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Medtech's Biggest Deals in 2019 ... So Far

<p style="margin:0px 0px 12.5px"><span style="font-size:14px"><span style="box-sizing:border-box"><span style="color:#666666"><span style="font-family:Lato, sans-serif"><span style="background-color:#ffffff"><strong style="box-sizing:border-box">Medtech’s Biggest Deals in 2019</strong></span></span></span></span></span></p><p style="margin:0px"><span style="font-size:14px"><span style="box-sizing:border-box"><span style="color:#666666"><span style="font-family:Lato, sans-serif"><span style="background-color:#ffffff">In 2018, medtech companies had a great deal of cash on hand and <a href="https://directory.qmed.com/p-mergers-and-acquisitions-m-as-continued-to-file097706.html" style="box-sizing:border-box; color:#00b8d6; text-decoration-line:none; font-weight:bold">they were eager to spend</a> that capital on acquisitions. Boston Scientific nearly made a move to acquire a company every month. But is that the same story in 2019? Do medtech companies have the same hunger as they did in 2018? The answer is no according to Mike Matson, an analyst at Needham & Co. In a research note, Matson wrote when compared to 2018, both the "number of M&A deals and the dollar volume of deals appear likely to decline in 2019." MD+DI has compiled a list of the top medtech deals either announced or closed in 2019 based on crunchbase data, Matson’s report, and<a href="https://directory.qmed.com/p-mergers-and-acquisitions-m-as-continued-to-file097706.html" style="box-sizing:border-box; color:#00b8d6; text-decoration-line:none; font-weight:bold"> MD+DI's list of 2018 Mergers</a>. </span></span></span></span></span></p>

Misplaced anti-plastics sentiment is here to stay, but industry is adjusting

Misplaced anti-plastics sentiment is here to stay, but industry is adjusting

In the space of just a couple of years, sustainability and associated regulations targeting plastics have evolved from a non-topic in industry boardrooms to a top-line concern. As I mentioned in a recent preview of K 2019, the plastics industry’s premier global event, sustainability and the circular economy will be a major theme at the trade show. The tipping point, one could argue, was the Blue Planet II television series from 2017 presented by Sir David Attenborough, which showed “harrowing images of sea life ensnared in plastic bags,” writes the Economist in this week’s Schumpeter column.

Since the airing of that influential series, 127 countries have placed restrictions on plastic bags, according to the United Nations; Britain is considering a tax on plastic packaging made with less than 30% recycled content; and the European Parliament backed a law, in a lop-sided 560 to 35 vote, to require 90% of plastic bottles to be recycled by 2029, notes the Economist. That is, if any plastic bottles are left in the recycling stream by then.

bandwagon metaphor

PlasticsToday reported yesterday that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have decided to withdraw their membership from the Plastics Industry Association because, in the words of a Coca-Cola spokesperson, “the positions the organization was taking . . . were not fully consistent with our commitments and goals.” Clare Goldsberry, who blogged about this, wondered if the beverage giants were thinking of going back to reusable glass bottles. As she rightly points out in her article, glass and other alternative materials have a far greater environmental impact than plastics when you take into account the energy and other resources consumed in their fabrication and reuse. The Economist agrees.

“Given the environmental footprint of substitutes like cotton bags, aluminium cans or paper boxes—which often require more energy and water to make and transport than plastic equivalents—new regulations could in fact end up doing harm to the planet,” writes the Economist. But that fact won’t derail the anti-plastics bandwagon, and industry has taken note.

One analyst quoted by the Economist projects that soft-drink companies that fail to reduce their reliance on virgin plastics could see annual profits shrink by 5% over the next decade as a result of regulations and taxes. In fact, the entire plastics supply chain could take a hit. The same analyst said that five big makers of plastic packaging could see pre-tax profits shrink by as much as 33% if they continue to use virgin plastics. More plastics regulation also could reduce demand for petrochemicals by one-sixth in the next 20 years. And on and on.

Those statistics will cheer activist organizations—although, they will remind supporters, this is only a small victory in an ongoing crusade. The $375-billion plastic packaging value chain will see things differently, but it has limited maneuverability.

So, from a public relations perspective and even at an existential business level, it’s not surprising to see purveyors of consumer products and materials suppliers bow to public opinion and explore reusable alternatives and new technologies, such as chemical recycling, even if the economics don’t quite add up. But let’s not kid ourselves that by ridding the world of plastic we are saving the planet—the alternatives could be far worse in the long run.

Image: Fotomek/Adobe Stock

Could Managing Quality Data in the Cloud Reduce Deviations?

MasterControl Manufacturing Excellence software tool
When tablets replace clipboards on the manufacturing floor, manufacturers can collect data in a connected system, providing insights that lead to greater operational efficiencies. Photo and caption courtesy of MasterControl.

Medtech companies may be eyeing the cloud for capturing and analyzing manufacturing and quality data, but the transition from manual-entry spreadsheets or even paper records may seem daunting. At MD&M East 2019, MasterControl launched one potential solution, the MasterControl Manufacturing Excellence software tool, for helping manufacturers eliminate paper production records and manual data entry processes.

“When manufacturers have a paper or hybrid process, data becomes trapped in the paper, making it much harder to see the trends,” Matt Lowe, executive vice president for MasterControl, told MD+DI. “You can certainly capture data in any environment, even in spreadsheets, but unless you have a system that allows you to organize it, query it, track it, trend it, and predict on it, it’s of minimal use in preventing the problem.”

Lowe said that “ideally, medical device manufacturers should be collecting all manufacturing data, but some of the inefficiencies that exist today prevent that from being a reality. At the very least, manufacturers should be looking at all key attributes of the product and tolerance limits over time. This would allow companies to see the variances and when they are approaching control limits and catch issues before they become a problem.”

While MasterControl has been helping medical device manufacturers manage data for 25 years, Lowe reported, its latest cloud-based tool gives them additional capabilities. “If you think about traditional QA quality data—things like deviations, out-of-specifications, variance—those attributes are well defined quality channels for documenting things that went wrong,” Lowe said. “Today, MasterControl offers a product platform to manage quality throughout the product life cycle and ultimately connect systems that help catch things before they go wrong. When our clients can be preventive in their quality and manufacturing environments, they can significantly reduce deviations and variances and things of that nature.”

For instance, “siloed data, paper records, and disparate systems are low-hanging fruit for these companies to make the move to digitization, which ties processes together and improves both quality and manufacturing excellence,” he explained.

Collecting manufacturing quality data in the cloud offers a number of benefits, Lowe said. The “cloud equals speed in getting to a digital environment,” he said. “On-premise system installation and configuration takes a lot of time and IT manpower to get going—in the cloud we can get the process going much faster.”

Application security in the cloud may also be enhanced. For SaaS providers, “100 percent of our time, or any provider’s for that matter, is spent on securing our application in a network environment,” Lowe said. “Most internal IT departments do not have that same level of resource availability, nor do they understand the intricacies of each individual application they must support."

Accessibility could be the most significant gain. “Not only is data secure in the cloud, it is easily accessible across regions, people, and departments in real-time,” he said. “This leads to the biggest benefit—leveraging big data, where all the data is there and connected. In this environment, companies can see trends, make predictions and understand how to stop quality events, and create huge time efficiencies.”

The platform also provides manufacturers with the VxT tool, a risk-based validation tool that uses algorthims to evaluate changes in manufacturing processes and evaluate potential risks. “Our VxT tool allows us to take a risk-based approach for validation, because we are in the cloud,” Lowe said. “When companies are managing their quality data in a single environment and we deliver feature improvements in small, incremental changes, it is easier to validate. It’s large, monolithic changes that introduce more risk to your business.”

He added that while “many life sciences organizations have been laggards to digitization due to the validation process,” they could “benefit from the cloud deployment model.

“VxT allows them to accurately assess the different risks in the software changes as it pertains to their business and rely on all of the testing that we do as a vendor, as opposed to having to replicate all that work for their individual instance,” he said. “VxT takes the validation burden down from weeks and months to hours and days.”

There can be challenges when moving to a cloud-based system, but a few steps could make the process more efficient, Lowe explained. “A good place to start is with a systems audit to give a clear picture of needs and gaps and bring those processes together. If making the transition seems overwhelming, implementing in small, quick projects can be more palatable,” he said. “Additionally, users will start to see successes with the small implementations and get excited by the change instead of resisting change. The final piece to a successful digital or cloud transition is building a culture of open-mindedness around the project and investing in the right training tools so users can be successful.”

Data migration for existing users can be streamlined in a hosted or on-premise environment to make the move to the cloud, Lowe said. “We can pick up their data and populate it in a replicated cloud system. For new customers who may be digital, paper, or hybrid, the process has a few more steps to map the data migration into a similar configuration and get it ported over to the MasterControl system in the cloud. But at the end of the day, companies should not be intimidated by the process, as there are validation practices in place to make sure data is migrated properly and risk is mitigated.

“If you are comfortable banking in the cloud, you should be comfortable having your quality data in the cloud,” he added.

Manufacturers that have not yet used a cloud-based application may experience “organizational resistance or a senior leader that is ultra-paranoid about putting data ‘out there,’ ” Lowe acknowledged. “While these emotions might have been warranted 10 years ago, security protocols have advanced so much in cloud applications and with service providers, this thinking is outdated. Why rely on your internal IT team to secure an application they know little about? MasterControl, and almost any SaaS provider, know how to secure data in their system, configure it properly, and make sure that ingress/egress situations from applications are properly secured. This is especially true if a company has integrations to third parties—we know the best way to do that in a secure fashion.

“There also might be concerns about loss of control or job redundancy with IT departments,” he continued. “In reality, hosting in the cloud helps companies, and many times overburdened IT departments, become more efficient and free up time to work on other projects. Projects like this are often administered by the business leadership instead of IT experts, and that can cause some angst because it’s a change. But truly this puts the responsibility and ownership of the software configuration on the people who will actually use it and mitigates the time burden for the IT department.”

Supplier Stories for the Week of July 21

Enercon Industries Corp. reported that Nate Fales will serve in the role of service manager, leading a support team of mechanical and electrical engineers. Enercon makes equipment for the plastics, converting, and packaging industries.Fales has spent 12 years with Enercon, serving as field engineer, international sales manager, and technical purchasing manager. “With his diverse background, Nate has a truly unique perspective for both applications and equipment. His insights will be a tremendous benefit to our customers,” stated Dan Nimmer, Enercon's VP operations, in a news release.Fales earned his electrical engineering degree from the Milwaukee School of Engineering.Enercon’s engineers are available 24/7 for free phone support, remote diagnostic interpretation, custom training sessions, and in-field service, it was reported. The company offers a library of webinars, how-to-articles, infographics, and technical resources to assist customers with applications and best practices for installation, operation, and maintenance.[Image courtesy of ENERCON INDUSTRIES CORP.] 

Rodon Group expands manufacturing footprint, installs new large-tonnage press

Rodon Group expands manufacturing footprint, installs new large-tonnage press

Custom injection molder The Rodon Group (Hatfield, PA) announced a facility expansion and the acquisition of a new 720-ton hybrid injection molding machine for large parts.

The expansion includes an additional 125,000 square feet of space at a secondary location in Hatfield, PA. The area will allow Rodon to grow with its diverse customer base and allow for improved process flow and future advances of the company’s injection molding capabilities.

Rodon Group injection molding machine

The new 720-ton injection molding machine enhances the capacities of Rodon Group’s existing 118 molding presses, offering a range of fractional to 107 ounces and clamping forces ranging from 46 to 720 tons. “With a much higher tonnage capability than those of our existing machines, the new press allows us to offer greater production flexibility for large part injection molding and improves our capabilities for customers that are looking to manufacture these types of parts,” said Jill Worth, Digital Marketing Lead.

“As plastic injection molding methods continue to advance and evolve, allowing for enhanced flexibility and more sophisticated customization options, molding companies must be able to stay ahead of the curve in order to offer clients the latest technologies and highest-quality end products that suit their needs in a changing market,” she added.

The medtech minute (or two)

The medtech minute (or two)

FDA asks Allergan to recall textured breast implants

breast implant processFDA has finally drawn a line in the sand on an issue that has plagued the breast implant industry for years, writes Amanda Pedersen in sister brand MD+DI. On July 24, the agency called on medical device manufacturer Allergan to take specific models of its textured breast implants off the market due to the risk of a rare type of cancer, she reports.

The request from FDA comes on the heels of an updated worldwide total of 573 unique cases of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), including 33 patient deaths. Most of the BIA-ALCL cases were attributed to Allergan implants.

Back in April, France announced that it would ban textured and polyurethane-coated breast implants and Canada's regulatory agency advised Allergan that it will suspend those types of implants as a “precautionary measure.” At that time, FDA said it would continue to monitor cases of BIA-ALCL but did not suspend or ban sale of the devices.

Breast implants on the market today have a silicone outer shell, with either a textured or non-textured surface, and are filled with silicone gel or saline, explains Pedersen in the MD+DI article. “Over the years there have been reports of risks associated with breast implants, such as capsular contracture, implant rupture and BIA-ALCL. More confirmed cases of BIA-ALCL have been reported in patients with textured surface implants than in patients with smooth-surface implants, the agency said in March.”

Of the worldwide total of of 573 unique cases of BIA-ALCL and 33 patient deaths, 481 of the cases were associated with Allergan textured breast implants.

Medtech and the final frontier

medtech in spaceThe 50th anniversary of the moon landing on July 20 inspired countless articles and programs across all media. As you might expect, PlasticsToday focused on the contribution of plastics to space travel yesterday and today. MD+DI chose the medical orbit, featuring “out of this world medical devices inspired by space” in a slide show.

Highlighted technologies include the development of portable ventilators; the use of origami principles to design spacecraft, which led to use of the technique to design ultracompact surgical tools; and research into nanotechnology-enabled deep brain stimulation to treat disease.

Medical 3D printing startup closes $3 million funding round

Axial3D  3D-printed surgical modelAxial3D announced this week that it had raised an additional $3 million in funding, which it will use to expand headcount at its Belfast headquarters and to support expansion in the U.S. market. The company, which was founded in 2013, is developing an automated 3D printing solution for the healthcare sector.

The funding round was led by London-based Imprimatur Capital Fund Management, an international science and technology investor. The round was also supported by a U.S. investment consortium consisting of a number of surgical angel investors, which was not named in the press release. Axial3D’s previous institutional investors Techstart Ventures, Clarendon Fund Managers and Innovation Ulster Ltd. also participated in the round.

“Following our recent collaborations with Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare and University Hospital Basel, we will focus further on the North American and European markets,” said CEO Daniel Crawford. “This includes opening an office in the USA, and recruiting more talent into our team, particularly to grow our machine learning capability. This will enable us to continue to innovate and find new ways to bring 3D printing on-demand to the entire healthcare sector.”

The most innovative medical devices of the year

Prix Galien medalThe finalists of the 13th Annual Prix Galien USA awards in the pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical technology categories were recently revealed. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on Oct. 24, 2019.

The Galien Foundation recognizes and rewards scientific innovation that improves human health. Founded in France in 1945 by pharmacist Roland Mehl, the U.S. component was launched in 2007. The awards ceremony and dinner is traditionally held at the New York City Museum of Natural History.

This year’s finalists in the medical device category include a device from Boston Scientific that can predict heart failure weeks in advance, deep brain stimulation technology from Medtronic for epilepsy patients and a hearing aid that also tracks body and brain health from Starkey Livio AI.

A slide show featuring the 17 finalists in the medical device category can be viewed on the Medical Design & Outsourcing website.

Throwback Thursday: The plastic car of the future, circa 1967

Throwback Thursday: The plastic car of the future, circa 1967

In the grooviest year on record, a car with a fully plastic body drove considerable attendee interest at the K 1967 show in Düsseldorf, Germany. The Bayer K67 was jointly developed by Covestro (part of Bayer AG at the time) and BMW and was designed by Hans Gugelot’s influential design bureau in Ulm, Germany.

Bayer K 67 plastic car from 1967

The Bayer K 67 was one of the world’s first automobiles with an all-plastic body. The “polyurethane car,” as it has been called, struck a dissonant tone at a time when automotive design was largely articulated around metal and glass. It also included some innovations that, in time, would be widely adopted by carmakers. Covestro’s Jochen Hardt briefly rekindled this vision of the future circa the Sixties at the K 2019 Preview earlier this month.

Beyond the full-on embrace of plastics, the Bayer K67 also featured a design innovation that would be replicated in passenger cars many years later—the integration of turn signals in side mirrors.

There was nothing terribly novel under the hood—it was essentially the two-liter, four-cylinder engine that powered the BMW 2000 TI and Coupé 2000 CS of that time—but because the car weighed only 850 kilograms (1,873 pounds), it had considerable pep and reached a maximum speed of 190 kilometers/hour (118 mph), according to Welt.de.

When the car was shown at the Design Engineering Show in Chicago the year after K 1967, it elicited this comment from the President of Mobay Chemical Co., as archived on AllCarIndex. “The technique of combining various types of high-strength plastic sheeting materials with high-density rigid urethane film as the core section has a message for every field of product engineering where high strength-to-weight ratio, low tooling and production costs, assembly-line scheduling, and almost unlimited flexibility in materials and processing methods are essential or even desirable values,” said B. R. Nason.

Bayer K 67 plastic car from 1967 has turn signals embedded in side mirrors
One of the design innovations in the Bayer K 67 car was embedding turn signals in the side mirrors.

Only five models were built, said Hardt at the K 2019 Preview, two of which are still in existence: One is on exhibit at the Deutsches Museum in Munich; the other one is parked at Covestro headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany.

Flash forward a little more than 50 years, and Covestro again will explore the intersection of plastics and mobility at the K show. This time, however, the emphasis at booth A 75 in hall 6 will be on the car interior.

“The car of the future will be a multifunctional, mobile living and working space,” writes Stephen Moore in his article, “Covestro reinventing mobility at K 2019.” “We are particularly focused on the interior design, which can be both a living and working space in an autonomous vehicle, offering customized experiences to the user,” Hardt explained in Moore’s article. “Future vehicle concepts for electromobility offer car manufacturers opportunities for completely new room concepts and additionally open up a new ground for brand differentiation,” added Hardt.

And just like in 1967, plastics play a critical supporting role in making that happen.

To learn more about the future of mobility as Covestro sees it, read Moore’s piece here.

Could Solar-Powered Cars Become Practical?

Toyota has placed enough high-efficiency solar cells on a Prius to gain up to 27 miles of driving range during a sunny day. (Image source: Toyota)

The idea of a solar-powered car is an appealing one. The first official solar car race was the Tour de Sol in Switzerland in 1985, and since that time similar races have taken place in the US, Australia, and Europe. The vehicles for such competitions are usually built by universities, often in partnership with car makers and aerospace firms, and are usually highly aerodynamic, single-seat machines having little to do with practical transportation.

Now, Toyota has announced that it is partnering with Sharp and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) in Japan to test a plug-in Prius hybrid whose power system has been augmented by highly-efficient solar cells. According to a Toyota news release, “The trials aim to assess the effectiveness of improvements in cruising range and fuel efficiency of electrified vehicles equipped with high-efficiency solar batteries.”

Roof Tops

Anyone who is familiar with solar cells will be immediately doubtful about their on-board use to power a vehicle. Photovoltaic (PV) cells are great in stationary applications where, on a rooftop or in a field they can cover a large area and generate electricity, even when the sun is partially hidden behind clouds. In fact, in the early days of electric vehicle (EV) acceptance, it wasn’t uncommon for EV owners to use a rooftop solar array to help charge their vehicles. But finding enough surface area on a vehicle to mount enough solar panels to make a difference is a problem.

Solar panels have been used on some EVs—the original Nissan Leaf for example had an option of a small solar panel on its rear spoiler whose purpose was to maintain the charge of the car’s 12-volt auxiliary battery. Likewise, Toyota has offered solar panels for the roof of its Prius that generated enough power to run a cooling fan in the cabin.

On the Road

Early in 2019, German company Sono Motors announced that it would be going into production with its Sion solar-powered EV. Similar in size to a Nissan Leaf, every flat surface of the Sion is covered in solar cells. The company claims that on a sunny day, the Sion will gain about 19 miles of driving range from the 1.2 kilowatts of output that the solar panels can produce. Although the company plans to eventually sell its Sion worldwide, initially it is concentrating on the European market.

Sharp has developed a high-efficiency solar battery cell with a conversion efficiency of 34 percent (about 10% higher than current commercial cells) and modularized it to create an onboard solar battery panel for Toyota. The solar cell is a thin film about 0.03 mm in thickness. Toyota installed this panel on the roof, hood, rear hatch door, and other parts of its "Prius PHV" to produce a car that could be tested and demonstrated on public roads.

According to the news release, “By enhancing the solar battery panel's efficiency and expanding its onboard area, Toyota was able to achieve a rated power generation output of around 860 watts.” The result is a system that charges the driving battery while the vehicle is parked and also while it's being driven. During a full day, Toyota estimates the solar panels will add about 27 miles of EV driving range to the Prius. Because an average person in the US drives around 29 miles per day, the use of solar power for EV charging is beginning to look more practical.

The Battery Show and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo 2019 conference will take place in Novi, Michigan on September 10-12, 2019. Four days, eight tracks, and over 80 sessions, curated by industry experts will bring battery and electric vehicle technologies into clear focus.

Senior Editor Kevin Clemens has been writing about energy, automotive, and transportation topics for more than 30 years. He has masters degrees in Materials Engineering and Environmental Education and a doctorate degree in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in aerodynamics. He has set several world land speed records on electric motorcycles that he built in his workshop.

 

Drive World with ESC Launches in Silicon Valley

This summer (August 27-29), Drive World Conference & Expo launches in Silicon Valley with North America's largest embedded systems event, Embedded Systems Conference (ESC). The inaugural three-day showcase brings together the brightest minds across the automotive electronics and embedded systems industries who are looking to shape the technology of tomorrow.
Will you be there to help engineer this shift? Register today!

 

Mixing Graphene with Bacteria Offers Cost-Effective, Eco-Friendly Production

Design News recently reported on how researchers in Australia used bark from eucalyptus trees to produce the highly useful material graphene in a low-cost, more eco-friendly way than typical processes.

Now, a researcher in the United States—working with a team in the Netherlands—also has reported a more eco-friendly and inexpensive way to create the carbon-based material, which has myriad uses due to its high electrical conductivity, low weight and high strength.

A cross-institutional team at the University of Rochester and Delft University of Technology have developed a way to produce graphene materials by mixing oxidized graphite with bacteria. The method—like that of the Australian team—could help overcome the hurdle of producing graphene in large quantities for next-generation applications.

This new research was also inspired by other previous work, which already identified a certain type of bacteria as a good way to produce graphene-like materials, acknowledged Anne Meyer, associate professor of biology at the University of Rochester.

“We were inspired by some earlier papers that showed that you could mix together a graphene precursor with the bacteria Shewanella oneidensis,” she told Design News. “These earlier papers showed that the bacteria can change the chemistry of this graphene precursor to be more graphene-like, but it was totally unclear if this new material would be in any way suitable for materials applications--whether it was electrically conductive, or able to be used over long periods of time.”

Scientists have long known that the nanomaterial graphene is incredibly useful for creating new and more efficient computers, medical devices, and other advanced technologies. However, production of the material is typically a time- and resource-consuming process that requires the use of toxic materials—which is inspiring researchers to find other ways to do it.

Currently, there are two main ways to make graphene, Meyer told Design News. Chemical vapor deposition can make highly pure graphene, but this procedure only makes very small amounts and requires complex equipment and chemistry, she said.

To make graphene on a larger scale, there is another approach that uses chemicals, “but this technique is very harsh and energy-intensive,” she told us.

Overnight Transformation

The procedure Meyer and her team devised is far simpler and less energy-intensive and doesn’t require the use of toxic chemicals. Researchers started with a vial of graphite, which they exfoliated until they produced graphene oxide. Then, they mixed with the bacteria Shewanella and the rest of the process happens organically overnight, Meyer told Design News.

“In our procedure, all we have to do is mix together our bacteria with some of the graphene precursor material and leave it sitting on the benchtop overnight at room temperature,” she told us. “The next morning, the new graphene material will be ready. This procedure is inexpensive, easy, and very environmentally-friendly.”

Moreover, the graphene produced using bacteria are thinner and can be stored longer, she added.

Another benefit of the graphene materials Meyer and her team produced are that they can easily have functional groups added to them, which makes them well-suited to developing new devices, she told us.

“They could be used, for example, as a field-effect transistor (FET) biosensor,” Meyer told Design News. “For this type of device, you want a conductive material onto which molecules have been attached that can detect specific biomolecules. Our material could be used, therefore, as a lightweight, flexible device for detecting biomolecules such as blood sugar or infectious agents.”

The materials’ longevity when stored while retaining electrical conductivity makes them conducive to producing conductive inks for printed electrical circuits and other electronics, she added.

So far, the team has only been able to produce milliliters of graphene from the materials; however, in the future, researchers hope to produce liters of the materials and see their use in real-world applications, Meyer told Design News.

Researchers published a paper on their work in the journal ChemOpen.

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.

 

Related Links

3D Printing Interconnected Graphene Layers

Researchers Make Graphene Using Bark from Eucalyptus Trees

 

World’s first polyamide beads foam developed in Japan

World’s first polyamide beads foam developed in Japan

With ongoing disruptive megatrends in the automotive industry, auto OEMs and suppliers are facing strong pressure to innovate according to materials supplier Asahi Kasei. “New, innovative solutions are in high demand,” the Japanese firm says. The company claims that its newly developed polyamide (PA) beads foam offers unique possibilities for lightweight and noise reducing applications.

Polyamide foam based on Macaroni-shaped beads offers outstanding noise reduction potential in vehicles.

PA Foam features the typical heat, chemical and oil resistant properties of polyamide, combined with outstanding rigidity or noise reducing quality depending on the shape of the beads. PA Foam consisting of round-shaped beads features strong rigidity, making it a promising alternative material for aluminum and metal in structural applications, as well as for use for insulators, ducts, spacers, or other lightweight parts of the battery case of electrified vehicles.

Further, PA Foam with a C- or macaroni-shape provides noise insulation in addition to the typical polyamide properties. Potential applications can be found everywhere around the car, especially in the engine compartment, where the material can unfold its unique qualities. Used for engine covers, for example, it not only contributes to lightweight, but also significantly reduces the radiating engine noise, making the car quieter overall.

These noise reduction qualities of the foam also contribute to enhanced comfort inside the car. With the rising popularity of car sharing and the expected introduction of autonomous driving, the automotive interior is becoming more and more important as a space for relaxation and comfort – a space of living. PA Foam can significantly contribute to the quality of this new in-vehicle living space via the insulation and reduction of noise radiating from the car itself, as well as reducing noise coming from the outside. Possible applications can be found in the roof and hood, but also in the seat and floor structure.

Foam beads made of PA can be processed using the steam molding process on standard polystyrene molding equipment. Furthermore, a significant reduction of resin for the production process can be achieved, contributing to an overall cost reduction.

Disruptive CASE (Connected – Autonomous – Shared – Electrified) megatrends are leveraging the pressure to innovate on the automotive industry to new heights. In addition to changing consumer needs, EU legislation concerning the reduction of CO2 emissions has been significantly pushing demand for new and innovative lightweight materials as a substitute for metal and aluminum parts.

At the same time these materials have to live up to the high safety standards of the automotive industry, and to provide solutions to changing and tightening regulations worldwide. Plastics and foams, with their broad range of properties, will become a key in this field according to Asahi Kasei, contributing to a reduction of CO2 emissions of conventional passenger cars with combustion engines, and a longer driving distance for electric cars.

Another challenge for the automotive industry is the tightening of noise regulations. With Regulation No. 51-031 issued by the United Nations in 2016, the noise level emitted to the outside must be continuously reduced in newly manufactured vehicles.

Asahi Kasei is one of only four fully integrated PA manufacturers worldwide – and is able to produce PA 66 from monomer to compound. Based on this expertise, the company is currently developing the foam bead material PA Foam– the first of its kind worldwide. It is offering solutions to both aforementioned challenges in the automotive industry – stiffness, mechanical strength and heat resistance for use in structural lightweight applications of cars, and noise reducing characteristics.

 “Asahi Kasei introduces new possibilities of foam materials by launching the PA Foam with unprecedented high heat resistance to the market,” commented Takauji Namatame, Senior Manager of the Corporate R&D Division at Asahi Kasei Europe. “In Europe, where environmental awareness is strong, the need for lightweight applications is expected to further increase in the future, especially in the automotive industry. Our foam opens new doors for applications, which at the same time require lightweight and heat resistance. In addition, the noise reduction properties resulting from the special shape of the beads will meet the growing demand regarding applications that reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).”

Asahi Kasei will present the PA Foam at the Foam Expo Europe, to be held from 10–12 September in Stuttgart, Germany.