New analysis techniques are beingdeveloped to take a look at structureon the nanoscale and to performtesting on new stronger materials.Also, analysis instruments oncefound only in the laboratory aremoving to the manufacturing plant. Polyolefin AnalysisPolymer Char specializes in instru-mentation for analysis of poly-olefins, which include polypropy-lenes and polyethylenes. Polyolefinsare among today's most used poly-mers. Despite their simple chem-istry, with only carbon and hydro-gen atoms, they still possess a com-plex microstructure. Polyolefinshave a strong chemical resistance.Thus they require high temperaturesto dissolve, which puts special chal-lenges on analytical separation tech-niques, explains BenjaminMonrabal, the R&D director atPolymer Char in Valencia, Spain."Even though polyolefins are sosimple and have been used foryears, there is still tremendous roomfor development," Monrabal says.For example, manufacturers arelooking to downgauge polyolefinparts to save money while maintain-ing performance of the final prod-10| PLASTICS ENGINEERING | OCTOBER 2011 | www.4spe.orgBy Nancy LamontagneKnowing all the characteristics of a plastic you're working with and how it willreact under various conditions is important for developing new materials or newproducts. Thorough testing and analysis can help determine how additives,weathering, or downgauging will affect the material or the final plastic part. If a failureoccurs, a scientific approach to analyzing the failure can provide a way to prevent theproblem in the future.
uct. In the automotive market, com-panies are developing newpolypropylene copolymers toincrease their impact resistance forapplications such as car bumpers."Each time a process is changed ora new product is developed, it isimportant to check the microstruc-ture of the resulting polymer," hesays.The individual polymer chains ofpolyolefins typically have differentdegrees of polymerization. Thusanalysis of the molar mass distribu-tion of polyolefins is important.Polymer Char's polyolefins-dedicat-ed Gel Permeation Chromatograph(GPC-IR) offers fully automatedsample preparation and filtrationwith optimum infrared detection fordetermining concentration and com-position. The chemical distributionof copolymers can be analyzedusing the company's CRYSTAF orTREF instruments. For even moredetailed polyolefin analysis, theinterplay of molecular and chemicalcomposition can be examined withthe Cross-FractionationChromatograph (CFC) instrument,which combines Temperature RisingElution Fractionation (TREF) andGPC to provide highly detailed 3-Dbivariate distribution analysis.Monrabal says that the company'sanalytical instruments have beentraditionally used in R&D labs, butthat Polymer Char has recentlystarted making instruments for qual-ity-control applications in manufac-turing plants. This year it will intro-duce new instruments designed formanufacturing plants, particularlyfor the analysis of xylene solublesin polypropylene-manufacturingplants and for measurements ofintrinsic viscosity. These instru-ments perform the same types ofanalysis as the company's otherinstruments but in a robust, faster,and simpler-to-use package. "I thinkour contribution in this area will besignificant," Monrabal says.Automotive PlasticsMaterials used in the automotivemarket must meet several require-ments, depending on the applica-tion. Automotive materials have tocomply with specific safety and per-formance standards as well asmatch the consumer's perception interms of design and quality. IntertekGroup plc tests, certifies, and char-acterizes materials and products in avariety of industries, including auto-motive plastics. "Intertek can inde-pendently investigate, test, and ana-lyze materials during the earlystages of development, so that mate-rials are qualified before they moveto the next part of the automotivepolymer value chain," says MorrisGeissler, director, AutomotiveIndustry, at Intertek. This meansthat manufacturers know at a veryearly stage that the material willmeet the requirements for an intend-ed application.Recently, Intertek assistedPolyscope Polymers B.V. by pro-viding extensive laboratory supportfor development of automotivematerials for use in car interiorparts, such as the dashboard carrier.Polyscope decided to develop animproved range of styrene maleicanhydride (SMA) products calledXiran® after Nova Chemicals dis-continued production of its Dylark®SMA engineering resins, importantmaterials for dashboard carriers andother car components. "Polyscopehad the material expertise, and weassisted them with their activities tofine-tune the material so it couldmeet the requirements of the auto-motive market" Geissler says.Intertek performed physical andchemical analyses such as shrinkageand impact resistance testing, whichhelped Polyscope achieve the prop-erties it required from the material.For example, a carrier must with-stand external impact and achieveoptimal assembly characteristics. "In the automotive business, sus-tainability, comfort, and design aredriving innovation," Geissler says."Cars need to be lightweight toreduce carbon emissions." It isimportant to investigate the weightand performance characteristics ofnew materials to make sure theyperform the same as, or even betterthan, currently used materials. Asthe application of new automotivematerials-such as composites-grows, Intertek is extending its lab-oratory, processing, and knowledgecapabilities to study these materials."These innovative materials arewww.4spe.org | OCTOBER 2011 | PLASTICS ENGINEERING |11Polymer Char specializes in instrumentation analysisof polyolefins.