Polymer Manufacturing: Using Thermal Analysis to Protect Your Brand

Developing a brand known for excellent quality and reliable service takes years of nurture, but this status can be vital when procuring large contracts with OEMs. However, a good reputation can be easily damaged almost overnight if sub-par parts enter production and pass, undetected, into consumer goods.

When manufacturing high-end polymer components predetermined for use in high performance goods, brand protection covers many areas. From ensuring that regulations are implemented to upgrading in-house quality control to sustain product reliability and prevent component recall, safeguarding a good brand name is about making sure the quality of your product is upheld at all times.

In addition to looking after production processes, verifying the grade, quality, composition and behavior of the raw materials entering your facility is a necessity.

There are several techniques when it comes to analyzing polymers for these properties, but this article will present a few examples of thermal analysis as a simple yet dynamic and effective method to sustain high quality throughout polymer production.

Polymer Manufacturing: Using Thermal Analysis to Protect Your Brand

Image Credit: Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science

Thermal Analysis for Polymer Quality Control

Assessing incoming raw material prior to it entering production is crucial in relation to today’s complex supply chains, with recycled material becoming more common. Thermal analysis can play a key role in this.

DSC for Polymer ID and Grade Verification

Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) is a method of thermal analysis that detects any changes of state of a substance as it is heated and/or cooled across an extensive temperature range. This method enables pin-point reading of the precise temperature at which specific thermal events occur, including the melting point or glass transition temperature.

As these properties are unique to an individual polymer type, this simple technique can be utilized to establish the polymer ID and grade with rapid precision.

You can also use DSC to establish the purity of recycled polymers. For instance, as it can be difficult to separate PP and HDPE within recycling, it’s feasible that PP can be combined within the HDPE of recycled materials. As the glass transition and melting temperatures of the two materials differ, a small endothermic peak between 165ºC and 175ºC confirms that PP is present.

TGA for Compositional Analysis

Thermogravimetric analysis is a technique where changes on the micro-scale of a sample’s mass are monitored as temperature is increased. An example of the output of a TGA measurement is illustrated below:

Polymer Manufacturing: Using Thermal Analysis to Protect Your Brand

Image Credit: Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science

As displayed in the graph, each decrease in weight at a given temperature can be credited to the loss of a particular compound, such as water or CO. This enables the determination of the composition of the original sample. This technique is useful when utilizing a multi-component material, as is often the case with rubber components. Another application for this method is identifying the thickness of polymer coatings on aluminum cans.

TMA for Thermal Expansion Analysis

Thermomechanical analysis, or TMA, is another TA technique. This method measures the thermal expansion of a component across a broad temperature range. This is especially useful when two or more materials are installed in a single part, such as in printed circuit boards. Ensuring that the component parts have thermal expansion that is closely related will inhibit de-lamination during use. TMA will measure the thermal expansion and help you to identify any danger signs that the part could crack or break-up above the normal expected temperature range of the part.

Polymer Manufacturing: Using Thermal Analysis to Protect Your Brand

Image Credit: Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science

The above graph illustrates the result of a TMA analysis of a printed circuit board. Thermal expansion was recorded in X, Y and Z directions and it is clear to see variations in thermal expansion behavior in the three directions.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.

For more information on this source, please visit Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.

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