The Center for Advanced Polymer & Composite Engineering (CAPCE) has recently enhanced it state-of-the-art mechanical testing laboratory for evaluating biobased materials for applications in automotive and industrial markets. CAPCE is part of The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Engineering. Partially funded through the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center (OBIC), CAPCE is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) that collaborates with OSU, University of Wisconsin, and Florida State University & industry partners.
CAPCE labs have extensive capabilities in polymer composite processing and related technologies. CAPCE's eight laboratories contain more than $4 million in modern equipment and include the following facilities (details follow):
- Injection Molding Laboratory
- Composite Processing Laboratory
- Extrusion Laboratory
- Snap-Fit Laboratory
- Rheology Laboratory
- Analytical Laboratories
- Microfabrication Laboratory
- Composite Manufacturing Laboratory
The research performed in Injection Molding Laboratory is mainly directed at the evaluation of gas-assisted and thin-wall injection molding. However, the laboratory is fully equipped to handle conventional injection molding applications. Some of the areas of interest are:
- Evaluation of gas-assisted and thin-wall injection molding parameters, such as: melt temperature, injection speed, screw RPM, and mold cooling
- Mold design for gas-assisted and thin-wall injection molding applications using commercial computational packages
- Evaluation of bubble distribution and fingering in gas assisted injection molding
- Evaluation of the effect of gas nozzle location
- Evaluation of material performance in thin-wall applications, including processing feasibility, material degradation, and pressure dependence of viscocity
- Evaluation of part quality and residual stresses in thin-wall applications
- Design for injection molding and injection molded parts
- Polymer recycling and life cycle material content decisions
The Composite Processing Laboratory is used for studies of thermoset resin injection pultrusion (RIP), thermoplastic pultrusion, prepreg formation, sheet/bulk molding compounds (SMC/BMC) compression molding, injection-compression molding, preforming of thermoformable fabrics, compression molding of thermoplastic composites, transfer molding, and squeezing flow rheology. Two new processing machines are featured:
- 6000-pound reciprocating-clamp style pultrusion machine with 8-inch by 3-inch profile capacity and injection pultrusion dies
- Instron 60-ton hydraulic simulator with variable speed and force control and a maximum closing speed up to 2 inches/second
The Extrusion Laboratory focuses on applications concerning thermoplastic polymer extrusion. Current research is conducted in a variety of areas. Polymer blending is performed in the twin screw extrusion process. The addition of supercritical fluids, particularly carbon dioxide, to the extrusion process can enhance blending and processing characteristics. This is particularly useful for applications where blend morphology determines end use properties. By combining supercritical fluids, extrusion of polymer melts, and flexibility of screw design, polymer blend morphology can be controlled to fit various needs. Die and screw design offer processors the flexibility of controlling operating conditions to fit specific needs. This flexibility is important in reactive compounding as well. Multiple injection ports can lead to highly controllable reaction kinetics and product specifications.
The Snap-Fit Laboratory provides mechanical performance of plastic part assemblies. The facility is part of the Integral Attachment Program (IAP) at OSU but is available for use by others involved in plastics research. The Snap-Fit Laboratory is available to test existing and proposed snap-fit designs. This facility can:
- Verify an existing snap-fit design for adequacy
- Recertify the performance of a snap-fit after a material change
- Determine the maximum insertion force and maximum strain during assembly
- Determine the retention strength and mode of failure
- Determine sensitivity to strain rate and manufacturing variability
- Provide insight into the performance of snap-fits under rapid loading as in drop-tests
This Rheological Measurement laboratory helps researchers understand the behavior of materials by accurately characterizing their rheology. The viscous, elastic and viscoelastic properties of polymers are measured in the testing facility, consisting of four computerized rheometrics instruments. Testing is possible on a variety of samples, from rigid solids to low viscosity liquids and even to reacting systems. Instruments are equipped to run experiments at high or low temperatures. Numerous tests and geometries are available to optimize material characterization.
The main equipment in the CAPCE Analytical Laboratories includes a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer (Nicolet, Magnus 550) with Nic-Plan Microscope and ATR set-up, a Thermal Analysis Modulated Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC 2910), a Thermal Analysis Differential Photocalorimeter (DSC 910S), a Cahn's Dynamic Contact Angle Analyzer (DCA), a Waters Gel Permeation Chromatograph, a Polarizing/Phase Contrast Microscope (Olympus, BHS 200), A Brookhaven Dynamic Light Scattering Goniometer, a 2D and 3D High Resolution Flow Visualization and Image Analysis System, a set of Permeability and Wettability Measurement Devices, an Adhesive Force Testing Device, and a Dilatometer.
The Microfabrication Laboratory contains processing and characterization facilities for microfabrication of non-silicon materials with an emphasis on polymers. The following equipment available or soon to be available:
- Electro-plating station
- Atomic force microscope (for plastics)
- Laser cutting and drilling
- Multi-target thin film deposition system
- Surface tensiometer
- Continuous lamination system
- Micro-molding station
- The new facilities allow researchers to make steel, nickel, and quartz mold inserts for fast prototyping or large volume molding of miniature plastic parts with 2D and 3D features. The equipment is shared with CISM (Center for Industrial Sensors and Measurements), the University of Cincinnati, and Case Western Reserve University
The Composite Manufacturing Laboratory features composite manufacturing capabilities, including:
- 12-inch wide heated Finn Fram SMC machine
- 75-ton Wabash press
- RTM injection unit
- Other items
CAPCE researchers in cooperation with OBIC and the Ohio Soybean Council are evaluating the use of soy bean hulls as fillers and taking advantage of the water present in the hulls as a foaming agent, for both flexible and rigid-foam applications. They also are working with the Natural Fiber Composites Corporation (NFCC) to develop applications in the automotive and industrial markets of NFCC breakthrough technology of incorporating natural fibers in thermoplastic resins.
Capital investments in CAPCE are directed towards biobased polymer composite research, analytical equipment, and rheological system upgrades.
The goals of the Center are to build a base of research that will significantly impact industrial practice and productivity through the application of advanced polymer and composite manufacturing technology. The research concentrates on manufacturing of polymeric materials via reactive liquid processing (e.g. resin transfer molding, pultrusion), melt processing (e.g. injection molding, gas-assisted injection molding, co-injection, injection-compression molding, fiber and film making, single screw and twin screw extrusion), powder molding (e.g. ultrasonic molding), and forming from sheet and bulk materials (SMC and BMC compression molding, thermoplastic stamping, fiber mat preforming).