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Case Studies

Explore our case studies, from custom-designed medical device parts with quick turnaround times, material analysis support for production optimisation and new product development activities to support Europe’s largest PET recycler to designing and testing a release mechanism for an Irish sports company.

Headrite Sports - sporting company: design and prototyping

DESIGN & PROTOTYPING OF SAFETY RELEASE MECHANISM

Soccer training apparatus

Headrite Sports is a sports company based in Co. Galway. It is focused on innovation in player welfare and skill improvement when heading footballs. Headrite Sports has developed an innovative soccer training apparatus that increases heading proficiency while decreasing head injuries in football. The training is designed to improve players timing and incorporates wearable technology to monitor performance.

brain
HeadingBall

Tensile testing equipment

As part of the system, a safety release mechanism needed to be designed, prototyped and tested. The release mechanism needed to be able to withstand maximum loading during normal use (heading the ball) but release the ball when a higher weight is applied; i.e. a player hanging off the ball or becoming entangled, which would cause a safety hazard, the danger of strangulation, and risk the whole unit collapsing. Initially to ascertain a guideline of what heading forces were involved, portable tensile testing equipment was employed with a number of users heading the ball in order to determine maximum heading forces in normal usage.

1 Irish company

6 prototypes

1 innovation voucher

Release of product to market

The Headrite Sports & AIT partnership

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining was chosen as a production method, due to the relatively low volumes required at this stage. Concepts for the release mechanism were developed and some initial prototyping was carried out in-house using a SLA. These were tested for release force and then used as a guide for verification to develop a Finite Element Analysis (FEA) study. This FEA study allowed Headrite Sports to design an appropriate release force based on a chosen material and its relative flexural modulus and strength (Nylon 6). Further prototypes were built from CNC machining and further testing was completed in-house using tensile testing equipment to verify the functional release force.

The functional prototypes that were verified with testing with 3D CAD, plus 2D drawings with tolerances and material specifications allowed the company to produce a batch of release mechanism components. These release mechanisms were then fitted to the full apparatus which could allow the company to release the product to the market and for further user testing and development.

“We were fortunate to have AIT designing and testing the Headrite Sports release mechanism as part of the EI Innovation Voucher scheme. The expertise and insight they provided was cutting edge.”

Mark Herrick – Headrite Sports

Teleflex - innovative healthcare tech: design and development of injection mould tooling

DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT OF INJECTION MOULD TOOLING

Innovative Healthcare Tech

Teleflex is a global provider of medical technologies designed to improve the health and quality of people’s lives. They apply purpose-driven innovation to benefit patients and healthcare providers. Their portfolio is diverse, with solutions in the fields of vascular and interventional access, surgical, anaesthesia, cardiac care, urology, emergency medicine and respiratory care. Their EMEA office is based in Athlone.

Teleflex Office

Injection Moulding

Teleflex wished to use design and injection moulding capabilities at Applied Polymer Technologies (APT) to provide a solution for innovative, custom-designed medical device parts with quick turnaround times.

100% industry funded

1 global company

75 years in business

EMEA office in Athlone

The Teleflex & APT Partnership

By leveraging APT Gateway’s expertise in polymer materials and injection moulding, Teleflex was able to develop innovative medical device concept parts and gain an increased understanding of the materials it is using and the effects that the process has on their properties. The company is also considering further collaboration work with APT and the wider network as a result of its initial interactions with APT.

“The equipment and expertise available to us at APT enabled us to optimise and refine our concept and produce an innovative manufacturable product.”

Morgan Tierney – Teleflex

Athlone Extrusions – thermoplastic sheet extruder: optimisation of new lab extrusion equipment

OPTIMISATION OF NEW LAB EXTRUSION EQUIPMENT

Bespoke extrusion

Athlone Extrusions, based in Westmeath, is a thermoplastic sheet extruder and compounder founded in 1971. It supplies bespoke sheet sizes, colours and finishes in a wide variety of styrenic polymers to small and large consumers alike. The company has sales offices in Ireland, England and the Netherlands, and exports co-extruded sheets to over 50 countries worldwide, destined for sectors/uses such as building, sanitary ware, automotive, screen-printing, packaging, white goods, electronics and point of sale and display.

Athlone extrusion company
Optimisation of new lab extrusion equipment

Manufacturing capacity

Athlone Extrusions’s manufacturing facility of 14,000 sq. metres houses the extrusion division – consisting of fourteen sheet and film lines, all with co-extrusion or multi-layer capability, and the masterbatch and compounding division, containing seven compounding extruders. The plant capacity is currently 36,000 tonnes per annum. The company’s continued growth is achieved through an ongoing investment in the production facility to expand capacity, a focus on efficiency through technical innovation, coupled with a focus on new product development and material innovation.

46 years in business

14,000 sqm manufacturing facility

36,000 tonnes annual plant capacity

180 employees

The Athlone Extrusions & APT partnership

Athlone Extrusions has a long working relationship with the APT Gateway in Athlone IT. APT continues to provide material analysis support for production optimisation and new product development activities within the company. In addition, Dr Zhi Cao, a Research Engineer based in APT, was recently seconded into the Athlone Extrusions facility to provide support with the installation and optimisation of new lab extrusion equipment.

Mark Hallinan, Technical Manager of the Colour Division at Athlone Extrusions (a former graduate of the polymer research department in Athlone IT with over 15 years’ experience working in the polymer materials field), leads a technical team conducting new product development & research into innovative new products for the thermoforming industry. Over the past number of years, Mark has expanded the labs at Athlone Extrusions, adding advanced material testing capabilities having seen their effectiveness through numerous collaborations with AIT.

We frequently use the team in APT for specialist polymer testing and investigations beyond the capabilities of our own lab here in Athlone Extrusions, and consistently find their support invaluable. A real synergy exists in the relationship between APT and Athlone Extrusions, with APT providing advanced material science capabilities and some specialist equipment for product development and our team here, who frequently provide APT with colour masterbatch and thermoforming sheet for their research needs.

Mark Hallinan – Technical Manager, Athlone Extrusions

Wellman International Ltd - PET recycler: new novel formulations

THE DEVELOPMENT OF NOVEL POLYESTER FIBRE FORMULATIONS FOR HIGH-END APPLICATIONS

Europe’s Largest PET Recycler

Wellman International is Europe’s largest PET recycler, processing 2.2 billion post-consumer PET bottles annually. It is also Europe’s leading producer of high quality polyester staple fibres.

The development of new novel PET based formulations for Wellman International, which will (i) Reduce cost; (ii) Add functionally and (iii) Utilise sustainable materials. Melt processing trials on the recyclate materials utilising a number of different additives will be carried out to improve fibre properties. Formulation and development trials will include the incorporation of various viscosity modifiers, novel fillers, reinforcing agents and other sustainable materials

Wellman PET
recycle

European leader across multiple polymer and fibre types

Scientific Impact

  1. The lab scale melt spinning line in AIT played a very important role in Wellman R&D. It allowed Wellman International to greatly enhance its R&D capabilities, and trial large numbers of new formulations.
  2. Educational – lab scale melt spinning line allowed the research team to hit the ground running and begin immediately to trial new formulations for Wellman International.
  3. Various processing parameters (melt temperature, screw speed, residence time, mixing efficiency, pressure, extent of shear mixing and shear heating, etc.) were investigated and optimised during this melt processing study.

Economic Impact 

  1. Trial runs at the Irish plant were often carried out on the manufacturing scale lines which is very costly because of (1) the volume of materials that are required and (2) production on the manufacturing line had to be halted to allow the R&D run.
  2. AIT’s lab scale processing equipment allowed new novel formulations to be developed, trialled and tested at lab scale prior to undergoing full scale manufacture. This reduced lead-times and costs.
  3. Provided Wellman with innovative polymer materials solutions that will make the company more internationally competitive

Social Impact

  1. Wellman will be able to tailor the performance of its PET fibre for a very wide variety of new end-user applications.
  2. The research provided Wellman International a competitive edge by supporting the development of new low cost, high-performance and eco-friendly sustainable product ranges.

1 Europe’s largest PET recycler

47 years in business

300 employees

Many novel formulations

APT Technology Gateway and Wellman International Ltd partnership:

Wellman were provided with innovative polymer materials solutions that will make the company more internationally competitive. Various processing parameters (melt temperature, screw speed, residence time, mixing efficiency, pressure) were investigated and optimised during this melt processing study. It allowed Wellman International to greatly enhance its R&D capabilities, and trial large numbers of new formulations. The company are currently in a position where lab scale processing can be performed using developed novel formulations. AIT’s lab scale processing equipment allowed new novel formulations to be developed, trialled and tested prior to undergoing full scale manufacture. New knowledge and know-how was generated allowing Wellman International to greatly enhance its R&D capabilities, and trial large numbers of new formulations.

“The expertise, knowledge and facilities available to Wellman International through the Applied Polymer Technologies gateway, and in particular through this recent IPP, has allowed us to optimise and refine our research concepts and has enabled Wellman to pursue and produce new innovative products”

James Campbell , Head of  Product Development, Wellman International Ltd.

Mayo Healthcare Ltd - manufacture of minerals and controlled release trace elements for large animals: design, validation and optimisation of test procedures

Company Name:
Mayo Healthcare Ltd.

Funding Source & Value:
Total funding – €95,000 (EI Innovation Voucher, EI Innovation Partnership)
Collaboration with the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (Trinity College Dublin)

Jan 2010 – July 2011.

Mayo Healthcare Ltd

Profile of Company:
Mayo Healthcare Ltd. is an indigenous company specialising in the manufacture of minerals and controlled release trace elements for large animals.

Problem to Be Solved:
The traditional approach to production of controlled release devices in the Animal Health sector has centred on direct compression of powders/granulates, a labour intensive technique subject to segregation problems during the tableting process.

How APT Delivered Solution for Industry:
Polymeric materials were modified and blended using a continuous high-throughput process. Research included design, validation and optimisation of test procedures.

Impact for the Company:
This proof of concept R&D developed prototypes with the potential to revolutionise the way that animal supplement delivery devices are manufactured, replacing the current state of the art compaction process which is time consuming, inefficient and expensive.

Company Testimonial:

Within a very short space of time tremendous progress has been made in developing a commercially viable product; … (we) would encourage other companies to explore this kind of option for new product development.

Managing Director, Mayo Healthcare.

The Shabra Group - global market leaders in integrated plastics recycling, reprocessing, manufacturing and supply of recycled products: review of PET specification sheets currently employed

Company Name:
The Shabra Group

Funding Source & Value:
This research was co-funded by Shabra and AIT via an AIT president
Seed Fund project (company contribution €25,000).

Profile of Company:
Shabra are global market leaders in integrated plastics recycling, reprocessing, manufacturing and supply of recycled products. Shabra is totally committed to promotion of recycling and reprocessing in Ireland, reducing waste plastics going to landfill and helping companies to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Shabra Group

Problem to Be Solved:
Many issues currently exist with the supply of recycled polymer that deems it unsuitable for use in some commercial product ranges. If the properties of these polymers can be enhanced to bring them into line with those of a virgin material then the recycled material may part or wholly replace the virgin polymer and thus enable the recyclate to be used in a higher value product. The quality of the post-consumer PET is of critical importance as this will determine the end user markets in which it can be used. The main focus of this research involved developing a standard testing protocol for PET recyclate for the Shabra group and investigating methods of adding value to the material so that it could be used in higher value products.

How APT Delivered Solution for Industry:
This research included a review of PET specification sheets currently employed within the recycling industry and established test techniques most suitable in addressing Shabra’s current needs. All the testing and analyses were carried out in accordance with recognised international standards. The research established the techniques most suitable to Shabra in terms of reproducibility, equipment cost and ease-of-use. Following this phase of work, the quality of the PET recyclate was determined. To date this has yielded valuable information relating to the efficiency of each step in the washing process and resulted in cost savings and improved quality recyclate. Efforts are on-going to further improve the quality of the recyclate so that the material may be sold to higher value end markets and reduce material reaching landfill.

Impact for the Company:
This research will enable the Shabra group to put measures in place so that it can improve the overall quality of its recyclate so as to comply with the new EuCertPlast. The aim of EuCertPlast is to accredit Plastic Recyclers whose activity complies with high quality standards. This certification will give an assurance to suppliers and customers that any input waste plastic is processed by a certified recycler via best practice. Simultaneously, it ensures that the recycler respects the environment and acts in accordance with European Standard (EN 15343:2007) and national legislation. EuCertPlast advocates environmental friendly recycling of plastic and concentrates on traceability and evaluation of conformity and recycled content of recyclates.

Company Testimonial:

We enjoyed very much working with Crevan and the APT team. APT are highly responsive and fast in contextualising our requirements with focus and dynamism. We now view APT as a natural extension to Shabra Group capability… APT is our Athlone based Lab…
Co-Founder, The Shabra Group

Mergon International - Innovators in plastic: novel methods which can be utilized to reduce raw material costs

Company Name:
Mergon International

Funding Source & Value:
AIT and Mergon has been funded through

  • Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership (Post-doctoral research fellow)
  • AIT President Seed fund (MSc student)
  • Environmental Protection Agency industry funding (Mergon as the applicant, AIT as a collaborator).
  • Direct industry funding
Mergon

Profile of Company:
Mergon are innovators in technical plastic moulding solutions for the Automotive, Industrial and Healthcare sectors. They use the latest material and technologies to design, manufacture and test plastic components that meet the most demanding requirements.

Problem to Be Solved:
At Mergon, the number one cost constraint is raw material. In order to remain competitive Mergon has undertaken a variety of projects with AIT to reduce raw material costs either though the incorporation of low cost fillers, reducing the density of the moulded parts or through the use of recycled polymers. These components are introduced into the polymer raw material through a compounding process. Once the materials have been homogeneously combined, they are injection moulded into test specimens in-house prior to running a battery of polymer characterization techniques including mechanical, thermal and chemical testing techniques.

How APT Delivered Solution for Industry:
APT successfully identified novel methods which can be utilized to reduce raw material costs. APT continues to develop these methods in order to produce a commercially ready additive for on-going manufacturing use.

Impact for the Company:
Mergon works in a highly competitive manufacturing industry and is constantly under pressure from low cost economies. However, they have built long lasting relationships with their key customers to allow them to flourish. In the context of the research carried out at APT these research findings have allowed Mergon to stay ahead of their competitors and remain the supplier of choice of some of the world’s most recognized brands.

Company Testimonial:

Working with AIT has allowed Mergon to leverage the extensive expertise and test equipment available within the Research institute to develop material and process improvements in order to remain at the forefront of technology in the Automotive, Industrial and Healthcare sectors.
President, Mergon Group

Funding Opportunities