into existing tubing extrusion lines that include an ultrasonic wall thickness measurement system.

How it works

ADC allows for touchscreen based manual or automatic adjustment of tubing concentricity as shown on Figure 1. The die head includes four low wattage pin heaters located in the rear mandrel of the die head where they can be heated in an uneven pattern to ‘flex’ the die pin position relative to the die bushing. The integrated touchscreen system allows the operator the ability to graphically view the current centering positions, make manual adjustments and control automatic operation. Once the line is running the operator hits a button to bring the die to center. The system reacts to adjust to the power levels of pin heaters in the mandrel to flex the mandrel and precisely adjust the pin location relative to the die. The system is integrated with an on-line ultrasonic gauge for full closed-loop control of concentricity (wall thickness variation). This involves capturing the data from the gauge controller into the PC to perform the process control. Concentricity levels of 97% and higher can be quickly reached, levels that cannot be achieved by the traditional and time-consuming method of manually adjusting four die bolts. The system also allows the operator the ability to make adjustments to compensate for the tubing twisting as it moves through the ultrasonic wall gauge.

The importance of uniform wall thickness

ADC technology is ideal for stringent micro tubing applications where the physical properties of the polymers are being pushed to the limits such as thin-walled PA12 and PA12/Pebax blend tubing for angioplasty and stent delivery balloons, and bioresorbable PLLA tubing for stent scaffold applications. Thin wall PA12 balloon tubing with pressure requirements up to 30atm (450 psi) often require concentricity levels of > 95% across the length of the balloon tubing. Any thin spots in the wall thickness result in mechanical failure points. For bioresorbable stent applications ultra-uniform wall thickness control is critical because the tubing lumen accommodates fluid flow and any variations in wall thickness (particularly on the higher side) can cause increasingly turbulent flow that can lead to adverse clinical events such as thrombosis in vascular applications.

Long runs plagued by die drool

ADC technology is also beneficial for long runs of single-lumen medical tubing from PE, TPE, and TPU for fluid transfer applications. In the production environment, lot-to-lot variations in the raw material do occur. Most modern extrusion lines compensate for drifts in the process by incorporating sophisticated inline gauging systems that include closed loop control of OD tolerances and in some cases wall thickness tolerances. Today’s gauging systems include high measurement rates (4000+/second) with up to 4 axis OD micrometers and up to 8 point wall measurement systems. ADC adds a new dimension to extrusion technology by enabling tight control of tubing concentricity. However, one of the limiting factors related to long tubing runs is an interruption in production from die drool.

Die drool occurs during the extrusion of polyolefins, polyamides, thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), and most radiopaque filled polymers resulting in an unwanted build-up of low molecular weight fragments on the exit face of the die. One of the compounds where die drool is recognized as a chronic problem is aromatic TPU with 20% barium sulfate in the 85A to 55D durometer range. In some cases, a savvy extrusion technician can scrape the accumulated material from the die exit region. Die drool can also be found on the inside surface of the tubing as shown on Figure 2, which makes manually scrapping the drool mass from the die virtually impossible. The die deposit (internal or external) will eventually release from the die face and affect the quality and appearance of the extruded tubing. Invariably the extrusion line has to be shut down to clean the die deposit, which is costly and time consuming. In order to fully take advantage of ADC for long run tubing applications, further work must be done to minimize the frequency of die drool.

Die drool is a complex problem with many interrelated mechanisms, but there are a few extrusion parameters that can be studied in an attempt to minimize build up on the outer die surface. These include pressure fluctuations (surging) in the screw, moisture levels, die tooling coatings, and die exit angles.


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