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Articles from 2020 In March


Top 5 Reads in Plastics Packaging Q1 2020

Top 5 Reads in Plastics Packaging Q1 2020

2020 was rolling along fairly normally when all of a sudden and seemingly out of nowhere — nowhere was, in fact, China — well, everyone knows what’s happened there, here, and everywhere.

Pre-pandemic at PlasticsToday, industry developments, trends, and news in plastics was SOP as it has been for years. And that continues, though these days our coverage includes reports on COVID-19’s effect on the plastics industry. landfillNow, at the end of March, we pause briefly to reflect and review the top-read, most popular articles posted on the Packaging Channel, presented in reverse order.

Once an admirable goal for plastic packaging and single-use plastic products, recycling of late has been called “garbage” (New York Times Magazine), “greenwashing” (Greenbiz) and "The Great Recycling Con" (New York Times). In the latter article, authors Tala Schlossebers and Nayeema Raza call recycling “propaganda” because the industry “wants to trick us into thinking we can use as much plastic as we want so long as we recycle.”

Read Are plastic recycling programs rubbish?

#4.

Dr. Bruce Welt of the University of Florida has evaluated multiple approaches to the municipal solid waste (MSW) problem and found that the most effective science-based solution is plasma gasification technology. A consortium within the UF Center For Advanced Recycling to transform the MSW infrastructure using a method that is a solution for all waste also addresses the shortcomings of the current system.  

Plasma gasification is a proven technology used in other domains and parts of the world since the early 2000s and would work as well for the US.

Read Is plasma gasification the solution for plastics and all waste?

 

#3.

fake vs factsBeing “green” has its rules, and they are often confusing. To quote Kermit, “It isn’t easy being green.” A big part of the problem in getting people to dispose of their waste properly is educating them on the rules.

Most people believe that anything that is thrown into the blue curbside bins can be recycled. Take paper, for example. Some recyclers have stopped accepting paper because most of them are drowning in it. Composters will not accept paper that has been bleached white with chlorine, which creates dioxins that are toxic.

Paper is not always recyclable, and mostly not at all when it comes to composting.

Read The truth about compostable plastics

 

Next: The two most-read articles.

Coffee and ECG

#2.

The first apperance in this list of the coronivirus effect...just when the “greens” thought they’d won over the giant coffee industry and Starbucks, in particular, with its reusable coffee cup campaign, to rid the world of single-use plastics, along came the coronavirus. According to articles on several news sites, Starbucks has banned customers from bringing their reusable cups into the stores for refills because of the pandemic.

Read Who Knew? The Reusable Coffee Cup in the Age of Coronavirus Is a Really Bad Idea

 

#1.

Shell says that it has successfully made “high-end” chemicals using a liquid feedstock made from plastic waste using a pyrolysis process that is considered a breakthrough for hard-to-recycle plastics. The initiative advances Shell’s ambition to use one million tonnes of plastic waste a year in its global chemical plants by 2025.

Read Shell uses plastic waste to produce resin feedstocks

Abbott Brings Rapid Testing to the Front Lines

Abbott Laboratories Abbott Brings Rapid Testing to the Front Lines
Image of Abbott's ID NOW courtesy of Abbott

Abbott’s new ID NOW COVID-19 test, which earned emergency use authorization (EUA) from FDA last week, was highlighted during President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 taskforce press briefing on March 30. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn spoke about the rapid approval of Abbott’s point-of-care test for COVID-19.

“Normally these tests take months to develop,” Hahn noted during the briefing. “I was on the phone today with the Abbott CEO who told me this is normally a 9- to 12-month approach to developing a point-of-care test. They did this in collaboration with FDA and the U.S. government in just a few weeks.”

MD+DI checked in with Abbott and heard from Norman Moore, PhD, scientific affairs, infectious diseases, Abbott, who said that “while developing new molecular tests normally takes years, our expert teams of scientists worked around the clock to compress the timeframe down to weeks.”

The new COVID-19 test runs on Abbott's portable molecular-testing ID NOW platform—the unit was displayed sitting on a table during the White House briefing. The platform was introduced in 2014 and is widely used for Influenza A and B, Strep A, and RSV testing in the United States. Such molecular testing detects the presence of a virus by identifying a small section of the virus's genome, then amplifying that portion until there's enough for detection, Abbott explained on its site. A positive result can be delivered in five minutes, and a negative one in 13 minutes, the company stated.

“The COVID-19 test uses the same approach as our POC influenza tests,” Moore told MD+DI. “The new ID NOW COVID-19 assays can be used on existing ID NOW equipment."

The rapid ID NOW COVID-19 test is on a rapid path to market. “Our manufacturing teams are working to ramp up production to its highest levels,” Moore said. “We will deliver 50,000 tests a day beginning April 1st.”

The test is Abbott’s second to receive FDA’s EUA for COVID-19 virus detection. The first was Abbott’s RealTime SARS-CoV-2 EUA test for use on its molecular laboratory instrument, the m2000 RealTime System. Abbott expects to produce about 5 million tests for detecting the COVID-19 virus per month for the m2000 RealTime System and ID NOW platforms combined.

“The most innovative and safe products come from the private sector in partnership with government taking an all-hands-on-deck approach just like in this case,” Hahn said during the March 30 White House briefing. “Abbott and FDA worked together to make sure that we had a fast, reliable, and accurate test to market.”

Is Second Sight Closing up Shop?

Is Second Sight Closing up Shop?
Image by Adobe Stock

Second Sight Medical Products is the latest medtech company to face tough losses as a result of the financial impact of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The Sylmar, CA-based company is laying off 84 of its 108 employees and said it intends to wind-down operations.

The firm develops implantable visual prosthetics that are intended to create an artificial form of useful vision for blind individuals. FDA greenlit the Argus II retinal prosthesis system in 2013.

Plans now call for the Second Sight to retain an adviser experienced in winding down operations to guide the board on the next steps. Any wind down activity, if implemented, will be subject to uncertainties. Second Sight said additional layoffs are expected to be made at a later date based on its level of operations.

The company is now working on the Orion Visual Cortical Prosthesis System (Orion). It is an implanted cortical stimulation device intended to provide useful artificial vision to individuals who are blind due to a wide range of causes, including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, optic nerve injury or disease, and eye injury.

This is a departure from the company’s previous success. In 2013, MD+DI named Second Sight Manufacturer of the Year. The firm was launched in 1998.

The measure follows weight-loss specialist Obalon Therapeutics announcing it explored financial and strategic alternatives because of the impact of COVID-19 on elective procedures.

Developing Raw Technology

Developing Raw Technology
Perry Parendo of Perry's Solutions

During the MD&M Minneapolis 2019 conference, Perry Parendo of Perry's Solutions spoke about best project management practices for engineers. Afterward, a sidebar conversation began regarding new technology exploration. MD+DI asked Parendo a few questions on how engineers could approach what he calls “raw technology.”

Do engineers employed by medical device companies have enough time and internal support to develop raw technology? If not, what are some best practices to better support such work?

Parendo: Time available really depends on the company. A start up needs cash flow, so it can only develop stretch technologies with a risk-tolerant investor. In large corporate organizations, they need to be dedicated resources. Splitting time between a near-term revenue project and a pure-technology project is impossible to balance. The time available for new technology will suffer significantly.

To support technology work, companies need to dedicate a percentage of R&D spending for technology projects that contain dedicated resources. Collaboration between groups is always expected, but these dedicated technology groups need to be focused on their appropriate time horizon. Prioritization comes in the form of full-time, dedicated resources.

Does it depend upon the size of company? Are there suggestions for large companies and for smaller companies for developing raw technology?

Parendo: It certainly is impacted by the size of company. A small company needs to have parallel path project plans. These companies cannot afford a dead-end project, so they need to ensure a certain level of confidence of completing a cash flow producing product. The probability for revenue needs to be at a certain level to proceed.

For a larger company, they have the ability to stretch technology expectations. With multiple products in the pipeline, the new technologies can be implemented when they mature. Additionally, they can develop technology without a specific end use and allow product plans to evolve.

Does a company need an in-house R&D department to conduct such work?

Parendo: The need for an in-house R&D group depends on the work to be done. I always talk about R&D in subgroups. It can be “big R” or “little r” work. “Big R” is a significant new technology, while “little r” is uncertain expansions of existing technologies. “Big R” might be best with an outside firm as they are breaking a lot of established internal rules. “Little r” projects can certainly be done internally, with a dedicated team, as they are comparable to the rules that already exist for current products. Similarly, we can distinguish between “big D” or “little d” work. “Big D” could include a new platform project using known technologies or complex and emerging new products where the scope contains uncertainty. Doing “big D” or “little r” work should be in-house for the core technology. Because “little d” work can be scoped clearly, this is ideal to be farmed out to another organization or could be done internally with an existing engineering team.

Who else should be involved in developing raw technology?

Parendo: Early on, a mix of leading-edge thinkers from a variety of technical and business areas is acceptable. However, that is only to scope a set of stretch objectives. Once the effort is going, too many people are a distraction and a potential constraint on thinking and thus limiting options. The team should have little long-term accountability to a cost center, so that excessive rules are not added that could risk the accomplishment of the goals. They also should not be a permanent team, as that just condenses what should be out-of-the-box thinking.

Should tech development be left to suppliers?

Parendo: Suppliers can do some “big D” and “little d” work, but bigger advances are likely from a different organization. If the supplier is big enough they may have some “little r” work, but most get too locked in to existing capabilities and wanting to maintain those limitations. Thus, most raw technology development should be done with well-funded organizations. However, this will be limited to the components they supply. Product advancement still will be limited if research is exclusively done at suppliers.

What comes first—the technological advance or the unmet healthcare market need?

Parendo: Without a technology capability, needs cannot be met. However, without some sense of needs, how can we forecast the next important technology? As with many things, it is a continuous cycle between need and technology. Using both perspectives well, we can maximize the capabilities of an R&D organization.

Are there rules for managing technology development?

Parendo: There are certainly rules to be addressed. However they are quite different than most traditional product development rules. Technology break-through projects have uncertainty in outcomes, incremental budgets, and narrow requirements. That is the essence of the management changes required for “big R” and “little r” projects.

Is technology failure really bad, or can engineers/companies learn something from it?

Parendo: Failure is required to advance technology. But it is intelligent and managed failure. Limit expenditures getting to critical test points in order to avoid wasting resources in a rabbit hole. But a failure is simply an opportunity to learn. I was involved with a multi-million dollar R&D effort once with significant stretch objectives. At one project review, we spent a considerable time discussing outlier data! Could we leverage it? Could we recreate it? Why did it happen? What could we learn from this? The group was comfortable thinking in this challenging way, where a typical product development group would be more likely to diminish or ignore such information.

Do you start with established technology first to bring a product to market and then update it later with technological advances?

Parendo: Long term, I believe that is best. That develops the market need and can help finance the technology development. Potentially confusing new technology in a new market application is an excessive complication that could negatively impact customer acceptance. Using established technology in a new market can help comprehension and acceptance. After market growth begins, there is incentive to learn the new technology and to appreciate the benefits and advantages it provides.

Weekly Resin Report: Processors in Holding Pattern, Waiting for Sharper Price Slides

Weekly Resin Report: Processors in Holding Pattern, Waiting for Sharper Price Slides

Last week’s spot resin markets were not immune to the economic uncertainty wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. While there was a good flow of both buy and sell inquiries, processors were generally apprehensive to pull the trigger, and, ultimately, the completed volumes were less than average, reports the PlasticsExchange in its Market Update.

Cool Design
Image courtesy Cool Design/
freedigitalphotos.net.

Polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) prices remained steady to mostly $0.01/lb lower. Buyers have been pleased to see resin prices continue to ease, but there have been expectations for a sharper and quicker break. Although sectors of the plastics industry have been declared essential and resin production and processing facilities can remain open, some resin buyers have begun to temporarily shut down, including those that feed the automotive industry, which anticipates weaker demand in light of the severe economic downturn resulting from the pandemic. On a brighter note, given strong demand for groceries and food take-out and delivery, governments have loosened restrictions on single-use plastics, which are deemed to be safer for consumers. The export markets have been facing headwinds: The combination of a strengthening U.S. dollar and weaker crude oil costs has made international resin producers increasingly competitive with U.S. producers. Together, these two factors could crimp exports and weigh on Houston prices, according to the PlasticsExchange.

The spot PE market was actually pretty active despite all of the unknowns swirling around the world. Though transactions were generally difficult and negotiations fierce, the number of completed transactions at the PlasticsExchange trading desk approached the resin clearinghouse’s trailing 12-month weekly average. The impression that the country is completely shut down simply is not true, as there have been few instances of temporary plant closures in select regions of the country. Most states deem the plastics industry to be essential, given its importance in the medical and food industries as well as packaging for general supply chains.

Despite adequate volumes, demand was still off and PE prices are expected to slide over the coming months. Most spot prices lost a penny last week, except for low-density film and linear-low-density injection, which remain difficult to source. The March $0.04/lb price increase effort was suspended by producers; they will be challenged instead to stave off price-decrease pressures in the coming months. International resin requests continued to flow in but price expectations have dropped significantly, as global prices slide and producers in regional markets have become amazingly competitive as their costs decline due to sharply lower crude oil feeds, reports the PlasticsExchange.

Spot PP trading slowed as some non-essential businesses, responding to shelter-in-place instructions from local governments, reduced or temporarily ceased operations. The slower consumer-driven demand, coupled with tumbling oil prices, caused buyers to hold off purchases until the dust clears or, for some, lower prices are simply at hand. Regarding completed transactions, volume favored off-grade truckloads, co-polymer PP was the main mover, and buying was split between resellers and processors.

Despite the lack of demand, supply continued to be quite tight for most prime homo- and co-polymer PP grades. For the fourth straight week, PP prices fell $0.01/lb, bringing prices in line with March PGP, which also just settled $0.04/lb lower. Prime prices have shifted, but with the shorter supply, largely because of planned and unplanned turnaround/maintenance, they have held their ground better than off grade, which has seen a larger discount develop, said the PlasticsExchange. Contract prices could take another hit, as the market eyes upcoming April PGP costs, which are pointing toward another steep decline.

Read the full Market Update on the PlasticsExchange website.

You Know You’re an Engineer if You Played with These Toys, Part 2

 

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

5 Elements to a Secure Embedded System – Part #2 Root-of-Trust

In “5 Elements to a Secure Embedded System – Part 1 Hardware Based Isolation”, we started our discussion about the five essential elements required to beginning securing an embedded system. As you may recall, the five elements that every developer be looking to implement are:

  • Hardware based isolation
  • A Root-of-Trust
  • A secure boot solution
  • A secure bootloader
  • Secure storage

The main focus last time was that the system needs to have hardware-based isolation to create secure and nonsecure execution environments. In today’s post, we will continue the discussion by discussing the Root-of-Trust.

root-of-trust, RoT, secure boot solution, secure bootloader, secure storage, hardware based isolation, Secure Embedded System

The Root-of-Trust is used to validate all the additional pieces of software that load on the system and is the first foundational link in a Chain-of-Trust that successfully boots an embedded system. (Image source: Siemens)

Element #2 – Root-of-Trust

When we power-on an embedded system and begin the boot process, we want to ensure that our embedded system boots with legitimate software. The problem that many systems face is how to determine if the first code that runs on the device is in fact their code and legitimate. The system could be booting successfully, but what happens if some piece of malware is the first thing that runs, and the rest of the software is trusting that code? This is where a Root-of-Trust comes into play.

A Root-of-Trust is an immutable process or identity which is used as the first entity in a trust chain. No ancestor entity can provide a trustable attestation (in digest or otherwise) for the initial code and data state of the Root-of-Trust. To put this another way, a Root-of-Trust for an embedded developer is an unchangeable identity and minimal software set that is able to successfully authenticate itself and facilitate secure operations on the system.

There are several key points in the definition above that we should consider. First, an immutable process or identify is something that cannot be changed. This means that when we select a microcontroller for our product, we need to ensure that we will be able to permanently “burn-in” important information that would be used by the Root-of-Trust such as a company private key. Once in the microcontroller, we do not want this information to be changeable. Second, we want to be able to attest the system. This means that I can send the system an operation to perform which it will then use its private key to sign. With access to the public key, I can then verify the operation result and the identity of the device.

Establishing a Root-of-Trust can be a bit tricky. For example, if I take a standard microcontroller and decide that I am going to use a general fused area to establish my Root-of-Trust, I am very much relying on my manufacturer that they will not share my key information and that they will not put their own Root-of-Trust on the microcontroller! While this is probably okay in many instances, we’ve all heard the horror stories about manufacturers making extra copies of a device illegitimately or even copying the intellectual property and then building essentially cloned devices. We want our Root-of-Trust to be able to protect against activities such as this and who knows if one of their employees may have other uses or ideas for our product!   

In order to avoid these types of issues, we want to create a Root-of-Trust that is hardware based and if possible, we even want the Root-of-Trust to first be established by the microcontroller vendor that we are using. If the Root-of-Trust is established by the microcontroller vendor, the moment the microcontroller is shipped it already has an immutable Root-of-Trust that is able to attest to its identity and that it came from that manufacturer! This is particularly interesting because these solutions allow us to use an existing Root-of-Trust that is verifiable to then transfer our Root-of-Trust to the device. When we transfer the Root-of-Trust to our company, we are then able to provision the microcontroller with security policies and keys that describe how the system should behave!

Establishing that Root-of-Trust is then critical because it will burn in the security settings such as:

  • Debug port enabled or disabled
  • Firmware updates allowed or not
  • Encrypted firmware updates or unencrypted

With these initial settings developers are then able to ensure that the first code they run on their system is secure, immutable and able to verify all the software that loads afterwards. This is absolutely critical to building a secure embedded system.

Conclusions

Establishing a Root-of-Trust is absolutely critical to an embedded system. The Root-of-Trust is used to validate all the additional pieces of software that load on the system and is the first foundational link in a Chain-of-Trust that successfully boots an embedded system. A Root-of-Trust should be hardware based and immutable. This ensures that the Root-of-Trust cannot be tampered with which then allows the system to detect if software loaded later can be trusted or not. Developers should be looking for microcontroller solutions that have a hardware-based Root-of-Trust built into them.

In the next part, we will discuss secure boot, what it is and what it means to developers.  

Jacob Beningo is an embedded software consultant who currently works with clients in more than a dozen countries to dramatically transform their businesses by improving product quality, cost and time to market. He has published more than 200 articles on embedded software development techniques, is a sought-after speaker and technical trainer, and holds three degrees which include a Masters of Engineering from the University of Michigan. Feel free to contact him at jacob@beningo.com, at his website, and sign-up for his monthly Embedded Bytes Newsletter.

Nanomaterials Used for Early Cancer Detection

When it comes to cancer, early detection gives a patient the best chance for survival. To help achieve this result, researchers at the University of Central Florida (UCF) have developed nanomaterials that potentially can be used to create highly sensitive biosensors for cancer tests that can provide results just like pregnancy tests already available in pharmacies.

nanomaterials, cancer detection, medical testing, over-the-counter cancer tests, University of Central Florida, UCF
University of Central Florida (UCF) Assistant Professor Xiaohu Xia and his team are creating nanomaterials with hollow interiors that can be used to create highly sensitive biosensors for early cancer detection. (Image source: UCF)

A team led by Xiaohu Xia, an assistant professor of chemistry who also works in the university’s NanoScience Technology Center, developed the materials, which have hollow interiors that’s key to their functionality for this purpose, he said. Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas and Chongqing University of Arts and Sciences in China also worked on the technology.

Hollow nanomaterials made of gold and silver alloys are known to have superior optical properties, which makes them viable for improving the same type of test-strip technology used in over-the counter pregnancy tests, Xia said.

Using these materials in this simple technology could make them sensitive enough to pick up markers indicating certain types of cancer and indicating positive or negative symbols on a test strip to communicate this, he said.

“These advanced hollow nanomaterials hold great potential to enable high-performance technologies in various areas,” Xia said in a press statement. “Potentially we could be talking about a better and less expensive diagnostic tool, sensitive enough to detect biomarkers at low concentrations, which could make it invaluable for early detection of cancers and infectious diseases.”

Conventional test strips found in pharmacies often already use solid gold nanoparticles as labels, where they connect to antibodies and s generate color signal due to an optical phenomenon called localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR).

Xia and his team developed metallic nanomaterials with hollow interiors which, compared to their solid counterparts, have a much stronger LSPR capability and thus can offer a more intense color signal, he said.   

Cancer Detection in a Test Strip

When these new hollow nanomaterials are used as labels in test strips, they enable the strips to detect biomarkers at lower concentrations by inducing this sensitive color change, Xia explained.

“Test-strip technology gets upgraded by simply replacing solid gold nanoparticles with the unique hollow nanoparticles, while all other components of a test strip are kept unchanged,” he said in a press statement.

UCF researchers focused on testing for prostate-specific antigen, a biomarker for prostate cancer, they said. In experiments, the new test strip they developed based on hollow nanomaterials could detect PSA as low as 0.1 nanogram per milliliter (ng/mL)--sufficiently sensitive enough for clinical diagnostics of prostate cancer, researchers reported on a paper on their work in the journal ACS Nano.

The development of the hollow nanomaterials, then, paves the way for people to buy over-the-counter cancer tests just as they might a pregnancy test, bringing early cancer detection even to populations that might not have immediate access to medical facilities, Xia added.

 “The results can be determined with the naked eye without the need of any equipment,” he said in the statement. “These features make the strip extremely suitable for use in challenging locations such as remote villages.”

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

Thermoformer Develops Face Shields Needed in COVID-19 Pandemic

Thermoformer Develops Face Shields Needed in COVID-19 Pandemic
Prent Corp. dedicated a full production line to make face shields for healthcare workers. Prent employees are shown above wearing these face shields. Image courtesy of Prent Corp.

Prent Corp., a thermoformer of custom plastic medical device packaging, has designed a new face shield for healthcare workers and dedicated a new line to producing the shields, in just 48 hours. As of March 30, the company had produced and donated more than 20,000 shields to Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center and other local healthcare facilities, Joseph Pregont II, vice president of corporate sales at Prent, told MD+DI. The company is planning to ramp up production to offer face shields to healthcare workers throughout the United States.

“We heard there was a dire need in our community and we knew we could help, so we dedicated a team to work on it immediately,” explained Pregont in a news release.

Pregont told MD+DI that Prent typically adds “a new line, which we build, in one of our facilities about every 6-8 weeks, which is what this line was. We have kept it out of our regular production to build these face shields.” Dedicating the new line in this way won’t impact the company’s other operations.

Because the shields can cover a healthcare worker’s entire face, they can be used to keep face masks clean, according to Prent. The company initially sought to create what it calls a “traditional face shield with three parts (shield, foam cushion, and elastic headband)” but then to expedite production decided to design a two-part shield made of only plastic and foam. Prent employees are shown wearing these face shields in the above photo.

Prent consulted Kathleen Agard, a doctor from Mercyhealth, during development. “Less than 12 hours after I first spoke to Prent, they had prototypes for me to see,” Agard stated in the release. “I’m really impressed that they were so responsive and giving of their time. The face shield is very important because it helps keep our staff and patients safe. ”

The shields are made from “scratch-resistant, recycled PETG plastic material from sister company GOEX,” Prent reported, and “the machine die was developed by local Millenium Die Group in just 5 hours.”

When asked whether the shields could be reused and if so, whether the plastic would stand up to disinfectants, Pregont told MD+DI that “from a material strength standpoint, yes, these face shields could be used multiple times, but I would have to defer to health experts if they should and how to disinfect. The plastic we are using is a copolyester, which generally can withstand disinfectants well.”

Prent estimated that it has the capacity to make millions of face shields per week and that it plans to continue making face shields until there is no longer a shortage at medical facilities.

Flame-retardant Composites at Home in Electric Vehicles

Tepex continuous-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite materials from Bond-Laminates demonstrate excellent fire resistance even without flame-retardant additives due to the special structure of the semi-finished products. This is the result of comprehensive investigations and tests that the Lanxess subsidiary – partly in cooperation with external testing institutes – has carried out with a view to typical Tepex applications and installation situations. “The tests also showed that our composites are highly suitable for structural components and housing components in high-voltage batteries for electric vehicles, which, for safety reasons, need to have excellent flame-retardant properties,” says Dr. Stefan Seidel, head of Research and Development at Bond-Laminates. “The materials here present a lightweight alternative to aluminum. They enable cost-effective component solutions thanks to the cost-reducing integration of functions and simple processing in the hybrid molding method without the need for rework.”

LXS-IMG_Tepex_Flammschutzprfung Sitecore Internet Image 400x351.jpg

The reason for the good flame-retardant properties of Tepex is the high content of flame-resistant continuous fibers and the comparatively low proportion of flammable plastic. Photo: Lanxess AG

The flammability tests performed included US test FMVSS 302 (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard) for the burning characteristics of materials for car interiors. This investigates the rate of combustion. Tepex variants that are not flame-retardant already perform well in the test. They do ignite, but the flames hardly spread within the allotted test time.

Non-flame-retardant Tepex variants were also tested in the fire pan test in accordance with UN regulation 180, 6.2.4. The test specimen lies flat over a tub of burning fuel and is exposed to the fire directly for 70 seconds and less directly for 60 seconds. This test is a particularly realistic reflection of the fire situations Tepex might face in typical applications such as underbody paneling components. As Seidel says, “There are no holes in the composites, nor do the fibers burn in either test. The plastic does not exhibit any dripping-burning either, and the test specimen goes out by itself.” The reason for these flame-retardant properties is the high content of flame-resistant continuous fibers and the comparatively low proportion of flammable plastic.

The investigations also showed that the UL 94 test does not provide any reliable results for the actual fire behavior of Tepex. The reason is that the vertically fastened test specimen is exposed to a flame from the edge. “This approach does not match typical Tepex installation situations. Our composite material is normally used overmolded and back-injected, which impedes the flame’s access to the fiber ends,” says Seidel. For applications in which V-0 classification is compulsory, Bond-Laminates offers halogen-free, flame-retardant Tepex based on polyamide, polycarbonate and polyphenylene sulfide. For example, the polycarbonate product type is listed on the UL Yellow Card as V-0 for test specimen thicknesses of between 0.4 millimeters and 2.2 millimeters.

Due to the major potential applications of Tepex in powertrains of electric vehicles, Bond-Laminates has used its own test setup to comprehensively investigate the fire behavior of overmolded, polyamide-6-based Tepex. A “HiAnt carrier” was used. This is a U-shaped profile made of Tepex, the inside of which is reinforced with crosswise ribs made of various polyamide 6 types such as Durethan, with or without a flame-retardant package. This practical test specimen is exposed to a 900°C flame in six positions for between 30 seconds and five minutes – for instance, on the polyamide ribs or on areas that have not been overmolded.

Non-flame-retardant Tepex again confirmed its inherently excellent fire resistance in this test. This is because only the molded rib material is burning after five minutes of flame treatment – and only when it is not equipped with special flame retardants. By contrast, if the ribs and overmolded areas made from a flame-retardant polyamide pass the test, the flames do not spread from the site of the fire treatment, but rather die when the burner is removed. “So, using non-flame-retardant Tepex with a flame-retardant injection molding material offers a very substantial safety margin for the design of flame-retardant components. We see enormous potential for this material combination to be applied in high-voltage battery components such as housings and partitions, but also in floor plates for inductive battery charging systems,” says Seidel.