One hot growth area for thermoplastics in the next few years will be long fiber thermoplastics (LFT) as a metal replacement. They feature continuous fiber filaments running the full length of a plastic pellet, boosting strength, stiffness, and impact resistance over a wide temperature range. Pellet lengths can typically be specified in a 6 to 12 mm range while the fiber length in short fiber pellets is typically less than 1 mm.
One of the major suppliers is specialty compounder RTP Co. of Winona, MN, which uses a pultrusion process to manufacture LFT. In pultrusion, continuous fiber rovings are pulled through a polymer melt in a specialized die. The resulting composite strands are cooled and chopped into pellets. Loading levels are typically in the range of 40 to 50 percent. Glass fiber is the most popular reinforcement for cost reasons, but other materials provide different properties. Aramid fiber is used for wear requirements, while stainless steel fiber provides electrostatic dissipation (ESD) and electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding properties. Carbon fiber provides additional benefits in flexural modulus while also providing ESD properties, according to RTP, which has an excellent FAQ on LFT.
Among recent news, Celanese Corp. announced the acquisition of the long-fiber reinforced thermoplastics business of FACT GmbH (Future Advanced Composites Technology) of Kaiserslautern, Germany, a business unit of The Ravago Group.
At last June’s National Plastics Exposition in Chicago, several LFT technocgies were on display. PolyOne Corp. launched the OnForce LFT compounds, which are optimized for surface finish, stiffness, and toughness. SABIC Innovative Plastics (LNP) showed its StaMax long-glass PP compounds for automotive applications. Several other companies also supply LFT, which is expected to grow at the rate of more than 20 per cent a year when economic conditions improve. The dominant matrix resins are polypropylene and nylon, although others are also widely used.
A new service lets engineers and orthopedic surgeons design and 3D print highly accurate, patient-specific, orthopedic medical implants made of metal -- without owning a 3D printer. Using free, downloadable software, users can import ASCII and binary .STL files, design the implant, and send an encrypted design file to a third-party manufacturer.
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
Capping a 30-year quest, GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from ceramic matrix composites. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine.
Seismic shifts in 3D printing materials include an optimization method that reduces the material needed to print an object by 85 percent, research designed to create new, stronger materials, and a new ASTM standard for their mechanical properties.
A recent study finds that 3D printing is both cheaper and greener than traditional factory-based mass manufacturing and distribution. At least, it's true for making consumer plastic products on open-source, low-cost RepRap printers.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.