PSI News is the monthly newsletter of Polymer Solutions Incorporated. Please let us know how we're doing. If you have any questions, suggestions or feedback, please feel free to email us at newsletter@polymersolutions.com.

In this issue:

=> Bikinis and Other Clothing from Your 3D Printer
=>  You Be The Judge!
=>  Announcements
=>  Highlights From the PSI Newsblog



Bikinis and Other Clothing from Your 3D Printer


Exclusive to Polymer Solutions News
3D Dress

"Running out of ink" may one day soon leave you a bit more exposed...

3D printing has been in the news a lot lately. It all started in 1984 with the invention of stereo lithography, when the inkjet printer was adapted to print with polymer materials in three dimensions. Several materials have been used in 3D printing since, including liquid metal, biomolecules, hydrogels, living human cells, and even chocolate. However, plastics remain the most popular material for 3D printing due to their versatility.

Many industries use 3D printing; the biggest are the medical and dental, construction, engineering, automotive, footwear, and fashion industries. The history of 3D printing includes several breakthroughs that resulted in fascinating applications, including the printing of human organ scaffolds in 1999, printing with living cells in 2003, printing a human leg prosthesis in 2008, blood vessels in 2009, robotic aircraft in 2010, a model automobile in 2011, and implants, artificial organs, human tissues and music records in 2012 and 2013.

Which makes you wonder what the "next big thing" might be in the 3D printing industry, which recently reached $2.7 billion. It looks like it might be the 3D printing of attire.

From Medical and Industrial Uses to Your Closet

Actually, 3D-printed shoes have already arrived, with designs ranging from solid, rubbery boots to airy, fancy sandals with a design reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower. 3D-printed clothes are definitely making a statement in the fashion industry, opening new design possibilities for out-of-this-world styles. However, finding and developing printing materials flexible, stretchable, and breathable enough for clothing poses many challenges.

The first 3D-printed fabrics, designed in 2010 by Freedom of Creation in Amsterdam, looked like plastic chainmail, made of interlocking rings and figure eights. When miniaturized, this approach resulted in a crude-looking mesh, which could be shaped into gloves, for example.

Several 3D printing approaches are trying to redesign woven fabrics, the very foundation of clothing. For example, Continuum Fashion has designed a 3D-printed bikini using small, nylon disks connected by thin springs. Using a custom program, the size of each disk is defined by the curvature of the body. Smaller ones are densely packed to cover highly-curved body parts, while larger disks connect and rest on flatter body parts. The arrangement of the closely interlocked disks is similar to that of atoms in a crystalline structure. The resulting material holds its form while being flexible, and given that nylon is naturally hydrophobic, the bikini does not even get wet!

N12.bikini - Intro Video from Continuum Fashion on Vimeo.

Another amazing approach currently underway at Nervous System uses new Kinematics software to print a foldable material, built of hollow, triangular, hinged shapes. Although made of separate pieces, there is no assembly involved, and hinge mechanisms are 3D printed and come out of the machine as a whole. The resulting material is reminiscent of an intricate neural network or a fantastic exoskeleton of a sea creature. As the flexibility of the material is defined by the size of the building blocks, it can be pre-programmed according to a selected design or a desired drape.

Weaving Polymers With Natural Fibers

While all these are fascinating materials, they still lack the softness and the comfort of the fabrics we are used to. Expected to hit the market this year are the world's first 3D-printed, biodegradable, disposable panties by Tamicare.

Tamicare is using an innovative process, "Cosyflex," to print their fabric. Using multiple-stage printing processes increases the number of variables, allowing for their nonwoven fabric diversity. The process combines liquid polymers -- natural latex, silicon, polyurethane, and Teflon -- and fibers -- cotton, viscose, and polyamide. Automated and ready for mass production on an industrial scale, it will quickly produce finished products from raw materials without cutting or waste.

Although we have been wearing synthetic polymer fibers (polyester, polyamide, acrylic, polypropylene) for years, recent trends toward the green and natural has made the clothing market take a closer look at innovating with well-known natural materials. 3D printing a combination of polymer blend with natural fibers, such as cotton, would be environmentally attractive, and there is an ongoing competition by InnoCentive to find new ways to do it.

So while we might be still far away from printing an outfit for a day, such a possibility definitely inspires the creativity of many designers, engineers, and software developers. Who knows what will come out of printers next? But no matter what the product is or its shape, anything woven or 3D printed from polymers can have the properties of stain resistance or recyclability built in. Our knowledge of polymer properties can help you design futuristic products adaptable to almost any environment or delivery mechanism. Contact PSI with your design requirements for industrial manufacturing. Your visit might be just the excuse we need to fire up our chocolate 3D printer again!

Image by Rafael Rozendaal (newrafael)

Sources


You Be The Judge!


by James D. Rancourt, Ph.D., CEO of Polymer Solutions Incorporated
Exclusive to Polymer Solutions News
Judge
"You make the call: Who is right?"

I am often asked what are the most difficult projects or analyses that we complete on behalf of our clients. Projects can be difficult because of the complexity of the matrix, the low level of detection, or the characteristics of the sample that are not well suited for the typical injection requirements of our sensitive analytical instruments. We routinely work through issues of samples with dozens of distinct ingredients (and ingredients that themselves are mixtures of many ingredients), detection at part-per-billion levels, and syrupy pharmaceutical samples to be evaluated using GC-MS. However, there is a twist to the difficulty of some projects, those that have a litigation dimension. So here is a scenario with some facts for you to evaluate and then You be the judge. As explained below, a gift card awaits…

My colleagues and I often have to deal with the issue of whether a certain ingredient is or is not present. In the simplest case, an ingredient is detected at "reasonable levels," perhaps 0.1% or more, and the question is easy to answer. At another extreme, careful analysis indicates that the ingredient is not detected. However, that does not mean the ingredient is not present. In fact, there really is no endpoint in chasing after a conclusive answer as to whether or not an ingredient is in fact present at a level lower than the analytical method's detection limit. One can argue that "theoretically the ingredient is there" or "we really suspect the ingredient is there" and then continue to lower the detection limit by continually improving the sample preparation, enrichment of the suspected ingredient, and optimizing the analytical method's detection limit. Have you had a real-world experience of this type where you were trying to prove a sample "contains" or "does not contain" a particular ingredient?
 
Now, with that background it is time for you to be the judge. Here is an imaginary situation involving two fictional companies:

The Issue
RubberStuff has intellectual property for a rubber formulation "containing dioctyl phthalate (DOP) plasticizer." They suspect that their major competitor, FlexMore, is infringing on their intellectual property by making and selling rubber formulations that also contain DOP plasticizer. RubberStuff owns intellectual property that claims "rubber formulations containing DOP." Peripheral information, perhaps relevant, is the fact that no commercially available RubberStuff rubber formulation contains less that 15% DOP plasticizer.

Preliminary Analysis and a Lawsuit
RubberStuff and FlexMore samples arrive to an inexperienced laboratory. The analyst uses infrared spectroscopic analysis to evaluate the samples and, from the "fingerprint" provided by the spectrum, informs RubberStuff that FlexMore's rubber composition does contain DOP. A lawsuit is filed and FlexMore looks at the implicating data set. Their technical staff informs the FlexMore owners that the infrared spectroscopy method cannot distinguish DOP from dinonyl phthalate (DNP). The staff scientists explain that all FlexMore rubber compositions only incorporate DNP as a plasticizer, flexibilizer, and process aid. A search through purchase records indicates that FlexMore has never purchased DOP in any quantity and has not even received free samples of small quantities of DOP for research and development purposes.

Clues From Careful Analysis
RubberStuff is not satisfied and continues to pursue their major competitor. Having learned that engaging the services of a subpar lab may have led them down the wrong road, RubberStuff finds a well-credentialed "gold-standard" analytical laboratory. Now, using solvent extraction, solvent enrichment, and a chromatographic separation and spectral identification that is tuned for DOP, RubberStuff has exactly what they need. An unassailable data set is produced that objectively indicates that the FlexMore rubber formulation does contain DOP, albeit at a level of 0.9 parts per million. Every FlexMore product is analyzed with similar results. Although DNP is present in every sample in the range of 18 to 36%, DOP is detected at levels of 0.9 to 2.7 parts per million. Armed with the data, RubberStuff is going after FlexMore.

Oh No!
FlexMore digs deeper into the situation, having to respond to RubberStuff's allegation. Their digging leads to the revelation that the DNP that they have been purchasing from their supplier does in fact contain a trace contaminant identified as DOP. The concentration of DOP across numerous lots of the DNP ranges from 5 to 15 parts per million.

Just the Facts, but Now What!
Practical commercial rubber formulations require 15 to 40% DOP to produce useful products. FlexMore produces rubber formulations containing DNP. FlexMore does not purchase any DOP for any product they manufacture. They only purchase DNP. The FlexMore products contain DNP in the range of 10 to 30%. However, the DNP contains DOP as a trace contaminant.

Does FlexMore's rubber formulation containing 10 to 30% DNP, with 0.9 to 2.7 parts per million DOP as a contaminant, infringe on the intellectual property of their major competitor, RubberStuff?

Please share your thoughts. I'd love to hear from you. This month, the best comment, opinion, or argument will receive a $25 Starbucks gift card. So, you be the judge! Email us at AskJim@polymersolutions.com.

Image by Moodboard.

Ask Jim is a regular feature in Polymer Solutions News where PSI's Founder & CEO, Jim Rancourt, Ph.D., answers puzzlers about polymers submitted by readers, who enjoy a $25 Starbucks gift certificate. Send your questions to askjim@polymersolutions.com.


Announcements


We have several happy news announcements:
  • We have broken ground on our new building! More details here.
  • PSI officially graduated from a two-year certification through the VALET program (Virginia Leaders in Export Trade). We look forward to even more international travel and contract lab work with clients around the globe.
  • PSI will be attending the MD&M West Conference in Anaheim on February 11-13th. Say hello if you'll be there, too.
  • Caitlyn Scaggs, our marketing director, welcomed her second child, Peyton Cole Scaggs, on January 14!

Highlights From the Polymer Solutions Newsblog

The PSI Newsblog features original reporting on breaking news in the fields of plastics analysis, plastics testing, and plastics failure. Here are this month's most popular articles:

  1. Nanoparticle Glue for Polymer Hydrogels and Soft Tissues
    How do you glue slippery wet things together? It is a challenge faced by many people working with human and animal tissues.
  2. 'Smart' Curtains Made From Polymer/Carbon Nanotube Bilayers
    How would you like curtains that adjust themselves to let in just the right amount of light?
  3. Using Polymer Field Effect Transistors as Sensors
    While our conscious perception is limited to five senses, our bodies contain biological sensors with many more functions. Here's how polymers are being applied to biological challenges.
  4. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? With Polymer Glue!
    An FYI as we approach Valentine's Day...
  5. Green and Natural Polymers Are on the Rise
    Go green, go natural! When it comes to polymers, green and natural are not the same.

Sources

Source: Infographic: "A Brief History of 3D Printing," troweprice.com.
Source: "How 3-D Printing Body Parts Will Revolutionize Medicine," by Steven Leckart, Popular Science, popsci.com, August 6, 2013.
Source: "3D Printing Your Shoes: Fantasy vs. Reality," by Seamus Condron, pcmag.com, February 4, 2014.
Source: continuumfashion.com.
Source: "Taking Fashion to a New Dimension," by Steven Kurutz, New York Times, December 13, 2013.
Source: "3D-Printed Fabrics: Surprise! They're Real AND They're Sustainable," by Wu Xing, architerials.com, August 2, 2010.
Source: "3D printed chainmail-style gloves produced," by Dominic Sacco, pcr-online.biz, September 30, 2013.
Source: "3D Printing Hits the Fashion World," by Rachel Hennessey, forbes.com, August 7, 2013.
Source: Continuum Fashion, shapeways.com.
Source: "Look at These Clothes Made of 3-D Printed Chainmail," by Joseph Flaherty, December 17, 2013.
Source: "Making a kinematics belt," by Jessica Rosenkrantz, n-e-r-v-o-u-s.com/blog, January 23, 2014.
Source: "New generation of fabric: World's first 3D-printed disposable panties," 3ders.org, November 11, 2013.
Source: The Technology, tamicare.com.
Source: "3D Printing with Cotton Fiber," InnoCentive.com, January 23, 2014.

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