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The SPE Library contains thousands of papers, presentations, journal briefs and recorded webinars from the best minds in the Plastics Industry. Spanning almost two decades, this collection of published research and development work in polymer science and plastics technology is a wealth of knowledge and information for anyone involved in plastics.

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Failure Analysis and Prevention
Navigating Plastic Material Selection
Jeffrey A. Jansen, November 2020
Material selection is one of the fundamental aspects that will determine the success or failure of a product. With so many choices available today regarding plastic materials, it is imperative that anyone involved in product design or material selection understand resin properties and how they will affect end product performance as well as part design and manufacturability. While plastic material selection is a frequent topic of discussion, it is not as simple as it may first appear. A thorough understanding of the short-term and long-term properties of the potential plastic resins is essential. To help make the best plastic resin choice, is also essential to have a basic knowledge of polymer chemistry. This webinar will address some of the considerations that need to be made when selecting a plastic resin, and outline the challenges and benefits of selecting an appropriate material. The presentation will introduce a method of systematic selection that will optimize the plastics material selection process.
Understanding Wear of Plastics
Jeffrey A. Jansen, October 2020
Wear can be defined as damage to a solid surface caused by the removal or displacement of material through mechanical action associated with contact with a mating surface. Plastic components are used in a wide range of demanding applications in which they are subjected to surface damage and wear. These commonly include:
  • Bearings
  • Seals
  • Valves and Pistons
  • Fasteners
  • Conveyor Systems
  • Tanks and Hoppers
  • Gears
Wear of plastics is a relatively common failure mechanism, which needs to be understood in order to avoid component malfunction and breakdown. This webinar will address the mechanisms of wear in plastics. Plastic wear is affected by several factors that may be generally categorized into mechanical, environmental, and thermal aspects. These three groups of factors essentially determine the mechanism of wear of a plastic surface when it comes in contact with another surface. The topics covered as part of this presentation will include:
  • Wear factors
  • Mechanisms of wear in plastics
  • Environmental
  • Thermal
  • Mechanical
  • Wear resistant plastics
  • Wear testing
Fractography in Plastics Failures
Jeff Jansen, September 2020
The goal of a failure analysis is to discern the mechanism and cause of the component failure - essentially to identify how and why the part broke. Fractography plays critical role in this, particularly in identifying the failure mode. Cracking occurs as a result of the exertion of stresses, both external and internal, on a component. Cracking is simply a stress relief mechanism in which the material is attempting to reach a lower energy state. Plastics fail through a disentanglement mechanism in which polymer chains slide past each other. The features on the fracture surface are created based upon a number of parameters:
  • Type of material and formulation constituents;
  • Type of applied forces (tensile, compression, shear);
  • Magnitude of forces;
  • Frequency of forces (continuous, intermittent, rapidly applied);
  • Environmental effects (temperature, presence of chemical).
Much of the information regarding the failure mechanism can be gleaned by interpreting the features found on the fracture surface. The examination and interpretation of the fracture surface is known as fractography. This presentation will explore some common plastics failure mechanisms and the associated telltale features.
Impact Failure of Plastics
Jeffrey A. Jansen, June 2020

While in service, plastic materials are subjected to many different types of mechanical stress. One common type of stress that is typically severe on plastics is rapid impact loading. The rate at which loading is applied, otherwise known as the strain rate, is a very important factor in the performance of a plastic component. Impact, together with snap fit assembly, and rapid pressurization are the most common forms of rapid loading or high strain rate mechanisms.

The response of plastics to impact and the ability of a plastic part to withstand the stress through absorption of the applied energy is dependent on many aspects, including the material, design, processing and the service conditions.

Topics covered as part of this presentation will include:

  • Failure Mechanism of Plastics
  • Strain Rate as a Ductile-to-Brittle Transition
  • Impact Failure
  • Factors Effecting Impact Resistance
  • Impact Testing
  • Case Studies

Impact loads are among the most challenging stresses that plastic component designers and manufactures must deal with. In many cases impact stress is not adequately accounted for. In may cases this leads to unnecessary premature or unexpected failure.

Plastic Failures Associated with Metal Fasteners
Jeff Jansen, May 2020
The need to secure plastic components is prevalent in the manufacture of assemblies in many industries. Joining plastic components to other plastic parts or metal parts often involves the use of mechanical fasteners, such as screws, inserts, or rivets. The joining of plastic parts is inherently more complicated than assembling two metal components because of the fundamental differences in physical properties, including strength, chemical resistance and susceptibility to creep and stress relaxation. Case Studies will be presented to illustrate failures associated with the interaction between plastic components and metal fasteners. The presented cases will illustrate how the failure analysis process was used to identify the failure mechanism as well as the primary factors responsible for the failures. The cases depict representative failures involving varied designs and service conditions.
Failure Analysis of an Outdoor Instrument Housing
Jeffrey Jansen, May 2020
Cracking occurred within the housing for a piece of weather monitoring instrumentation being used as part of field service trial. The cracking was observed within the bosses used to secure the housing section to the mounting hardware. The focus of this investigation was the determination of the nature and cause of the failure. The results obtained during the evaluation of the failed housing indicated that the cracking occurred through three separate mechanisms. Significant factors in the failure included aspects of design, manufacturing, and the service conditions. This paper will review the testing performed to characterize the failure modes and identify the causes of the cracking, while demonstrating the analytical procedures used in the investigation.
Failure Analysis of Polymer Coating Systems
Gaurav Nagalia, May 2020
Failure analysis of polymer coating systems can be challenging due to the fact that coating systems typically involve multiple and generally very thin layered components. The root-cause for the failure of a polymer coating can be attributed to many factors. Thus, it cannot be easily determined by inspection or observations, and significant amount of testing is often required to determine the root cause for the failure. Typically, failures can be caused by selection of improper coating system, or it can be caused by insufficient surface preparation, or it can be caused by application related issues. This paper attempts to provide a guide to performing failure analyses of polymer coatings by discussing two separate coating systems that utilized a polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) top coat and evaluates the fundamental root causes of failure. The importance of reviewing background information, performing site-inspections, conducting relevant laboratory and field testing, and utilizing published literature to reach a root-cause for the failure is high-lighted. In both cases, laboratory examinations revealed that while high performance coatings were utilized, their compatibility within the system and their susceptibility to hazards within their respective applications, were not accounted for, leading to poorly designed coating systems that eventually failed.
How Poor Selection of Materials, Design, Tooling and Design Errors Affect the Aesthetics of Plastic Parts and What Designers Need to Know About the Science of Color and Appearance - Part 2
Vikram Bhargava, May 2020
Most engineers and designers come from the metal world. Therefore, many of them make assumptions on the predicted performance of plastic properties based on their metals background. Unlike metals, the knowledge of color and appearance is extremely important in the case of plastics. Most plastic parts have dual functions— physical performance and aesthetics. Aesthetics are important since very few of the parts need to be painted or otherwise decorated if designed and manufactured with due diligence. On the other hand, even if we are designing the most aesthetically critical metal components such as exterior automotive parts, we mostly choose the metals and alloys based on the physical properties, weight, and cost. The aesthetics are left to the paint specialist, who will in most cases find a paint system (primer, paint, and application method) that will meet the cost, durability, and cosmetic requirements. In other words, aesthetics and physical properties are quite independent of each other. A vast majority of metal parts meet their aesthetic and environmental requirements just by getting brushed, plated, chromate conversion coated or anodized. Plastic parts not only need to meet the short-term color and appearance requirements, but also need to be resistant to long term color shift and fading. This paper is in two parts. Part 1 - Appearance and Color Factors - Material - Design - Tooling and Processing Part 2 –The fundamentals of Color and Appearance, Specifications, Measurement and Tolerances
Transition Metal-Catalyzed Degradation of Polymers: Review and Future Perspectives
Andrew Worthen, May 2020
In many instances, failure of polymer-based articles is attributed to chemical interaction with metals or metallic compounds. Indeed, the stability of polymers is often modified by these species; however, their effects on the degradation of polymers are complex and influenced by many factors. This paper reviews known polymer degradation mechanisms and how metals may influence them, discusses deactivators and their role use as stabilizers in polymer formulations, provides literature-based vignettes describing example scenarios where metal-accelerated degradation of plastics may contribute to failures, and provides commentary regarding potential future areas of work in the field.
Validation of the Virtual Lifetime Prediction Method for Elastomer Components
Simon Rocker, May 2020
In the field of mechanical engineering technical elastomers are indispensable due to their material properties. They are often used to avoid load peaks and to influence the vibration behavior of dynamically loaded systems, because of their damping characteristics. Therefore, one field of research constitutes the damage accumulation and lifetime prediction. This paper presents the validation of the virtual lifetime prediction model method, which was developed at the institute of product engineering at the University of Duisburg-Essen. The lifetime is defined as the number of load cycles till the global damage reaches the value 1. This damage is calculated by a failure criterion based on the change of a characteristic value like the dynamic stiffness degradation from a finite-element (FE) simulation. The virtual lifetime prediction method uses a combination of a damage-dependent material model (Yeoh-Model) and a nonlinear damage accumulation model (nlSAM). Both models are calibrated by means of experimental data from dynamically loaded elastomer components. The nlSAM computes the local damage for each finite element depending on material stresses and pre-damage. The dynamic stiffness degradation is a result of locally changed material properties in the FE simulation due to the damage of each element. Finally, the lifetime prediction for unknown loads and different component geometries of the elastomer is carried out, which shows good agreement with the experimental data of the same material batch.
UV Effects on Plastics
Jeffrey A. Jansen, March 2020
If you work with plastic components that include outdoor exposure, then "Ultraviolet (UV) Effects on Plastic Materials" will provide you with information that will enhance your understanding of the interaction between UV radiation-based weathering and plastic resins, and help prevent premature failure. Topics covered during this session include an introduction to UV degradation and an explanation of the failure mechanism characteristic of UV radiation/plastic interaction. Case studies associated with UV radiation exposure will be presented.
You will learn…
  • The mechanism of UV degradation
  • The materials susceptible to and most affected by UV degradation
  • The effects of UV degradation on plastic materials
  • How the use of stabilizers can improve UV resistance of plastic materials
  • How testing can be used to determine whether plastic materials are susceptible to UV degradation.
Introduction to Plastics
Jeffrey A. Jansen, February 2020

Plastics are the most versatile materials ever invented, and have become a universal material, used for everything from water bottles to wings on combat aircraft. Plastic materials display properties that are unique when compared to other materials and have contributed greatly to quality of our everyday life. At this moment, you are almost certain to be touching plastic. Yet, while plastics play such an important role, we do not always understand the fundamental concepts of their production, compounding, end properties, and use.

If words such as polymer, thermoplastic, creep, amorphous, and modulus are outside your normal vocabulary, this presentation is for you.

This webinar will provide people not extensively familiar with plastics an understanding of the basics.

The usefulness of plastics is attributed to the fact that they provide a wide range of properties and can be changed into and products by relatively simple and inexpensive fabrication means. In order to take full advantage of these materials, it is important to have a clear understanding of their composition and elementary properties.

Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy in Failure & Compositional Analysis
Jeff Jansen, January 2020
Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) is a fundamental analytical technique for the analysis of organic materials. It provides critical information in the evaluation of polymeric materials, including material identification, contamination, and degradation. The webinar will present a fundamental understanding of the technique and the following topics will be covered:
  1. Theory of Infrared Spectroscopy
  2. Test Result Interpretation
  3. Application to Polymeric Materials
    1. Material Identification
    2. Contamination
    3. Degradation
  4. Sample Preparation
  5. Supplementing FTIR With Other Techniques
  6. Cases Studies
Failure Associated With Injection Molding
Jeff Jansen, December 2019
The injection molding process is one of the key characteristics that determines how a plastic part will perform in service. Manufacturers certainly attempt to avoid failure, but often unanticipated factors result in unexpected problems. The chances for a successful application can be significantly increased through preventative measures, including appropriate material selection, proper mold design, and process development. Even when appropriate actions are taken, failures can still occur. The evaluation of these failures provides an opportunity for learning. By understanding how and why a plastic component is failed, steps can be taken to prevent future occurrences. Case Studies will be presented to illustrate failures associated with the deficiencies from the injection molding process. The presented cases will illustrate how the failure analysis process was used to identify the failure mechanism as well as the primary factors responsible for the failures.
Degradation Failure of Plastics
Jeffrey A. Jansen, October 2019

Plastic materials offer a unique balance of strength and ductility associated with their inherent viscoelastic nature. However, they are susceptible to molecular degradation through a variety of exposures. Molecular degradation is a permanent change in molecular weight that reduces the mechanical properties and integrity of the plastic material. This degradation can occur during compounding, processing, storage, or while in service. Such degradation mechanisms include:

  • Thermal Oxidation
  • Hydrolysis
  • Ultraviolet Radiation
  • Chain Scission
  • Destructive Crosslinking

The various forms of molecular degradation account for approximately 20% of plastic part failure, and an understanding of the nature of degradation can help to prevent failure. Topics covered during this session will include:

  • Introduction to plastic molecular degradation, including the various mechanisms
  • Material susceptibility to degradation
  • Stabilizers to prevent degradation
  • Testing to assess the level of degradation
Understanding Failure Rate in Plastic Components
Jeff Jansen, September 2019
When a plastic part fails, a tough question is often asked, “Why are a limited number of parts failing?”. This is particularly true with seemingly random failures at significant, but low, failure rates. Two aspects are generally linked to such low failure rates, multiple factor concurrency and the statistical nature of plastic failures. Failure often only takes place when two or more factors take effect concurrently. Absent one of these factors, failure will not occur. Plastic resins and the associated forming processes produce parts with a statistical distribution of performance properties, such as strength and ductility. Likewise, environmental conditions, including stress and temperature, to which the resin is exposed through its life cycle is also a statistical distribution. Failure occurs when a portion of the distribution of stress on the parts exceeds a portion of the distribution of strength of the parts. This webinar will illustrate how the combination of multiple factor concurrency and the inherent statistical nature of plastic materials can result in seemingly random failures.
Dynamic Mechanical Analysis
Jeffrey Jansen, June 2019
Dynamic Mechanical Analysis (DMA) is a thermoanalytical technique that measures the stiffness (modulus) and damping (tan delta) of polymeric materials to assess the viscoelastic properties as a function of time, temperature, and frequency. Polymeric materials display both elastic and viscous behavior simultaneously, and DMA can separate these responses. Polymers, composed of long molecular chains, have unique viscoelastic properties, which combine the characteristics of elastic solids and Newtonian fluids. As part of the DMA evaluation, a small deformation is applied to a sample in a cyclic manner. This allows the material’s response to stress, temperature, and frequency to be studied. The analysis can be in several modes, including tension, shear, compression, torsion, and flexure. DMA is a very powerful tool for the analysis of plastics and can provide information regarding:
  • Modulus
  • Damping
  • Glass Transition
  • Softening Temperature
  • Creep Behavior
  • Stress Relaxation
  • Degree of Cure
This webinar will provide an introductory look into DMA and how it can be applied to better understand plastic behavior, both long-term and short-term.
Basic Rubber Technology
Jeffrey Jansen, April 2019
This webinar will introduce the attendees to the basics and most important topics related to thermoset rubber compounds. About 15 billion kilograms of rubber are produced ever year. Rubber finds its way into wide range of applications in the automotive, medical, appliance, electrical, and chemical industries. As a class of materials, rubber has many useful properties because of its unique molecular structure. These include being soft and relatively flexible, high ultimate elongation coupled with good elastic recovery, useful over a wide temperature range, and good chemical resistance. Topics include: Introduction to polymers — how rubber is different than plastic, overview of rubber properties, how rubber compound recipes are created, the essentials of rubber mixing and molding, and specific rubber compounds.
Creep Failure of Plastics
Jeffrey Jansen, February 2019
Creep is the tendency of a polymeric material to deform permanently under the influence of constant stress, as applied through tensile, compressive, shear, or flexural loading. It occurs as a function of time through extended exposure to levels of stress that are below the yield strength of the material. Given sufficient time, this can lead to creep rupture, the failure within a material as a result of continuously applied stress at a level below the tensile strength. Plastic materials are particularly prone to creep rupture through exposure to static stresses, and a recent study indicates that 22% of plastic failures are associated with creep. The relatively high frequency of creep failure is linked to the widespread lack of awareness and understanding of the effects of time on polymeric materials, particularly at the design stage; the unique difference in time dependence between polymeric materials and metals; and the increasing use of plastic materials in diverse applications with longer time demands. The concept of creep is extremely important to manufacturers and users of plastic components. This webinar will cover:
  • Introduction to Creep
  • Plastics Failure Mechanism
  • Creep Failure Mechanism
  • Generalizations of Creep
  • Creep Testing and Lifetime Projection
  • Creep Failure Case Studies
Thermal Analysis in Failure and Compositional Analysis
Jeff Jansen, December 2018
SPE Webinar Series - Thermal Analysis in Failure and Compositional Analysis, presented by Jeff Jansen on December 6, 2018. Thermal analysis is an important group of tests used in the analysis of plastics and other polymeric materials. It consists of a family of well-established techniques that evaluate material properties as they change with temperature, time, and ambient environment under conditions of thermal programming. The results of thermal analysis tests provide qualitative and quantitative information about the material being evaluated. In particular, this information is important to address plastic failures or in characterization of the material composition and physical properties. The webinar on thermal analysis will introduce the four primary techniques:
  • Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC)
  • Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA)
  • Thermomechancial Analysis (TMA)
  • Dynamic Mechanical Analysis (DMA)


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