The Five W’s of Polymer Testing
High-quality, consistent resin and the ability to optimize production processes are crucial ingredients for converter success. Polymer testing helps enable both.
Who, What, When, Where, Why
At Shell Polymers, testing capabilities are central to our offerings.
Various types of testing also help us provide greater value to our converter customers running trials or evaluating whether other polymers might perform better in applications than an incumbent grade.
Let’s explore the many facets of polymer testing. In the next section, we’ll address the “What, Why, and When?” Then we’ll conclude with “Who and Where?”
Polymer Testing: A Complex Science With Clear Goals
Chemists and other experts use polymer testing to analyze, compare or qualify polymers.
For converters seeking polymer testing, the motive often boils down to improving their offering vs. the competition, seeking ways to reduce costs, and also pushing the envelope in terms of their own capabilities.
Employing gel permeation chromatography, spectroscopy, rheology, and a range of other polymer and application testing techniques, chemists and polymer scientists determine molecular structure, morphology, thermal and mechanical properties, top-load force, and many other details, too.
Testing, which can happen at any point during production – or in our lab whenever a customer may need those services – can reveal vital details about a given polymer, such as how easily it can be processed or what kind of stress it can endure.
At Shell Polymers, such tests are key to polymer quality and consistency, developing new and improved products, and improving production capabilities.
Ultimately, testing helps us produce polyethylene that’s on-spec and meets necessary regulations, as well as converter standards. Testing helps ensure we get it right the first time.
Aside from our own production and quality standards, our polymer testing capabilities are an added value for our converter customers.
Our new Monaca, Pennsylvania polyethylene plant features commercial-scale equipment that customers can use to run trials, without having to make a costly sacrifice of production capacity at their own facilities to do so.
Testing also gives our customers confidence that our resins will run smoothly on their machines.
A Team of Experts in Our New Home Base for Polymer Testing
When it comes to testing, Shell Polymers has built a highly experienced and capable team that interacts with production counterparts as well as our customers.
Together, our Polymer Science Team and Analytical Team include chemical engineers and analytical and process chemists with deep industry track records within the Shell network and the broader polymer industry. Learn more about these teams here.
More often than not, Shell’s testing experts can be found in our 86,000-square-foot Innovation Center, adjacent to our new polyethylene plant.
The Innovation Center includes three key facilities that are all essential to our testing strategy.
The Analytical Lab
This area of the innovation center analyzes pellets as they come off our reactors to verify that the resin is molecularly and chemically correct, as well as consistent between lots.
The lab also helps our production team so they can take steps to ensure the resin remains at the center of the spec range.
Polymer Science Laboratories
The experts based in these facilities help conduct a wide range of studies that answer questions such as, how easily can a specific polymer be processed, or how much stress can it withstand?
Tests performed by the analytical and polymer science labs also help confirm that Shell Polymers’ resins satisfy requirements or specifications for specific grades.
The Application Hall
This is where we run collaborative trials with customers, keeping their own machines free for revenue-generating production.
The hall features commercial-scale equipment commonly used by today’s film extruders, injection molders, and blow molders.
Testing in the hall often comes after our team has tested and verified a polymer’s properties and now wants to test that polymer in a specific application or optimize the production rate versus the resulting properties of the article for a given resin.
For example, in HDPE piping, sagging can be a problem as the pipe cools. Our experts could help qualify a resin that performs better in that regard.