AIM’s PTE Program

AIM’s Plastics Technology & Engineering (PTE) Certificate Program is the most comprehensive plastics training available outside of a university setting.

Designed with the full-time professional in mind, this course allows you to earn an accredited Plastics Certificate in less than twelve months without taking an extended leave of absence from your regular job and for a fraction of the cost of a university degree.

Students complete four, week-long courses at the AIM Institute:

Each course is followed by eight-to-ten weeks of online reviews with AIM’s instructor team. After students complete each course and its subsequent reviews, they are tested on the material they learned before they move on to the next subject.

The Four Courses

1. Plastic Materials

The focus of this course is to impart information and understanding that is of practical use to industry professionals who are faced with the daily challenges of the real-world manufacturing environment. Knowledge gained in this course will be applied and built upon in the subsequent certificate courses.

The course is intended to provide the student with a comprehensive understanding of polymers with an emphasis on those plastic materials that are important to the injection molding industry. Students will learn about the processes by which different classes of polymers are made and how this influences their behavior in processing and in end use environments. They will learn how a polymer’s performance is governed by its basic structure and chemical bonding. A significant emphasis will be placed on the distinctions between amorphous and semi-crystalline polymers and their influence on processing and product.

The course will cover the different plastic material families and their relative strengths and weaknesses in processing and in end use performance. It will also address the role of the traditional data sheet, its limitations, how the standard tests are performed that generate these data points, and the utility of advanced characterization techniques that provide graphical relationships between performance and application conditions. Within this context, the concept of viscoelasticity and the manner in which it manifests as temperature- and time-dependent behavior will be addressed.

Additives will be covered with an emphasis on their practical use in modifying properties. Polymer degradation that occurs during processing and in end use will also be covered. Recycling, biodegradability as well as the meaning and use of biopolymers will be covered. At all times, an emphasis will be placed on the interrelationships between synthesis, chemical structure, injection molding, and product performance.

Topics Covered

Upon completion of this course it is expected that the student should have reasonable competency in each of the following:

  1. Be able to understand the manner in which a polymer is made and the unique characteristics that are provided by these materials.
  2. Comprehend the relationship between the structure of the various polymers and how this translates to differences in processing and end-use performance.
  3. Understand the critical relationship between semi-crystalline and amorphous polymers and the relationship of these structural differences to rheology, phase changes, and properties of a molded part.
  4. Understand the practical aspects of viscoelastic behavior in both the melt state and the solid state. This includes the relationship between viscosity and shear rate in the melt state and long-term performance characteristics such as creep and stress relaxation in the solid state.
  5. Understand the critical nature of molecular weight and molecular weight distribution and their influence on both processing and end-use performance. Be able to understand the practical methods for measuring molecular weight, when each method should be used, and how to interpret the results of these tests.
  6. Know the commercially important polymer families and understand their inherent strengths and weaknesses in processing and end use.
  7. Understand the limits of traditional data sheets, how the tests are performed that generate these data sheets, and the use of advanced characterization techniques that provide graphical relationships between application inputs and performance.
  8. Understand the importance of additives to modifying polymer properties and preventing certain degradation mechanisms that can compromise end-use performance
  9. Understand the common mechanisms that cause polymer degradation during both processing and in end-use environments.
  10. Understand the issues around recycling and biodegradable materials. Be able to understand the difference between traditional petroleum-derived polymers and biopolymers.
  11. Understand the essential trade-offs between processability and performance of polymers.
  12. Understand the essential trade-offs in performance between properties such as strength and stiffness and properties such as vibration damping and impact.

Download the complete list of learning objectives here.

2. Mold Design & Engineering

This course builds on the plastic material course and augments the processing and part design courses comprising the AIM Institute certificate program. The primary objective of this course is to address the issues that are most often poorly understood and overlooked in the mold engineering process. This requires looking beyond just the classical mechanical design of a mold and focus more on the details that influence the formation of the plastic product, its quality, performance and productivity.

The course objectives include establishing an understanding of current state-of-the art design practices, including injection molding simulation, and then build a higher-level scientific understanding of the rheological and process-induced properties of polymer materials and how to apply this knowledge in the design and troubleshooting of injection molds.

Students will learn how processing and tooling design influences the morphology of the plastic material and how this relates to achieving product objectives including the influence on the size, shape, weight and mechanical properties of molded plastic parts.

Upon completing this course students should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the relationship of process, material properties and tooling design and to develop and apply practical means to integrate this knowledge to maximize the opportunity to be successful in plastic mold engineering.

Topics Covered

Upon completion of this course it is expected that the student should have reasonable competency in each of the following:

  1. Be able to identify different mold types and their components and be able to recognize the advantage and disadvantage of various melt delivery systems used within these molds.
  2. Understand the challenge of ejection during injection molding.
  3. Understand and design for proper venting.
  4. Understand and design for optimum mold cooling including consideration of network design, channel sizes, water supply and mold steels/alloys.
  5. Understand the complex flow conditions experienced during injection molding including influences of shear, temperature, pressure, channel (runner, gate & cavity) size and shape. rheological characteristics of plastic melt.
  6. Understand characteristics of polymer melts during processing and the relationship to part formation.
  7. Understand the development and distribution of melt pressure during injection molding and their relationship to part formation and the development of forces within a mold.
  8. Understand the development and distribution of shear stresses during processing and their influence on the polymer and product.
  9. Understand the effect of process on the morphology of amorphous and semi-crystalline materials and the relationship to part properties including size, shape and mechanical properties.
  10. Understand shrinkage characteristics of plastic materials and their relationship to process, mold design, part formation and performance.
  11. Understand how to isolate the cause of warpage and residual stresses in a plastic part and identify means of reducing these problems.
  12. Understand the design, operation and maintenance issues related to hot runner molds.
  13. Be able to design the melt delivery system of an injection mold to maximize success. This includes design decisions related to runner size, layout, gating design and positioning.
  14. Be able to apply a logical strategy, including selecting gate location(s), to maximize opportunities for successfully producing injection molded plastic parts.

Download the complete list of learning objectives here.

3. Injection Molding Processing

This course is built around the understanding that all elements of plastic product development meet for the first time at the initial mold sampling. The mold, product and material all come together in the hands of the processor.

This meeting at the molding machine requires the processor to have a firm grasp of more than just the operation of the machine he/she is working with, but rather the whole process of plastics injection molding.

The goal of this course is to acquire the knowledge necessary to scientifically develop the unique plastics injection molding process necessary to create a successful plastics product.

Topics Covered

Upon completion of this course it is expected that the student should have reasonable competency in each of the following:

  1. Intermediate to advanced understanding of the injection molding machines components and related machine controls
  2. Evaluation of the machines capability to control process consistencyPre-sampling preparation and calculations (minimizing start-up problems)
  3. Determining which press is the right press
  4. Mold commissioning including trouble shooting and isolation of tooling issues.
  5. Plastic material drying and handling
  6. The five key components for molding a successful plastic part and their inter-relationship
  7. Understanding of polymer flow and viscosity and their relationship to the molding process.
  8. Understanding the material, part and molds reaction to injection rate changes
  9. Understanding the pressurization/packing/compensation phase of the injection molding process and influence on the molded product
  10. Fine tuning the injection molding cycle
  11. Correct process documentation for process repeatability
  12. How to transfer a process from one molding machine to another
  13. Application of machine and in mold sensors; use of pressure traces; process monitoring; etc.
  14. Know the six most critical variables to track during production
  15. Leveling an injection molding machine
  16. Understand the cooling requirements of the mold, including coolant flow requirements of volume, temperature, plumbing, in vs. out, etc..
  17. Evaluate the machines capability to control process consistency
  18. The benefits of concurrent engineering

Download the complete list of learning objectives here.

4. Part Design

Students will learn to evaluate the feasibility of producing a strong plastics part design- considering cost, material and manufacturing methods. They will also learn the need to clearly define a product and establish product specification prior to the part design.

Students will study the complex interaction of plastics part design, tool design, process and material. In particular students will learn to engineer plastic parts realizing the influence of process, time, temperature, strain, strain rate, fatigue and environment on standalone and assembled products. Students will also learn to design for various assembly and decoration needs.

Topics Covered

Upon completion of this course it is expected that the student should have reasonable competency in each of the following:

  1. Be able to understand the need for, and to be able to develop, product specifications. This includes understanding performance vs. design specifications.
  2. Be able to identify the optimum plastic materials for a given application. This includes evaluation of material cost as influenced by its physical properties and processing.
  3. Be able to develop the cost for producing a plastic part.
  4. Understand the critical relationship between material, process, tooling and part design required to successfully design plastic parts for manufacturability. This includes understanding the logic behind common design guidelines used for plastic parts and the flaws in these guidelines.
  5. Understand the unique characteristics of plastic materials and their relationship to the design and performance of plastic parts. This includes an understanding of how to design for the variable effects of time, temperature, strain, strain rate and humidity using graphical data.
  6. Be able to understand the use of composite shapes and materials in the design of plastic parts and be able to calculate the moment of inertia, deflection and stresses developed in these.
  7. Have a basic understanding of legal and ethical issues related to product design
  8. Understand the more common assembly methods used with like and unlike materials. Be able to design and engineer common part assembly features including consideration of thermal expansion with unlike materials.
  9. Understand the primary methods of decorating plastic parts and their relationship to product design and material
  10. Understand the use of computer technologies in plastic product development. This includes creation and modification of surface and solid models, manipulation of these computer models for manufacturability and structural analysis, and use of injection molding simulation for product design.