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.
Many of the new adhesives we're featuring in this slideshow are for use in automotive and other transportation applications. The rest of these new products are for a wide variety of applications including aviation, aerospace, electrical motors, electronics, industrial, and semiconductors.
A Columbia University team working on molecular-scale nano-robots with moving parts has run into wear-and-tear issues. They've become the first team to observe in detail and quantify this process, and are devising coping strategies by observing how living cells prevent aging.
Many of the new materials on display at MD&M West were developed to be strong, tough replacements for metal parts in different kinds of medical equipment: IV poles, connectors for medical devices, medical device trays, and torque-applying instruments for orthopedic surgery. Others are made for close contact with patients.
New sensor technology integrates sensors, traces, and electronics into a smart fabric for wearables that measures more dimensions -- force, location, size, twist, bend, stretch, and motion -- and displays data in 3D maps.
As we saw on the show floor this week at the Pacific Design & Manufacturing and co-located events in Anaheim, Calif., 3D printing is contributing to distributed manufacturing and being reinvented by engineers for their own needs. Meanwhile, new fasteners are appearing for wearable consumer and medical devices and Baxter Robot has another software upgrade.
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