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Orange polyamide, polyester compounds for high voltage components in electric vehicles

Orange polyamide, polyester compounds for high voltage components in electric vehicles

The use of the color orange to identify live, plastic-sheathed components is becoming well-established in electric vehicles, but it is a challenge to develop orange compounds that exhibit high color stability over the long term. Materials firm Lanxess has now succeeded in doing just this.

Orange is a standard color used to identify live, plastic-sheathed components in electric vehicles.

The resin supplier offers a wide range of orange-colored polyamide (PA) and polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) compounds for precisely these kinds of high-voltage applications. The products will be colored in the highly vivid RAL 2003 (Lanxess color code 200849) tone. Another color variant is almost ready to be introduced. The compounds will be available both in a standard formulation and with thermal stabilization, which will help to improve color stability when the component is exposed to heat.

“We want to provide a Yellow Card listing from the US testing organization Underwriters Laboratories for all the compounds we offer, which means that the molders will not have to color the product themselves nor to undergo the time-consuming UL certification process. They can deploy the compounds instantly, which helps to cut costs,” said Julian Haspel, manager of the e-Powertrain team, which has recently been established in the Lanxess High Performance Materials (HPM) business unit.

The standard versions of the compounds still exhibit sufficiently high color stability after 1,000 aging hours at 130°C. “The thermally stabilized material settings even have the potential to withstand 1,000 hours at 150°C without the orange color changing significantly,” explained Haspel.

Among the first product types to feature the new color are the glass-fiber-reinforced, halogen-free flame-retardant PA 6 compounds Durethan BKV20FN01, BKV30FN04 and BKV45FN04. A special feature here is the Durethan BKV45FN04, which is 45 percent glass-fiber-reinforced yet still easy-flowing. It passes the UL 94 flammability test with the top classification V-0 with a test specimen thickness of 0.4 millimeters. “Its high stiffness and strength make the material ideal for not only structural components in the battery such as cell frames and end plates, but also large, high-voltage connectors requiring high mechanical stability,” said Haspel. The compound is also characterized by high tracking resistance at high electrical voltages. This also applies to the two other polyamide variants. For example, orange-colored Durethan BKV30FN04 has a CTI value (comparative tracking index, IEC 60112) of 600.

Durethan BG30XH3.0 remains the perfect choice for exceptionally low-warpage structural plastic. It has been reinforced with a mixture of glass fibers and glass microbeads. The H3.0 thermal stabilization is copper- and halide-free, which prevents electrical corrosion in the vicinity of live metal parts.

The hydrolysis-stabilized, glass-fiber-reinforced PBT compound Pocan BF4232HR is also part of the new product series. In the color orange, it also achieves V-0 classification in the UL 94 flammability test with a test specimen thickness of as little as 0.4 mm. The high hydrolysis resistance is demonstrated in the long-term test SAE/USCAR-2 Rev. 5 of the American Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), which was designed especially for plug connectors. Haspel: “Our PBT fulfilled requirements up to Class 5, the strictest variant of this test.”

Lanxess will continue to expand its range of orange-colored compounds. “We develop application-specific, customized material variants in accordance with market requirements,” said Haspel.

At HPM, the new compounds form part of a development focus on new forms of mobility. In addition to halogen-free flame-retardant PAs, whose additive packages are specially designed for electromobility applications, HPM also offers, for example, highly heat-PA 6 versions and electromagnetically shielding compounds.

An EKG for the Knee

KneeKG by Emovi
Image of KneeKG courtesy of Emovi

Knee pain due to arthritis or injury is the second most common cause of chronic pain in the United States. Osteoarthritis affects more than 30 million adults in the United States. And the rate of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears among children and teens has been increasing about 2.3% per year for the past two decades, according to a new study.

The specific cause of a patient’s knee pain has always been difficult to determine because diagnostic tools such as x-ray or MRI only image the joint in a static standing or lying down position, not in motion when the patient is feeling pain.

“So what's been missing is a tool to understand exactly what's going on in the knee, what are the mechanical deficits in the knee that correlate with these [pain] symptoms,” said Michelle Laflamme, CEO of Emovi, in an interview with MD+DI.

Emovi’s KneeKG is an in-clinic device that measures knee function with objective and quantifiable data associated with knee mechanical markers and functional deficiencies. Using this data, physicians can better target treatments, instead of using the current process of elimination method. “It's a bit like an echocardiogram for the heart, but it’s for the knee,” said Laflamme.

She continued by saying that the test is not invasive or painful. “You walk on the treadmill and the system will capture the movement of your knee in 3D,” she said. “So we know exactly when the pain or the symptoms occur and why. And then we provide that information to the doctor.”

The test is performed in a sports medicine clinic, physical therapy department of a hospital, or a physical therapy clinic. The patient’s knee is put into an exoskeleton to eliminate artifacts such as skin and muscle. A camera that is mounted on a cart follows the movement of trackers that are placed on the femur and the tibia while the patient walks. The software then identifies deficiencies in the function of the knee joint. The test takes about 20 minutes.

The KneeKG is suitable for people suffering from knee osteoarthritis, knee pain, ligament injuries, and anterior knee pain/patellofemoral pain syndrome. Patients can be tested for an initial diagnosis and then after treatment to better determine how it is working.

The device is FDA cleared and indicated for appropriate assessment of the 3-D knee motion for patients who have impaired movement functions of an orthopedic cause, according to the company. Emovi will install the system in clinic locations and does not charge an equipment training fee. Training takes about 12 hours, Laflamme said, and the learning curve for the operator is about 10 tests.

KneeKG is currently commercially available in the Unites States, and the company has plans for a wider roll out. “Now we have three installations, and this year we are officially launching the system to expand wider,” Laflamme said. She noted that the company will first concentrate its expansion in the Eastern part of the United States. The KneeKG is also available in the UK, Canada, Australia, and China.

A Medical Device Worth Sweating Over

GE Global Research A Medical Device Worth Sweating Over
Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado recently wore prototypes of a hydration-tracking sweat patch during a day of intense training. The patch is a joint project between GE Global Research, Binghamton University, the University of Connecticut, San Jose, CA-based NextFlex, and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.

Current practices measure body hydration by looking at short-term weight changes or laboratory measurements of blood and urine.  Neither approach is real-time, which makes it impractical for tracking dehydration in military members, athletes, and workers in the field.

Several years ago GE Global Research, the research division of GE, began having conversations with scientists at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

"They were concerned about problems of dehydration and heat and stress and the risk imposed on special operations training units," Azar Alizadeh, PhD, a principal scientist at GE Global Research, told MD+DI. "These are extremely fit people but the regiments of training is very complex and also long and harsh so they were at risk of dehydration."

From those conversations, the idea of a hydration-tracking sweat patch was born. The patch is a joint project of GE Global Research, Binghamton University, the University of Connecticut, San Jose, CA-based NextFlex, and the AFRL.

"As we have progressed realization that hydration assessment is actually a very complex matter. You have to understand the fluid losses as well as the electrolytes balance so we tried to do both types of those measurements from sweat," Alizadeh said.

The current prototype has a category of sensors dedicated to measuring sweat volume locally, a second category of sensors assessing fluid balance, and a third category of sensors for measuring two different electrolytes, sodium and potassium.

"All three categories of measurements are happening continuously and data is transferred wirelessly to a mobile device," Alizadeh said.

Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado recently put the device to the test. Eight cadets wore the sweat patches for a day as they tackled various training obstacles, including two 1.5 mile ruck marches during which they carried 45 pounds of gear.

Additional details of this and other trial runs of the device were not disclosed but Alizadeh said she is hopeful that the group will be able to share the results by the end of September.

The patch also will be part of a series of live trials called SweatFactor happening at NextFlex’s San Jose facility in San Jose, CA on Aug. 6.  People involved with the project will wear the patch while exercising on treadmills and stationary bikes. Students from Evergreen Valley College, a San Jose, CA-based community college, are also expected to participate.

NextFlex partners also will show off the patch during NextFlex Innovation Day on Aug. 8.

CVS Dives into Hemodialysis with ‘Home’ Device

Pixabay CVS Dives into Hemodialysis with ‘Home’ Device


MedicaSafe Turns Attention to Opioid Addiction

Courtesy of MedicaSafe MedicaSafe Turns Attention to Opioid Addiction

One of MedicaSafe’s primary goals is to develop products for high-risk medication management. So it makes sense for the New York-based company to focus on opioid addiction, which claims the lives of more than 130 people every day in the U.S. (According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

The New York-based company recently received $1 million Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institute of Health, with a specific focus on opioid use disorder (OUD).

The funding will support a clinical trial to examine the effect of MedicaSafe’s drug-device combination vs. standard of care in the treatment management of OUD. The trial is conducted to determine whether the system can help foster treatment compliance and assist clinicians.

“What we’re trying to do is create data-generating medications,” Matt Ervin, founder, and MedicaSafe CEO, told MD+DI. “The how is by marrying medications with new technology in a manner that facilitates this data generating process.”

MedicaSafe’s system is comprised of secure pre-packaged buprenorphine/naloxone cartridges, and each dose is designed to be dispensed by a SmartKey device. The SmartKey is programmed by certified pharmacies with a treatment plan that allows for dispensation of the right dose at the right time. Each dose dispensation, or the lack thereof, is recorded and collated into treatment reports that enable clinicians to track patient adherence to their regimen.

The opioid epidemic is a public health emergency, with more than one million people suffering from addiction who do not have access to treatment.

Buprenorphine is the only opioid substitute approved for office-based treatment of OUD, but accidental and sometimes purposeful misuse of the drug contributes to decreased treatment success rates among patients with lower compliance.

“The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that 12 million Americans misuse prescription opioids for non-medical purposes annually. There is an urgent need for innovative approaches that enhance and expand treatment to those with opioid use disorder,” Anand Mattai, MD, CMO at MedicaSafe and project leader of the study, said in a release. “While the efficacy of buprenorphine/naloxone is proven, the effectiveness of the drug is significantly diminished by poor compliance. We set out to change this by bolstering support of the drug with innovative technology that is intended to improve risk stratification, daily compliance and drug safety.”

Ervin pointed out some of the issues clinicians would run into when it comes to getting out in front of OUD.

“There’s a lack of information the prescriber has about what the patient is doing,” Ervin said. “There are a lot of things the patient could be doing when they’re going through treatment for opioid use disorder. They could be intermittently compliant to the medication. It could be very difficult for the prescriber to know that. The only real objective tool the prescriber has right now is lab testing. And that generally happens when the patient comes back to the doctors. They sort of know in advance when it’s going to happen. It only detects what’s in that patient from 48 to 72 hours prior to that test.”

The system is currently being studied for design validation and will undergo a randomized controlled trial that will aim to take patients from induction to stable maintenance in office-based buprenorphine treatment.

Ervin noted that OUD is just the tip of the iceberg and that the company was working on many other medications and disease states.

Plastics make it possible, even in outer space

Plastics make it possible, even in outer space

Tomorrow, as you undoubtedly know, is the 50th anniversary of the moon walk. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. became the first humans to set foot on the moon. It was the crowning achievement of a goal first articulated by President John Kennedy in 1961. One of the most eloquent statements about the event’s import came from Wernher von Braun, who said this on the eve of the Apollo 11 liftoff: “What we will have attained when Neil Armstrong steps down upon the moon is a completely new step in the evolution of man. For the first time, life will leave its planetary cradle, and the ultimate destiny of man will no longer be confined to these familiar continents that we have known so long.” It’s somewhat ironic that the same man who developed missiles for Hitler in Nazi Germany could craft such an uplifting observation, but I digress, doubly so because what I really want to write about is the role that plastics have played—and continue to play—in space travel.

Craftech Industries, a privately owned contract manufacturer in Hudson, NY, which offers injection molding, mold making and CNC machining services, published a succinct overview of how plastics have advanced space exploration on its website. “Plastic materials have played a vital role throughout the history of space flight, allowing astronauts to view their surroundings, breathe oxygen and travel comfortably in orbit around the Earth, or on the way to the moon,” notes the company. The article goes on to explain how the versatility and functionality of plastic materials enabled the fabrication of robust helmets and visors, comfortable seating and lighter spacecraft.


Clarity of vision

A paper on the Apollo missions on the NASA website includes a chapter that describes the composition of the extravehicular mobility unit (EMU), or space suit in layman’s terms, that was used in the first lunar landing. The pressure helmet assembly that was part of the EMU was designed to withstand the harsh environment of space but also to provide astronauts with clear visibility of their surroundings.

NASA's extravehicular mobility unit

Since transparency and durability were desired properties in the helmet assembly, it will come as no surprise to plastics engineers that polycarbonate was the chosen material. Specifically, writes NASA, “the helmet was made by a special heat forming process from high-optical-quality polycarbonate plastic.” The paper also notes that a synthetic elastomer foam vent pad was bonded to the back of the helmet shell to provide a headrest, and to act as a ventilation flow manifold for directing the flow of gas to the oral-nasal area. “This flow caused an efficient exhaust of carbon dioxide from the nasal area through the torso neck opening,” write the authors of the paper.

The visor assembly furnished visual, thermal and mechanical protection to the crewman's helmet and head. The article goes on to explain the multifunctional nature of the assembly, made possible by polymer science.

The visor assembly was “composed of a plastic shell, three eyeshades, and two visors. The outer, or sun visor was made of high-temperature polysulfone plastic. The inner, or protective, visor was made of ultraviolet stabilized polycarbonate plastic. The outer visor filtered visible light and rejected a significant amount of ultraviolet and infrared rays,” notes the article, while “the inner visor filtered ultraviolet rays, rejected infrared and, in combination with the sun visor and pressure helmet, formed an effective thermal barrier. The two visors in combination with the helmet protected the crew member from micrometeoroid damage and from damage in the event of falling on the lunar surface.”

A rearguard action

Protecting the head is critical but, like the all-American road trip, space travel also can be rough on the rump—you want your vehicle to be equipped with comfortable seats. To make the journey tolerable and blunt the impact of landings, NASA developed temper foam, which has since migrated into mattresses under the memory foam monicker. “This open cell polyurethane-silicone plastic made it easier for astronauts to travel to and from space without getting injured or feeling uncomfortable upon re-entry,” writes Craftech.

Before design engineers applied lightweighting technology to increase fuel efficiency in automobiles and aircraft, they honed their lightweighting chops designing spacecraft. As the Craftech article notes, lighter materials make it easier and more efficient to get rockets off the ground. They also allow a reduction in the amount of fuel required for the journey. Carrying less of the highly volatile liquid makes the mission a little safer for astronauts.

The monetary and safety benefits yielded by plastics are hard to ignore, writes Craftech, which is why NASA and other space agencies have leveraged plastics to the hilt. And that continues to this day.

In February 2019, the first integrated recycler and 3D printer, the Refabricator, was installed in the International Space Station. It converts plastic products into feedstock, which it uses to 3D print new products, all within a single unit. “The Refabricator is key in demonstrating a sustainable model to fabricate, recycle and reuse parts and waste materials on extended space exploration missions,” says Niki Werkheiser, Manager of In-Space Manufacturing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL.

By the way, if you are interested in taking a deeper dive into the history of space travel, sister brand Design News is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 with a week of special coverage. Multiple articles cover everything from a day-by-day recap of the Apollo mission to profiles of some of the prominent engineers behind the program. It’s well worth your time!

Image of Apollo extravehicular mobility unit courtesy NASA.

5 Engineering Facts About the Apollo Guidance Computer

The Apollo flight to the moon would not have been possible without the support of mission control, engineering knowledge, and technical skills of the astronauts. In addition to these human talents, there was a small innovation that allowed the lunar module’s successful landing on the moon and return to earth: the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC).

Developed around 1965 at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, the AGC is well known as one of the first modern embedded systems. But there are other details of this system that you might not have known:

The Apollo Guidance Computer with display and keyboard. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

1.) The AGC Was a Digital Computer

The AGC was designed as an airborne digital computer to control, test, and operate the Apollo lunar module’s guidance system. The general-purpose computer used a binary 15-bit format for parallel word transfer and instructions using single addressing mode. The AGC’s data and instructions were stored in memory. The memory structure consisted of several fixed thousand words and 1,000 words were erasable. Included with AGC was a small number of central addressable registers for data storage and two interrupts. The interrupts resolved efficient programming and real-time system requirements operation conflict concerns.


2.) The AGC Used NOR Logic

AGC computation designed used three input NOR logic gates packaged in microcircuit form. Bipolar transistors served as the core method of selecting erasable memory for the AGC. The circuit configuration of the erasable memory was accomplished with current drivers. Also, discrete diode-transistor circuits enable the fixed memory function of the AGC’s computer logic. The basic logic function of the NOR gate is where one binary 1 input will produce a binary 0 output. This logic gate function served as the core decision making block for creating more complex combinatorial decision circuits.

The AGC schematic for the dual NOR logic function. (Image source: klabs)


3.) The AGC Used Core Rope Memory

The AGCs memory was constructed using a core rope data storage method. The core rope’s arrangement was six modules. Each module can manage 6,144 16-bit words. The core rope memory was further partitioned into banks of 1,024 words. The method of storing the data used a charging circuit. A charged core rope represented a binary 1 value. A binary 0 value was represented by a discharged core rope.

A core rope memory panel. (Image source: pixel)


4.) The AGC Had its Own Unique Display and Keyboard

To interact with the AGC, the Apollo astronauts used a display and keyboard (DSKY). The DSKY’s display used a combination of 7-segment numerical displays and indicator lights. A basic keyboard was used to enter mission programs and operations. The AGC was supported by two DKSYs: a main control panel and another located at the navigator’s station near the optical instruments. The DSKY measured 8x8x7inches and weighed 17.5 pounds.

To communicate with the AGC, the astronauts entered in mission programs and operations using verbs. For example, entering verb 78, allows the DSKY to prompt the astronaut for the azimuth information.

The AGC’s Display and Keyboard (DSKY). (Image source: Heritage Auction)

5.) There Is a Virtual AGC DSKY Simulator

The DSKY Virtual Simulator allows hands-on exploration of the AGC mission programs and operations used on the Apollo lunar module. The simulator was originally developed in C then converted to javascript by Ronald Burkey. Burkey explained the project’s objective was to provide a computer simulation of the AGC used onboard the Apollo lunar module. To illustrate the DSKY-AGC function, there is a Saturn 5 launch checklist to explore with the online simulator on the virtual DSKY website.

The AGC-DSKY Virtual Simulator. Image source:

To further explore the Apollo Guidance Computer, additional information on the AGC hardware can be obtained from the NASA website. Also, the online virtual simulator for the AGC-DSKY can be found on the svtsim website.

Don Wilcher is a passionate teacher of electronics technology and an electrical engineer with 26 years of industrial experience. He’s worked on industrial robotics systems, automotive electronic modules/systems, and embedded wireless controls for small consumer appliances. He’s also a book author, writing DIY project books on electronics and robotics technologies.

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!


One Giant Leap For Mankind

July 20, 1969

A grainy black and white television image captures Neil Armstrong’s first step onto the surface of the Moon. (Image source: NASA)

With Eagle landed on the lunar surface, the flight plan called for the astronauts to begin their explorations after a four-hour rest period. The rest was quickly abandoned as Armstrong and Aldrin began their preparations. Even so, it was almost four hours after the landing that Armstrong emerged from the Eagle and deployed a black and white TV camera from the side of the LM in order to beam images of his first steps back to Earth.

Armstrong descended a ladder at 11:56 p.m. on July 20, 1969, and uttered the words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." About 20 minutes later, Aldrin followed him. The camera was then positioned on a tripod about 30 feet from the LM. Half an hour later, President Nixon spoke with the astronauts by telephone link from the White House.

Neil Armstrong took this image of fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin as he stepped off the LM ladder and onto the lunar surface. (Image source: NASA)

During the EVA, in which they both traveled up to 300 feet from the Eagle, using a sort of hopping gate to move about on the low gravity lunar surface. Aldrin deployed the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP) experiments. Armstrong and Aldrin both gathered the all-important lunar surface samples. After spending one hour, 33 minutes on the surface, Aldrin re-entered the LM, followed 41 minutes later by Armstrong. The astronauts had been outside the LM for more than two-and-a-half hours.

Armstrong and Aldrin would spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon's surface. That included a rest period with seven hours of sleep. The next phase of the mission, firing the LM ascent stage so that Eagle could return to a rendezvous with Columbia would be one of the most dangerous parts of the mission. If it failed to ignite, the two astronauts would be stranded forever on the surface of the Moon, with no hope for rescue.


"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

The Eagle Has Landed!

July 20, 1969

Astronaut Michael Collins aboard Columbia inspected Eagle prior to its landing on the lunar surface. (Image source: NASA)

It was time. On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the Lunar Module (LM), making their final checks before undocking Eagle and separating from Columbia. On board the Command Module, astronaut Michael Collins made a visual check of Eagle and gave the go ahead for a landing.

While the LM was behind the moon on its 13th orbit, its descent engine fired for 30 seconds to begin its descent orbit insertion. On a trajectory that was virtually identical to that flown during the landing dress rehearsal by Apollo 10, Eagle’s new orbit was 9 by 67 miles. After Columbia and Eagle had reappeared from behind the moon, and when the LM was about 300 miles from its landing target, the descent engine fired for 756.3 seconds. After 8 minutes, the LM was at about 26,000 feet above the surface and about five miles from the landing site.

The descent engine continued to provide braking thrust as the LM neared the lunar surface. As Eagle neared the surface, Armstrong took manual control. The powered descent that ran 40 seconds longer than preflight planning due to Armstrong’s deft maneuvering of the LM to avoid a crater during the final phase of landing. The Eagle finally set down in the Sea of Tranquility at Site 2, about four miles downrange from the predicted touchdown point and almost one-and-a-half minutes earlier than scheduled.

“Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed!”


Apollo 11 Reaches the Moon

July 19, 1969

A close-up view of the Sea of Fertility on the lunar surface from the window of Columbia during the fourth live television transmission made from the Apollo 11 spacecraft during its second orbit of the moon on July 19, 1969. (Image source: NASA)

On the fourth day of the Apollo 11 mission, the crew needed to fire the engine of the Service Module to put the spacecraft into orbit around the moon. This lunar orbital insertion maneuver was required to take place on the far-side of the moon, out of contact with Mission Control. The 357.5 second burn of the rocket motor went perfectly, placing Apollo 11 into an elliptical lunar orbit of 69 by 190 miles. Later, a second burn of the Service Module rocket for 17 seconds changed that orbit to 62 by 70.5 miles.

The crew also did another live TV broadcast from their two docked spacecraft from lunar orbit. With the moon so close, attention was focused on the next day when the Lunar Module Eagle would separate from the Command Module Columbia and land on the Moon’s surface.