Sometimes it feels like everything is made of plastic. Innovation has expanded the application of polymer raw materials, resins, and composites, making plastic a go-to material in situations that previously would have demanded wood, metal, glass, or other naturally-derived materials. You can find plastics in toys, medical devices, clothing, food packaging — and even in things like beauty products, soda cans, and chewing gum.
With plastics as ubiquitous as they are, it’s more important than ever that manufacturers be vigilant in their quality control. Contaminants can lead to poor product performance, increase liability, and may even put your customers in danger.
Materials analysis can help ensure that materials, processes and suppliers deliver the best outcomes for your company and customers. Read on to learn ways that a quality control test for plastic can help ensure your products’ function, safety, and performance.
5 Reasons to Use a Quality Control Test for Plastics
The applications for plastics analysis aren’t limited to product failures. There are many reasons why you may wish to test the composition and chemistry of plastic materials. Here is our top five:
1. Validate Material or Supplier Changes
Changing suppliers or plastics can improve profit margins, but it’s essential to ensure that a switch doesn’t affect product quality. Materials analysis can provide information about the molecular composition and structure of a material and provide a side-by-side comparison between samples.
2. Verify New and Revised Production Process
Small tweaks to the manufacturing process can make a big difference in product performance. What happens when you increase the amount of filler or reduce the amount of plasticizer? Materials analysis can help manufacturers identify the impact of changes to ensure high-quality product performance.
3. Ensure Compliance to Specifications
If you depend on other companies for products or components, how do you verify that products are manufactured to your requirements? Materials analysis can help ensure that your suppliers use the type of plastic you specified. For example, when a client wanted to ensure that a product didn’t contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC), we used a quality control test for plastic to determine the truth.
4. Competitive Research
Materials testing can be used for reverse engineering and to provide a competitive edge. Why does this packaging keep food fresher? Why is your competitor’s product better able to withstand extreme temperatures? We can find answers to strengthen or expand your product offering.
5. Reduce Liability
Product failures and contaminants can spell big trouble for companies, especially in regulated industries like medical devices, food and beverages. A thorough material analysis can help avoid damage to your company’s brand and reputation.
Top Materials Analysis Techniques for Plastics
Plastics exist in many forms in the manufacturing process — polymer raw materials, resins, plastics, and composite — and we have a testing technique suitable for each substance. The following are two favorites for plastics analysis.
Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy
FTIR analysis is often the first test used in materials testing, and polymer testing is no exception. The strength of FTIR lies in its sensitivity, simplicity, and speed. Using infrared radiation, FTIR identifies organic and some inorganic materials in sizes as small as 10-20 microns. The test is excellent at identifying surface contamination and can identify additives in a polymerwhen they can be chemically removed using solvent extraction.
FTIR case studies: Using FTIR to compare the material composition of a good part with a bad part, we zeroed in on the cause of failure. FTIR analysis was also used to uncover the reason for poor adhesion to glass bottles.
Electron Spectroscopy for Chemical Analysis (ESCA)
When testing a polymer’s surface for suspected contaminants or identifying stains, ESCA is a proven choice. The test provides a detailed breakdown of the elemental composition with detection limits of ca.0.1 atomic percent, allowing easy identification of quality issues.
Quality Results in Plastics Analysis
If you use plastics in your products or packaging, Innovatech has a materials analysis option that will provide the insights you need to achieve the desired outcomes. Contact us for expert advice. We’ll help you determine what testing is ideal for your next project.