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Let’s Get Moving with Performance Plastics
by Pete Daumeyer, CartierWilson LLC
Material handling has many different meanings, but the simple definition of the term is getting product from one location to the next. Whether it is moving product into a machine for processing, moving a finished part out of the machine and into packaging or moving it all the way to the vehicle that is going to move that product, all materials are being handled.

Most conveyors are material handling systems. Before you raise your hand and shout ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW-PE), know that nylons, acetals, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polycarbonate (PC) are all involved in conveyors. UHMW-PE is commonly associated with material handling because it usually runs the sides of the conveyor in the form of guide rails, so it’s easy to see. This versatile material also runs under the conveyor with the chain guide and is often machined into bearings or gears to keep the conveyor running.

Doing the tough work
Nylons and acetals are often used in heavier conveyors. Because of their friction coefficient and structural integrity, these high-performance materials have good strength-to-weight ratios. This characteristic causes lower amounts of strain on motors and chains running the conveyors. Then there is static, a force that can build up while product is moving across a conveyor. Many electro-static dissipative (ESD) additives can be added to these high-performance materials for that effect.
cans on conveyor
Performance plastics are great for conveyor applications because they can handle impact, stand up to cleaning and operate much more quietly than their metal counterparts.
Augurs are used to spin, like a screw, and move anything from liquids to slurries to small sand-like products. Some augurs can be machined from rods of high-performance materials, making a screw feeding system. Often screws are used to increase or decrease the timing of product, such as moving bottles into a filling or capping system. The low friction of these screws or augurs keeps from damaging the package of the product.
Offering protection
When it comes to moving the materials, more performance plastic is used to eliminate the damaging effects of the road or rails the equipment moves along. From small hoppers lined with UHMW to truck beds lined with HDPE to rail cars, the lining of vehicles often helps minimize damage while moving product to market. There are even linings in the fill systems for train cars so that the product does not damage the heavy metal sides of the car.
Getting products to you
When it comes to handling materials, plastics are always there to ease the path. From slurry in the field to bottles in the factory, performance plastics reduce the stress on the system and protect the product from damage. The next time you visit a store, think about all of the ways that product came in touch with performance plastics along its route to your shopping cart.