Manufacturing Ideas to Watch – Issue 11 (March 2018)

In this issue of Manufacturing Ideas to Watch: Scalable Manufacturing of Thin Film Devices, Fabricating Microneedles, Boosting Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Efficiency, Better Corrosion Protection. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment!

Scalable and Cost-effective Manufacturing of Thin Film Devices

Diagram of red-colored nanospheres and nanowires
Heating of silver nanospheres and nanowires after being fused by intense pulses of light. Image source: Rajiv Malhotra/Rutgers University-New Brunswick

Engineers at Rutgers University–New Brunswick and Oregon State University are developing a new method of processing nanomaterials that could lead to faster and cheaper manufacturing of flexible, thin film devices – from touch screens to window coatings. The “intense pulsed light sintering” method uses high-energy light over an area nearly 7,000 times larger than a laser to fuse nanomaterials in seconds. The sharp reduction in temperature needed for fusion makes it possible to use low-cost, temperature-sensitive plastic substrates like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polycarbonate in flexible devices, without damaging them.
– Michael Dexter & Rajiv Malhotra, Rutgers University – New Brunswick

A New, Inexpensive Way to Fabricate Microneedles

Close up image of microneedles
Photo: Alonso Nichols. Image source: Press Release

A Tufts research team has devised a method to make microneedles without cleanrooms, using readily available materials and equipment. The process creates molds using a laser cutting technique that allows for the fabrication of different-size microneedles. Using a carbon-dioxide laser, which is readily available in many facilities, microscopic molds are etched on sheets of commonly used acrylic, employing a “crossover lines laser ablation technique.” The molds are then used to create degradable microneedles using inexpensive polyvinyl alcohol polymer. This process is easy to scale up, and only requires a laser cutter to create the molds.
Sameer Sonkusale, Tufts University

Boosting Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Efficiency with ‘Green’ Catalysis

Diagram of tubular reactor used in the new manufacturing process
Diagram of the microsphere-packed, tubular reactor used in the new “pseudo-homogeneous” catalysis technique. Image source: Press Release

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a green chemistry method that for the first time combines aspects of palladium-driven catalytic processes that are either (a) wasteful and fast or (b) minimally-wasteful and slow, to improve efficiency at a minimal cost of processing time. These palladium-driven catalytic reactions are used to connect carbons in small, organic molecules to create larger molecules for use in pharmaceuticals and synthesis of fine chemicals. The new continuous flow chemistry technique, called pseudo-homogeneous catalysis, relies on novel catalytic mircrospheres based on elastic silicone chemistry and created using microfluidics. One other advantage of the pseudo-homogeneous technique is that it makes use of nontoxic solvents, i.e., water and ethanol.
Milad Abolhasani, North Carolina State University

Bromide-based Aluminum Electroplating for Better Corrosion Protection

Photo of two drill bits on a dark blue background, one has a white coating on the bottom half
Tool steel drill bit before and after the aluminum coating. Image source: Research Article: Aluminum electroplating on steel from a fused bromide electrolyte [may be paywalled]

Parts made of steel, brass, copper, and other metals are commonly electroplated with aluminum to protect against corrosion. During deposition, aluminum ions can diffuse into the substrate metal to form a metallic interlayer that is critical to mitigate the corrosion of the structural components in a chloride environment. Electroplating at a relatively higher temperature promotes significant diffusion of surface aluminum to form the metallic interlayer with the substrate. Current electroplating solutions, made either from pure chloride melts or room temperature ionic liquids, are not carried out at sufficiently high temperatures to promote the formation of a robust diffused interlayer. Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory have developed bromide-based aluminum electroplating solutions that can be carried out at a relatively higher temperature (350°C), and so they are able to produce a much thicker, stronger, and uniform diffused metallic interlayer than just the surface aluminum coating usually formed from the other two electrolytes. The process, which can be used in the same setups as is currently used in commercial electroplating operations, also has less functional electrolyte loss and improved coating performance characteristics.
Ryan Bills & Prabhat Tripathy, Idaho National Laboratory


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