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The world is suffering a raw material shortage, and its effects will likely continue for the foreseeable future. The plastics industry, in particular, has continued to be impacted by labor shortages, higher demand, and a restored import tax on resins. Plastic resins, the primary material utilized in everything from packaging to automobile parts, have increased dramatically in price. Rocketing costs have forced some companies to reduce their workforce, raise prices on finished goods, or stop production altogether. Here we’ll explain what has caused these disruptions and how Hapco is handling material shortages now and in the future.
Resin Shortages Around the World
Across the globe, the resin shortage has caused a spike in resin prices. The demand for resins surpasses the volume of available supplies, making it harder for manufacturers to procure polyethylene, nylon, PVC, epoxy, and other resins. This problem affects many industries that rely on epoxy, polyester, and vinyl ester resins to make various products, including pharmaceutical filters, pipes, tanks, car parts, appliances, medical devices, and electronics.
Many plastic manufacturers have reported facing production delays or shutdowns because of the shortage, and costs are expected to rise even further. The shortage has been exacerbated by production slowdowns in China and an increase in demand for epoxy resin in the United States as the economy improves.
For some consumer resins, the balance of supply, demand, and cost is moving in the right direction, but highly engineered resins with enhanced properties such as flame retardancy, biocompatibility, and UV resistance are still restricted.
Supply Chain Disruption Causes
Multiple factors have contributed to the global plastic resin shortage. There was a pause in production during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, as the entire petrochemical sector came to a halt. Because resins are a byproduct of petroleum refining processes, anything that causes a decline in refining activity can set off a domino effect that makes resins harder and more expensive to find.
In addition to pandemic-related transportation, shipping, and labor issues, harsh winter storms in 2021 have also contributed to the raw material shortage. Oil refineries in Louisiana and Texas, where oil is refined into resins, were forced to close due to storms in early 2021, affecting their ability to recover as demand for epoxy resins and other raw materials continues to rise. Even once they do, weather-related events, labor shortages, and high shipping costs will continue to impact supply chain stability.
How Hapco Mitigates These Disruptions
Despite supply chain issues due to natural disasters and the pandemic, Hapco, Inc. has taken steps to mitigate these disruptions and maintain a 100% on-time delivery for all material and equipment orders.
Over the past 50 years, Hapco has developed strong relationships with raw material suppliers, some going back to the ‘70s, that have been vital to our continual business operations. We are able to accumulate enough raw ingredients and packaging materials to meet the increasing demands from our major clients by reacting swiftly when our suppliers inform us of a potential bottleneck. We also work with a variety of U.S.-based suppliers in different locations, which gives us more reliable access to the materials we need even if disruptions occur.
The majority of Hapco’s intermediate resin components are produced in Hanover, Massachusetts, at its own manufacturing facility. This has allowed Hapco to avoid many of the disruptions that a larger firm with more decentralized operations would face.
Looking to the Future
New approaches that could be taken for combating these shortages include innovations in both material science and sustainable production. Aside from supply constraints, Bisphenol A-based epoxy thermosets pose both environmental and health risks. Manufacturers and consumers alike are paying greater attention to new epoxy resins made from organic materials such as peanut and vegetable oil. These epoxies are not only environmentally friendly, but they’re also less expensive to produce.
A second approach is the development of sustainable methods for addressing these needs. There are many different approaches to sustainability. They include methods like recycling and reusing raw materials instead of producing more, using cleaner sources of energy to reduce the carbon footprint, and employing more sustainable manufacturing processes. Achieving sustainability will be a difficult process that may take many years, but it will be worth the reward of contributing to a cleaner planet.
Epoxy and Polyurethane Products at Hapco, Inc.
If you require high-quality resins for your products, turn to the experts at Hapco. We are a top formulator, producer, and distributor of polyurethane and epoxy potting compounds, adhesives, release agents, and other innovative liquid molding products. To see our full selection of products, browse our catalog.
Contact us for more information about our products, or request a quote to get started on the ideal solution for your project.
Resin coatings are extremely useful in commercial and industrial settings and even in the art world. Resins are commonly used to coat surfaces like concrete floors or countertops, create high-gloss finishes, and make repairs. Two of the most common resins are epoxies and polyurethanes. Generally, epoxies are rigid, while polyurethanes will typically be more elastic. Both can be formulated to be extremely strong, pass biocompatibility testing, or have high resistance to UV light.
At Hapco Inc., we are a leading manufacturer and distributor of polyurethane and epoxy coatings, release agents, adhesives, and other liquid molding technologies. Since 1969, we have offered our clients quality formulations that are applicable in many industries.
What Are Epoxies
Epoxy plastics are typically created by mixing epoxy resins (Part A) with a matching catalyst (Part B) at various ratios. The mixture then cures to form a solid material. Additives are often used in resin coatings to improve durability, UV stability, adhesion properties, and other factors. Epoxies can come in the form of a single-component resin that cures by heat or UV light, and it can be formulated as a liquid resin, powder, or putty.
Epoxies have a wide range of applications, including:
- Electronics and Electrical Systems: Epoxy resins and powders are excellent insulators and offer protection from short circuits. Because of this, they are used in the manufacturing of generators, transformers, insulators, and motors.
- Coating and Sealant: Epoxies are commonly used in the manufacturing of ships, UAVs, military vehicles, and aircraft to protect surfaces, strengthen materials, and keep them from rust and deterioration. Due to the naturally thicker viscosity, epoxy resins can create very hard, durable finishes with adequate thickness after one or two coats.
- Repairs: Epoxy resins are often used to repair industrial manufacturing equipment due to their strong adhesive properties. Fragile objects like ceramic and glass, and stronger materials like metals, woods, and other synthetic materials, are frequently coated, repaired, or bonded using epoxy resins.
- Filter & Ultrafilter Manufacture
Advantages of Epoxies
Depending on the application, epoxies offer a range of benefits, including:
- Lower Cost: Epoxies are typically more affordable than polyurethane alternatives.
- Adhesion Properties: Epoxies can adhere to most substrates without a primer.
- Excellent Dielectric Properties: As an insulating material, epoxies can transmit electricity without acting as a conductor.
- Versatile: Depending on the resin and hardener used, epoxies can be rigid or flexible to suit the application requirements.
- Moisture Resistant: Epoxies are suitable for applications with high moisture exposure due to their high resistance to humidity and moisture.
- No VOCs: Epoxies don’t require a solvent for most applications, so they do not release harmful fumes into the air.
Disadvantages of Epoxies
- Higher Viscosity
- Yellowing: Epoxies will yellow over time when exposed to UV rays.
- Brittle: Rigid epoxies are prone to chipping and cracking if not properly maintained.
What are Polyurethanes
There are two types of polyurethanes: thermoset and thermoplastic. Hapco manufactures thermoset polyurethanes, which are formed by reacting a polyol with an isocyanate. The resulting polymer (Part A) is then cured with a catalyst (Part B). Once they’re set, they can’t be melted or softened. Thermoplastic polyurethanes, on the other hand, can be reheated and reprocessed multiple times without losing their properties. Polyurethanes have many desirable properties, including high tensile strength, natural UV stability, and abrasion resistance. They also have good thermal and chemical resistance and are generally non-toxic.
The possible applications for polyurethane resin include:
- Medical: Polyurethanes are used in many hospital applications because they are safe for individuals with latex allergies. They are used in beddings, gloves, wound dressing, and tubing.
- Insulation: Polyurethane foam is an energy-saving insulation option for cars, homes, and electronics. Polyurethane reduces external noise in buildings and vehicles and maintains a desirable temperature.
- Electronics: Polyurethane can be used to encapsulate, seal, and insulate different electronic components. They are also used to make microelectronic components and cables.
- Automotive: Polyurethane foams are used in cars to provide insulation and impact protection to keep passengers safe in the event of a crash. Polyurethane can also be used to create plastic interior parts such as console covers, door panels, and headliners because it’s soft and pliable.
- Packaging: Because polyurethanes can come in expanding foam form, you can use it for packaging items in different shapes. It also reduces the weight of the package.
Advantages of Polyurethanes
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Many industries choose polyurethanes for their applications due to their range of benefits, which include:
- Hardness Range: Polyurethanes can be made flexible or rigid, and can fall anywhere between 20 SHORE A to 85 SHORE D on the hardness scale.
- UV Resistant: Polyurethanes are naturally resistant to ultraviolet rays and have much better color stability over time.
- Abrasion & Impact Resistant: Polyurethanes are suitable for applications in extreme environments because they resist surface damage and can withstand extreme force.
- Water, Oil, & Grease Resistant: Ideal for subsea applications, polyurethanes keep their structural integrity when exposed to water, oil, and grease.
- Thermal Shock Resistant: Thermoset polyurethanes are incredibly resilient to thermal shock and resist rapid and significant temperature drops without shattering.
Disadvantages of Polyurethanes
- Higher Cost: Although polyurethane has a long lifespan, some businesses can’t afford the high upfront cost. You might have to opt for polyester or epoxy resins because they’re cheaper, although they won’t last as long as PU.
- Moisture Sensitive: While still in their liquid state, polyurethanes are susceptible to humidity and moisture, and will crystallize in the containers if too much moisture is present. When mixed, an excess of bubbles will appear or the resin may behave like an expanding foam.
- Shorter Lifespan: Flexible PUs, especially the lower durometers, will degrade over time. Being under stress will cause molecular bonds to break down much faster than rigid materials.
Epoxies and Polyurethanes at Hapco Inc.
Resins are tough, flexible, and versatile, making them the perfect choice for a wide range of applications. Hapco Inc. offers multiple polyurethane and epoxy products for different applications. With over 50 years of experience in this industry, we have the expertise and skills to produce the best resin materials in the market. We are an ISO 9001-certified company dedicated to meeting all our customers’ needs. Contact us today for more details about our materials or request a quote to get started.
For over 4,000 years, the evolution of the filter has been directly linked to the improvement of human health and life expectancy. The first great civilizations, like the ancient Egyptians, used sand and gravel as filter media to improve the taste and appearance of water. Today, filters have become an essential component to our entire way of life. They are found in countless industries, manufacturing facilities, processes, and in many cases, the end products themselves. More importantly, filters are enabling the tools and devices that are essential to defeating this invisible enemy and returning the world to some semblance of normalcy.
Since the onset of this pandemic, our society has gained a new appreciation for respirators, ventilators, and vaccines, as well as the vital role they play in saving lives and preventing future outbreaks. Like everything else in our modern industrial society, these life-saving tools all rely on specialized filter media and advanced filtration technology to function. It is obvious how filters are utilized in equipment like respirators and ventilators, but when it comes to vaccines the use of filter technology is not immediately apparent.
How are filters used for making vaccines?
A successful vaccine is the result of complex scientific processes that include the concentration of proteins and enzymes, blood plasma purification, virus and bacteria concentration and removal, as well as cell harvesting, clarification and washing. These procedures are all enabled by specialized filters and equipment.
Some common methods used in bioprocessing include membrane filtration, tangential flow filtration, centrifugation, and depth filtration. Implementing the proper filtration technology can have a positive effect on yield, product consistency, and overall efficiency of the entire operation.
What types of filters are used?
Hollow fiber filters possess excellent filtration performance and are commonly used in dialysis, water purification, reverse osmosis, separation of components from biological fluids, and cell culture devices to name a few.
Tangential flow filtration (TFF) systems are used extensively in the production of vaccines and other pharmaceutical drugs. They can be used to remove virus particles from solutions, clarify cell lysates, harvest and retain cells, and they can concentrate and desalt sample solutions ranging in volume from a few milliliters up to thousands of liters.
A HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter works by forcing air through a fine mesh that traps harmful particles such as dust mites, pollen, pet dander, smoke, and even airborne viruses. HEPA filters are used in applications where contamination control is required, such as the manufacturing of semiconductors, disk drives, medical devices, food and pharmaceutical products, as well as in homes, vehicles, and hospitals.
How is Hapco involved in the filtration and ultrafiltration industry?
Hapco has been custom formulating adhesives, sealants, and potting compounds for some of the world’s largest filter manufacturers for over 40 years. Our materials and processing equipment are a key component to manufacturing a wide variety of specialized filters. As a preferred supplier to corporations like MilliporeSigma, Pall Life Sciences, and Koch Membranes, we take pride in our ability to provide customers with the highest quality polymers and the most reliable processing equipment available.
As we look to a post-pandemic future, our chemists are developing new formulations and processing methods to meet the needs of filter manufacturers around the world. We are currently conducting in-house testing on Filter-bond™ R-3590: a new epoxy formulation for the filtration market that is both Bisphenol-A (BPA) and nonylphenol-free.
What other Hapco products are used to manufacture filters?
The Filter-bond™ series was first developed in the 1980’s for various filtration and ultrafiltration applications. It includes formulations that do not contain aromatic amines or carcinogenic or mutagenic materials, systems that can be used to pot moist membrane material in place without foaming, and systems that are easily trimmed when used for pre-potting filters. Filter-bond™ includes a line of flexible and rigid materials to meet a wide variety of filtration applications. All Filter-bond™ products are compatible with Hapco’s MiniFIL™ and RapidFIL™ dispensing machines, which are used for potting or encapsulating various filter media.
Filters are one of mankind’s greatest achievements and a major reason our life expectancy has increased dramatically over the past 200 years. They clean the air we breathe, the water we drink, the fuel that moves us forward, and the medicine that keeps us healthy. Without them, there is simply no way to manufacture the life-saving and preventative drugs that offer us a light at the end of this tunnel.
Fun Fact: Hippocrates (460-370BC) was the first major proponent of water filtration in recorded history. He advised people to first boil, then filter water through two sewn together pieces of cloth which eventually came to be known as a Hippocrates’ Sleeve.
Q. What is the difference between vacuum degassing and pressurizing?
A. Vacuum de-gassing expands the air trapped during mixing or pouring, causing the bubbles to grow, rise to the surface, and in most cases, release. After a period of time the amount of trapped air decreases. The material’s viscosity and surface tension will determine how easily the air will escape. Certain materials appear to bubble indefinitely until the vacuum pump is turned off. In order to maximize the vacuum’s potential for air removal, the pump must be capable of pulling 29.6 inHg.
Vacuum Degassing using the X-Vac™ Chamber
When placed under pressure, any air bubbles entrapped from the mixing and pouring process shrink to the point where they are no longer visible. Pressure ranging from 60-80 psi significantly reduces the chances of visible air bubbles. For pressure to be effective, the liquid thermoset material must remain under pressure until it has reached its gel time, otherwise the bubbles may expand once the pressure is relieved.
Pressure Casting using the X-11 Molding Chamber
Q. Is one method preferred over the other?
A. One method really isn’t preferred over the other. Whether you choose to use vacuum or pressure depends on the application, your capabilities, and budget. In fact, we often recommend vacuum degassing your product after hand mixing, pouring into the mold, and then using pressure to make sure all parts of the mold are filled. When using dispensing equipment, there is no air introduced during mixing. That doesn’t mean air cannot be introduced while shooting into your mold, especially one with many thin walls, sharp corners, or intricate details.
If you find yourself in a situation where you absolutely need a bubble free part (e.g., using a plaster mold or a large quantity of expensive material) it’s best to play it safe and employ both methods. If neither option is in your budget and you need a void free surface, we recommend using low viscosity materials, mixing slowly and thoroughly, and brushing a thin coat onto the mold or pattern’s surface. Using a hair dryer while brushing the thin coat will help to ease surface tension and reduce bubbles.
In the past, we’ve discussed the importance of temperature control when casting with thermoset resins. In this article, we will focus on the post cure process for molds or parts made with thermoset resins.
What is post-curing?
Post curing is the process of exposing a part or mold to elevated temperatures to speed up the curing process and to maximize some of the material’s physical properties. This is usually done after the material has cured at room temperature for at least 12 hours. In general, thermoset materials will achieve full cure at room temperature over a period of 7-10 days. After a full cure is achieved at room temperature, post curing will have no effect on the material’s properties.
Why is post curing necessary?
Post curing will expedite the cross-linking process and properly align the polymer’s molecules. Much like tempering steel, post curing thermosets can increase physical properties (e.g., tensile strength, flexural strength, and heat distortion temperature) above what the material would normally achieve at room temperature.
Post curing is extremely important when an application requires secondary machining.
Fred DeSimone of Hapco says, “Post curing your parts prior to machining is critical to ensure dimensional stability, particularly when trying to maintain tight tolerances. Elevated temperature acts as a catalyst to complete the cross-linking process and stabilizes the cured plastic so that it does not continue to creep over time. Although most thermosets will appear to be cured after several hours at ambient room temperature, the reality is that it can take up to two weeks for the material to fully cure. If secondary machining is completed during this time on non-post cured parts, they can either shrink or grow out of specification while the polymerization process is still occurring.”
How should I post cure my parts?
An oven is best for applying uniform heating, but we don’t recommend using the one in your kitchen. Applying too much heat to some materials may result in dangerous fumes being emitted or a material may melt, ruining your oven. Digital, vented lab ovens are ideal for post curing parts and molds; however, this can also be done in an X-Series Molding Chamber.
During elevated temperatures, thin-walled parts may bubble or deform. Keeping them in the mold or using a fixture during post cure is recommended. Make sure that anything you place in an oven can take the heat.
Is there an ideal post cure temperature?
Generally speaking, rigid materials are post cured at 175F for 8-24 hours and flexible materials at 140F for 8-24 hrs. Be aware that post cure temperatures vary for different materials. Please review the Material Handling & Safety Notes supplied with your specific Hapco products, or contact Hapco’s Technical Support for more information.