To say that plastics are a modern essential would be a profound understatement. From the toys our children play with to the packaging on our favorite frozen pizza, modern plastics touch nearly every facet of our daily lives.
But in recent years, consumers have become increasingly concerned about the environmental and health impacts of plastics. As a result, many manufacturers are doubling down on their efforts to ensure the creation of safe, functional and more sustainable products—and that’s where we often come in to lend a helping hand.
For more than two decades, Innovatech Labs has become a go-to plastic testing lab, partnering with manufacturers like you across a range of industries. Using a variety of materials analysis techniques, our goal is to help our clients ensure the quality, durability, safety, function, and competitiveness of their products; we’re helping them build better plastics.
How you may ask? Below we give you a little taste of our role.
Uncovering the Cause of Contamination
From bad ingredients to a missed step in the cleaning process, there are a myriad of factors that can lead to product contamination. But materials analysis techniques can be a fantastic quality control tool by analyzing and identifying the chemical makeup of a sample.
A great example of materials analysis in action involves beach balls of all things. We were contacted by a manufacturing company that wanted to ensure a shipment of beach balls from China were free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and phthalates before sending them out to be sold.
Once we received the sample beach balls, our lab experts used one of our go-to materials analysis techniques—Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR)—to get answers. We analyzed both the ball and valve stem/plug materials—after removing the outward plasticizer—and discovered the base polymers were in fact PVC. To make double sure, we also performed a copper flame test; the flame burned green to confirm the presence of chlorine. We also analyzed the plasticizer, but didn’t find it to be a harmful phthalate.
Armed with this information, our client was able to stop shipment on the beach balls before they reached consumers as well as ensure future products were PVC-free and safe for sale.
Troubleshooting Failed Parts
Despite your best intentions and rigorous production standards, plastic parts can and do fail. When this happens, finding the root cause is essential to minimize production downtime, negative impacts to the bottom line and, of course, ensure future plastic parts function as intended. This can be accomplished through various plastic failure analysis techniques.
Not long ago, a client came to us with samples of a “good” part and a “failed” part. Our job was to uncover any potential differences in chemical composition that lead to the failure. Once again, using FTIR analysis, we analyzed and compared the two samples. We found that the materials were similar, so we then soaked them both in isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol was then decanted and evaporated, and residues were analyzed using attenuated total reflectance (ATR) FTIR—and that’s where the problem revealed itself.
Each of the samples contained dioctylphthalate (DOP), which is a common plasticizer; however, the failed part had far less than the good part. That showed us that the part failed because not enough plasticizer was used in production.
As you can imagine, the manufacturer was able to tweak part of its production process to ensure enough plasticizer was being used to prevent failure.
Reverse Engineering & Competitive Intelligence Collection
A product is only as good as the sum of its components. As a result, many manufacturers use reverse engineering and materials analysis to create or choose the best possible components for their products—something that we can certainly help with.
In the hopes of choosing the best possible packing materials for their products, a client presented us with two bag samples—including that of a competitor—for analysis. We used microscopy and FTIR testing, as well as digital photography, to analyze the thickness and composition of each layer of the plastic bags.
In the end, we were able to deliver them with the exact material composition and thicknesses of each layer of the bags, helping them understand what their competitor was up to and make a packaging choice that was right for their needs and customer expectations.
We Want to Help You Build Better Plastics
Since our inception, our goal has been to support our clients’ products and business through being a reliable and trusted partner. To learn more about the types of companies we work within, visit our Industries page. To talk with our experienced plastics testing lab team, get in touch.