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Articles from 2018 In June

One Doctor's Hope for Better Patient Monitoring

Medtronic plc One Doctor's Hope for Better Patient Monitoring
Some researchers believe continuous cardiorespiratory monitoring with technology such as the Capnostream monitor from Medtronic may help clinicians detect early signs of respiratory depression among hospital patients on the general care floors.

Editor's Note: Since this story was originally published, Ashish Khanna, MD, who was interviewed for the story, has taken a new position. He is now an associate professor of anesthesiology and intensivist at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Anyone who has ever been a hospital patient on a general care floor should be familiar with the standard vital check routine in which a nurse enters the room every four- to six-hours to chart your blood pressure and other vital signs to monitor your condition.

But what if your condition suddenly deteriorates in between those routine checks? Is there a better way to monitor these patients? Ashish Khanna, MD, an anesthesiologist and researcher at the Cleveland Clinic believes there is.

"The problem with that approach is that we are essentially seeing our patients at a snapshot of time and ignoring large chunks of time where they are possibly showing signs of deterioration," Khanna told MD+DI.

In a manuscript recently published by the Journal of Critical Care, Khanna described how challenging it is to predict episodes or severity of cardiorespiratory decompression in patients who appear to be in stable condition and staying on the general care floor. The paper also describes the protocol for an ongoing global trial that could go a long way toward better monitoring protocols to detect signs of deterioration earlier.

The PRODIGY trial builds on an earlier study at Cleveland Clinic that Khanna was involved with. The investigators put all of the institution's post-surgical patients who were recovering on the general care floor on continuous monitoring but blinded the clinicians to the monitoring by covering up the device and silencing the monitor's alarms.

"We uncovered that 90% of our patients had some degree of hypoxemia, meaning oxygen saturation less than 90%, that was going undetected because of our current monitoring patterns," Khanna said. "This is not to say that an institution like Cleveland Clinic is not doing a good job of monitoring, but what I’m saying is that we didn’t even know this problem existed."

The researchers published that paper about four years ago and Khanna said he published a series of subsequent papers in an effort to look at potential predictors of hypoxemia. The problem, he concluded, is that hypoxemia is very unpredictable and there isn't a good prediction model to understand which patients are at risk for cardiorespiratory depression. Worse yet is the fact that about 40% of patients who develop the condition end up dying, according to some studies, he said.

The primary goal of the PRODIGY trial (PRediction of Opioid-induced Respiratory Depression In Patients Monitored by capnoGraphY) is to derive a risk prediction score for respiratory depression (RD) on the general care ward. Khanna said the validation-derivation cohort design of the trial will derive this score from RD detected by continuous, blinded, multiparameter cardiorespiratory monitoring of patients. The trial will use Medtronic's Capnostream 35 portable respiratory monitor.

What Does the Capnostream Monitor Do?

Medtronic's Capnostream respiratory monitor is designed to enable continuous monitoring of end-tidal carbon dioxide (etCO2), respiratory rate (RR), heart rate, and pulse oximetry (SpO2) in patients in nearly any clinical setting. The device combines the company's Microstream capnography technology and Nellcor pulse oximetry technology in a portable monitor, designed with features intended to enhance efficient workflow. The monitor also includes the Integrated Pulmonary Index (IPI) algorithm, which was developed to help simplify monitoring a patient's complete respiratory status. The IPI incorporates the etCO2, RR, SpO2, and pulse rate into a single number, which is displayed on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 indicating a normal respiratory status. 

The trial is being conducted across 16 centers in seven different countries (four in Europe, three in Asia, and nine in the United States) and will include a total of 1650 patients. All of the PRODIGY patients will be put on continuous cardiorespiratory monitoring for at least 48 hours using the Capnostream device, which Medtronic inherited through its Covidien acquisition, but like the earlier study, the clinicians will be blinded to the monitor because the researchers want to understand how these respiratory depression patterns happen, Khanna said. The patients will continue to receive the standard vital sign monitoring every four to six hours as normal.

Khanna said the data will help uncover patterns to determine real-time predictors of which patients are likely to experience respiratory depression, when they might experience it, and which patients should receive more intensive monitoring than the current standard of care.

“My hope is that someday you’re going to walk into a hospital and you’re going to get a smart device, almost like an iWatch, on you that will continuously monitor you through your surgery, through your stay in the hospital, and possibly even after you go home because these events happen at home as well,” Khanna said. "The PRODIGY trial is going to push a step closer to better monitoring and allow for quicker recovery for our patients."

In addition to post-surgical patients, the trial will include patients receiving opioid therapy, either through an IV or an epidural.

"We wanted to see, based on our current pain practice guidelines, how we could better improve monitoring to allow patients a safer recovery in our hospitals," he said. "Because it is a global trial it gets even more interesting because pain prescription practices are not the same across the world. They’re very different in Asia, and in Europe."

Khanna said the researchers want to find out if opioids are part of the problem, or if there are genetic or cultural factors that make some patients more prone to respiratory compromise than others.

Is Continuous Cardiorespiratory Monitoring Cost Effective?

While the investigators of the PRODIGY trial won't be able to analyze cost data from all of the patients included in the trial because of regulatory restrictions in certain parts of the world, Khanna said they should at least be able to analyze the cost-effectiveness for about 50% of the patients enrolled. Such data could help hospital administers decide if investing in continuous capnography monitoring devices like the Capnostream would be a worthwhile investment for at least some patients on the general care floor.

“In the end, nothing speaks like hard data. My hope is that once we’re able to prove that there is a prediction model that can be effectively used to understand who needs more intensive monitoring and then we can ultimately show that it’s cost effective, we will hopefully move in that direction."

But simply purchasing the equipment and putting patients on continuous monitoring is one step of a more complicated process toward preventing respiratory depression. Khanna said bedside nurses will need to be educated on how to use the equipment and integrate continuous monitoring into their workflow. It will be a cultural change and will take some time, he said, probably "another few years" before this type of monitoring is used effectively in the general care environment.

The trial is expected to be completed before the end of the year and Khanna said the results should be available to the public in early 2019.

New Partnership Expands Medigus’ Presence to Orthopedics

Qimono/Pixabay New Partnership Expands Medigus’ Presence to Orthopedics

Medigus is entering bold new territory thanks in part to a manufacturing and development agreement with A.M. Surgical, an orthopedics company. Omer, Israel -based Medigus has primarily been known for its MUSE technology that performs the Transoral Fundoplication for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

MUSE includes the ScoutCam miniature camera technology, which is at the center of this partnership.

“The [ScoutCam] technology can be optimized and used in other ways in addition to being inside MUSE,” Chris Rowland, CEO of Medigus, told MD+DI. “The orthopedic market is interesting because there is a chance to disrupt the existing modality of reusable scopes, whether they are laparoscopes or endoscopes. Think of our miniature camera as putting a set of eyes on the distal tip of a therapeutic tool.”

The agreement requires Medigus to develop and manufacture an integrated visualization device based on its micro ScoutCam technology to work with Stratos, the A.M. Surgical product for endoscopic procedures.

Under the agreement, Medigus will provide prototypes of the integrated visualization device, followed by production of the first two batches of the integrated visualization device. The total project budget is $780,000, which will be paid based on milestones.

The firms said the integrated visualization device may have the long-term potential of offering a higher level of surgical control and visualization during endoscopic carpal tunnel release for hundreds of thousands of procedures annually in the US.

“Instead of pushing in a reusable scope, what we’re doing is integrating this micro camera – this visualization platform -  inside the therapeutic tool,” Rowland said. “It allows the physician to treat diseases ... in this case ... carpal tunnel in a way that’s quicker, safer and more effective in terms of cross contamination and infection.”

Rowland said the company is still focused on GERD, but it is working on looking for additional uses of its camera.

“There are other opportunities in cardiovascular or even in neural intervention…where physicians want to see what’s going on under direct vision,” Rowland said.

Carolina Color adds extrusion capacity at Ohio facility

Carolina Color adds extrusion capacity at Ohio facility

Growing demand for its patented G2 and G3 product lines has prompted Carolina Color Corp. (Salisbury, NC) to purchase a new extruder from NFM/Welding Engineers Inc. (Massillon, OH). The TEM Series extruder, on display at the recent NPE (pictured), uses a co-rotating, intermeshing twin-screw manufactured by NFM/Welding Engineers under an exclusive North America TEM license from Toshiba Machine Japan. The new extruder will give Carolina Color’s Delaware, OH, operation expanded capabilities.

Carolina Color's new extruder
Carolina Color Corp. displayed the new extruder from NFM/Welding Engineers at NPE2018.

“We have been relying on NFM for our extrusion equipment for both of our plants for the past 15 years because these machines are very reliable and capable of extruding the highest quality material we need for our G2 and G3 product lines,” commented Jeff Smink, COO of Carolina Color. “Also, their service and the knowledge of the engineering staff in compounding color is second to none. Without this partnership with NFM, we would not have been able to develop these technologies and grow our company as fast as we have since the launch of G2 in 2008.”

Paul Roberson, President, NFM/Welding Engineers, stated, “The partnership with Carolina Color over the years has been important for the growth of both companies. Our companies have both learned how to improve our products and processes since the launch of these game-changing color technologies. We are looking forward to the new growth of Carolina Color since its purchase by Arsenal Capital Partners late in 2017.”

Carolina Color is a full-service production operation with complete laboratories for color matching, testing and analytics.

UC San Francisco partners with Chinese 3D-printing company to advance orthopedics

UC San Francisco partners with Chinese 3D-printing company to advance orthopedics

Medical researchers in San Francisco are teaming up with a 3D-printing and materials company in Shanghai to forge new frontiers in orthopedics.

The Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and Intamsys, a manufacturer of industrial 3D printers and a supplier of PEEK filament and other high-performance materials, have announced a joint-research initiative to advance 3D-printing applications in the field of orthopedic surgery. The project will be led by EDGE Labs, a division within UCSF’s  Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. 

3D-printed part made from Intamsys PEEK filament
Image courtesy Intamsys.

“We are very pleased to work with the UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery to advance PEEK applications in medicine, as well as promoting healthcare cost savings in the field of orthopedics,” said Charles Han, CEO of Intamsys. “Collaborating with surgeons to deliver the best possible patient outcomes is what drives our company.”

Because it combines biocompatibility with wear resistance and overall durability, PEEK has replaced metals in a number of orthopedic applications to date. Last year, Evonik reported that its Vestakeep brand of PEEK was used in the design and development of more than 80 medical devices cleared by FDA.

PEEK 3D printing filament from Intamsys integrates those properties in a reportedly affordable package. “This level of industrial-grade printing has not been available at this price point,” said Alexis Dang, MD, orthopaedic surgeon, one of the UCSF researchers that will be leading the project. “We are interested in being able to prototype customized implants using high-temperature materials such as PEEK.”

Intamsys' PEEK filament has unique properties because it does not come into contact with water during the production process and is directly inserted in vacuum packaging, according to Intamsys. These properties make the Intamsys PEEK filament particularly suitable for use in fused filament fabrication printers developed by the company. The material features excellent adhesion between layers, which improves the material's impact resistance, strength and durability, as well as the printing process, reports Intamsys on its website.

Cybersecurity: Are You Prepared?

Cybersecurity: Are You Prepared?
Image source: NicoElNino/Shutterstock

There are many regulatory challenges facing medical device companies, but nearing the top of the list is data protection. Companies are spending resources and dollars to avoid becoming the next company confronting cyber threats and/or data breaches. Medical device companies in particular are under enormous pressure to safeguard sensitive corporate information related to patients and privacy, intellectual property (IP), and the data gathered during clinical testing phases.

The life sciences and healthcare industry as whole has acknowledged that it must embrace corporate governance and drive the centralization of IT compliance oversight. At medical device companies, most IT functions permeate the organization and its processes; therefore, IT compliance is also a process that requires continuous oversight and management. To meet IT compliance obligations, organizations are looking for a structured approach that allows them to identify and prioritize IT controls and establish an enterprise-wide IT compliance program that includes a heavy emphasis on cybersecurity. Having a structured approach is important for compliance with the various standards and legislation, such as the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, ISO 27001 and ISO 27002 standards, the European Union (EU) Directive General Data Protection Regulation, and more.

FDA recently set out voluntary guidelines intended to educate healthcare entities and medical device manufacturers on potential cybersecurity threats in the industry. The guidelines advise that threats on the manufacturer may surface in both the design and development of their medical devices. The FDA guidelines further suggest that companies conduct their own security testing through each process. While it is difficult for medical device companies to anticipate each and every threat, they are embracing the creation of a risk management framework to help increase security protocols. Some recommended security protocols from FDA include stronger passwords, locks, two-step authentication, automatic logouts for inactive users, and data encryption.

On March 12, Micro Focus (NYSE: MFGP), a leading global enterprise software company, published its fifth annual State of Security Operations Report and revealed an upward trend across all assessment areas. Despite the volume of threats rising, the findings indicate that more mature Security Operational Centers (SOCs) are becoming more efficient in detection with greater ability to recover from breaches. The report also states there is positive momentum in organizations adopting and deploying security solutions.

Mark Vilicich of CentrexIT, a managed IT services provider, commented to this author that the Micro Focus report shows that healthcare is third highest in improvement of Security Operations, with a 7% uptick in 2017. More than half of CentrexIT clients are life science/healthcare companies, and recently the firm found that clients are ready to have the conversations about cybersecurity for their organizations and product offering. “Our top question is whether it’s enough, considering the current security threatscape for patients and their medical devices, physicians, and hospitals,” stated Vilicich. Note that in December, the American Hospital Association (AHA) requested FDA to step up efforts to ensure that medical device manufacturers bear responsibility for the digital security of their products.  Vilicich shared that current metrics present the same message: “The medical/healthcare industry last year accounted for more than 23 percent of total breaches in 2017, resulting in the exposure of more than five million patient records,” as reported by Merlin International and the Ponemon Institute with a survey of more 600 executives. According to the survey, 62% have experienced an attack in the past year.

Defining and adopting a coordinated security protocol is crucial to monitor and respond to threats. Safeguarding medical devices starts with executive management embracing a security approach to deliver secure products. Vilicich sums it up nicely: “The reality of cybersecurity is that it’s often a multilayered attack, requiring multilayered preventative actions. Connected medical devices are at the center of a growing panic about cyber vulnerabilities in the so-called internet of things… So, we help them with vulnerabilities, and we help them with resources to increase the general cybersecurity hygiene of their devices.”

Embrace your corporate responsibility before it’s too late.

Novartis and Alcon to Separate

Aymanjed/Pixabay Novartis and Alcon to Separate

Novartis said it plans to spin out its Alcon Division into a separately-traded company. The move will allow the Basel, Switzerland-based company and Alcon to focus on respective growth strategies. If the split meets general market conditions, regulatory approvals, final Board of Directors endorsement, and shareholder approval then the planned separation could be completed by the first half of 2019.

Novartis said if the Alcon spin out is completed, then it would create a new Switzerland-based company with global scale and reach comprising more than 20,000 employees, with around $7 billion in 2017 sales.

The firm said that it will initiate a share buyback of up to $5 billion to be executed by the end of 2019. This action is planned to be largely funded through the proceeds of the divestment to GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) of the consumer health joint venture stake, net of the AveXis acquisition payments. In March Brentford-based GSK spent about $13 billion to buy out Novartis’ interest in the deal joint venture.

"Our strategic review examined all options for Alcon ranging from retention, sale, IPO to spinoff, Joerg Reinhardt, Chairman of Novartis said in a release. “The review concluded that a spinoff would be in the best interests of Novartis shareholders and the Board of Directors intends to seek shareholder approval for a spinoff at the 2019 AGM. This transaction would allow our shareholders to benefit from potential future successes of a more focused Novartis and a standalone Alcon, which would become a publicly traded global medtech leader based here in Switzerland."

Novartis originally acquired Alcon in 2011 for $12.9 billion and the division included surgical, vision care, and ophthalmic pharmaceuticals. However, Novartis incorporated the ophthalmic pharmaceuticals business to its Innovative Medicines Divisions in 2016.

Novartis continued to boost Alcon’s device offerings by acquiring Transcend Medical in 2016 for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition gave Alcon entry into the minimally invasive glaucoma surgery market.

This marks the second-high profiled spin out in less than a week’s time. The first was General Electric announcing it would turn GE Healthcare into a publicly traded company and get back to its industrial roots. General Electric has long been struggling and saw a massive drop in its shares last year.

However, GE Healthcare has long been a bright spot for its poor-performing parent company. In 2017, GE Healthcare brought in about $19 billion in revenue and posted 5% revenue growth and 9% segment profit growth in the same year.

General Motors Sees a Future With Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions, Zero Congestion

GM’s 2017 Sustainability Report boldly proclaims a vision of the future in which three of the biggest historical drawbacks of the automobile are completely eliminated. That is to say, there will be “zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion.” This, according to CEO Mary Barra, will be accomplished by a combination of “autonomous, electric, shared, and connected vehicles.”

Design News spoke with David Tulauskas, GM’s Sustainability Director, who elaborated on some of the key messages, strategies and enablers that are embedded in this report. “This report brings together our vision of the future of transportation that has been coming together over the past several years,” Tulauskas said.

Perhaps the primary message is that electric cars are the future. “This commitment is underscored by the fact that we are coming out with 20 EVs by 2023,” Tulauskas added. “That’s on top of the 13 vehicles we already offer globally with some form of electrification.” These will all be plug-in vehicles, though some may also have gasoline engines onboard as today’s Chevy Volt does. Some of them will also be fuel cell electrics.

He would not say whether or not any of these would be trucks, though we have noted in the past that fuel cells could be a sweet spot for trucks. To get a sense of proportion, Tulauskas said that they typically have between 50-70 vehicles in the pipeline.

The transformation, of course, goes well beyond what any single company can provide. Unless these technologies are developed in conjunction with corresponding changes in areas like the electricity delivery system as well as urban and road infrastructure, this could be a bridge to nowhere. 

However, when all the pieces are in place, the benefits are potentially enormous. For example, it’s not clear what portion of the estimated $1 trillion of productivity lost every year by people stuck in traffic can be recovered by autonomous vehicles. But it’s likely to be significant. One study estimates that as many as seven out of every eight vehicles could be taken off the road.

Right now, GM’s Maven suite of shared mobility solutions is reducing congestion by leveraging the growing popularity of car sharing and ridesharing. GM’s fleet currently contains more than 600 Bolt EVs that have chalked up a collective 13 million miles.

GM currently has 180 autonomous test vehicles on the road. (Image source: General Motors)

To fully realize the zero emissions promise, the coordination of electric vehicles, renewable energy storage, and the electric grid through some kind of vehicle to grid (V2G) architecture will be required. Today, GM is using its OnStar system to coordinate with utilities, allowing them to potentially track the available battery capacity of millions of vehicles.

Regarding autonomous cars, the company plans to announce a commercial autonomous fleet vehicle next year. It currently has 180 test vehicles on the road.

For those cars that will still require fuel, they will burn less of it, despite efforts by the administration to roll back fuel economy targets. “Remember,” said Tulauskas when asked, “we’re a global company.”

Perhaps foremost among innovations in the fuel economy space is vehicle light-weighting. The latest models have lost a collective 5,000 pounds, which works out to 357 pounds per vehicle. This results in an estimated 35 million gallons of fuel saved and 312,000 metric tons of CO2 that won’t be emitted. Varying degrees of electrification are being added to IC engine-powered cars, ranging from the Buick LaCrosse that gets a 19% boost to the Cadillac CT6 that achieves 62 mpge. Other developments include engine downsizing, turbocharging, stop-start technology, direct injection, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation. An innovation implemented on both cars and pickup trucks is active aero shutters. These close down airflow into the engine at higher speed, reducing aerodynamic drag.

The quest to reduce emissions goes beyond GM’s vehicles to its factories as well. It is closing in on 20% renewable power across its entire company this year. The goal is 100% by 2050. And emissions are not the only area that is being cleaned up. The company now has 142 zero-waste-to-landfill sites—well on its way to its goal of 150 by 2020.

This barely scratches the surface of all that’s contained in the report. But it gives a pretty good idea of the kinds of changes required by companies to keep pace with the enormous changes sweeping through our society today—changes that hopefully will result in a cleaner, safer and healthier future for all.


ESC, Embedded Systems ConferenceToday's Insights. Tomorrow's Technologies.
ESC returns to Minneapolis, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2018, with a fresh, in-depth, two-day educational program designed specifically for the needs of today's embedded systems professionals. With four comprehensive tracks, new technical tutorials, and a host of top engineering talent on stage, you'll get the specialized training you need to create competitive embedded products. Get hands-on in the classroom and speak directly to the engineers and developers who can help you work faster, cheaper, and smarter. Click here to submit your registration inquiry today!


Study Says AI Can Deliver Huge Financial Value to Industry

A new study from McKinsey Global Institute shows that artificial intelligence and deep learning are finally starting to make big gains in industry. But the study’s authors say that many engineers still hesitate to use it because they don’t fully understand it yet.

The new study, Notes from the AI frontier: Applications and the value of deep learning, shows tremendous potential for the technology in the automotive, electronics, aerospace, defense, chemicals, agriculture, oil and gas, and other industries. It suggests that many executives in those industries are already adopting it.

“In the Fortune 500, we’re seeing a significant shift toward taking advantage of artificial intelligence and deep learning applications,” Mehdi Miremadi, a McKinsey partner and co-author of the study, told Design News. “It is, without a doubt, one of the most prominent areas of focus in the last two years for every industry.”

Artificial intelligence and deep learning have the potential to create trillions of dollars in value for a broad variety of engineering-driven industries. (Image source: McKinsey Global Institute)

The study predicts that AI technology will have a tremendous financial impact on those industries. In automotive and assembly, for example, the paper’s authors expect AI and deep learning to generate about $300 billion in annual value. They also expect it to generate about $200 billion annually in electronics, $200 billion in chemicals, $100 billion in oil and gas, and about $25 billion a year in aerospace and defense.

The Benefits of Better Forecasting

One key area of application is predictive maintenance, the authors found. Using massive amounts of data from around a factory, for example, AI-based software can more accurately identify the assets and machinery that might be at risk of breaking down. And although many manufacturers are already doing predictive maintenance without AI, the authors believe they could do better with it.

“Using old types of analyses, you maybe could predict a 70% likelihood of a breakdown,” Miremadi said. “But with AI, you might go to 90% or even 95%. And that 20% difference has a significant value attached to it."

Other key areas of opportunity are inventory optimization and materials procurement. By using AI to do better forecasting, Miremadi said, manufacturers could streamline their production and supply chain management. “A lot of the inefficiency in the manufacturing and supply chain comes from not fully understanding what the demand will look like in the coming months and years,” Miremadi told us. “Using analytics and big data, you can develop a better perspective on demand and supply forecasting.”

Product developers could also benefit from AI and deep learning, the authors concluded.  Today, they said, new product iterations typically emerge over a period of years, based on feedback from customers. But with AI, product developers could speed up that process. “One of the things AI can do is expedite that feedback loop,” Miremadi said. “Optimizing the feedback loop is advantageous, not only for the manufacturer, but for society at large.”

Miremadi added that some developers are already working on ways to integrate AI capabilities into their design software.

Pilot Purgatory

Understandably, however, many executives and engineers are hesitant to take full advantage of artificial intelligence and deep learning, Miremadi said. Their first instinct is to run pilot programs. Even when AI’s worth is proven, however, many executives still prefer to run more pilot programs instead of adopting it broadly. “Often, we see this in Fortune 500 companies,” Miremadi noted. “They’ve read about AI, and they may even have pilots running. But they run into what we call pilot purgatory—just let me do one more pilot.’”

Many executives hesitate because they don’t fully understand the AI mechanism, Miremadi said. And they won’t commit significant resources to anything they don’t fully understand. In those situations, change may be slower. “There are cultural components to the way data-driven decisions are made in an organization,” Miremadi said. “So on a tactical, day-to-day basis, a cultural shift will need to happen.”

Still, Miremadi expects growth of AI and deep learning to continue at a fast pace. The reason lies in the results. “There’s a huge area of opportunity here,” he said.

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.


ESC, Embedded Systems ConferenceToday's Insights. Tomorrow's Technologies.
ESC returns to Minneapolis, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2018, with a fresh, in-depth, two-day educational program designed specifically for the needs of today's embedded systems professionals. With four comprehensive tracks, new technical tutorials, and a host of top engineering talent on stage, you'll get the specialized training you need to create competitive embedded products. Get hands-on in the classroom and speak directly to the engineers and developers who can help you work faster, cheaper, and smarter. Click here to submit your registration inquiry today!


Asia to the world: We don't want your plastic waste problem

Asia to the world: We don't want your plastic waste problem

China’s 2017 plastic waste import ban has seen notable quantities of the world’s discarded material being redirected to elsewhere in Asia but changes are afoot. The message from countries in Southeast Asia at least is you’d better consider shipping it elsewhere. Better still, why not handle the recycling of plastic waste at home?

In the most recent development, Thailand’s Department of Industrial Works (DIW) has issued an order prohibiting imports of plastic and electronic and waste amidst a surge in imports resulting from China’s ban. Thailand imported around 310,000 tonnes of plastic waste in the first five months of 2018 according to Thai customs statistics. This compares with a paltry 43,000-odd tonnes for the same period in 2017. Year-to-date imports are already at double the level for the whole of 2017, when Thailand imported around 153,000 tonnes of plastic waste.

Asian nations reject the notion of becoming the world’s dumping ground for discarded plastic and other waste streams.

The DIW Director-General, Mongkol Pruekwatana, said his department will now inspect the 2,240 recycling factories across the country after having issued a prohibition order on further imports of electronic and plastic waste effective immediately. The DIW is also working with the Customs Department to block any further imports and will be proposing to Thailand’s Ministry of Industry to issue an indefinite ban on these imports in the near future.

China’s plastics recycling industry has been hit hard by the ban on plastic waste imports implemented in July last year, which effectively deprived the sector of around half of its raw material requirements. Many companies have shut down, while others have laid off significant proportions of their staff. Those that had relatively strong finances, meanwhile, have invested in overseas operations, primarily in Southeast Asia. According to the China Scrap Plastic Association (CSPA), more than 1,000 of its members, representing a third of China’s total, have invested around RMB10 billion (US$1.5 billion) to relocate around four million tonnes of annual recycling capacity to the region.

But these are now being hit by the new restrictions being implemented in Southeast Asia. Vietnam issued a temporary import ban in May this year triggered by a build-up of unclaimed containers carrying plastic and paper waste at its main port in Ho Chi Minh City according to a report by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (Washington, DC). The port authority will review the situation in mid-October. For its part, Malaysia temporarily suspended new import permit applications in mid-May.

Prior to the import ban, China imported around seven million tonnes of plastic waste annually. Deprived of this stream, efforts to process more domestic recycled plastic have reportedly been progressing slowly. Handling imports and handling domestically-sourced waste material are reportedly two very different channels and it will take time for recyclers to adapt.

Another key challenge facing the plastics recycling industry in Asia is lack of conversion capacity in Southeast Asia for recycled material. At present, Chinese recyclers are shipping back the majority of reprocessed pellets to China, hoping that customs officials will accept them as sufficiently clean and pure. China’s Environmental Protection Control Standards for Imported Solid Wastes as Raw Materials effectively sets a threshold of 0.5% contamination for imports of recycled plastic pellets. These shipments, however, have reportedly been facing delays because Chinese customs are under pressure to ensure not only that imported pellets meet this standard, but also that containers are not being used to smuggle illegal low-grade plastic waste into the country. The customs authority has reportedly initiated 134 crime probes involving 254,000 tonnes of smuggled scrap this year, including waste plastic and metal in recent times.

It is somewhat ironic that a developing economy in China, facing numerous environmental challenges of its own including polluted waterways and air, has provided the impetus for the global plastics industry to reconsider how it handles its waste. For too long, numerous developed economies have been happy to push their plastic waste problems onto emerging economies in Asia without worrying about developing sustainable plastic recycling strategies. The days for such actions would appear to be limited. No longer does any country want to import other countries’ problems. Not, it is time for the developed world to step up to the plate.

Blow-molded roof spoiler employs ABS for heat resistance, paintability

Blow-molded roof spoiler employs ABS for heat resistance, paintability

Ineos Styrolution’s Novodur HH-112 ABS grade has been selected by a major European automobile manufacturer for a blow-molded roof spoiler. Among attributes of the grade are the ability to paint it without pre-treatment steps such as surface activation.

Blow-molded roof spoiler can be painted without the need for any energy-intensive surface activation.

Novodur HH-112 is an ABS material specifically designed for highest heat resistance and excellent stiffness. It features the melt rheology required for blow molding processing and a Vicat softening temperature of 112°C.

Energy and cost savings are achieved by taking advantage of the selected material solution. The material offers the advantage of painting without the need for energy-intensive surface activation steps such as flaming. In addition, the final application is manufactured in a single part versus multiple parts having to be assembled.

Car spoilers, in particular roof spoilers, are a trend in the automotive industry that has been observed for several years according to Ineos. As of today, such spoilers are adopted for about 50 percent of all new cars. Further, since its color can be customized to the request of the driver, the spoiler may be seen as a signature statement of the car’s owner.

“Due to our long-lasting relationship with the customer and the tier 1 supplying this part, an efficient technical cooperation drove to this interesting cost-effective solution. With this Novodur HH112 [grade] using blow molding technology, a high quality painted surface was achieved,” summarizes Eric Chambost, Key Account Manager at Ineos Styrolution.