Mission Critical Polymers for Performance Rocketry

Every part of a rocket’s design is critical. If one piece fails or the performance of that piece doesn’t match the demands of the environment, then the whole rocket fails. Organizations like NASA, Boeing, Blue Origin and SpaceX approach rocket part design and selection with careful consideration.

Polymers have a unique position in the Aerospace and Defense market as they present features and capabilities that can stand the test of harsh environments and continuous use. High heat, dielectric strength, moisture resistance, insulative properties and impact strength all come into play in building the parts that make a performance rocket launch skyward.

In this insightful blog, we discuss four key aerospace polymers enabling success in the rocket industry.

 

VESPEL® by DuPont

Polyimide (PI) is an extreme-performance thermoplastic branded by DuPont Co. as VESPEL®. The material’s prime characteristics include outstanding creep resistance, high impact strength, and low wear at high PV. VESPEL® components allow for continuous operation temperatures of 500°F (260°C) with short-term excursion capabilities of 900°F (482°C). It is a well-known performance thermoplastic for aircraft parts, such as thrust washers, valve seats, seals and wear components.

VESPEL® is available in many grades to meet specific design requirements. The current available grades include SP-1 (Unfilled), SP-21 (15% Graphite), SP-22 (40% Graphite), SP-211 (15% Graphite and 10% PTFE) and SP-3 (15% Molybdenum Disulfide).

 

TORLON®

When it comes to high heat and stress, TORLON® can take it. Polyamide Imide (PAI) is an amorphous thermoplastic with the highest performing, melt-processability. It maintains strength and stiffness up to 500°F (260°C), has excellent wear resistance, and endures harsh thermal, chemical and stress conditions. With its continuous use under high heat and stress, this material is often used in the following aerospace applications:  bearing cages, high temperature electrical connectors, structural parts, valve seats, seals and wear components.

There are several TORLON® grades available for PAI, including TORLON® 4203 (electrical and high strength), TORLON® 4301 (general purpose wear), TORLON® 4XG (glass-reinforced) and TORLON® 4XCF (carbon-reinforced).

 

 

KEL-FKEL-F®

KEL-F, or PCTFE (polychlorotrifluoroethylene), is a type of fluoropolymer that has a wide range of applications in the aerospace industry. It is prized for its high strength and durability, as well as its resistance to chemicals, heat, and wear. What makes KEL-F® stand out is its temperature range from -400°F to +400°F. KEL-F® In aerospace applications, KEL-F® is often used in fuel lines, hydraulic systems, and gaskets. Thanks to its unique properties, KEL-F® is an essential material for many aerospace applications.

At AIP, we machine various grades and brand name PCTFE. Branded names include the following: KEL-F® and NEOFLON®.

 

 

PTFE

PTFE, or Polytetrafluoroethylene, is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene that has numerous applications in aerospace due to its low coefficient of friction, high temperatures and chemical resistance, and non-stick properties. PTFE was first used in the aerospace industry in the 1940s and has since been used in a variety of aerospace applications such as fuel lines, hydraulic systems, and gaskets.

At AIP, we machine various grades and brand name PTFE. Branded names include the following:  FLUOROSINT® 207, FLUOROSINT® 500, DYNEON®, SEMITRON® ESD 500HR, SEMITRON® PTFE, TEFLON®.

 

 

Polymers take flight as a new standard of aircraft excellence

As aerospace rocketry and aircraft continue to evolve with advanced technologies and sophisticated capabilities, material selection is crucial. Every piece that goes into a rocket is carefully thought and crafted for the highest level of performance. Torlon®, Vespel®, KEL-F® and PTFE are all thermoplastics enabling success in mission critical Aerospace and Defense rocketry.

 

 

Supporting Materials

Aerospace Market Materials

Aerospace & Defense Machining

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The top 3 reasons to consider Torlon® over metal for your advanced engineering application

PolyamideImide (PAI) is a leading thermoplastic engineering plastic that offers extraordinary toughness and strength, even at temperatures up to 275°C (525°F). One of the leading PAI grades on the market is Solvay’s Torlon®. Developed for demanding aerospace and defense applications, Torlon® has also found broad use in automotive, energy, medical and other industries. Its superb performance makes it an excellent replacement for metals in many weight-sensitive applications. With its high strength-to-weight ratio, Torlon® PAI can help reduce component weight and lower manufacturing costs.

In this informational guide, we discuss the top three properties that make Torlon® a leading material pick for mission critical applications.

 

 

Top 3 Properties of TORLON® PAI

There is no doubt, this thermoplastic works well under pressure. PAI competes with metals like titanium and steel when it comes to high strength and wear resistance. These properties coupled with good mechanical stability over a broad range of temperatures put Torlon at the top of the material selection list. Let’s take a closer look.

 

High strength and wear resistance

Wear-resistant grades of Torlon® PAI offer custom combinations of mechanical and tribological properties. For this reason, PAI is often a metal replacement due to its capability to function under a wide range of temperatures, high pressure and velocities (PV). This is the case even when lubrication is marginal or non-existent. PAI can be formulated into specialized grades to suit even the harshest of environments.

 

High temperature resistance and functionality

When it comes to heat, PAI outperforms many advanced engineering resins, exhibiting great durability at 200 C (400 F). This makes it a leading choice for mission critical components used in repetitive-use, load-bearing operations. Carbon-fiber and glass-filled grades of PAI add stiffness, strength, low creep, and enhanced thermal expansion properties.

 

Chemical resistance

In critical industries like automotive and aerospace, chemical exposure is common for engineering materials. Performance materials like PAI are unaffected by aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, chlorinated and fluorinated hydrocarbons, and most acids at moderate temperatures. However, this polymer does not respond well to saturated steam, strong bases, and some high-temperature acid systems. This is why it’s important to ensure proper post-cure for PAI parts. Torlon®, like PEEK, does not perform well in moist environments and will absorb water, but the rate is slow and parts can be restored to original dimension and properties by drying.

 

 

Industry Applications of Torlon® PAI

 

Aerospace and defense

Components for aerospace and defense have to maintain functionality under extreme temperatures, withstand high pressures, and resist corrosion and friction. Torlon® PAI is one of the leading thermoplastics on the market that meets these requirements, while also saving aircraft on weight reduction.

 

Automotive

Thermoplastics like Torlon® PAI have gained popularity as a metal replacement, especially in the automotive industry. PAI has the strength, impact resistance, and high temperature tolerance at a fraction of the weight of metal. It is used for transmission components where there are high levels of heat, pressure and friction.

 

Oil and gas

Due to its chemical resistance and continuous use under pressure and intense temperatures, PAI is a natural pick for unpredictable, harsh environments like those in the oil and gas industry. Where metal easily corrodes in these environments, PAI is the right material pick for applications like seals, back-up seal rings, bearings and bushings.

 

Electric / Electrical

Applications of PAI in the electric / electrical sector include insulators and electrical connectors. PAI has excellent dielectric strength, outstanding impact strength, and electrical insulation. These properties make it an ideal material pick for high-performance connectors, relays and switches.

 

Semiconductors

The semiconductor industry demands high-temperature processing and continuous stability. PAI offers both and more. It keeps components dimensionally stable at variable temperatures, provides pure surfaces, and has a strong resistance to chemicals like acids and solvents. In the semiconductor industry, common applications for PAI include wafer handling, bearing surfaces, IC test equipment sockets and handlers.

 

 

 

Grades of TORLON® PAI machined at AIP

At AIP, we partner with leading polymer suppliers like Solvay to provide the best grades of thermoplastic PAI on the market. We source and machine several grades of Torlon® from general purpose to metal replacements for advanced engineering applications.

 

Torlon® 4203

Torlon® 4203 is the unfilled or natural grade of Torlon® PAI that outperforms other grades with the best impact resistance and the most elongation. PAI has the highest strength and stiffness of any thermoplastic up to 275°C (525°F). Torlon® 4203 can be used for a variety of applications but due to its excellent electrical properties, it is commonly machined for electronic equipment, connectors, spline liners, thrust washers, valve seals, bearings and temperature test sockets.

 

Torlon® 4301

Torlon® 4301 is a general purpose, wear-resistant grade of PAI containing PTFE and graphite. It offers high compressive and flexural strength with a low coefficient of friction along with good mechanical properties. Where high temperature and strength are a necessity, Torlon® 4301 is a good material choice. Common applications include thrust washers, bearings, and wear rings.

 

Torlon® 4XG

As a 30% glass-reinforced extruded grade of PAI, Torlon® 4XG is well suited to higher load structural or electronic applications. For applications that require a high degree of dimensional stability, 4XG offers high-performance. Several uses of 4XG include burn-in sockets, gears, valve plates, impellers, rotors, terminal strips and insulators.

 

Torlon® 4XCF

Torlon® 4XCF is a 30% carbon-reinforced extruded grade of PAI that has the lowest coefficient of thermal expansion and the most impressive fatigue resistance of all thermoplastics. This durable PAI grade is a common metal replacement  for mission-critical aerospace components, in addition to impellers, shrouds and pistons.

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Precision PPSU Takes Flight in Mission-Critical Aerospace Applications

Safety and engineering finesse come together in every aircraft on the market. It’s not just about ensuring a good flight experience for consumers; it’s the law. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has regulations in place that dictate the material choices for commercial aircraft. For instance, fireproof materials are an essential part of aircraft interiors.

 

In the late 1980s, FAA statistics showed that about 40% of survivors from impact-related aircraft crashes died from post-crash fire and smoke exposure. At the time, most aircraft interiors were made of combustible plastics. In 1987 the FAA mandated the use of fire-resistant plastics in all passenger planes.

 

Performance plastics like Solvay’s RADEL®, polyphenylsulfone (PPSU), offer not only high impact resistance but also high heat resistance. RADEL® is a key material in mission-critical performance within the cabin of an aircraft. In this article, we discuss the advantages of RADEL® for aerospace applications.

 

Demands of Aircraft Interiors – Beyond Comfort

Passengers might think about leg space and seat comfort, but there is a lot of thought put into the safety of cabin space. Fireproofing an aircraft is a crucial part of construction and engineering. Yet, engineers also look for a material that meets the industry’s lightweight and durability requisites.

 

Performance plastics in aerospace design have played a major role for several decades. Prior to the 1987 FAA mandate for fire-resistant plastics, most cabin interior composites were epoxy-based. These highly-flammable plastics, while providing the aesthetics and durability needed for aircraft interiors, were also highly dangerous in the event of a fire.

 

Since then, aircraft interior material selection has evolved to meet the standards of aesthetics, durability, AND flame resistance. Flame-resistant polymers for aircraft interiors have physical and chemical properties in terms of their effect on the heat release rate of burning material. Those qualities include: fuel replacement, flame inhibition, intumescence, and heat resistance.

 

These fire resistance mechanisms, acting simultaneously or collaboratively, are effective at reducing the heat release rate of a new generation of transparent plastics suitable for aircraft cabin interiors.

 

 

Properties of RADEL® PPSU for Aerospace

Solvay’s RADEL® PPSU meets all of the stringent requirements of the aerospace sector as well as the FAA regulations on flame retardance. With high heat and high impact performance, RADEL® delivers better impact resistance and chemical resistance than other sulfone-based polymers, such as PSU and PEI. It also performs under repeated chemical and hydrolytic exposure.

 

Furthermore, RADEL® PPSU meets the aircraft flammability requirements of 14 CFR Part 25, enabling engineers a material choice that is lightweight, safe and, aesthetically pleasing. It comes in a variety of colors to avoid painting and is FDA and NSF-approved for food and beverage contact.

 

Performance Properties

  • Excellent toughness and impact strength
  • Meets OSU 65/65 and FAR 25.853 (a & d)
  • Color grades eliminate painting
  • Lower-cost paintable grades
  • Flame retardant – Inherently UL-94 V0
  • Exceptional long-term hydrolytic stability

 

Setting the Standard for Aerospace Precision Plastic Machining

Standards in the Aerospace and Defense sector are rigorous and non-negotiable. Aviation contractors put the greatest pressure on finding manufacturers who exceed the standards of the industry.

 

At AIP, we make it our priority to set the standard for aerospace precision plastic machining. For over three decades, we have worked with top aviation and defense contractors to deliver cutting-edge plastic components.

 

We operate an ITAR facility capable of satisfying all customer DOD, NASA, and FAA quality requirements that flow down from our OEM customers. For your next precision machined PPSU project, call on AIP to exceed the standards for mission-critical aerospace applications.

 

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What Is Orbital Reconstruction?

Orbital trauma (trauma to the facial bone structure) can happen due to injuries, benign and malignant tumors, or infectious diseases. In the case of tumors where bone extraction may be necessary, replacing the bone in the orbital region does not usually cause deformity. However, in cases where significant bony material is lost or extracted, surgeons have typically used bone grafting to restore facial form and normality.

 

Yet, bone grafting presents its own issues with misalignment. Medical research has turned to materials such as titanium and precision plastics like PEEK. In this insightful brief, we discuss the advantages of PEEK for maxillofacial surgical procedures.

 

Challenges of Maxillofacial Surgery

 

There are issues with bone grafting though, namely imperfect alignment and resorption. The slight variability in the three-dimensional (3D) contour of the orbit with flat or slightly curved bone grafts can have a significant aesthetic effect on the outcome.

 

For a patient who has suffered trauma, coming out of surgery without the aesthetics of their face is emotionally devastating. For surgeons committed to providing the highest level of medical treatment, bone grafting is not always the best option.

 

In these cases of orbital reconstruction, it’s common for surgeons to use alloplasty, or inert pieces of metal and plastic for reconstruction. Traditional materials for alloplastic have been titanium plates or mesh. However, challenges associated with these materials include proper fixation and revision surgery complications due to soft tissue ingrowth.

 

 

Why PEEK Is Changing the Face of This Industry

 

 

With advancements in 3D printing and subtractive manufacturing techniques in precision polymers, patient-specific implants (PSIs) have been successfully reported in facial reconstruction. More recently, polyetheretherketone (PEEK) is a polymer with ideal alloplastic properties: nonconductive, biocompatible, and stable in the setting of long-term exposure to bodily fluids, elasticity is similar to native cortical bone, and light material makes it suitable for even large defects. As medical technologies continue to advance, PEEK has become a popular pick for PSIs.

 

A Case Study in PEEK Implants

One of the setbacks of titanium and metallic implants is that the manufacturing process takes time. In the case of PEEK implants, subtractive manufacturing offers convenient and quick milling precision at 0.4 mm thickness. The design freedom with PEEK is also much easier to produce than with metallic implants.

 

In addition, PEEK offers excellent imaging properties without artifact blockage, and it is most comparable to cortical bone. Recent research has shown that PEEK is an optimal choice for patients and surgeons with regard to revision surgery as well.

 

In a PEEK PSI group, diplopia after surgery was absent in 82.1% of patients versus 70.6% of controls with pre-bent titanium. These results showed that PEEK PSI demonstrated higher clinical efficacy in comparison to pre-bent plates in orbital wall reconstruction, especially in restoring the volume and shape of the damaged orbit.

 

Comparison to Metallic Surgical Materials

The most commonly used surgical material for orbital reconstruction is titanium. Its strength and flexibility set it apart as a material that lends itself well to meld to complex facial structures. However, Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) presents a major benefit as a material pick for its thermostability and comparability to cortical bone. We’ve mapped out a comparison of these common surgical materials below.

 

Additive Manufacturing Titanium

3-D manufactured titanium produces surfaces without tools or devices. It also enables options for surface design and intricacies that were previously impossible. In addition, additive manufactured titanium implants are so precise they don’t require reshaping processes.

Advantages
• Wide selection of shapes, structures, and styles
• Precise fitting accuracy
• Exceptionally stability
• Osteoconductive structures are possible
• Complete design freedom for the material and its surface
• Quick operation
• Steam sterilization

Limitations
• Additional material work is required for revision surgeries
• Intraoperative cutting to length is exceptionally difficult

 

Titanium Mesh

The special microstructure of titanium mesh allows it to be used in three-dimensional deep draw applications. A thermal process helps maintain the closed structure, which means that this material is both stable and intact while still offering excellent biocompatibility with bone apposition potential.

Advantages
• Very good biocompatibility, potential for vascularization
• Good mechanical properties
• Ease of manufacturing and cutting to size
• Bone cell apposition potential
• Relatively low price level
• No other plates required for fixation
• Steam sterilization (autoclavable)

Limitations
• No three-dimensional bone substitute
• Need for tools

 

Solid Titanium

Solid titanium is a high-strength reconstruction alternative to titanium mesh. Even though it has been widely supplanted by titanium mesh in recent years, it offers several advantages in specific fields of use, such as in relation to the mechanical protective function.

Advantages
• Best mechanical protective function
• High-strength reconstruction alternative
• No plates required for fixation
• Steam sterilization

Limitations
• Increased thermal conductivity
• Post-operative bending is not possible
• Post-operative cutting to size is not possible

 

PEEK

PEEK is a high-performing thermostable plastic. Its physical properties are similar to the cortical bone’s in humans, making PEEK the most frequently used in orthopedics. PEEK implants can be manufactured to be completely solid or contain holes.

Advantages
• Highly elastic, yet very strong and impact resistant at the same time
• Optimal protective function for patients
• No increase in thermal sensitivity
• Low weight
• Resistant to gamma radiation and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
• Low artifact formation in X-rays
• Three-dimensional bone replacement
• Steam sterilization

Limitations
• Only conditional cell apposition potential
• Intraoperative adjustment or cutting to size is only possible with additional effort
• Requires further plates for fixation

 

Unrivaled Expertise in Medical-grade PEEK Devices

Machining complex medical parts and devices takes more than precision. It takes unrivaled expertise. The medical industry is fast-paced and cutting-edge with technology challenges. Precision plastics like PEEK implants play a key role in meeting the demands of the industry.

 

PEEK and other precision plastics are highly sought after for their radiolucency, biocompatibility, and sanitation. Time is of the essence in healthcare, especially with traumas like orbital reconstruction. These types of surgery demand a quick turnaround on design and manufacturing to lessen surgical downtime.

 

At AIP, we make it our priority to set the highest standards of quality and sanitation for our customers in the healthcare industry. Quality assurance is an integral part of our process and we address it at every step of your project from beginning to end.

 

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Celazole® U-Series and Duratron® PBI Take the Heat in Any Extreme Application

Every medical innovation begins with design and manufacturing. Before a small spinal implant goes to the patient, it must meet strict universal industry standards for safety, handling, and product consistency. Afterall, a failure in a medical device can have serious repercussions for not only the health and safety of end users, but also loss of credibility and resources for a manufacturer.

 

That’s why medical device OEMs demand that machining facilities follow the ISO 13485 standard for medical device manufacturing.

 

In this informative brief, we take a deeper look at the benefits of this essential certification and how a precision machining facility can get certified.

 

The Benefits of having an ISO 13485 Certification

PBI has the highest mechanical properties of any polymer over 400°F (204°C). Compared to other performance polymers like Torlon® or PEEK®, it has the highest heat deflection temperature (HDT) at 800°F (427°C), with a continuous service capability of 750°F (399°C) in inert environments, or 650°F (343°C) in the air with short term exposure potential to 1,000°F (538°C).

 

 

Wear-Resistant Performance

Celazole® U-60 is an unfilled polymer suitable for injection molding or CNC machining into precision parts. When it comes to wear and abrasion, PBI has the highest compressive strength of all plastics. Its compressive strength is 57 kpsi and, its modulus strength reaches 850 kpsi compared to grades of Torlon® that start at 440 kpsi.

 

Celazole® can handle high loads at any speed and outperforms wear-grade PAI, PI, and PEEK® under similar conditions. Without additional lubrication, it runs 40-50F cooler than the competition.

 

PBI Grades

PBI comes in grades that can be extruded or melt processed, but in this brief we are covering grades of PBI that are CNC machined.

 

Duratron® PBI
Duratron® CU60 PBI is the highest-performance engineering thermoplastic available on the market. It has the highest heat resistance and mechanical property retention over 400°F of any unfilled plastic. It also offers better wear resistance and load-carrying capabilities at extreme temperatures than any other reinforced or unreinforced engineering plastic.

 

Although it is an unreinforced material, Duratron® CU60 PBI is very “clean” in terms of ionic impurity, and it does not outgas (except when in contact with water). These properties make this material very attractive to semiconductor manufacturers for vacuum chamber applications.

 

Other properties of Duratron® CU60 PBI include excellent ultrasonic transparency. This makes it a strong choice for delicate parts, like probe tip lenses in ultrasonic measuring equipment.

 

Duratron® PBI also serves very well as a thermal insulator. Other plastics melt and do not stick to it. For these reasons, it’s an ideal polymer for contact seals and insulator bushings in plastic production and molding equipment.

 

Celazole® PBI U-Series (U-60)
Celazole® U-Series has superior polymer strength with thermal stability. By itself, PBI can operate at continuous temperatures up to 1,004°F (540°C). As a resin incorporated into plastics, PBI features high heat and chemical resistance and good fatigue resistance, compressive strength, wear resistance, and electrical insulation.

 

Components made from Celazole® U-Series polymer perform well under conditions too severe for most plastics and outperform other materials like polyamide-imide (PAI) and polyetheretherketone (PEEK®) in many extreme environments.

 

Celazole® U-60 is an unfilled PBI polymer suitable for compression molding. It is often molded and machined into precision parts for industrial, chemical and petrochemical industries; aerospace, glass making, and liquid crystal display (LCD) panel manufacture.

 

 

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A Universal Standard of Safety and Quality

Every medical innovation begins with design and manufacturing. Before a small spinal implant goes to the patient, it must meet strict universal industry standards for safety, handling, and product consistency. Afterall, a failure in a medical device can have serious repercussions for not only the health and safety of end users, but also loss of credibility and resources for a manufacturer.

 

That’s why medical device OEMs demand that machining facilities follow the ISO 13485 standard for medical device manufacturing.

 

In this informative brief, we take a deeper look at the benefits of this essential certification and how a precision machining facility can get certified.

 

The Benefits of having an ISO 13485 Certification

Global Standard

The ISO 13485 international standard is the world’s most widely used means of measuring the effectiveness of a medical device manufacturer’s quality management system (QMS). While different countries may have different standards for measuring quality and effectiveness, ISO 13485 provides a globally harmonized model of QMS requirements for international markets.

 

 

Quality Assurance

When it comes to machining for the Medical, Healthcare, and Life Sciences sector, true culture of quality and consistency in manufacturing techniques are paramount. An ISO 13485 certification ensures that machining processes, product handling, storage, and shipping are all accounted for in a facility’s processes. 

 

 

Requirement for Business 

Most medical device OEMs require compliance with ISO 13485, including all European Union members, Canada, Japan, Australia, and more (165 member countries in total). Therefore, precision manufacturers that want to serve the Medical sector must show proof of and adherence to ISO 13485 guidance. 

 

 

Works at the Federal & Civil Enterprise Level

The FDA recently proposed aligning current Quality management system regulations with ISO 13485. This means that at the federal and civil enterprise level, ISO 13485 would satisfy standards for quality, consistency, risk management, and in medical device manufacturing.

 

 

How to get ISO 13485 certified

The International Standardization Organization establishes and maintains standards, but it is not an enforcement agency. Certification for ISO 13485 is evaluated by third party agencies. The first step is establishing a QMS that is in alignment with the guidance. Then, an independent certification body audits the performance of the QMS against the latest version of the ISO 13485 requirements. The agency must be part of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and employ the relevant certification standards established by ISO’s Committee on Conformity Assessment (CASCO). Once an organization passes the ISO 13485 audit, they are issued a certificate that is valid for three years. Manufacturers must undergo a yearly surveillance audit and be recertified every three years. 

 

Here’s what the ISO 13485 certification will asses: 

  • Promotion and awareness of regulatory requirements as a management responsibility.
  • Controls in the work environment to ensure product safety
  • Focus on risk management activities and design control activities during product development
  • Specific requirements for inspection and traceability for implantable devices
  • Specific requirements for documentation and validation of processes for sterile medical devices
  • Specific requirements for verification of the effectiveness of corrective and preventive actions
  • Specific requirements for cleanliness of products

 

Unrivaled Expertise in Precision Medical Plastics

Performance plastics play a huge role in medical device composition. Whether it’s hip replacement or a PEEK spinal implant, these life-saving technologies require durability, cleanliness, and high temperature and moisture resistance. This is no simple process…it’s precise. 

 

That’s where AIP, global leader in Precision Plastics Machining, provides unrivaled expertise in medical machining practices. For over three decades, we’ve served the medical community providing custom designed thermoplastic components for surgical devices, orthopedic equipment, and performance PEEK implants. 

 

We take quality management seriously because we know that performance is only half the equation for medical device manufacturing. For these reasons, we are an ISO 13485 certified facility and FDA compliant. We have been successfully audited by some of the most stringent OEMs in the orthopedic and medical device industries. Our plastics are processed with strict hygienic procedures to ensure innovative medical advancements continue striding forward. Let our team go to work for you! 

 

Find out more by visiting https://aipprecision.com or call us at +1 386.274.5335.

 

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When the Heat Is on, These High-Temperature Plastics Perform Under Pressure

Vespel®, Torlon® and, polyimide-based plastics are all part of a class of materials known as high-performance plastics. These plastics are characterized by their excellent mechanical and thermal properties, as well as their resistance to chemical attack.

 

Vespel® is a registered trademark of DuPont, and their material is often used in applications where extremely high temperatures are involved. Torlon® is a registered trademark of Solvay Advanced Polymers; it’s often used in electrical applications due to its excellent dielectric properties.

 

While these polymers each perform well under pressure and high temperatures, they have slight differences that set them apart. It’s important to know these distinctions when planning out the material selection for a performance plastic. In this informational brief, we’re covering all the nuances between Vespel® and Torlon® down to the molecular level.

 

Features and Capabilities

Both Vespel® (PI) and Torlon® (PAI) are considered high-performance thermoplastics and share similar capabilities. However, there are slight differences in chemical makeup at a molecular level.

For instance, Polyimides are performance polymers containing imide group (-CO-N-OC-) in their repeating units. The polymer chains are either an open chain or closed chain. On the other hand, Polyamides all consist of amide (-CONH-) linkages in their polymer backbone. The amide group is classified as a polar group, which allows polyamides to build hydrogen bonds between chains. By doing this, they improve the interchain attraction.

These slight differences in the chemical makeup enhance various properties of Polyamide-imide over Polyimide and vice versa. The following chart displays the strengths and weaknesses of these two materials.

 

Strengths Weaknesses
 

Vespel® (PI)

·         Thermal stability

·         Excellent chemical resistance

·         Dielectric strength

·         Mechanical toughness

·         Superior temperature adaptability

·         Excellent tensile and compressive strength

·         Transparency in many microwave applications

·         Radiation resistance

·         Superior bearing and wear properties

·         High manufacturing cost

·         High-temperature requirement in the processing stage

·         Specified operating processes such as annealing operations at specified temperatures

·         Sensitive to alkali and acid attacks

 

Torlon® (PAI)

·         Excellent Chemical Resistance

·         Excellent Stress Resistance

·         Excellent Thermal Resistance

·         Excellent Wear Resistance

·         High Stiffness

·         High Strength

·         Higher moisture absorption rate than other performance plastics

·         High manufacturing cost

·         Narrow processing window when temperatures exceed 600°F

·         Melt viscosity that is highly sensitive to temperature and shear rate

·         Thermal cure for 20 or more days at 500 F to optimize properties after melt processing

 

 

 

Applications of Vespel® and Torlon®

Vespel® and Torlon® both maintain stability and functionality under high temperatures and pressures. For this reason, they are often found in applications with harsh, demanding environments, including:

  • energy
  • automotive
  • aerospace
  • and military & defense

 

Does one material perform better than another in certain cases? Let’s take a look.

 

Vespel®: An all-around performer

Polyimides like Vespel® are often used in electrical insulation, aerospace components, and high-temperature bearings. Unlike most plastics, Vespel® Resin does not produce significant outgassing (even at high temperatures). This makes it useful for lightweight heat shields and crucible support. It also performs well in vacuum applications and extremely low cryogenic temperatures. Although there are polymers that surpass individual properties of this polyimide, the combination of these factors is Vespel’s® primary advantage.

 

Torlon®: Bring on the heat

On the other hand, Torlon® is a polyamide-imide with even better mechanical and thermal properties than Vespel®. It is often used in pump housings, valves, and chemical-resistant seals. PAI comes in several grades, including TORLON® 4203 (electrical and high strength), TORLON® 4301 (general purpose wear), TORLON® 4XG (glass-reinforced), and TORLON® 4XCF (carbon-reinforced).

 

Takeaway: Both Vespel® and Torlon® are widely used in industries that require reliable performance under extreme conditions. It’s important to consider the environment, especially for Torlon®, as it has a higher moisture absorption than other performance plastics.

 

Vespel® polyimide Torlon® polyamide-imide
·         Aerospace Applications

·         Semiconductor Technology

·         Transportation Technology

·         Bearing Cages

·         High-Temperature Electrical Connectors

·         Structural Parts

·         Valve Seats

·         Wear Rings

 

 

 

CNC Machining Vespel® vs Torlon®

Let’s talk about processing and machining. While Vespel® and Torlon® can be injection molded, extruded, or CNC machined, we’re going to focus on the protocols for subtractive CNC machining.

 

Annealing

As with any performance plastic, annealing preps the material and ensures that it will not crack or craze in the future. AIP Precision Machining has programmed annealing ovens for plastics that heat the material above its recrystallization temperature. By maintaining the heat at that specific point, the structure of the material changes to become finer and more uniform. This process relieves internal stresses in the material. Both Vespel® and Torlon® require specific temperatures and cool-down time after annealing. This is why AIP uses computer-controlled annealing ovens for the best outcome.

 

Machining

Vespel®

Vespel® can be machined using conventional CNC methods. However, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to achieve the best results.

 

First, Vespel® has a relatively low coefficient of thermal expansion (CLTE), meaning it will expand and contract differently than most metals. This can cause tooling and fixtures to loosen over time, so it’s important to check them regularly.

 

Second, Vespel® is a very hard material that can wear down tools quickly. Use sharp cutting tools made of carbide and take light cuts in order to avoid premature tool wear.

 

→ [READ NOW] Machining Vespel: A Plastics Guide

 

Torlon®  

Torlon® is one of the most difficult materials to machine due to its extremely high hardness and wear resistance. In order to machine Torlon® or any polyamide-imide, it is necessary to use a CNC machining center with special tooling and cutting parameters. The cutting tools must be made of extremely hard materials such as carbide or diamond, and the cutting parameters must be carefully optimized to prevent tool wear. With the proper tools and techniques, Torlon® can be machined into parts with very tight tolerances and smooth finishes.

 

→ [READ NOW] Machining Torlon: A Plastics Guide

 

Torlon® or Vespel®? Ask the experts at AIP

Are you looking for a performance material that works continuously under pressure and heat? Not sure if Torlon® or Vespel® is the right material for your project? Our team of engineers and machinists are skilled craftsmen in reviewing your project parameters and design needs. We will ensure that every facet of your project is taken into consideration and work with you to define the best material for your project needs and budget.

 

We pride ourselves on our industry knowledge and partnerships with leading suppliers of top materials: Vespel® SP, Vespel® SCP products, and a variety of Torlon® grades. Contact an AIP engineer today, and we will be happy to help with your unique project.

 

Get a quote on Torlon® and Vespel®

 

 

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Dear friends and family of AIP,

 

As we all work to do our part to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, we want to know how else we can help.

 

At AIP we make precision machined plastic components for multiple industries and end markets. We are currently supplying medical customers in need of components for convalescent plasma treatment. Although still experimental for COVID-19, this treatment has potentially already provided a true lifeline for some of the most critically ill patients. We want to do more! Therefore, if you are in the medical supply chain and in need of machined plastic components to support any medical device, surgical or testing instrument, then please know we are here to serve you promptly. If you are supporting the COVID-19 fight, then you will go to the front of our line.

 

Our facilities in Daytona Beach, Florida, are fully dedicated to plastics machining. We are ISO 13485:2016 and FDA registered. With these high standards of medical safety and compliance, we are prepared and authorized to provide critical parts to medical manufacturers and device companies worldwide.

 

Thankfully we are currently fully operational and have instituted many measures to remain so during and after this crisis. Our team is ready to support your needs.

 

You can contact AIP for a quote or consultation by visiting our website. Feel free to reach out to me personally via email or a call. I am here to provide support and help in any way possible.

 

Best regards,

 

John MacDonald
President
AIP Precision Machining
724 Fentress Blvd.
Daytona Beach, FL 32114
jmacdonald@AIPprecision.com

 

Cell: +1 386.405.7202
Tel: +1 386.274.5335
Fax: +1 386.274.4746
www.AIPprecision.com

 

 

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Key Moments in Aircraft & Aerospace Innovation

 

Aviation technology has come a long way to get to where it is today. Over the course of the last century countless test flights, thousands of blueprints, and endless research from passionate minds have propelled the evolution of aircraft and aerospace technologies. Read on to discover how aviation materials have shifted to create a better, safer, and more efficient flight experience.

 

The Pioneers of Aviation

 

For much of human history, we have been fascinated with taking flight. The ancient Greeks contemplated sprouting wings in myths like Icarus and Daedalus – the boy who flew too close to the sun with wax and feather wings. Leonardo Da Vinci sketched flying machines that were way ahead of Renaissance times. It all came to fruition in 1857 when Félix du Temple de la Croix, a French Naval officer, received a patent for a flying machine. By 1874, he had developed a lightweight steam-powered monoplane which flew short distances under its own power after takeoff from a ski-jump.  Finally, in 1903, the Wright Brothers made the first controlled, powered, and sustained flight near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The Wright Flyer featured a lightweight aluminum engine, wood and steel construction, and a fabric wing warping. According to the U.S. Smithsonian Institution, the Wright brothers accomplished the “world’s first successful flights of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine.”

 

 

Just 12 years later, the first all-metal airplane (Junkers J1), built by Hugo Junkers (1859-1935), took flight in 1915. Previously, aircraft experts believed that airplanes can only fly with light materials such as wood, struts, tension wires, and canvas. Junkers thought differently and believed that heavier materials like metal were necessary to transport passengers and goods.

 

The Golden Age

 

The Roaring 20’s ushered in airplane racing competitions, which led aircraft designers to focus on performance. Innovators, such as Howard Hughes, found that monoplanes (aircraft with one pair of wings) were more aerodynamic in comparison to biplanes, and that frames made with aluminum alloys were capable of withstanding extraordinary pressures and stresses. Due to its lightweight properties, aluminum also made its way into the internal fittings of the aircraft decreasing the weight and allowing for a more fuel-efficient design.

 

In 1925, Henry Ford acquired the Stout Metal Airplane Company, utilizing the all-metal design principles proposed by Hugo Junkers, Ford developed the Ford Trimotor, nicknamed the “Tin Goose.” The “Tin Goose” propelled the race to design safe and reliable engines for airline travel. A few years later, Henry Ford’s Trimotor NC8407 became the first airplane flown by Eastern Air Transport, a leading domestic airline in the 1930s flying routes from New York to Florida. This positioned metal as the primary material for domestic aircraft, and eventually military applications with the onset of WWII.

 

 

Plastic’s Mettle: Wartime Materials Take Flight

 

By the 1930’s, the use of wood became obsolete and all-metal aircrafts were produced for their durability. Imperial Airways, known today as British Airways, made headway in the air travel industry with advertisements of luxury and adventure to cross borders. However, those borders were sealed off with the breakout of WWII. In 1939, Imperial Airways, a private commercial airline, was ordered to operate from a military standpoint at Bristol Airport.  Across the Atlantic, engineers focused their efforts on building aircraft meant specifically for military strategy – strength, durability, agility, and weaponry.  The Boeing P-26 “Peashooter” entered service with the United States Army Air Corps as the first all-metal and low-wing monoplane fighter aircraft. Known for its speed and maneuverability, the small but feisty P-26 formed the core of pursuit squadrons throughout the United States.

 

 

In times of war, there are often significant advancements in material usage, weaponry, and machinery. World War II was no different. Plastics entered the scene during World War II, starting with the replacement of metal parts for rubber parts in U.S. aircraft after Japan limited metal trade with the United States. Following that, plastics of higher grades began to replace electrical insulators and mechanical components such as gears, pulleys, and fasteners. Aircraft manufacturers began to replace aluminum parts with plastics as they were lighter and thus more fuel efficient than aluminum.

 

The Race for Space

 

Lighter and more fuel efficient were the key words following World War II as nations turned their attention to the skies and beyond. The space program in the 1960’s brought together illustrious minds to solve the seemingly impossible feat of being the first country to put mankind on the moon, thus, the great race for space began. Aircraft were now going beyond the sky and NASA scientists knew they were dealing with new territory in aero innovation. They needed a material that could break the Earth’s atmosphere and carry a hefty amount of fuel, while protecting the spacecraft’s crew from extreme temperatures. NASA scientists turned to plastics, specifically Kevlar and nylon. Layers of nylon and other insulators were wrapped under the body of the spacecraft to protect the crew from the extreme temperatures of space. Both of these plastics are still staples in the aerospace industry – keeping the Hubble telescope and many other satellites scanning humanity’s charted and uncharted expanse.

 

 

Plastics of the Future

 

Plastics continue to lead the future of materials in aerospace and aviation industries for their durability, precision, and ingenuity. For example, in 2009, the 787-8 Dreamliner made its first maiden flight, becoming the first aircraft to have wings and fuselage made from carbon-fiber plastics. Besides being lightweight, plastics offered increased safety with their resistance to high impact, and their proven ability to withstand chemically harsh environments. This proved plastics an invaluable material when compared to alternative material choices like glass or metal.

 

 

Starting in the 1970s, plastics began to play a more crucial part in the defense and military industry, especially in stealth aircraft. The U.S. Air Force saw the potential of plastics when they learned that plastics could absorb radar waves. The added benefit of reduced radar signature makes plastics ideal for creating stealthy aircraft. Plastics continue to contribute to innovation in the defense industry, especially with stealth fabrics and other composite materials which can virtually create invisibility to radars in the near future.

 

Aside from plastics becoming increasingly popular for use in the defense and military sector, high grade plastics like PEEK are highly favorable for space travel due to its ability to function in hostile environments, critical in space exploration. Plastics are even being researched for lightweight radiation shielding for the International Space Station and flights to Mars.

 

At AIP, we’re proud to be a continued part of aviation and aerospace advancements and we look forward to engineering solutions for the next frontier. In fact, at the time this article was written, we are AS9100D:2016 certified, which means we meet the high-quality standards of applications in the aerospace industry. In addition, we are also ISO 13485:2016, ISO 9000:2015, FDA audited, and ITAR certified. Above call, we strive to create genuine relationships with our customers to deliver mission critical components with promise. To learn how we can help you, contact us today.

 

Interested to learn more? Read “Plastics in Aerospace: The Secret to Fuel-Efficient Aircraft

 

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AIP Precision Machining is proud to officially be AS9100:2016 certified as part of our dedication to quality in machining for aerospace applications. To share what that means, we’ve put together the following article to explain what AS9100D:2019 certification is and how we achieved it.

 

What is the AS9100D:2016 Standard?

 

AS9100 is a company level certification based on the ISO 9001 quality standard requirements, but with additional requirements based on the needs of the aerospace industry. These satisfy both ISO 9001 quality standards and DOD, NASA and FAA requirements.

 

This certification is based on “Quality Management Systems – Requirements for Aviation, Space and Defense Organizations,” a standard published by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). A third-party certifying body issues AS9100D:2016 certification. Part of this process includes annual or regularly scheduled audits to ensure compliance with the AS9100 standard.

 

AS9100D is meant for any organization that does business in the aerospace sector, including suppliers, contractors and manufacturers, such as AIP. It’s an internationally accepted standard, though different countries use their own numbering conventions.

 

As of this blog, AS9100D:2016 is the most recent version of the AS9100, revising the previous issue, AS9100C.

 

What about this certification helps AIP Precision Machining serve the aerospace market?

 

For the past 36 years, AIP Precision Machining has been supplying mission-critical polymer and composite components to Tier 1 through 3 aerospace OEMs. The latest AS9100D certification was required as a means to help open new “doors” in this marketplace for AIP. We were already the global leader for technical know-how and capability when considering supply options for aerospace like services due to our talented and advanced team. 

 

Similar to a job application, great candidates are many times excluded from opportunities due to lacking minimum accreditations. In our journey to offer our talent and services to new US-based or globally located aerospace OEMs, AS9100 certification allows AIP to showcase our capabilities for this market.

 

“There is no doubt in my mind that AIP is and always had been overly equipped to provide mission-critical precision aerospace components,” said John MacDonald, President of AIP Precision Machining. “It is just that now we have achieved the accreditation to show those who do not know of us that we are capable.”

 

What about AIP Precision Machining allows us to achieve AS9100D:2016 certification?

 

“Anyone who tells you that it is not about the people is wrong,” said MacDonald. “Leadership provided the vision and desire to seek out AS9100D certification, but our awesome team at AIP ran the marathon and got us over the finish line. It is also our team who will maintain and continually enhance those key processes to make us better every day at serving our valued customers.”

 

Want to contact us about aerospace manufacturing?

Get in touch with us online, or see our  AD9100D:2016 certification

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