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Today's engineer, whether a student in training or a practicing professional, is faced with a myriad of design considerations when selecting the optimum material candidate for a functional product. The normal protocol followed includes prioritizing performance credentials, selecting candidate polymeric material, reviewing the properties and processing characteristics of each, and then making a qualified decision based on the available facts.
The problems, however, are both knowing fully what will be required of the product, in a wide range of use/abuse environments, and understanding as thoroughly as possible the true functional behavior of the polymer. What often is not completely understood is the correlation between published data sheets and the relevance to design considerations. How meaningful is the information found in a typical data sheet? How easily, if at all, can the design engineer integrate this information in a series of design iterations, leading to an improved product?
How useful is the information most routinely published? Certainly a great deal of information is readily available in a number of formats, including proprietary databanks maintained and freely distributed by the various material suppliers. This information is equally available via the Internet, and much follows the CAMPUS template containing both single- and multi-point data (International Standards Organization-ISO 10350 and 11403 respectively).
Regardless of the quantity and ready availability of this information, how can published Izod impact behavior be successfully used to make a better, more durable product? How can the Distortion Temperature Under Load (DTUL) of a material translate into practical continuous use temperature? What published data are really useful? And what are meaningless?
Finally, what really is needed — and is usually missing — to help the design engineer predictably produce a safe, reliable, and durable product?
Plastics, physical properties, impact and flow behavior
Professor, The University of Massachusetts-Lowell,
Student, The University of Massachusetts-Lowell,