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Japan’s Teijin acquires Portuguese automotive composite supplier

Japan’s Teijin acquires Portuguese automotive composite supplier

Teijin Limited has acquired Inapal Plásticos SA (Inapal), a leading automotive composite supplier in Portugal, via its holding company in the Europe—Teijin Holdings Netherlands B.V. The acquisition was completed at the beginning of August 2018, following regulatory approval.

Portugal’s Inapal molds auto components such as glass mat thermoplastic above) and sheet molding compound trunk lids (below).

Inapal, headquartered in Leca do Balio, Porto, Portugal, is a Tier One supplier of composite components to the automotive and heavy truck industries. The company’s capabilities include Class A body panels, structural and underbody components using a variety of materials and processes, including sheet molding compound (SMC), carbon fiber SMC, pre-preg compression molding (PCM), direct long fiber thermoplastic (D-LFT) and glass mat thermoplastic (GMT). The company has two manufacturing locations in Portugal serving a variety of European OEM customers including Jaguar, Land Rover, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen and Bentley. 

In addition to its automotive and heavy truck business, Inapal supplies components to the heating and cooling industry, as well as passenger seating components to the bus and rail industries. The company had sales of €31.9 million ($37 million) in 2017. 

“We are leveraging our lightweight, strong, high-performance materials and integrated composite technologies as one of the key focuses of the transformation strategies for our medium-term management plan,” said Jun Suzuki, president and CEO, Teijin Limited.  “The acquisition of [US-based] Continental Structural Plastics [CSP] positioned us as a Tier One supplier of high-performance composites to the global automotive market. In July, we announced the acquisition of J.H. Ziegler GmbH (Ziegler), a leading supplier of automotive interior materials in Germany. Now the acquisition of Inapal enables us to deliver on our promise to stakeholders to expand our technologies on a global basis, including in Europe. We will seek synergies by leveraging the business capabilities of CSP, Ziegler and Inapal to continue to grow as a supplier of multi-material components.”

“The addition of Inapal positions CSP well as a global leader in the lightweight composites industry,” added Steve Rooney, CEO of CSP. “With this, we can truly say we are among the world’s largest suppliers of lightweight composite components to the automotive industry, we are strategically located to meet our customers’ needs, and we’re ready for the rapid changes that are taking place in the industry today.”

Teijin expects its automotive composite business revenue to reach approximately €1.7 billion ($2 billion) by 2030.  The company now has the ability to serve customers in most major regions of the world, including North America, Europe and Asia, and has established business with every major global automotive OEM.

 Following the 2017 acquisition of CSP, Teijin has committed to expand its automotive capabilities globally. Technology developments include Sereebo, the world's first mass -production technology for carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP), and in Europe, TENAX Part via Preform (PvP). Developed by Teijin Carbon Europe GmbH, the group’s core carbon fiber business, PvP is a material process technology that enables the highly efficient production of thermoset carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP). PvP is recognized as a Tier One technology by European OEMs and is in production as a structural application on a current automotive platform. Finally, CSP’s European facility in Pouancé, Maine-et-Loire, France, recently announced that it will be installing a sheet molding compound (SMC) line, making the company’s patented, award-winning composite material technologies readily available to customers in Europe.

Adam Spence partners with Biocoat to provide integrated solution to medical device OEMs

Adam Spence partners with Biocoat to provide integrated solution to medical device OEMs

Adam Spence (Wall, NJ), a Spectrum Plastics Group company that specializes in engineered medical extrusions, braid-reinforced tubing and catheter sub-assemblies, seems to be in the mood for coupling. It announced this week that it has entered into a strategic partnership with Biocoat Inc. (Horsham, PA) to offer medical device OEMs complete reinforced catheter shafts with hydrophilic coatings. This follows the announcement earlier this month that it entered into a partnership with Microspec Corp. (Peterborough, NH) to produce reinforced catheter shafts using Microspec’s proprietary inline multi-durometer extrusion technology. In both instances, customers will benefit from streamlined sourcing and improved productivity.

Biocoat's Hydak hydrophilic coating imparts lubricity and durability to
catheter shafts.

“Biocoat has deep experience in the application of low-friction hydrophilic coatings for catheters used in the cardiovascular, neurovascular, peripheral vascular and structural heart markets,” said Steve Maxson, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Adam Spence. “The collaborative partnership will enable Adam Spence to offer Biocoat’s Hydak hydrophilic coating technology with our braided and coiled catheters and delivery systems.”

The partnership leverages the close geographic proximity of the two organizations, said Adam Spence in a news release. Braid- and coil-reinforced delivery systems will be developed and manufactured at the Adam Spence facility in Wall, and Biocoat will apply and test its Hydak topcoat at its nearby Horsham plant. The coating provides lubricity and durability with the benefit of low particulates, said Biocoat. The two organizations will work seamlessly to provide expertise in coated delivery systems from development to full commercialization, added Adam Spence.

Want to know more? Chat with the folks at Biocoat during the co-located PLASTEC and MD&M Minneapolis event on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Biocoat will be exhibiting at booth 1941. 

Kroger announces store-wide single-use bag ban by 2025

Kroger announces store-wide single-use bag ban by 2025

reusable grocery bagCincinnati-based Kroger Corp. announced this morning that it will phase out single-use plastic bags and transition to reusable bags across its stores by 2025. “It’s a bold move that will better protect our planet for future generations,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s Chairman and CEO, who remarked in an editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer this morning: “The plastic shopping bag’s days are numbered.”

I would have to ask him: Are you sure about that? Have you studied the science behind plastics and the fact that many alternatives to plastics are not as “green” as plastics? So, here’s my letter to Mr. McMullen.


Dear Mr. McMullen:

It’s admirable that you want to protect the planet from the evils of single-use plastic bags. But I have a few questions for you. First, are you sure that the plastic shopping bag is truly used only once then gets thrown away? By Kroger’s own acknowledgement, some 38 million pounds of plastic bags are recycled at its storefront bins. I’m sure that’s true because every time I take my plastic bag waste (dry cleaner bags, toilet paper and paper towel wraps, bread wrappers and so forth) to Fry’s (a Kroger division), the one bin you have in place is filled to overflowing! 

You see, Mr. McMullen, the plastic bags are recyclable and reusable. Have you researched the number of plastic bags from various sources that are recycled into products such as TREX decking, park benches, marina docks, fencing and railings? Many plastic lumber companies depend on your recycling program for their post-consumer materials to make their products. Consumers like to recycle if given the opportunity, so perhaps you need to put more recycling bins in your stores to accommodate the recycling habits of your customers. 

Your plastic bags are also reusable. I reuse the grocery bags for cat litter cleanup and as garbage bags in my trash cans throughout the house. That saves me from having to purchase new plastic bags for those purposes. So, what do you mean when you say you’re going to a “reusable” bag? Plenty of people reuse the plastic bags already!

Will you be going to a cloth/cotton bag? It would have to be 100% cotton if you want to avoid the evils of plastic, because many materials have nylon content. Nylon is plastic, you know. But is cotton really the best, eco-friendly choice? Growing cotton is very energy intensive (Arizona raises a lot of cotton, you know). It takes energy (fossil fuels) to run the tractors for plowing and planting; more energy and pesticides to keep the weeds out of the cotton; energy for the ag aircraft that spray defoliants onto the mature cotton plants so the cotton bolls can be harvested (by tractors that use fossil fuels) and trucked to the cotton gin mills. Obviously, the harvesting process releases more CO2 into the air. Maybe you want to rethink the “reusable” cotton bag idea.

Not to mention another problem with cotton bags, as San Francisco discovered: They get dirty after several uses from carrying vegetables and fruits. Also, you want to put meat into a separate bag because of the chance of e-coli and other germs contaminating fruits and vegetables, which then make people sick. Reusable cotton bags also require washing after use, and it’s recommended that people use hot soapy water—more resources used that go down the drain. That problem doesn’t exist with plastic bags.

Of course, there’s the old standby—paper. I remember the days when it was just paper. Sometimes the meat juices would leak out and soak the paper before getting home and the paper bag would break. If there happened to be any glass containers in the bag, they would fall through and break, as well. It was a real mess. Plastic eliminated those problems. Thankfully, however, many meats are now wrapped in plastic so they don’t leak. But I guess you think single-use plastic wrap for chicken is okay. 

Paper isn’t exactly the most eco-friendly material, either. Have you ever been to a paper manufacturing plant? There’s one not too far from you if you’d like to tour their facility. Paper plants are built near rivers for a reason—they use a whole lot of water in the process. Sure, they “clean” the water they use before putting it back into the river, but not all the water used goes back into the river. Not all paper is recyclable or compostable. There are rules about what you can put into a commercial composting bin. Plastic bags are recyclable, but not compostable in most commercial composting facilities. But, hey, if people are going to be litterbugs, they’ll throw paper bags into the environment, too. Just because paper disappears faster than plastic doesn’t mean it’s right.

Reusable non-woven bags are made from polymers and some are pretty nice. You can print your logo on them or people can use bags from other stores and be an equal opportunity advertiser for all the places they shop.

Your press release notes that 66.15 million pounds of plastic was recycled in 2017. That’s a lot of plastic being put to good use, providing business opportunities for recyclers, plastic re-processors and companies that make products with lots of recycled content, which consumers like.

You say that 100 billion plastic bags are being thrown away every year, but is that really a plastic problem? Or is that a people problem? If your customers are really so environmentally aware and have “growing concerns” about plastic, why are they throwing perfectly good reusable, recyclable bags away? 

Kroger’s move to “more sustainable options,” such as “reusable” bags (and I’ve not received a response from your corporate PR people as to what “sustainable option” you’ve chosen), you might want check out the science of plastics, instead of caving into the hype of the evils of plastic, and become aware of the fact that many studies have proven that plastic is the true sustainable option.

One final reminder from a long-time plastics industry pioneer and entrepreneur, Jon Huntsman Sr., who taught me this mantra: “Use old dinosaurs, not new trees.”  

Best Regards,

Clare Goldsberry

Tapping into the World of Gaming to Fight Opioid Addiction

Tapping into the World of Gaming to Fight Opioid Addiction

What does World of Warcraft, Candy Crush Saga, and Angry Birds all have in common? They're all highly-addictive games developed by people who really understand how to keep people engaged with their products. 

So it makes perfect sense that a life sciences tech company developing digital health tools would turn to people from the gaming world to learn how to keep people in treatment.

"About five, six years ago my research team started to include people interested in big data and mobile health, and that really naturally led to me building Data Cubed as a tool for studying all kinds of things and using big data for research," said Paul Glimcher, a neuroscientist, psychologist, and economist who has been studying human decision making for 25 years and addiction for 10 years. "One of the things that really became clear to me as a scientist studying addiction ... was that people who were starting to use handsets just were not thinking that hard about how to keep people engaged."

So Glimcher, the CEO of Data Cubed, and Hannah Bayer, the company's chief scientific officer, met with several video game experts for advice about developing an app that would keep people who are recovering from opioid addiction engaged in their treatment program. During one of these meetings, the video game experts asked Glimcher and Bayer what they were doing currently to keep people in treatment.

"We said, 'oh we really know a lot about that, we know that you have to send them a birthday card, and you have to send them a Christmas card, and Hannah and I were listing all the academic tools that we would use ... and the video game people just started cracking up, falling out of their chairs laughing," Glimcher told MD+DI. "At first Hannah and I were kind of offended by how hilarious they thought it was and I said, 'well what do you know about helping people who are in treatment for opioid use disorder? You only know how to help 20-year-olds'."

Then it was the video game experts' turn to be offended. 

"They said, 'we retain people for 20 years, sometimes 25 years on our platform'," Glimcher said. "On a platform like World of Warcraft, the Blizzard guys, they have people they've had using their platform for almost 30 years and they said, 'our subjects pay us to be retained, so don't mock us.' It's an impressive idea, this set of tools that they've developed is so effective, and people in my business just don't have anything that is that good. By six months, almost everyone who is getting opioid treatment has dropped out."

In fact, he said, if a treatment program has a 40% successful six-month treatment rate, it's considered a top tier program.

"We're just not using the tools that this other industry has developed," Glimcher said.

That's why his company wanted to incorporate those tools and learn what the video game experts have learned and apply that knowledge to helping people who are suffering from things like opioid use disorder.

Opioid Challenge Finalist

All of that advice seems to have paid off. Data Cubed has been selected as a finalist from among 97 entrants in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Opioid Challenge for its Resilience IQ (ResQ) platform.

The ResQ app mobilizes an individual's social support network to intervene at times when the risk of relapse is greatest. The company is one of three finalists in the Opioid Challenge, a call to innovation intended to find technology-enabled tools to support and connect individuals affected by opioid addiction.  

The three finalists will participate in a live pitch competition and be evaluated by onsite judges at the Health 2.0 conference in September. The winners will be awarded prizes and promotional opportunities to showcase their solutions and gain visibility in the health tech space. The top cash prize is $50,000.

"We are honored to be selected as one of three finalists in this important competition," said Paul Glimcher, CEO of Data Cubed. "With the right collection tools, it is possible to monitor people's vulnerabilities to relapse every day and to identify critical moments to keep individuals on track. Colorful, rich and engaging game environments can be used in many innovative ways, from the fight against the opioid plague to the support of clinical trials for new drugs."

ResQ is an application for mobile devices that seeks to better understand people struggling with addiction through the use of surveys and games derived from gold standard clinical assessments and decision-making tasks. It also uses techniques taken from the video gaming industry for high-levels of user engagement and retention. These include a gamified user experience, a colorful user-friendly dashboard, and personalized support resources.  The app's algorithms prompt people in recovery and their supporters with key social messages and behavioral nudges.

The other two finalists are Sober Grid, an app designed to help people recover from drug and alcohol addiction through the use of evidence-based modalities and a support community of more than 110,000 members; and HashTag, a wearable device designed to detect opioid overdose and a mobile application that notifies overdose condition, assists in saving the user, and creates awareness about ill effects of opioid.

"The other apps that are in the competition, some of them are great. One of them, Sober Grid is a really magnificent product, it is the Facebook for recovery. I think they're a great company. They're different from us, of course, they are a social network app for people who are recovering, what we've tried to do is develop a science-driven version of Sober Grid where the data that we can share with your social network is the critical data that you need to succeed."

LyondellBasell and Karlsruhe Tech team up to advance chemical recycling

LyondellBasell and Karlsruhe Tech team up to advance chemical recycling

circular economy conceptWhat could be more circular than turning waste plastics back into monomers, which are then converted into plastics for processing into new products? Last month, LyondellBasell (Rotterdam, Netherlands), one of the world’s largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies, announced a cooperation with Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT; Karlsruhe, Germany) to advance the chemical recycling of plastic materials and assist global efforts toward the circular economy.

The focus of the venture is to develop a new catalyst and process technology to decompose post-consumer plastic waste, such as packaging, into monomers for reuse in polymerization processes, said LyondellBasell’s announcement.

“Earlier this year we announced a 50% share in Quality Circular Polymers (QCP) to drive the development of high-quality recycled polyolefins from the mechanical recycling of sorted post-consumer waste streams,” said Bob Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell, which has its global headquarters in Houston, TX. “This new cooperation will be a major step toward chemical recycling and extend our contribution to the circular economy.”

The other 50% share in Quality Circular Polymers will be owned by the French water and waste management firm Suez. LyondellBasell will market the QCP materials, as it expects demand for recycled materials to rise as the circular economy grows in prominence. Currently, 7% of polymers used in Europe are from recycled materials; the rest is virgin resin, according to LyondellBasell.

The technology of depolymerization is being explored by a number of companies and involves using a chemical catalyst to heat the material to about 932°F. An increase in entropy causes the molecules to break, or “crack,” into monomers, such as the hydrocarbons ethylene or propylene, according to online scientific information.

Supplier Stories for the Week of August 19

This is a compilation of the latest news from suppliers in the medical device industry.If you have news you’d like to submit for potential inclusion in this weekly roundup, please send a press release and any related images to with the subject line “Supplier Stories.”[Image courtesy of STUART MILES/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET]

Fresh tariffs on Chinese goods ‘weaken competitiveness of U.S. chemicals industry,’ cautions ACC

Fresh tariffs on Chinese goods ‘weaken competitiveness of U.S. chemicals industry,’ cautions ACC

U.S. China trade war as chessThe frustration is palpable in the oral testimony of Ed Brzytwa, Director of International Trade of the American Chemistry Council (ACC; Washington, DC), during a public hearing on U.S. List 3 of tariffs targeting Chinese products. “Before I explain the impact of these tariffs and China’s retaliation on our industry and the supply chains that underpin U.S. manufacturing, I would like to note ACC’s disappointment that the administration did not heed our request in July to remove approximately $2.2 billion in Chinese imports of chemicals and plastics from U.S. List 2,” said Brzytwa.

U.S. List 2, which includes tariffs on $2.2 billion in chemicals and plastics imported from China, went into effect today. China retaliated immediately. “At precisely 12:01 AM ET, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce released a statement vowing to ‘make the necessary counterattacks,’ ” NPR reported today. “And then it matched the Trump administration's move with tariffs on $16 billion worth of U.S. imports, ranging from diesel fuel and coal to medical instruments and cars.” PlasticsToday reported in June on the potential impact on medical devices and industry’s response.

“If tariffs on $2.2 billion in chemicals and plastics imports that appeared on List 2 would weaken the competitiveness of the U.S. chemicals industry, then the $16.4 billion in tariffs on additional products of chemistry in List 3 would have a potentially irreparable impact on our industry’s economic structure and supply chain,” warned Brzytwa. He provided oral testimony at the U.S. Trade Representative Public Hearing on the tariffs on Aug. 20, his second time testifying in less than one month. List 3 tariffs could go into effect as early as October.

Although the ACC shares concerns about China’s unfair trade practices and wanton disregard for intellectual property, the imposition of unilateral trade tariffs are “counterproductive and do little more than invite retaliation that ultimately undermines their stated intent,” said the ACC. In fact, the looming tariffs have already begun to roil the U.S. resin market, as we noted in this week’s resin report, “China’s chilling effect on spot PE prices.”

Supply chains are complex and intricate, relying on interconnected  networks and channels that work together as one to bring finished products to market, said Brzytwa at the hearing. “They cannot easily be reconfigured to meet the whims of U.S. trade policy,” he added. 

Meanwhile, a Chinese delegation has been meeting with its U.S. counterparts in Washington, DC, this week to seek a solution to the burgeoning trade war. It does not appear to be making much progress. In an interview with Reuters this week, Trump said there is no time frame for ending the trade dispute. NPR reports that late last month Trump further ramped up the rhetoric, saying that he is “ready to go to 500.” By that he means he would consider imposing tariffs on imports of all Chinese goods, according to NPR, noting that the U.S. imported $505 billion worth of Chinese goods last year, per Census Bureau data.

As somebody once said in a very different context, buckle up—it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Why Every Engineer Needs to Know about Ray Tracing

Nvidia's new Turing chip architecture combines a specialized ray tracing core with Tensor cores for machine learning to deliver high-quality, ray-traced images in real-time. (Image source: Nvidia)

If you're an engineer or developer working with VR/AR/XR, product design, simulation—or if you use CAD in any form—you should add ray tracing to your vocabulary, if it isn't already there. With its new chip architecture,  Nvidia is promising to bring the sort of high-quality graphics previously reserved for the highest-end video games and big-budget Hollywood movies into the engineering workflow and product design applications.

Nvidia has unveiled a new series of GPUs, the Quatro RTX, based on a new chip architecture called Turing. It applies specialized processor cores and artificial intelligence to ray tracing to render highly realistic computerized graphics in real time. With ray tracing, design engineers will now be able to do simulations and virtual product design that features real-time rendering of realistic lighting, shadows, and reflections. Any material that can be simulated virtually can look and react to light in a virtual simulation the same way it does in the real world. Previously, design engineers have had to settle on low quality or good enough renderings or use farms of CPUs to render high-definition images (which can take minutes or hours, depending on the quality of the processors).

Who Is Ray? And What Is He Tracing?

Though similar, “ray tracing” in terms of computer graphics should not be confused with the term as it is applied to physics (calculating the paths of waves and particles through varying mediums). The ray tracing we mean here refers to simulating light and the way it behaves in the real world.

A big issue with the fidelity between what we see with our eyes and what we see on a computer screen or a virtual world has to do with how light behaves. In the real world, light bounces, gets blocked, and is absorbed by objects, depending on various properties that any materials engineer will be intimately familiar with—all of which affect how that object appears to us.

Computer graphics, as they are commonly seen today, mimic this effect with rasterization. Rasterization, in essence, creates images by turning the data (color, position, texture) of each individual pixel or polygon of an object into digital imagery. It's very good and can create some very photorealistic imagery in its own right—especially with today's high powered computers. And the big plus is that it can be done very fast computationally.

Ray tracing, by contrast, works by simulating the light enacting on virtual objects. It actually “traces” the path of the virtual light (as pixels) as it interacts with virtual objects—bouncing, being absorbed, blocked, etc. The result is that you get a much more realistic rendering of an object because the virtual light is behaving in the way that real light does.

This is not a photograph. It's a ray-traced image created by artist Enrico Cerica using OctaneRender software. Ray tracing allows for details such as distortion in the glass, light diffusion in the windows and floor, and realistic light reflections off various objects. Now, imagine images and environments like this being rendered in real time. (Image source: Nvidia / Enrico Cerica)

It's not a new idea. Ray tracing has existed as a concept at least since the 1960s, when Arthur Appel, a researcher at IBM, examined the idea in a paper titled, “Some techniques for shading machine renderings of solids.” According to the paper's abstract: “Some applications of computer graphics require a vivid illusion of reality...If techniques for the automatic determination of chiaroscuro with good resolution should prove to be competitive with line drawings, and this is a possibility, machine generated photographs might replace line drawings as the principal mode of graphical communication in engineering and architecture.”

Prettier, and Now Faster

Look at all that ray-traced evil! (Image source: Marvel Studios / Disney) 

The longstanding issue with ray tracing is that it is very computationally intensive to pull off and hasn't been feasible for rendering real-time graphics. It has, however, found plenty of other uses in arenas where graphics can be pre-rendered. If you've been to the movies recently, you've witnessed the magic of ray tracing. If you marveled (pun intended) at Thanos' battle with The Avengers in Infinity War, you've seen the quality of imagery that ray tracing can create—particularly in the alien planet environments and in Thanos' character himself. 

Nvidia's new hardware aims to take all the work out of ray tracing, which could substantially cut costs and eventually open up its accessibility to a wide range of enterprise applications. “Ray tracing is going to revolutionize enterprise applications, cinematic experiences, and immersive VR,” Bob Pette, VP of professional visualization at NVIDIA, told Design News via email. “Now, artists and designers can create, view, and interact with content that is practically indistinguishable from reality, all in real time. Professional design application developers are jumping at the chance to bring real-time ray tracing, massive speed increases, and other benefits of Turing to their customers.”

The Turing Test

At the heart of Nvidia's new Turing architecture are processors dedicated to ray tracing called RT Cores. Each RT Core is designed to accelerate the processing of light and sound in 3D environments at a speed of 10 giga rays per second (a giga ray is 1 billion light ray calculations). Coupled with the RT Cores are a series of Tensor Cores—processors designed specifically for AI and machine learning processing. By combining the ray-tracing optimization of the RT Cores with the AI capabilities of the machine cores, Nvidia says its Turing architecture can accelerate features like removing signal noise (denoising), adjusting image resolution to screens to preserve quality (resolution scaling), and converting video frame rates (video re-timing).

Specifically in terms of VR applications, the Turing architecture can also assist positional tracking, eye tracking, and foveated rendering—all of which are key methods of creating an immersive visual experience for VR users.

Who better to demonstrate real-time ray tracing than Captain Phasma?  Unreal created this ray tracing demo to showcase the possiblities of real-time ray tracing with the Unreal graphics engine. Notice the quality of light reflections in Phasma's armor. 

Dassault Systèmes and Autodesk, both big names in enterprise design, have already signed on as partners to begin using Turing-based GPU hardware for ray tracing. Autodesk will be implementing Turing into its Arnold GPU for ray tracing. And Dassault Systèmes is planning to leverage RTX GPUs in its 3DEXPERIENCE CATIA suite for design in electrical, mechanical, systems, and fluid engineering—particularly for accelerating VR rendering and design validation applications. Another partner of interest to engineers, Siemens NX, is pledging to use Turing in its PLM software for applications such as AI-based denoising as well as MDL support.

The pricing for ray-tracing graphics cards is still cost prohibitive for some, particularly at the consumer level. The lowest-end Turing GPU, the GeForce RTX 2070, is targeted at video gamers and priced at $499, while the highest end, the RTX 2080 Ti, retails for $1,199. But as prices come down and more engineers and designers embrace emerging applications in virtual product design and simulation, it's easy to see ray tracing becoming a new standard in CAD and other design applications. And let's not forget that it's going to make those games you play in your downtime look at lot more intense.

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, and robotics.

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.


Boosting Performance in Lithium-Ion Batteries: An Interview with Paraclete Energy’s CEO

Adding silicon nanoparticles to the carbon-based anode of a lithium ion battery has been shown to dramatically improve battery performance. One company that is pursuing this technology is Paraclete Energy, which had an interesting start as a nonprofit. The company’s CEO, Jeff Norris, provided Design News with some exclusive insights into this silicon-based technology approach, its potential benefits for EVs, and where Paraclete came from and where it is going.

Design News: The use of silicon in the anode of lithium ion batteries is fairly new. Can you tell us how Paraclete got involved in this? How long have you been working in this field?

Jeff Norris: Paraclete Energy was initially formed as a philanthropic company in 2007 to produce very low-cost nanoparticle silicon inks for the room temperature production of very low-cost silicon solar cells and panels for third-world indigenous people groups. These silicon inks were made with covalently bonded, reactive functional organic and inorganic chemistry to the silicon surface to allow a much wider optical spectrum bandgap for higher photonic sensitivity. What is also relevant to the Li-ion battery industry is both Paraclete’s very low-cost production methods and the ability to make elemental nanoparticle silicon substantially oxide free.

This ability to produce cost-effective silicon nanoparticles at room temperature with nearly any organic or inorganic material covalently bonded to the surface of the silicon has been found to be very advantageous in overcoming the typical problems of working with nanoparticle silicon with Li-ion batteries. In 2012, in light of various events in the solar industry and the global move to electrify everything, Paraclete Energy focused on becoming a for-profit, sustainable supplier of nanoparticle silicon to the Li-ion battery industry.

Jeff Norris, CEO Paraclete Energy
Jeff Norris, CEO of Paraclete Energy, will be a speaker at The Battery Show in Novi, Michigan, September 11-13. (Image source: Paraclete Energy)

DN: What kind of advantages result in using silicon in the anode? How can these advantages improve the performance of the battery?

Jeff Norris: High capacity, cycle stable silicon in an anode enables greater range for an EV, the longer time between the need to recharge one’s phone, tablet, power tool, or other devices.

Graphite, the traditional anode material, cannot meet today’s high energy demands with a limited theoretical specific capacity of 370 mAh/g. Silicon oxide, which was used because it is air stable, has a higher capacity of 1,550 mAh/g. However, Paraclete Energy’s SM-Silicon is based on elemental silicon metal, which has a capacity of 3,590 mAh/g.

Like graphite, Paraclete’s SM-Silicon has a tap density of 0.8g/cm3 and an ICL of only 6% - 8% while being priced below graphite from a $/kWh.

DN: Fast charging has become the Holy Grail for EVs. Can silicon anodes help with that?

Jeff Norris: Fast charging is indeed not the Holy Grail, but a Holy Grail. Low cost and cycle-stable high capacity are also Holy Grails.  Paraclete is presently working with some of the world’s leading fast-charging technology companies. We are assisting them by adding low cost and cycle-stable high capacity to their technology.

DN: Can you explain the mechanism by which lithium ions intercalate into the anode when silicon is used? How does it differ from graphite?

Jeff Norris: There is not much difference except that silicon has a different voltage range. Therefore, the silicon will take the charge first, then the graphite, and just the opposite on discharge: The graphite will discharge first. If the consumer is recharging their device or driving only limited miles, say less than 50 miles per day, then the silicon will not be impacted as much as if the device or EV were allowed to almost drain the battery and then recharging it. In the scenario where the device or EV is not allowed to get below 50% discharge, the silicon will last for sufficient cycles in line with the warranty. When the energy is coming primarily from the silicon, it could expand as much as over 300%, whereas the graphite only expands ~10%.  

This expansion primarily causes two potential negative things:

1.) Because of the stress from the expansion, the internal conductivity of the anode could be compromised. Paraclete’s SM-Silicon has a covalently bonded surface modifier on the surface of the silicon that has reactive functional groups on the opposite end that is covalently crosslinked with the binder and carbon systems. This creates a covalently bonded network between the systems within the anode, and thereby the network will stay intact.  

2.) The expansion also causes new bare surfaces to be formed on the silicon. The electrolyte will want to form electronically conductive solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) on these new bare surfaces. If new surfaces continue to be formed, the SEI will form its conductive layer again. If this continues, the electrolyte will eventually be consumed and the battery will fail. Paraclete addresses this by putting (on the surface of the nanoparticle silicon) a non-polymeric, semi-flexible artificial SEI that is ionically conductive, yet substantially electronically insulating. These properties act to protect the silicon from the electrolyte and the excess formation of SEI and therefore mitigates the issues caused by the expansion of the silicon.      

DN: How do you envision the roll-out of this technology over the next few years? In what time frame will we see this in EVs and grid storage?

Jeff Norris: Silicon, or more specifically SiOx, is already used in most premium Li-ion batteries from the Tier 1 manufacturers, such as LG, Samsung, and Panasonic. We have seen this in commercial batteries since 2014. However, SiOx is limited to putting in less than 9% of 1,550 mAh/g, due to its high Initial Capacity Loss (ICL) of 25% - 35%.  Therefore, the resulting composite will be about 430 mAh/g—far short of the potential of elemental SM-Silicon of 3,590 mAh/g.

Getting battery companies to change or move away to new technology is very, very difficult. This silicon and, frankly, the entire battery industry are brimming with hype-filled technological claims that may work in a lab, that are too exotic or too expensive to be commercially viable, or only work in the artificial test environment that they created. This hype, combined with the legitimate challenges of switching technologies, has justifiably made the market penetration bar very high. Paraclete is dealing with this by introducing a new, simple, drop-in high capacity, cycle stable product – SM-Silicon/585.

The goal is to produce a 585 mAh/g silicon/graphite composite with high capacity and cycle stability. Unlike what is on the market today at 430 mAh/g, those suppliers require you to also use their graphite and their fixed ratio of silicon to graphite. With Paraclete’s SM-Silicon/585, the customer uses the preferred graphite they wish to use and they can add less or more of the SM-Silicon/585, thereby changing the reversible capacity. SM-Silicon/585 also allows the customer to use a much cheaper graphite and add the SM-Silicon/585 until the desired capacity is achieved. This is specifically beneficial, given SM-Silicon/585 is 5x less expensive than the silicon used in the ~430 mAh/g product already on the market.

DN: Events like The Battery Show in Novi bring together a wide range of engineers and Industry leaders. Can you comment on what it means for Paraclete to take part in this event and the types of interactions that you see?

Jeff Norris: The Battery Show in Novi, Michigan is an absolute must attend and, for us, must exhibit event. This is our chance to meet personally with customers, prospects, and our other industry friends. We gain from the marketing but also the high-quality conversations that we have with the industry decision makers and thought leaders.  We see a dramatic increase in traffic on our website leading up to and after TBS. Above all, it shortens our sales cycle substantially.

Paraclete Energy is a corporate sponsor of The Battery Show that takes place in Novi, Michigan on September 11-13. Jeff Norris will provide a talk titled, “Moving Beyond Theory: Is High Capacity Silicon Metal Commercially Viable? If So, How & When?” on Tuesday, September 11th.

The company is also conducting a pre-event workshop on Monday, September 10th titled “Battery Materials Overview.” This workshop will be presented by Jeff Norris and the company’s vice president of R&D, Reza Kavian, Ph.D.

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.


The Battery Show logoNorth America's Premier Battery Conference.
The Battery Show, Sept. 11-13, 2018, in Novi, MI, will feature a  talk by Jeff Norris along with more than 100 other technical discussions covering topics ranging from new battery technologies to thermal management. Register for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company UBM.


Connecting the Battery Plant for Efficiency and Flexibility

Connecting battery manufacturing operations can increase production volume while making sure production stays agile. This capability is key, as the ability to scale operations while maintaining quality is becoming more important as demands for battery technology increase.

In scaling-up a manufacturing process, affordability and flexibility may be top of mind. Yet a lack of visibility and real-time insights can hamper overall operations. By connecting disparate systems and assets, a battery plant can transform operations with actionable production insights to improve current or future production.

Shenzhen Deyu Intelligent Equipment, Rockwell Automation, connected plant, Battery Show

Shenzhen Deyu Intelligent Equipment, a high-tech manufacturer of lithium battery winding machines, worked with Rockwell Automation to develop an all-in-one winding machine for cylindrical and prismatic batteries. (Image source: Rockwell Automation)

Paul Gumber, OEM account manager at Rockwell Automation, will discuss the connected battery plant at The Battery Show in Novi, Mich. on Thursday, September 13. Gumber will present the session, Achieving A Connected Battery Plant: How Advanced Manufacturing Helps Scale Production, Improve Genealogy Tracking & Create Agility in Your Process.

Everything Gets Connected

In explaining what assets in the plant need to be part of the overall connectivity, Gumber told Design News that everything should be included. “The entire enterprise needs to be connected. All the plant floor assets should be Ethernet/IP enabled to communicate information to the enterprise’s IT infrastructure,” said Gumber. “This typically includes all major process equipment, material handling automation, and assembly machines.”

Beyond connecting the basic plant equipment, battery-specific equipment and processes also need to be connected. “In a connected battery plant, the assets include everything from raw material mixers, coating and laminating machines to cell assembly, filling and formation, as well as battery and EV pack assembly,” said Gumber. “This can also include process clean room and plant facilities, such as waste water treatment, and energy and environmental handling control systems.”

The Benefits of a Connected Battery Plant

Gumber offered a list of the basic benefits of a connected plant:

  • Improved asset utilization
  • Lower total cost of ownership
  • Modular, usable, scalable solution for EV/battery growth
  • Complete traceability through the supply chain
  • Leveraging of analytics and smart machine technology

Gumber noted that automation companies such as Rockwell Automation offer advanced material handling systems that provide additional benefits to the connected enterprise. “These systems process parts and materials through energized coils with closed loop positioning,” said Gumber. “This technology reduces wear and maintenance compared to traditional material handling systems.”

Connectivity Adoption Is Increasing

While not all battery plants are fully connected, most have started the process. “The adoption of connectivity varies by company and the company’s migration to Industry 4.0,” noted Gumber. “All battery companies have started the journey, and they are all working with modern manufacturing technology. But various islands exist, and the connected enterprise may not be seamless or completely enabled at all plants.”

The driving force in this adoption, according to Gumber, goes beyond conventional production benefits and enters the realm of competitiveness. “The reasons to connect a plant include overall productivity increase, reduction in waste, and improved time to market on new chemistries or designs due to machine analytics and better operational performance,” he said. “This all leads to improved cost and competitiveness in the battery market, as well as reduced costs.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

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