Plastics compounding remains one of the best ways to tailor a material to an application, and the laboratory often is where some of the toughest challenges are solved.
The current trends indicate an oversupply of raw materials, a situation that could last for some time. With a large amount of resin on the market, chemical companies are cutting their research and development budgets. This could force compounders to fill the cap, meaning they will have to perform more testing.
They may lean on distribution partners for technical assistance.
The need for lightweight, more durable and low-emission materials, plus increasing demands on design, are forcing the plastics industry to develop new and innovative materials. Polymer material and compound development takes place in every step of the research and development process to produce materials with different properties to the base material or to produce material with desired qualities, using various additives.
In a laboratory, compounders can upgrade or add to the value of polymers or polymer systems through melt blending and mixing of additives to a polymer matrix. Two or more polymers can be combined to create a specialty product with desired properties.
Common additives used today include colorants, flame retardants, talcum, glass and additives for changing the optical or mechanical properties. These additives can be processed as pellets, powder or flake.
For a client whose product requires a specific color, cell class, certification, UV resistance, durometer, temperature or special property, this issue often is solved by a laboratory technology team.
Many compounders work with processors to ensure that they can get the right compound that meets their needs. Packaging options are offered and deliveries often are set to help processors with inventory management.
A test trial is performed in the material’s molten state. This is done in an effort to ensure a homogeneous blend, and it is an important part of the polymer development process.
Compounding laboratories frequently combine knowledge of material testing with an understanding of plastics production and manufacturing. They can answer a wide range of material questions for shops, such as why a new lot of material is failing. They also can address flow issues, and identify the physical properties of a polymer resin.
Many of the manufacturing facilities utilize processes that are certified to ISO 9001:2015. A R&D laboratory may also include a complete analytical equipment portfolio, and a technical team that can offer cutting-edge technology, while providing field proven and laboratory verified compounds.
Lab technicians test the physical, mechanical, and thermal properties of plastic compounds. A lab also can offer turn-key product design, tooling, prototyping, testing, and production services.