Polymer consulting is a huge consultant practice area for CECON and our polymer experts span the field from plastic consulting to organic fiber consulting, polymer film experts and elastomer consultants and coating experts.
Let's start with a discussion of fundamentals. What's the difference between "plastics" and "polymers" and "elastomers"? "Polymer" is the chemical term for a long chain molecule often made of repeating monomer chemical units. Synthetic plastics, DNA, cellulose from wood and other natural products are all polymers. "Plastic" infers plasticity, the ability to be formed by a thermo mechanical process, but not all polymers are plastic, such as DNA and cellulose. "Plastics" is the popular name for the everyday plastic items like "Styrofoam" cups and "Teflon" coatings. Elastomers are rubber like polymers and generally extensible, compliant and return to the original shape after deformation. Plastic films are free standing two dimensional continuous sheets of material and plastic coatings are generally formulated systems applied from a vehicle (solvent or water) to produce a very thin supported plastic coating film.
Plastic Classification and Properties
Plastic materials vary substantially. Different monomer chemistries, additives, reinforcements, molecular weight and many other variables give hundreds of families of plastic materials and tens of thousands of grades. Plastics are most often classified by:
- Thermoplastic or thermosetting: Thermoplastics are remeltable while thermosetting polymers chemically react during processing to become intractable on generally non-melting.
- Mechanical properties: Stiffness, strength, toughness (fracture resistance) weight;
- Elastic properties: Related to stiffness, the elasticity is the ability of the polymer to bend and deform without breaking. Elastomers, such as natural or synthetic rubbers, tolerate a large amount of distortion and normally return to their original shape.
- Thermal properties: Basically, what is the maximum use temperature? This is a key contributor to value for a plastic, elastomer or film -- the higher the maximum use temperature, the higher the value;
- Fluid resistance is the ability of a plastic to resist strong acids, bases and organic solvents. The more chemically inert a material is, such as "Teflon", the higher the value; and,
- Functional properties: This is a catch all category including electromagnetic, electrically conductive, optical, vibrational dampening and other such properties.
Consultants expert in both thermoplastic and thermosetting systems are in the Cecon Network and are knowledgeable of all polymer applicacal forming techniques: Injection molding, compression molding, transfer molding, powder forming molding, polymer extrusion and polymer blow molding. Cecon plastic expert with the following selected plastic materials are available:
High performance and specialty plastics
- Fluoropolymers (PTFE, PFA, FEP, and related chlorofluorocarbon polymers),"Teflon"
- Polyimide, "Kapton"
- Polyetheretherketone (PEEK), "Victrex"
- Polyetherketoneketone (PEKK)
- nylon (polyamide), "Zytel"
- acetal, "Delrin""Celcon"
- polycarbonate "Lexan" "Makrolon" "Calibre"
General purpose plastics
- Olefins: polyethylene, polypropylene, HMWPE, UHMWPE
- Polyvinyl chloride
Plastic film film consultants span many market segments, products and technologies related to use of plastic film in applications, such as: Packaging, magnetic medial, reprographic media, flat panel displays, photo voltaic systems, substrates for printed circuits, micro porous membrane structures. Consultants are skilled on polymer type and resulting film properties and grade selection for specific applications. Polymer expertises for film manufacture centers on these resin systems:
- Olefins: polyethylene, polypropylene, HMWPE, UHMWPE
Technologists related to the production of plastic films are expert in polymer extrusion, polymer blow molding and the tools and dies required for film forming from the melt. Experts also are available for film co extrusion and film coating. In film manufacturing there are many mechanical considerations for the technical expert, such as:
- Handling large wide webs of polymer as the web cools from the melt to a solid sheet.
- Controlling the cooling rate of the polymer to develop desirable properties.
- Mechanically stretching the film in the machine or cross web directions, again to maximize film properties and desired morphology.
- Film slitting and roll wind up.
- Formed film coating.
Elastomers and Rubbers
Experts exist for traditional vulcanized elastomers such as neoprene, nitrile and butyl rubber, and thermoplastic elastomers such as systems based on polyester, block olefin copolymers, PVC plasticols and related polymer technology. Compound formulation, intensive mixing, shape forming and curing experts are available for some elastomeric systems.
Nylon, polyester, polypropylene and many other polymers are fabricated into filaments and fibers for textile, reinforcement, ropes and a host of other uses. CECON experts span the different polymer types and the basics of fiber manufacturing: Polymer make up and compound formulation, fiber spinning, fiber quenching and fiber conditioning such as stretching, crimping and coating. Technologists also exist for fiber roll take up, fiber staple production, fiber production from staple and fiber twisting
Plastics shapes are made by many processes: injection molding, compression molding, extrusion, casting, transfer molding, blow molding, powder processing and stock machining, just to name a few. Plastics can be difficult to process because they can change properties during a thermal cycle or exposure to shear force as in injection molding.