Plastic Materials This course by the AIM Institute provides a comprehensive understanding of polymers with an emphasis on important plastic materials in the injection molding industry.

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 polymers 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.

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