John Garner

PLGA from PolySciTech used in development of small-scale melt-processing system.

Blog Post created by John Garner on Sep 18, 2019

Melt processing is the process by which a polymer is heated to a fluid state and then forced into a mold or through a cavity to adapt into a specific shape. This includes many common techniques for generating products from polymers or plastic such as blow-molding, extrusion, injection molding, and vacuum forming. The vast majority of melt-processing equipment is designed to process kilo’s to metric tons of polymers and are designated for manufacturing. This creates a condition which is prohibitive to researchers looking to perform melt-processing on polymers at small scale for testing and development. Recently, researchers at University of California used PLGA (AP041) from PolySciTech ( in their development of a small-scale melt-processing system. This research holds promise to enable research and development of materials made by this processing method. Read more: Wirth, David M., and Jonathan K. Pokorski. "Design and fabrication of a low-cost pilot-scale melt-processing system." Polymer (2019): 121802.


“Highlights: Schematics for facile assembly of a lab scale mini-injection molding system. Less than $500 in raw materials, melt processes polymers at up to 250 °C with 100 MPa pressure. Ideal for small samples 50–500 mg total mass with low dead volume. Non-newtonian modeling of shear rate inside melt processing system. Abstract: Melt processing of polymeric materials is a ubiquitous technique for forming, shaping, refining and homogenizing polymers and polymer composites. Melt-processing techniques are the primary manufacturing method of consumer and industrial thermoplastic parts, especially when using commodity polymers with high-throughput production. Melt-processing, however, is underutilized in academic laboratories when developing high value-added materials due to the capital expense of the equipment and relatively large-scale required to carry out such processing. These concerns make pilot-scale melt-processing challenging, particularly for the development of new polymers or polymer composites where materials can only be generated in small-scale at reasonable costs. The current study designs and evaluates a bench-top, sub-milliliter volume extrusion and injection-molding device, which sources parts from current 3D printer technology at minimal expense. The plans presented will open this convenient technique to academic research laboratories interested in pilot-scale experiments. A systematic approach to melt processing of PLA, PLGA, and PCL polymer composites is demonstrated. Characterization of the dispersion of pharmaceuticals, small molecules and nanoparticles in melt processed polymers is presented as a demonstration of potential utility. Keywords: Melt processing Composites Injection molding Polymer engineering”