Plastics manufacturers routinely need solutions to material challenges, such as why a new lot of material is failing or how to identify the properties of a polymer. The Polymers Center offers a wide variety of tests to assist manufacturers in finding answers. Lately, our most frequent requests have been for “reverse engineering” plastic parts.

When it comes to reverse engineering, The Polymers Center has a lot to offer in helping customers characterize a plastic part. We offer testing capabilities that include FTIR, DSC and Ash Burn Off testing.

FTIR for Polymer Identification

FTIR spectroscopy (Fourier transform infrared) is an analytical tool used in the identification and analysis of polymeric materials. FTIR is able to quickly provide conclusive identification of plastics, fillers, coatings, contaminants, and more. It identifies the components in a mixture, including unknown ingredients and determines the quality and consistency of the materials.

During analysis, a sample of the material is placed in the FTIR and infrared radiation is passed through it. The FTIR analyzes molecular motions caused by exciting the polymer by the infrared light. Some of the radiation passes through the polymer sample and some is absorbed by it. These motions form the fingerprint of the FTIR spectrum and indicate the functional groups present. Samples can be powder, solid, thin film or liquid.

DSC – Thermal Technique for Polymer Identification

DSC (Differential Scanning Calorimetry) is a thermal analytical technique that analyzes a polymer’s response to heat. During analysis, heat flow through a polymeric material is examined; this determines whether it is absorbed (endothermic) or released (exothermic).

Through this test, we are able to identify glass transitions, crystallization peaks, and melting transitions. Since most polymers have different temperatures where these events occur, this is another method for narrowing down a polymer family, and successfully identifying a material.

DSC is best used for:

  • Identifying differing density types of polyethylene by melt point.
  • Differentiating between Nylon 6 vs. 6,6 vs. 6,10 or etc. (due to Nylons having differing melting points).
  • Evaluating whether a polypropylene has a nucleating agent present by looking at the cooling crystallization temperature.

Ash Burn Off Test

An Ash test identifies whether filler is present in a polymeric material and the total inorganic mineral filler content by weight. The Ash test is a basic burn off test – a sample is placed into a receptacle, varying temperatures are introduced, as well as a range of durations, depending on the customer’s needs; Common tests are 600C/1 hour or 800C/10 minutes. Ash residue remaining in the container is filler. The residue is magnified and examined optically to determine if it is a mineral, glass, or both.

At The Polymers Center’s lab, we assist our customers by reverse engineering to solve problems. Contact us to learn more about our lab and the tests we offer plastics manufacturers. Click here to visit our website and see a list of polymer tests we perform regularly.