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InterTrade Ireland “Research Connections Event ” Overview of Research Activities and Capabilities in Polymers at Queens University Gerry Mc Nally Senior Lecturer, Polymer Research Cluster Director of New Business and Strategic Partnerships POLYMER PROCESSING RESEARCH CENTRE

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“Research Connections Event ”

Overview of Research Activities and Capabilities in Polymers at Queens University

Gerry Mc Nally

Senior Lecturer, Polymer Research Cluster

Director of New Business and Strategic Partnerships



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  • Contents.

  • Background of QUB.

  • Activities of Polymers Research Cluster.

  • Overview of PPRC and Facilities.

  • PPRC Industrial Research Activities.

  • PPRC Working with Industry.

  • Academic Benefits of Working with Industry.

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1. Queens University Belfast Background

  • Established 160 years

  • Russell group (top 20) of UK Universities

  • 25,000 students

  • Research led University

    • 1500 academics and research staff

  • Annual turnover £200m --£40m research/ contracts

  • Spectrum of research Excellence

  • 24 Schools returned in 2008 RAE Cancer Research, Civil Engineering, Music, Mech & Aer Engineering ranked 4th in University. (Polymer Research Cluster)

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Polymer Research Cluster at QUB

Academic Staff

Peter Hornsby  (Director) Professor Processing

Eileen Harkin-Jones Professor Process Modelling

John Orr Professor Biomaterials

Cecil Armstrong Professor Process Modelling

Gerry McNally Senior Lecturer Director of PPRC

Peter Martin Senior Lecturer Thermoforming Modelling

Tony McNally Senior Lecturer Nanocomposite

Fraser Buchanan Senior Lecturer Biomaterials

Steve Thompson Senior Lecturer Process Control

Nicholas Dunne Lecturer Biomaterials

Marion McAfee Lecturer Process Control

Gary Menary Lecturer Process Modelling

Polymer Research Cluster has around 40-45 Post Grads, Post Docs, etc.

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2. Polymers Research Cluster

  • Scope of Research

    Leading edge multidisciplinary research into the processing, modeling and development of high performance polymeric materials, including their use in medical applications.

  • Research Centres within the Cluster

    Polymer Processing Research Centre (PPRC) formed in 1996, to focus on advanced extrusion, rotational moulding and thermoforming technologies

    Medical Polymers Research Institute (MPRI), established in 2002 through a joint initiative with the School of Pharmacy,and dedicated to high technology R&D for healthcare industries in respect of medical materials and devices.

  • Infrastructure

    Excellent processing, analytical and testing facilities for undertaking high quality applied and fundamental


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Polymers Cluster


Polymer Processing


Modelling & Control

Polymer & ceramic

based cements

Structure & property


Melt blending of nanofillers


Bioresorbable polymers

& ceramics

Free surface moulding

Surface functionalisation

of nanofillers

Stretch blow moulding

Rotational moulding

Modification of textile fibre

Using nanofillers

Polymer blends

Marine biomaterials

Dental materials

Medical polymers

Polymer foams reinforced

With nanofillers

Soft sensor viscosity control

of polymer extrusion

Polymer Cluster Research Themes

Enhanced extrusion/ moulding



polymer biocomposites

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Knowledge Transfer Activities (KTPs etc)with Industry at PPRC

  • PPRC committed to working with the plastic industry

  • Involved in KTPs (TCS) since 1985

  • Over 350 KTP to date, greatest no. for any UK University

  • 45 live KTP programmes at present

  • PPRC around 40 KTPs (TCS) since 1992

  • KTPs has been the main driver in establishing the PPRC over 12 years ago

  • KTP activities has been one of the main sources of income for sustaining the PPRC and has been the main focus for generating research activities

  • KTP activities has been one of main drivers in supporting the R&D in plastics industry in Northern Ireland and has led to growth in the local economy.

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Plastics Processing Industry on the Island

(a) Northern Ireland

Around 80 companies, 6,000 employees 70 % SMEs

(b) Republic of Ireland,

Around 150 companies, 12,000 employees, 75% SMEs

Total, 230 companies, 18,000 employees, turnover $4Billion

Medical Polymer Industry on the Island of Ireland

( The Irish Medical Device Association)

120 companies, 25,000 employees, turnover $9Billion.

Overall total, 310 companies, 43,000 employees turnover $12Billion pa.75% SMEs.

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• PPRC Established in 1996 [INI (TDP) – £1.2 million (75%)]

• Prior to 1996 - Multilayer film and tube extrusion facilities

(Chemical Engineering, DKB) funded by TCS/START


- Rotational Moulding Centre (Mechanical

Engineering, Ashby) funded by STRIDE (1994)

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  • Main Aims

    • To improve R&D capabilities of N.I. Plastics Industry

    • (82 companies, 6000 employees, 78% SMEs)

    • To expand research activities at QUB

    • Provide state of the art facilities for undergraduate and

    • postgraduate courses

    • To improve training for N.I. Industry

    • To become self financing

  • Mission

  • To become the centre of Excellence in Polymer Processing in UK and Europe

PPRC Overview

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PPRC Overview

• PPRC is unique in the Faculty because it is a fully Integrated, and Visionary Centre of Balanced Excellence in terms of

- providing enhanced teachingboth locally and internationally

- providing research outputs, knowledge transfer and improved competancies

- providing outreach to the industrial community (training & support)

- provides state-of-the-art facilitiesfor undergraduates and


- self financing

• Forward Business Plan and Research Strategy

- MPRI (£4.2 million) – 2003

- Polymer Competence Centre (New Building) - 2010

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mono/multilayer cast & blown film

mono/multilayer sheet

mono/multilayer tubes


thermosetts - SBR


Core Competencies



Analysis & Testing



multilayer tubes

multilayer tanks

Tanks, pipes, profiles,

conveyor belts, grinding

wheels, bathroom ware

Polymer Nanocomposites


masterbatches for film/sheet

masterbatches for tubes

tubes – multilayer, multilumen

films – multilayer

injection moulding

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PPRC Facilities

  • 1. Extrusion Processing Equipment

    • Monolayer – Triple layer Tube Extrusion

    • Monolayer – Triple layer Blown Film Extrusion

    • Monolayer – Triple layer, 5 layer Sheet Extrusion

    • Monolayer – Triple layer, 5 layer Cast Film Extrusion

    • Compounding

    • Injection Moulding

    • etc.

  • 2. Rotational Moulding

    • 2 Pilot Plant Rotational

    • Moulding Machines

    • Full-scale Grinder

    • Powder Testing / Analysis

    • Temperature Monitoring

    • Systems

    • 3. Thermoforming

    • Biaxial Testing

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PPRC Facilities

  • 4. Analysis Facilities

  • Rheometry (capillary, stress, etc.)

  • Thermal Analysis

  • Mechanical Analysis

  • Spectroscopy (FTIR, WAXD, SAXD)

  • Microscopy (Optical, SEM, TEM, AFM, Laser)

  • Permeability Analysis - Mocon (H2O, CO2, O2)

  • Chromatography (GC, HPLC)

  • 5. Packaging Specific Facilities

  • Heat Sealing

  • Coefficient of Friction

  • Crush/Peel Test

  • Burst Test

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MPRI Extrusion Equipment

Multilayer sheet dies

100 and 250mm wide

Multilayer tube die

Water cooling and haul off

Air cooling

Chill roll unit


Multilayer tube extrusion with water cooling

Compounding with die face pelletiser and air cooling

Two x 20mm single screw extruders

Die face pelletiser

Kneader elements

Two x 25mm single screw extruders

Computer control system


Multilayer sheet extrusion

Twin screw extruder (kneader)

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Multilayer Tube Extrusion

Water cooling and haul off

Multilayer tube extrusion

Multilayer tube die

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Facilities at MPRI

Multi-Layer Extrusion Equipment

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  • Rotational Moulding Research

  • Film & Sheet Extrusion-- Applications for medical devices & food packaging and protective battle dress

  • Polymer Blends and Additives (PVC replacements)

  • Polymers for fluid handling Applications

  • Polymers in Medical Devices

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4. Research Themes (Extrusion)

  • Films, Tubes & Sheet

    • Multilayer for improved barrier performance.

    • Materials (nylons, PET, PVdF THV etc).

    • Applications-- packaging, medical device, automotive, defence

    • (battle dress).

  • Polymer Nanocomposites

    • For improved mechanical and barrier properties.

    • Investigated wide range of nanoclays.

    • Polymers nylon 12, nylons, polyethylenes, polypropylene.

    • Masterbatch manufacture.

    • New synthetic LDH nanoparticles (Oxford).

  • Other Polymer Additives

    • PIB for stretch and cling wrap films.

    • Antimicrobials additives (silver based) and radio-opaque fillers.

    • Pigments, slip agents, bioactives .

    • Additives for biodegradability of polymers.

    • Water based barrier emulsions for carton board.

  • 4. Recycling – Thermoplastics, wood polymers, thermoset polyurethanes.

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4. RotomouldingResearch

  • Development of new generation metallocene materials

  • Development of skin / foam technology – PBA / CBA

  • Micropellet analysis and development

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4. Rotational Moulding Research

  • Collaborative research projects with local and international companies: Processors, Material Suppliers, Tool Makers, Designers & End users

  • Short term problem solving and consultancy work to medium term development and long term applied and fundamental research

  • - EU CRAFT projects

  • - EU Collective projects

  • e.g. ‘Micromelt’ Sept ‘06

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4. Motorcycle Fuel Tank Research

  • PPRC conducted development

  • trials in Italy and USA

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5. PPRC Working with the Polymer Industry Nationallyand Internationally

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5. PPRC: Working with the Polymer Industry

Industrial Partnerships with PPRC can contribute to

Increase in client base

Increase in product portfolio

Increase in turnover

Increase in no. of employees

PPRC Partnerships with Industry, contribution to University profile

Greatly increased levels of research activity on Polymers

Publications in Journals and International Conferences

Invited papers and presentations worldwide

Underpins global recognition for PPRC

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5. Invest NI/DTI Knowledge Transfer Programmes with PPRC

40 Programmes

45 Associates

25 Grade 1

3 National Awards

1997 - Best KTP with a SME - Wilsanco

1998 - Best KTP - Jordan Plastics

2002 - Best KTP for Engineering Excellence (Royal Academy of Engineering) - Steve Orr LTD

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Total 25 current live major projects

5. PPRC: Current Research Projects with the Polymer Industry


CANYON EUROPE (Belfast), GMN/AHC 2003-2008

CHERRY PIPES (Loughgall), AHC/GMN 2006-2008

SMILELY MONROE (Lisburn), AHC/GMN 2006-2008

PERFECSEAL (Derry), GMN/AHC 2006-2008

STEVE ORR Ltd. (Dromore), GMN/AHC 2006-2008

ARTGLASS (Derry), AHC/BM 2005-2007

BAPCO CLOSURES (Larne), MB/BM 2006-2008

ROTOTECH (England), MK/GMN 2007-2009


EARTHWOOD (Mullingar), AHC/GMN 2005-2007

IRISH COMPOSITES (Galway), MK 2005-2007

ATTO ABRASIVES (Wexford), GMN/AHC 2005-2007

VISTAMED (Carrick/Shannon), GMN 2006-2008

CREGANNA (Galway), GMN 2007-2009



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  • Academic Benefits and Challenges of Industry Collaboration Personal ReflectionsBenefits1.Funding for Institutions, improved facilities and other resources 2.Publications at international conferences, journals etc 3.More informed teaching up to date case studies.4.Networking with other companies, more research projects and funding Challenges1.The urgent need to align research areas with industry needs 2.The need to deliver programmes in a timely fashion3. Lack of suitable resources4. Lack of recognition by academic peers and institution5. Lack of good graduates

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4. PPRC Staff Worldwide Conferences(Approx. 25 papers p.a.)

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4. Research Areas & Publications

  • Polymer Processing Symposia at PPRC

  • 2002 – 21 papers (1 day event)

  • 2003 – 20 papers (1 day event)

  • 2004 – 36 papers (2 days) – SPE Europe event

  • 2006 – 40 papers (2 days) – SPE Europe event

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4.Tenth Anniversary Conference5-6 April 2006

Mr Leslie Morrison, CEO INI, Mr Len Czuba, President Society of Plastics Engineers,

Mr Gerry McNally, Director PPRC QUB,

Mr Peter Davis, Director General British Plastics Federation at the

PPRC Conference 5th, 6th April 2006.

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  • Large, diverse, dynamic industry, several firms have developed a strong research and development focus and as such have become global market leaders.

  • Urgent need for investment in more “Industry Led Centres of Excellence” and more collaboration from academics for industry focused research

  • Urgent need for investment in Polymer Processing Competence Centre, to reflect the urgent needs of industry and translate research to industry in a more timely fashion.

  • Prerequisite to have pilot plant and characterisation equipment at these Centres for proof of concept and prototyping

  • NIPA have applied for INI funding for new Industry led Polymer Competence Centre, min £10-12 M (2009-2004). Inviting collaboration with PI.

  • Need to recruit and retain expert engineering and science staff to translate and deliver programmes

  • Urgent need to train good graduates in multidiscipline courses for the industry.