Insights from industry

Adding Value In Changing Plastics Markets

In this interview, AZoM speaks to Florian Liebert, plastics and composites industry manager for Zwick USA, about ways the plastics markets are changing and how Zwick is adding value to customers seeking competitive advantage.

Could you give us a glimpse of your history with the company and your involvement in the plastics industry?

Prior to Zwick, I worked in a plastics lab at TU Darmstadt. In this role I was challenged with all kinds of polymer characterizations, including component testing, pipe testing, rheology, and all types of mechanical testing. I joined Zwick in 2006 as an assistant to the product manager for Zwick’s suite of plastics testing systems.

In 2011 I took on the role of plastics product manager for Zwick. I later established the Aflow system for melt flow indexing to offer new capabilities for customers operating in high throughput environments.

Would you tell us a little bit about what you are working on and your new role with Zwick?

As plastics and composites industry manager for Zwick, I have traveled extensively, meeting with customers and engaging in dialogue on the latest requirements for plastics and composites testing. My resulting assessment of the changing needs of large compounders influenced the development of Zwick’s Aflow system for melt flow properties measurement. Having recently joined Zwick USA, I am looking forward to applying the knowledge I obtained in my previous position and to supporting Zwick’s plans for growth in the plastics and composites markets.

As industry trends such as the emphasis on recycling and commercialization of greener plastic materials continue, I have discovered that test requirements, in particular for compounders and processors, could become increasingly complex. Zwick closely observes market trends, as well as activities occurring in several major industries that have a direct impact on plastics and composites, such as automotive, aerospace, medical, and packaging.

What are some of these market trends?

There appear to be two substantial trends occurring in the plastics market now. The first is directly related to the automotive industry’s focus on mass reduction, driving interest in new applications for polymers.

The other emphasis we are seeing is on recycling, influenced by consumer demand for greener products.

Zwick has introduced several new products for testing plastics in the past few years. Could you provide a little background on Zwick’s decision to establish these new systems and the types of applications for which they are being used?

The Xflow series includes the Aflow system, designed for high throughput use; the Mflow system, intended for typical quality assurance applications and the compact Cflow system.

The various models within the Xflow series are rapidly becoming the leading choices among customers looking for the ideal extrusion plastometer solution for their specific application.

For customers who value operator convenience or who have a high testing rate, the Aflow system represents the optimal choice. Aflow features include automatic parameter control, stepless load adjustment up to 50kg and rapid residual material extrusion post-test.

Aflow features also include uniform pre-compacting and labor saving cleaning at the push of a button. Multiple instrument operation is supported with up to 6 instruments on one PC.

The Mflow system was developed to meet the needs of R&D, QA and goods inward check. The modular design of the Mflow enables easy upgrading and retrofitting.

Among the most popular features of the Mflow is the equipment’s flexibility. Mflow can be fitted with extrudate cutters, a displacement transducer for MVR measurement and a weight-lifting unit.

The Cflow system is designed for applications where space is at a premium. Cflow offers precise temperature control and the option of manual or automatic extrudate cutter.

The entire Xflow series is compatible with Zwick’s industry leading testXpert® II software via a USB-enabled connection.

What sort of advantages do the melt flow indexers in the Xflow series offer customers?

From cost-efficient manual operation to operator-friendly instruments with automatic test sequence, Zwick’s comprehensive Xflow series delivers fast, convenient determination of melt index values that offer a spectrum of features that support the varying requirements of raw material producers, compounders and processors.

Another element of these systems that is of importance to busy test lab facilities is the fact that all systems produced by Zwick – from the Xflow series of melt flow testers to the universal testing machines – run on a common software platform – testXpert II. As supervisors must manage constraints and coordinate resources effectively, consistency in the testing software maximizes productivity and dramatically reduces ramp up time for new personnel.

The Aflow system was designed to address the requirements of lab managers engaged in testing large volumes of material with requirements to maintain a certain pace. Push-button cleaning and defined pre-compacting routines free operators to address other tasks, while the system’s Automatic Parameter Control feature selects the test parameters and thereby minimizes measurement errors. If, for example, polymers with unknown MFR are being tested, Aflow automatically sets the relevant test parameters via the Automatic Parameter Control.

Instead of the usual weights, Aflow uses state-of-the-art force control, enabling stepless adjustment of test loads up to 50 kg and making melt index determination a faster, safer and more reliable operation. The new Aflow’s electromechanical drive greatly reduces the shocks in loading which frequently occur during weight application with classical melt index testers. Time-saving multi-stage tests according to ASTM D1238, Method D are also possible with a single barrel filling.

In designing Aflow, I looked for opportunities to enhance efficiency and this led to development of the electromechanical drive and the cleaning system. The capabilities of this melt flow indexer are unique in the market.

While Aflow is designed for high testing volumes and 24-hour operation, Mflow was developed for medium-volume testing, in support of quality assurance processes and acceptance protocols for inbound material shipments. Mflow provides significantly faster and more convenient determination of melt mass flow rate (MFR) and melt volume flow rate (MVR). Previously, different weights had to be used according to the polymer being tested; these had to be applied individually by the operator by hand, a laborious and potentially hazardous process.

As a modular system, Mflow solves this problem with an add-on device which provides program-controlled application and removal of the relevant test weight during the test. It is also possible to select the weight to be used by simply defining it, for increased safety and operator convenience. The instrument is provided with commonly-specified test weights up to 21.6 kg and can be controlled via the integral instrument electronics or by a PC as required.

The Xflow series is completed by the cost-effective Cflow. This instrument is designed for manual tests and can be used for testing smaller volumes of material.

What about applications involving testing of rigid plastic materials? It would seem that this is an area of importance for numerous industries.

Rigid plastics may be characterized through several different types of tests. Impact testing assists manufacturers in assessing impact resistance, which is a common requirement of rigid plastics.

We have developed a line of pendulum impact testers that may be used for tests to all established standards (ISO, ASTM, DIN) and methods (Charpy, Izod, Dynstat, and impact tensile), making them the most modern products available on the market today.

Zwick’s HIT pendulum impact testers cover the entire range (5J, 25J, 50J) of impact strength measurement for plastics. The 5J version of Zwick’s HIT pendulum impact tester is primarily suited to tests to ISO 179, while the 5.5J version is designed for ISO and ASTM tests.

The 25J and 50J (HIT25 and HIT50) versions are optimized for all standards; in addition to ISO and ASTM tests, they are also suitable for Dynstat impact bending tests. Automatic specimen-feed systems and special devices for temperature-conditioned specimens are optionally available for all pendulum impact testers.

The HIT series incorporates a whole range of technical innovations.

All instruments feature electronic pendulum coding as standard, with automatic identification of the pendulum currently installed. This ensures test-result traceability and eliminates operator error. Double carbon pendulum-rods provide for very high pendulum stiffness, allowing improved concentration of the pendulum mass at the impact point and reducing natural vibrations during impact.

Another impressive feature of the HIT range is the ease of changing over to different test methods and pendulum sizes. Positive dovetail guides, just a few screws and a simple plug-in system for pendulum hammers make life easier for the operator. The instruments can be operated with testXpert® II testing software via an optional USB interface.

As well as the classical Charpy, Izod and impact tensile, these pendulum impact testers can also be used for Dynstat impact bending tests to DIN 53435.

The design of the pendulum impact testers allows standard-compliant use of pendulums from an impact energy of 0.2 joules, enabling testing of brittle-fracturing materials such as thermosets based on epoxy or melamine resins.

Other typical ranges of application are testing rigid thermoplastic injection-molded and extrusion masses, fiber-reinforced thermosetting and thermoplastic composites and thermotropic liquid crystalline polymers and metals.

About Florian Liebert

Florian Liebert

Florian Liebert is the plastics and composites industry manager for Zwick USA.

Zwick is the world leader in the field of automated material and component testing.

With customers in essentially every segment of the plastics market at sites around the world, Zwick has delivered exceptional value to customers seeking high levels of quality in the manufacture of their products.

Privately-held, the company’s consistent focus on innovation and commitment to outstanding quality have supported its growth in markets worldwide.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

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