Polymeric & Composite Materials

Natural and synthetic polymers (macromolecules) find everyday use as plastics, rubbers, adhesives, composites, textiles and coatings. They can be formulated with additives to obtain a range of properties, and processed in a variety of manners to create useful products. Exponent’s expertise in plastics, rubber, adhesive and composite systems includes fundamental understanding of all aspects of chemistry, structure, processing, properties and uses. 

Exponent's engineers and scientists provide polymer consulting and technical expertise that spans a variety of polymeric materials, product forms (films, fibers, foams, nano-particles, non-woven fabrics, and molded, cast and extruded shapes), formulations (adhesives, inks, coatings, elastomers, paints, molding compounds, commodity thermoplastics and engineering resins), and manufacturing processes (injection molding, extrusion, compression molding, casting, blow molding, thermoforming, spray-up and composite lay-up, lamination, rubber mixing and compounding) across a broad array of industries. We understand the use and function of additives such as plasticizers, stabilizers, fire retardants, fillers and reinforcements and their effect on physical, mechanical, electrical, optical, thermal, rheological and aesthetic properties. We assist clients in understanding the chemistry and kinetics of degradation of various polymers by oxidation, ozone, UV, hydrolysis, fatigue and other mechanisms. 
Our consultants have extensive knowledge of adhesives, including one- and two-part liquids, structural films, pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSAs) and foams. We provide fundamental and practical understanding of the chemistry and kinetics of curing and crosslinking, viscoelastic properties, and factors associated with adhesion and release. 

We also have extensive knowledge of fibers and composites. Our team has addressed questions of composition, curing, physical properties and durability of composites used in piping, bath and spa, recreational, marine, automotive, and aerospace applications. We have also significant experience with the properties and performance of high performance fibers used in structural and ballistic applications.

The polymer mechanics investigations that are performed by Exponent staff focus on understanding the governing micromechanical mechanisms that control the often-complicated behavior exhibited by polymers in different environments. Scientists and engineers use experimental characterization to assess different failure scenarios or to supply material parameters for analytical and computer-based modeling of the mechanical response in different loading environments. We perform experimental testing of the mechanical response under different conditions, including time effects, rate effects, temperature effects, and environmental effects and have assisted clients with modeling and predictions of mechanical behavior, including creep, stress relaxation, yielding, crazing, texture development, anisotropic behavior, temperature dependence, and physical and chemical aging. 

Our staff consults with industrial, government, and insurance clients, as well as their outside counsels, regarding polymers used in such diverse applications as consumer products (toys, appliances, sporting gear/ equipment, spas), consumer electronics (cell phones, laptop computers, flat screen displays, touch-screen products, MP3 players), medical devices (drug delivery systems, orthopedic implants, IV therapy components), electrical and electronic systems (wire, cable, conformal coatings, encapsulants, connectors), industrial products (pipes, fittings, gaskets, flow meters, water filters), automotive systems (paints, seat belts, underhood components, structural panels, tires), aerospace (engine components, control surfaces, primary and secondary structures), packaging (pails, bags, trays), and construction (flooring, sealants, insulation). 

We are active in standards committees (ASTM, UL) and professional societies (ACS, SPE, ASM), and frequently publish and lecture on topics related to plastic product development, plastics failure analysis, polymer synthesis and characterization, rubber oxidation, and plastics for medical devices. We have published extensively in the field of medical plastics, including Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE), PEEK, polyurethanes, and a range of coatings. 

We provide technical support related to product development, failure analysis, intellectual property assessment and disputes, product recall investigations, insurance investigations, and litigation. Project activities include field testing and site inspections, evaluating material composition, safety/reliability assessments, life prediction analyses, stress analysis, assessing chemical resistance and microbial degradation, and laboratory testing and evaluation. We perform visual and microscopic examinations (including fractography) and physical and chemical analyses to identify and characterize defects, evaluate composition, and assist in determining the root cause of failures. We employ tools such as optical and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), chromatography and spectroscopy, including EDS, FTIR, GPC, and GC-MS and standard and customized mechanical testing.



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