In just about every aspect of materials processing, excitement for new applications of the technology and industry growth starts with new materials. And it does not matter if the end application is mature or emerging. From a mature standpoint, Royal DSM N.V. Stanyl engineering plastic has found applications for gears in automotive applications that include seat recliners and starter motors. With new applications, such as automotive radar, materials such as Ticona’s Vectra liquid crystalline polymer (LCP) have enabled safer vehicles.
Applying these materials in a cost-effective and timely manner increasingly involves simulation. To improve simulation capability, Moldflow Corp. developed Moldflow Structural Alliance (MSA) 1.0 that links to Abaqus and ANSYS allowing users to improve the quality and accuracy of structural analyses for plastic parts, especially for those involving fiber-filled materials.
In the area of plastic gears, perhaps the biggest changes are the newest American Gear Mfg. Assoc. specifications. The new specifications separate the two common methods to inspect the gears, the double flank roll and elemental inspection. The two methods of inspection do not correlate one to the other,” says Andy Ulrich, a senior engineer at UFE. “It is up to the user now or the specifier to really dig into those standards and see what they really mean when they are specifying.”
The multi-component molding area is using “more and more combinations of materials to combine the best of both properties,” says Dan Tolan, an engineering manager at Phillips Plastics’ Multi-Shot Molding facility. An example is nylon-on-nylon with two different types of nylon, where one of the surfaces has to be a wearable surface and the other has to provide strength.
In other materials processing areas, to provide improvements over an alternative, one process simply takes advantage of the combination of materials and the process technique. In Metal Injection Molding (MIM), the materials’ mechanical properties offer improvements over competing approaches, especially for applications such as medical implants. For example, the tensile and High Cycle Fatigue properties of F-75 are superior to investment cast F-75, while the microstructure of MIM F-75 is finer than the investment cast. Similarly, the gas-assist molding process that utilizes nitrogen to hollow out large, thick, wall sections creates these thicker sections without sink marks or the characteristic swirl appearance of structural foam.
In contrast to plastics, rubber products have taken a different approach. Rubber products have benefited from new techniques to enhance functionality for reducing friction, creating a tacky surface or overmolding to withstand several sterilization cycles.