degrees that work: Plastics

Uploaded by PennCollegeVideos on 19.01.2010

[Background music]
>> It's transformed the way we live.
It infiltrates every nook and crevice
of our homes and our work.
>> You have the knowledge, and you have the technical degree.
Then you go and do.
You write your own ticket.
>> We're making a difference in getting these kids excited.
>> You got to get them to buy into it,
but once they do they'll give you every bit
of effort that they have.
>> Most young people today want to make a difference.
Plastics has lots of opportunities to go and do that.
[ Music ]
>> They're going to talk to you a little bit,
present their information.
We're going to go over to the other classroom.
>> These 11th graders enrolled
in the technology education class admittedly don't know much
about plastics, but that's about to change thanks
to a unique opportunity.
>> I'm going to give you guys a brief overview
of what you're going to expect to do
on the day of the competition.
>> The students are introduced to a project
that will consume the next three and-a-half weeks of class,
a remote control racecar competition
at nearby Pennsylvania College of Technology.
>> The racecar experience is something that we created
in order to get predominantly high school students
and hopefully their teachers interested
in the plastics field.
>> Twenty RPM on high gear.
>> Dr. Kirk Cantor is a former engineer at NASA and author
of a widely used industry textbook
on blown film extrusion.
He's been teaching plastics for more than 20 years.
>> We bring in about 100 high school students from all
across Pennsylvania and expose them to plastics
with what we call the Plastics Experience.
And then what we do is culminate the day
with the Racecar Experience which we think is going
to be the thing that brings them the most excitement
and they get most involved in.
>> Nick Schmidt and Geraldo Payna [assumed spelling] are
members of a five person team of plastics majors
at Penn College devising all aspects of the race
for a class assignment.
>> The goal is for these high school students
to make a remote control car body.
They're going to be thermoforming this on machines
that we'll provide for them.
We take a sheet of plastic, reheat it,
and then form it around a mold.
And that mold happens to be in this case the body of a racecar.
They get to kind of decorate,
design that car the way they want it to look and get
to race it against other schools.
>> All the chassis and all the motors
and everything is going to be the same.
The only thing different is going
to be the body that's going to be placed on top of the car.
>> The biggest challenge I think they're going to face,
accepting the fact that they have
to narrow it down to one car.
>> Todd Lorensen teaches the technical education class
at Loyalsock Township High School
in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
He's decided to have his students work in pairs
for the plastics project.
One car from the class will be selected to race
against the other schools.
>> How do I define success?
The enjoyment of the experience
that the kids really remember it,
something that they can come in, like you say,
get their hands on, take some skill away from it.
You got to get them to buy into it,
but once they do they'll give you every bit
of effort that they have.
>> I think plastics are in every segment
of everything we do in life.
[Background music]
>> Tim Westin developed the plastic curriculum
at Penn College in 1986.
Today it is one of five plastics engineering
or plastics engineering technology programs
in the country accredited by ABET which recognizes excellence
in applied science, computing, engineering,
and technology programs.
>> I give our first semester a first day freshman assignment.
I'll say, "One day go through life, and everything
that you think is plastic write it down."
It never lasts more than an hour,
because after an hour they've got five pages.
And they're tired of the activity, but that's the point.
>> Building and construction
and packaging are the largest consumers of plastics.
And plastics touch more industries
than any other manufacturing sector in the United States.
The common properties of plastics; lightweight, strong,
durable, and moisture resistance lend themselves
to a wide variety of uses.
>> The definition of plastic is essentially moldable,
so material that's moldable, shapeable,
bendable into a new shape is a plastic material.
>> The commercialization of plastics began
about 100 years ago but has taken off
in the past half century with rapid advances
in science and technology.
Today there are hundreds of different kinds of plastics,
each designed for specific applications.
Common plastics include: nylon, polyethylene, PVC, and PET.
All plastics are made of a polymer,
a long chain-like molecule.
Most polymers are manmade
through a process called polymerization.
During polymerization small building block molecules called
monomers, usually obtained from oil and natural gas,
are chemically bonded to form a polymer chain.
>> In a very small piece of plastic there are gazillions
of these polymer chains.
They are still very small to the naked eye.
The nylon rope trick we call it is an example
of a polymerization that can be done right on a bench top,
so in the beaker there are two different monomers.
And if they're interfaced where they're touching,
a reaction occurs, and polymer is formed
by the two monomer types
of molecules continuing to form together.
>> In large reactors where polymerization usually occurs,
a process produces a liquid mass
so thick it makes cold maple syrup look runny.
>> So this viscous mass of material is then moved
from the reactor to another machine called an extruder
where perhaps some other additives are mixed with it.
It's then pumped out of the extruder and then
into typically a dye or a shaping device
which create very small strands which are then cut
into very small pellets.
>> The plastic pellets or resins such as the ones seen
in this classroom demonstration are shipped to processors
who incorporate them into products
from plastic bags to car bumpers.
The United States produces more
than 115 billion pounds of resin annually.
That's equivalent to the weight
of approximately 158 Empire State Buildings.
>> I think most people are pretty amazed when they look
at a plastic bag and then are shown what it took to make
that bag beginning with plastic pellets.
Connecting those pellets with that bag is real.
That's what the bag is made from, those pellets.
>> The students at Loyalsock Township High School face
several steps to make their plastic product beginning
with mold design.
>> We're starting out hand sketching, pencil and paper,
taking idea out of your head and putting it
onto a piece of paper.
That's really hard thing for kids to grasp these days.
>> Each group of two to three had six thumbnail sketches
that they had to do at a quarter scale.
From those six sketches they decided
which one they liked the best, recognizing the aerodynamics
of it and just, you know, their taste.
From there they created one finished sketch
that was two scale to transfer onto the blank.
>> For now the blank is Styrofoam.
Eventually the students will shape the Styrofoam
and melt a plastic sheet around it to form the body
of the remote control racecar.
[ Music ]
>> They're excited.
You know, any time they get to talking back and forth,
giving each other opinions, you know,
saying which design looks better; that's a plus.
>> The high school juniors aren't the only ones excited.
The student organizers at Penn College are eagerly finalizing
plans for the race.
>> The racecar track is going to be the size
of the basketball court, so it's going to be pretty big.
And it's going to be tricky.
[ Music ]
>> The plastics majors also have to craft technical questions
for the high school competitors.
The answers to those questions will be factored
with body design and race performance
to declare an overall winner.
The high school students
at Loyalsock prove receptive to learning.
In addition to Styrofoam, many of them decide to experiment
with wood and plaster for their car body mold.
>> They tested some of their Styrofoam design
and maybe couldn't get it as smooth as they really wanted
to with the material, or maybe they dropped it on the floor
and a gouge came out of it.
So it kind of changes things a little bit.
The wood's just little more durable, but they find
that it takes a lot longer to sand also.
I'm not being the authoritative figure overtop of them.
They're doing most of the decision making,
which is a plus, you know.
That's where they show they've grown up.
[ Music ]
>> The maturity of the plastics industry is on full display
in Chicago at NPE 2009,
the biggest plastics gathering in the world.
More than 44,000 professionals from material suppliers
and equipment manufacturers, processors
and mold makers are attending the triannual event.
It takes approximately 17 football fields worth
of floor space to represent the third largest manufacturing
sector in the United States.
>> We touch more industries, the plastics industry does than
and other single manufacturing industry in this country today.
>> Bill Cartel is president and CEO of the Society
of Plastics Industry, the trade association
for the plastics field and the producer of NPE.
>> It has been more than gratifying for me.
I mean, you can't wipe the smile off my face the last couple
of days, because the aisles have been full.
The booths have been full.
[Background music]
>> The first NPE consisted mainly of US companies.
Sixty-three years later, 101 countries are on hand.
>> We've had a huge influx the last two days of people
from Central and South America.
The China Delegation, which I met with earlier today,
is double what it was three years ago.
I mean, it's all over the world.
>> And the plastics marketplace is looking
for the next generation of talent.
Plastics employment
in the United States stands just below one million
with room to grow.
>> Look around you.
What do you see?
You see old, white men.
That's what you see.
Look five years from now.
Look ten years from now.
The opportunities for every color,
each gender; they're here.
>> The plastics industry is so big that you can find a field
within it virtually almost in any area
that you're interested in.
>> You have the knowledge, and you have the technical degree.
And then you can go and do.
You write your own ticket.
>> So there's a broad range that students can get into, you know,
from just the nuts and bolts, hands-on guys,
to the lab rats the develop the new products.
>> An associate's degree in plastics technology
or a related discipline is recommended for students
who wish to work at the technician level.
Such jobs usually focus on machine operations.
A bachelor's degree in plastics engineering,
chemical engendering, or polymer science can lead to a variety
of more advanced positions ranging from research
and product development to sales and management.
>> Our four year grads come out somewhere in the fifites.
Our two-year people are probably some where in their forties.
The difference is not so much where they start
but where they would be 10 years, 20 years down the road.
>> But the plastics field offers more than financial rewards.
>> There's always the thrill of new
and exciting technology being on the cutting edge,
and you can be part of that.
>> It's a great environment for females, males, for anybody.
And if you just want to work in an environment
that challenges you everyday, this is great.
>> Most young people today want to make a difference.
Plastics has lots of opportunities to go and do that.
>> Especially for young people who wish to be part
of the green movement in plastics.
For years environmentalists
and other groups have criticized plastics
for the damaging effects the material can have on our planet.
Traditional plastics don't decompose,
and the landscape can become littered with plastic debris.
In recent year, the plastics industry has responded
with a focus on sustainability.
That's apparent at NPE with an emerging technologies pavilion
devoted to all things green.
>> Plastics has been responsible for
and in some cases irresponsible probably with some
of the products that end up in the waste stream.
What a lot of people don't fully appreciate is it can be part
of the solution on the green and environmental side.
>> That solution includes recycling plastics
into new goods such as the foam which is made in part
from recycled office water coolers and committing
to bioplastics for an earth-friendly result.
With bioplastics, natural resources are emphasized
over fossil fuels.
For example, organic compounds can be added
to traditional polymers to make products biodegradable
like these water bottles.
Polymers can also be generated solely from renewable material
such as corn and sugarcane rather than petroleum.
This biodegradable plant wrap is an example.
>> Living with young kids with their imaginations
and their minds in the industry is really critical too,
because we can do so much with plastics today.
And it's such a better alternative than other materials
to lead towards that overall sustainability accomplishment.
>> That is probably the single, biggest new area
in plastics that's going to grow like crazy.
>> Employers typically look for some basic traits in graduates
who hope to have a future in plastics.
>> We do pulling on this, and we've determined
that employers are looking for individuals
who have great common sense, who have great communication skills,
and of course a technical background.
Hands-on experience is tremendously valuable,
because the employer is looking at a student coming
into the workforce and saying, "Okay, you're good at books.
Now we don't do books here.
What you learn from books
and from your professors is incredibly important.
Now we're going to apply it."
>> What I did is I cut it out then.
>> The Loyalsock Township High School students are busy
bridging the gap between theory and practice.
Less than a week remains untill the remote control car race
at Penn College's Plastics Experience.
They completed their technical questions.
Now it's time for each group
to generate their plastic car body with a thermoformer.
>> I'd say most kids in high school have never heard
of a thermoformer.
So for a group of high school students to get to have one
or even just use one, yes, that is unique.
>> A thermoformer basically takes one sheet
of a specific plastic.
It is held over heater coils and heated
up to a specific temperature
where the plastic becomes malleable and flexible.
And is then set over or drawn down into a positive mold.
You need to make sure you have good surface finish
on your mold; otherwise, when you vacuum form it,
you will see little wrinkles, and bubbles,
bumps in your car body.
>> With thermoforming, the students experience one
of the five main reprocesses used to make plastic products.
Other means include extrusion commonly used for bags,
blow molding responsible for bottles,
and rotational molding relied on for hollow products.
The most prevalent process though is injection molding
which is vital for a slew of products
for cell phones to car bodies.
One of the largest injection molders can be found a few hours
south from the Loyalsock students.
[ Music ]
>> The injection molding capability, a number of presses,
a number of parts made, number of customers served;
we're the largest privately held injection molder.
As far as we can tell, we're the largest one in the country.
>> As president and CEO of K'Nex Brands,
Michael Arrington oversees the company's toy division
and its manufacturing arm, the Rodon Group.
The family owned injection molder has been making plastic
components for hundreds of clients since the mid 1950s.
The top customer today is K'Nex Toys.
Rodon produces more than two billion parts a year
for the popular construction kits.
>> Last year we sold about seven million sets.
We know that most families have, you know, have 2 to 3 kids
and we also know that the kits live for an average life
of about three years in a home.
So at any one time we figure there's 20 to 30 million kids
around the world playing with K'Nex.
>> What began in the early 90s with 22 color-coated rods
and connectors has evolved into a wide variety of sets
from simple to intricate for preschoolers
through high school students.
No matter the set's complexity, the premise is the same.
Kids can build anything.
>> We get a variety of ideas from a variety of sources.
Our designers, their job full-time is to think of ideas.
Our marketing group, their job is to follow trends
of what's happening in the broader world.
So whether that's what movies are popular,
what TV shows are popular, what themes are popular in society.
>> One relatively new set involves characters
from Sesame Street.
The challenge for designers is creating a part
that can both serve as a shoulder for a character
and a building brick for other uses.
>> Having that kind of flexibility
and having the ability to do that really, again,
can only be done with plastics, because plastics allow you
to have those kinds of shapes, that kind of precision.
>> K'Nex designers work for a few weeks devising plans
to transform a typical rectangular piece
into a rounded shoulder brick.
The completed design goes
to the Rodon Group located down the road.
There an engineer spends another two weeks tweaking the plans
and designing the mold for the part.
[ Sound effects ]
>> It takes approximately 14 weeks
to manufacture the stainless steel mold
for the shoulder brick.
With the mold finished, the part is ready to be produced
in Rodon's 130,000 square foot facility.
Rodon follows the basic injection molding process
to make the shoulder brick.
A vacuum feeder takes the resin and mixes it with a colorant
and feeds it into the injection molder.
The pellets are melted into an viscous liquid
which is injected into the mold.
The cold mold quickly solidifies the plastic and opens
to deposit the solid parts.
Approximately 10,000 shoulder bricks
in various colors are produced daily.
Eventually they are grouped with other parts and kits
and shipped to stores worldwide.
>> Well, I think I have one of the best jobs on the planet.
It is fun to be part of a product that is,
you know, makes people happy.
You know, on a rainy day,
they're in there having some fun.
They're learning about, you know,
shapes and sorting and whatever else.
They're learning about geometry.
And they're having fun doing it.
[ Music ]
>> The Loyalsock Township High School students are finishing
their creations a few days before the Plastics Experience
at Penn College.
Twenty-four hours before the event, Loyalsock has its car.
>> And the first place car with 15 votes was number seven.
>> The winner was selected
by about three different classes voting on their favorite design.
The winning design, decals on it turned out pretty good,
and the design itself was pretty aerodynamic.
I kind of think it's what we were going for.
>> We just kind of went for the most aerodynamic and, you know,
we thought maybe make a cool color scheme.
We did a little bit more decals than any other groups,
and we deiced to paint one of our decals, you know.
I just thought it was a cool color, you know,
white, silver and green.
It's kind of cool.
>> I think they connected plastics.
I think tomorrow will be a great end result for this.
You know, students are going to be able to go to workshops
at the Plastics Experience tomorrow.
So they will have that chance
to really make the serious connection with it.
[ Music ]
>> I know that faculty have a very exiting day mapped
out for everyone.
You're going to have plenty of opportunity
to see the industrial side [inaudible]
[Background music]
>> While the high schoolers head to their workshops,
the college students organizing the remote control car race are
assembling the track for the day's concluding event.
[ Music ]
>> The students who will compete in the race have plenty
to keep them busy all morning.
[ Music ]
>> We had kids pushing buttons on injection molding machines
and stringing bubbles on blowing lines making grocery bags.
There was a lot of smiles, a lot of fun.
So I definitely think that in addition to them learning,
them having fun was a goal.
And that was achieved.
>> Five of the eight schools attending Plastics Experience
Day have manufactured a plastic car body for the race.
The college students have already awarded points
to each school based on body design and answers
to the technical questions assigned
at the start of the project.
>> I didn't know exactly what the teachers were telling them
at their home schools,
but obviously whatever they told them worked
because they put some real creativity into the designs,
some aerodynamics, some cool shapes, and some decals,
and paint, and things like that.
I was very impressed.
>> Three, two, one.
[ Music ]
>> Loyalsock posts the second lowest time
in its individual heat before moving on to the group race.
>> Gentlemen, are you ready?
On your mark.
Get set. Go.
[ Music ]
>> When all the points are added,
the school finishes 18 behind the winner,
Gettysburg Senior High.
>> Gettysburg.
[Background music]
>> I thought it was just fun to be able to see everything.
It doesn't really matter what place we came in, you know.
The experience itself is the best.
>> There's so much stuff involved in making plastics,
you know, creativity, you know, has clicked a little bit.
I think today was a great experience to come
to a conclusion to see their project
and to see how far they come from beginning to now to compete
against other people, because that's what the real world is.
It's a competition.
>> I know that opening the door for some of these kids that came
to me and said, "I'm coming into it."
It's something that's really exciting.
Really great opportunity.
It's not for everybody, but those that connect
with what we do here, they're going to have great careers.
And I'm excited for them.
[ Music ]