Plastics Manufacturing Center Introduces New Material to Market

Published 11.22.2005

Polymer Engineering

For the first time in its 14-year history, the Plastics Manufacturing Center at Pennsylvania College of Technology has introduced a new commercially available material. The material was developed in partnership with Custom Resins, a Henderson, Ky., resin manufacturer.

The new material, called Nylene 494, is a variant of nylon suitable for rotational molding. Only one company previously produced a nylon for the specialized molding process.

Custom Resins saw the opportunity to develop an improved rotational-molding nylon. For support in its endeavor, the company contacted the PMC's Rotational Molding Center of Excellence, which has earned the status of leading rotational-molding research center in North America.

That reputation has created opportunities for the PMC and its Rotational Molding Center of Excellence to help several other companies develop new materials for their own proprietary uses, but this is the first time the Plastics Manufacturing Center has developed a material that is being marketed worldwide, said C. Hank White, director of the PMC.

White conducted a workshop to introduce the material and its availability in the marketplace at the September joint meeting of the Association of Rotational Molders and the Society of Plastics Engineers in Chicago.

The process of developing Nylene 494 took about 15 months, White said, during which Custom Resins provided base nylon materials to the PMC. The PMC then compounded each base formula with other ingredients and molded and evaluated test parts, using its expertise and equipment to provide Custom Resins with data indicating which raw material was optimal for rotational molding.

Rotational molding is used to produce hollow products such as tanks, some children's toys and playground equipment.

White explained that, because polymers typically have to be ground before being rotationally molded, about 90 percent of the industry uses polyethylene, which stands up well to that process. But the Rotational Molding Center of Excellence has developed a micropelletizing method that eliminates grinding and gives the center the means to develop other materials for rotational molding. Nylon, for example, has properties that make it better than polyethylene for applications that require a more advanced material.

"It's partly our unique technology that has gotten us that status (as a leader in rotational-molding research)," White said.

In addition to micropelletizing abilities, the center has all of the testing equipment needed to evaluate molding materials and processes and is one of only a few rotational-molding research centers that have the capability to develop new materials. The college has also incorporated rotational molding into its academic plastics program, making Penn College one of the few schools to teach the process.

Nylene 494 is being marketed by Custom Resins, and at least one customer is already ordering the material, White said. According to tests performed by the PMC on parts molded of the resin, the nylon material that White presented to the industry in September has impact and tensile-strength properties that are superior to the nylon resin already available for rotational molding. Still, the PMC's work is not finished.

"We're doing some ongoing research," White said. "We're still working with Custom Resins to develop even better materials than the one we introduced so their customers will have options for better properties."

Seed money for the PMC's Rotational Molding Center of Excellence was provided by Ben Franklin Technology Partners. For more information about the services offered by the Plastics Manufacturing Center at Penn College, call (570) 321-5533, send e-mail or visit online .