The role of the material developer in the development process for technical plastic components.
The role that the material developer plays (or ideally should play) quickly becomes clear if you take a closer look at the entire chain - from product development to application development to the tooling/processing process - in plastics production or plastics compounding. Then you quickly come to the conclusion that the material developer plays a very decisive, major role. The earlier he is involved in the material selection process, the more efficiently the selection of the potentially suitable material can be narrowed down. His range of applications extends from the selection of the potentially suitable polymer base and the appropriate additives to the right tool and process design. This means that a good material developer actually plays several roles at once.
The role of the combiner
The role of the combiner is characterized by the fact that the material developer on the one hand has to combine the application-specific knowledge of the component manufacturer about the functions and requirements of the component or the load case with his material knowledge. Does "such and such polymer structure" fit "such and such" requirement? Do "the and the fillers or reinforcing materials and additives" fit? A really good material developer knows or finds out. Trial and error makes perfect!
The role of the conductor
The first "constructive" topics are completed, the specifications are used to select materials, the design is discussed, and the question is asked: "Are the components sufficiently designed in terms of plastics? "Then come discussions about the molds - you ask yourself: "Are we using the right sprue systems? Is the melt flow in the component optimal? Is the mold cavity being filled?"
The role of the material manufacturer ideally merges with the role of the material developer.
In every moment of this scenario (as well as in the ones that follow), a material developer should ideally be able to slip into the role of a conductor. In the role of someone who ensures that all the individual instruments come together to form a large harmonious whole. Or, to put it more technically: that each cog meshes neatly with the others.
The role of the faithful companion
A faithful companion goes by the side of his partner through thick and thin, climbs with him the highest heights and roams the deepest depths. Without leaving his side at any time - without leaving his partner unprotected in the rain. This also applies - albeit much less "romantically" - to a first-class material developer for high-performance plastics or, ultimately, for plastic components (if he takes his role seriously): From design issues and mold design to the reliable processing of materials and polymer compounds, he is an ever-reliable business partner who is competent in all matters and a loyal companion.
The role of the focused project partner
In the role of the focused project partner, the ideal material developer is convincing as the one who knows in each new "game" (i.e. development process) who is particularly important now. In terms of plastics production or compounding, this means that if a material is already available, then the application technology specialists can come into play right away. If this is not the case, the "Product Development" team comes into play first. Once these sections have been completed, he sends the players from "Mold Design" and "Processing" onto the field (both of whom are also members of the "Application Engineering Service" team). Above all, he makes sure that everyone involved is always exchanging ideas and information with each other, so that they grow together into a really well-functioning team.
It's like polymerization: it's the synthesis, the bringing together, that counts.
The role of the good listener
When it comes to product-specific tests as part of component development, the material developer is always in the spotlight as the one who can a) be asked for advice on test results, who b) also knows advice and c) can implement it in concrete application-specific modifications.
The role of the efficiency enhancer
As a result of shorter product life cycles, the really good material developer plays an important role in that he can ensure - on the basis of his material expertise - that the iteration and optimization loops or development or repair times of components, for example, are as efficient as possible. Always with a view to saving time and meeting development deadlines.
The role of the discoverer
On the way to new shores, experience from the past alone often doesn't help - if there is any at all (see electromobility). Suddenly, many questions arise that did not exist before. The role of the material developer here is, for example, to carry out a joint risk assessment or risk evaluation in exchange with the component developer in order to make further progress as innovative and at the same time as constructive as possible.
Conclusion: There is no such thing as the perfect roll. What matters is a broad spectrum of roles.
The role of the material manufacturer should ideally merge with the role of the material developer - a very varied role which, above all, must not just be played, but must be lived credibly in all the necessary facets. The LEHVOSS material developer for Customized Polymer Materials masters these roles like the back of his hand. He is part of a team that has been dealing with the topic of high-performance compounds for almost 40 years.