SPE Industry Update
Apr. 4, 2012

New breed of plastic bleeds, heals itself
Engadget via CNET
Researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi have developed a new kind of self-repairing plastic that could lead to impenetrable cellphones, laptops and cars — or the next Terminator. Team lead professor Marek W. Urban recently presented the results of the research at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in San Diego, revealing a type of plastic that mimics human skin. Though self-healing plastic isn't a new concept, Urban says the benefit of his team's plastic is its warning system and ability to repair itself over and over again.More

Carbon nanotubes in wind turbine blades
SPE Plastics Research Online
In recent years, wind power has become an increasingly attractive source of energy generation. Between 1990 and 2007, the world's total wind electricity capacity grew by a factor of 50 and is predicted to continue to increase at a dramatic rate. Wind turbines from the leading manufacturers are generally guaranteed to operate over a lifetime of approximately 20 years. To extend this working lifetime and to meet increasing energy needs requires advanced wind blades that are stiff, strong and have extended fatigue resistance.More

Cavitation-induced rupture of high-density polyethylene
SPE Plastics Research Online
Most ways of testing the mechanical properties of polymers were originally developed for metals. Although these methods have served well for purposes of comparing and evaluating the short-term behavior of polymers, deformation mechanisms are very different for polymers and metals. Consequently, conventional techniques often fail to predict the durability of polymer products. In contrast to common fractures caused by surface defects, a particular kind of tear in high-density polyethylene initiates in the central core region of the specimen. More

FDA denies petition to ban common chemical BPA
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration denied the petition from an environmental group to ban the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, which has been used for decades to harden plastic or make the epoxy resin that lines tin cans. U.S. regulators said studies showing harm have been inconclusive so far, although they continue to review the evidence. The FDA said it would provide an updated safety review of BPA later this year, based on further analysis and government studies.More

Chinese resin imports rebound in February after New Year lull
Plastics Today
China's polymer imports posted a noticeable rise from January to February, according to the pricing service ChemOrbis, which analyzed data from Chinese Customs. The increase made up for a steep drop recorded from December to January, which was impacted in part by the weeklong Chinese New Year holidays that took place in January rather than February this year.More

Polymerization inhibition for 3-D nanolithography
Materials Views
Being able to produce arbitrarily complex 3-D structures through a simple fabrication method is the ultimate goal in nanostructure pattering. Direct-laser-writing optical lithography could be the method of choice. Typically, photoinitiator molecules in a photoresist are excited via two-photon absorption by a tightly focused laser beam, which initiate a polymerization reaction only within the light focus. The polymerized region is then the building block for more complex structures that are usually created by scanning either sample or focus. More

SPE and PTI offer top training for plastics professionals
A spring Society of Plastics Engineers FastTrack training program has been announced. The topics have been designed to enhance injection molding, extrusion molding, blow molding and thermoforming knowledge levels regardless of plastics industry tenure. Produced by industry thought-leader Plastic Technologies Inc., the program will be held May 7-10 at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Airport.More

New polymer gives designers more flexibility
Ultem is a polyetherimide resin originating from aerospace-grade Ultem resin. It provides long-term performance and feather-light comfort; allowing designers to eliminate titanium and aluminum from the material selection process for eyewear frames. Other benefits of the new resin are exceptional flexibility, flame retardance and resistance to chemicals, heat and ultraviolet light, as well as greatly expanded design freedom.More

SPI: US plastics industry is on track to recover from recession this year
Plastics News
The U.S. plastics industry has an "extremely good chance" to recover to production levels from before the global recession by the end of this year, a senior official with the Society of the Plastics Industry predicted at NPE2012. "If the trends continue in the same direction, and nothing of a large negative scale like a Eurozone meltdown or something unforeseen like what happened in Japan does not occur, I think we have an extremely good chance by the end of the calendar year of returning to pre-recession levels," said Michael Taylor, SPI's senior director of international trade.More

Mount graphene to put brake on electrons
University of Arizona via Futurity
Graphite, more commonly known as pencil lead, could become the next big thing in the quest for smaller and less power-hungry electronics. Resembling chicken wire on the nanoscale, graphene — a single sheet of graphite — is only one atom thick, making it the world's thinnest material. The tricky part physicists have yet to figure out is how to control the flow of electrons through the material, a necessary prerequisite for putting it to work in any type of electronic circuit.More

Electroactive polymer key to durable full-screen Braille displays
North Carolina State University via R&D Magazine
A team of North Carolina State University researchers are one step closer to creating a workable, affordable full-screen Braille computer display that would allow the blind to scan Web pages in much the same way that sighted people do. The researchers wanted to test different materials for use in the actuators, which move the pins that create the Braille dots, to ensure that the raised dots would support the weight of readers' fingers and enable them to scroll through the material quickly.More

Hair and polymers click
Royal Society of Chemistry
In the search for new hair care products, scientists in the United Kingdom have developed a new method to chemically modify hair with polymers. Polymers are present within many hair care products and are used to modify the appearance of hair, for example to make it straighter or to change its color. These polymers modify the surface of the hair and as they are used in a personal and uncontrolled setting, mild and efficient chemistry is required.More

Dow shutters plants on 3 continents, cuts 900 jobs
The Associated Press via The Washington Post
Dow Chemical will cut 900 jobs and shutter plants on three continents because of weakness in Europe, which may soon tip back into recession of it has not done so already. Dow was ravaged during the global and economic crisis that struck four years ago, cutting more than 10,000 positions then. CEO Andrew Liveris has aggressively sought to keep the company, the nation's largest chemical maker, agile despite its size.More

Equity firm buying Milacron
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A new private equity firm has agreed to acquire Milacron LLC, the 128-year-old provider of plastic processing equipment in Batavia, Ohio. Financial terms of the purchase by New York-based CCMP Capital Advisors LLC weren't disclosed. Milacron said the purchase, expected to be completed later this spring, wouldn't change the company's management or operations in greater Cincinnati.More

Drug release polymer triggered by ultrasound
Royal Society of Chemistry
Scientists from China and Canada have found that a drug-loaded shape memory polymer can be manipulated by ultrasound and that they can control when and how the drugs are released. Shape memory polymers can be deformed and fixed into a temporary shape and then recover their original permanent shape under external stimuli such as heat, explains lead researcher Hesheng Xia from Sichuan University in Chengdu, China.More

What's the future of medical mold making in the US?
Plastics Today
In large part, the future of medical injection molding in the United States depends on its ability to innovate in leading-edge mold manufacturing. Mold designers and manufacturers must respond to requirements for more cost-effective medical device components, high-quality parts, and smaller parts, in addition to other trends. One of the longtime leading players is Bill Kushmaul, who started Tech Mold in Tempe, Ariz., in partnership with Steve Uhlman, founder of Tech Plastics (eventually the Tech Group) in 1972. Kushmaul gives his thoughts on the state of the industry.More

Moving microfluidics from the lab bench to the factory floor
MIT News
In the not-too-distant future, plastic chips the size of flash cards may quickly and accurately diagnose diseases such as AIDS and cancer, as well as detect toxins and pathogens in the environment. Such lab-on-a-chip technology — known as microfluidics — works by flowing fluid such as blood through microscopic channels etched into a polymer's surface. Scientists have devised ways to manipulate the flow at micro- and nanoscales to detect certain molecules or markers that signal disease.More

Where the silica-polymer compound meets the road
Core 77
Japanese manufacturer Falken has struck upon a blend of silica, polymer and rubber to create a new compound that doesn't heat up as much during rolling, as the conventional stuff. This means less rolling resistance and improved mileage. The properties of the material also cause it to provide a larger point of contact with the asphalt than a same-sized tire made of conventional material, which means Falken's offers better grip.More