The wood processing and pulp and paper industries require materials with excellent impact, abrasion and friction resistance. Many high-performance plastics meet these requirements while being significantly lighter than metal. These plastics offer tangible advantages that help optimize production lines while providing a safe work environment.
Although the field of polymers may seem complex, it is possible to optimize your production line by choosing materials based on their properties and the constraints to which they will be exposed. In this article, we will discuss 4 advantages of using high-performance plastics and provide examples of real-life applications. We will also explore the various benefits of these polymers, which ultimately reduce maintenance needs and production stoppages.
Specific advantages of high-performance polymers
1. Noise reduction
Various sectors, especially the wood processing industry, use machinery and equipment that generate high levels of noise. For example, saws, conveyors and chutes are constantly exposed to impacts and friction, which generate potentially dangerous levels of noise. As recommended by the Quebec government in Annex 1 of the Lignes directrice sur l’industrie du bois de sciage et ses expertises techniques (Guidelines for the Lumber Industry and Its Technical Expertise), covering the surface of conveyors is effective in reducing noise. In this case, the use of TIVAR® 88 is particularly appropriate, as it is a UHMW (ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) designed specifically for demanding applications. Indeed, installing TIVAR® 88 liners directly on the metal surface of conveyors will significantly reduce noise generated by raw material circulating on production lines. Being highly resistant and, above all, incredibly absorbent, UHMW liners take in the energy produced by material conveyance, reducing vibrations and noise levels caused by falling raw materials.
In addition to TIVAR® 88 , other UHMWs can be used in the design of noise-reducing liners. TIVAR® POLYSTEEL is one that is popular with the sawmill and pulp and paper industries. It provides all the advantages for which UHMWs are famous (high impact resistance, resistance to abrasion, shock absorption and noise reduction) while also possessing one interesting characteristic: detection by magnetism. Indeed, the resin of TIVAR® POLYSTEEL is designed with an additive that allows it to be located by a metal detector, thus reducing the risk of contaminating the wood chips.
For even more specific needs, such as the attenuation of noise in extremely dusty environments or the reduction of static charge, TIVAR® DRYSLIDE® is the most appropriate material, as it easily manages with these constraints. This UHMW is an electrostatic dissipator, which means it is perfectly suited for environments where reducing static electricity is an important issue. As far as friction reduction is concerned, this high-performance plastic is also an interesting choice because of its coefficient of friction, which is the lowest among UHMWs of the TIVAR® family.
2. Service life improvement
Conveying raw materials inevitably causes friction in critical areas, especially with regard to chain guides and the surface of conveyors and chutes. As mentioned in section 1, when used as a noise-reducing liner, TIVAR® 88 also possesses another important advantage: it protects the surfaces on which it is installed. Thanks to its extremely low coefficient of friction, it naturally facilitates the sliding of raw materials on its abrasion-resistant surface.
It is also possible to eliminate the need for lubrication thanks to high-performance materials that self-lubricate when moving. These self-lubricating plastics are particularly useful in the manufacture of chain guides, which are subject to constant friction. The use of self-lubricating nylon parts makes it possible to optimize this type of equipment and protect chains and conveyor systems from premature wear. Thanks to its excellent compressive strength, self-lubricating properties and superior wear resistance, NYLON NYCAST® NYLOIL® is perfectly suited for this kind of application. In general, installing high-performance plastic parts in high-friction environments will reduce the wear of production equipment. By opting for a strategic combination of plastic and metal, it is possible to limit metal-to-metal contacts that cause significant wear.
In addition to NYCAST® NYLOIL®, several other types of high-performance nylons can be used in the design of friction reducing parts and components. NYCAST MOS2, a nylon that contains molybdenum, a self-lubricating element, reduces friction while possessing excellent compressive strength.
NYCAST 6MPY nylon is an excellent option to design impact-resistant mechanical parts, while NYCAST XHA is better suited to applications that require superior resistance to high temperature. Overall, nylons have excellent wear resistance, self-lubricating properties and mechanical strength (tensile/compression/dimensional stability), in addition to being easily machinable. They are used in the design of gears, wear guides, bearings and a multitude of other mechanical parts.
3. Accident risk abatement
Plastics can directly and indirectly reduce the risk of accidents.
Safety screens and protective screens: Made of polycarbonate, these transparent plastic panels offer an impressive resistance to impacts (250 times greater than glass). Screens attached to critical areas, such as where moving parts are accessible and where elements can be projected, are preferable to avoid the risk of accidents.
Safety guards: These guards are made of FRP (fibre reinforced plastic), a composite material that is resistant to rust and 75% lighter than steel. FRP guards are durable, easy to install and require little maintenance.
Anti-slip structures: In the wood harvesting industry, micro wood particles and dust found in the air inevitably fall to the ground and settle on the surface of structures, reducing their grip. One simple solution is to use gratings made of FRP, a material that reduces the risk of falling thanks to its non-slip finish. FRP gratings also have the advantage of retaining their non-slip properties even when covered in dust.
Reducing decibel levels: High decibel levels can cause work-related accidents and occupational diseases. Plastic liners such as UHMW TIVAR® 88 reduce decibel levels, thus limiting the risk of accidents caused by noise.
4. Production optimization
Performance plastics reduce component and system wear, improving the service life of production line elements and, consequently, reducing maintenance requirements and downtime. This directly optimizes your production rate and increases your profits.
High-performance plastic components also create a safer work environment. By offering a quieter production environment where access to moving parts is restricted by protective ones, we reduce the risk of accidents while increasing staff efficiency.
Case Study - Prolam
Wood processing - Trailer flooring manufacturer
For Prolam, transforming wood into finished products requires a complex production line, each section of which must be optimized to maintain their high-quality standards. High-performance plastics are therefore used in specific applications, offering significant advantages.
At Prolam, conveying of the raw material, in this case wood planks, generates a high level of noise and constant vibrations, especially with regard to chutes and conveyors.
The solution to reduce noise and impacts
Lining chutes and conveyors with TIVAR® 88 is one of the most effective solutions to reduce noise because it prevents raw material from coming into direct contact with metal surfaces. The liner absorbs impacts during the handling of wood boards and thus significantly reduces the noise generated by conveyors. In this case, TIVAR 88 facilitates the conveying of wood by reducing noise, vibration and wear, while providing personnel with a quieter and safer work environment.
Conveyor chains are subjected to constant stress and friction. For this reason, they are often the victim of premature wear cause by grinding against metal surfaces.
Solution to reduce friction
Prolam decided to reduce friction by installing chain guides made of NYLON NYCAST® NYLOIL®, a self-lubricating material. Choosing this type of polymer greatly reduces the need for external lubrication since a self-lubricating additive is manufactured into its resin during production. NYCAST® NYLOIL® allows the chain to slide more easily while reducing wear, as it is no longer in direct contact with the metal surface.
NYLON NYCAST® NYLOIL® is also used as a conveyor liner to reduce friction, which makes handling easier without damaging the wood.
 Lignes directrices sur l’industrie du bois de sciage et ses expertises techniques, p. 82. http://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/publications/note-instructions/00-12/ligne-dir-bois-sciage.pd