PITA Fiscal Year 2011 Projects

Dynamic Melt Control for the Manufacture of Enhanced Polymer-Based Biomedical Devices

Lead University: Lehigh University
PI: John P. Coulter, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics
Co-PI(s): Burak Bekisli, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics

The future development of biopolymer-based medical devices is going to require the deployment of advanced manufacturing techniques to fabricate components with mechanical and biodegradable properties tailored to specific biomedical applications. This could be achieved via selectively controlling the molecular orientation throughout manufactured polymer products. Towards this end, the proposed research project focuses on the development of advanced injection molding science for molecular orientation based processing of bioinert and biodegradable polymer systems.

During recent years a dynamic polymer melt manipulation technique known as vibration-assisted injection molding (VAIM) has been developed and investigated at Lehigh University. This technique is based on using motion of the injection screw to apply mechanical vibration to polymer melts during the injection and packing stages of the molding process to align the polymer molecules along the direction of the polymer melt oscillation. While the VAIM technique was found to be effective, the unique real-time visualization of the temporally induced molecular orientation has led to the conception of enhanced dynamic melt control methodologies which serve as the focus of the present proposal.

It is proposed to further enhance the effectiveness of melt manipulation processing for localized product quality control, and to do so specifically for polymers associated with biomedical applications. During the initial phase of the project, significant progress has been achieved on the originally proposed components of the study: 1) the development of novel routes to implement dynamic melt control; and 2) the capability to reliably tune important biodegradable polymer product quality characteristics such as degradation kinetics during manufacturing. Moreover, a deep experimental analysis at the molecular level has been found to be critical to the full understanding of polymer biodegradation processes. With the proposed extension, specialized experiments will be conducted while continuing the current studies.

Matching support for the project will be provided by the National Science Foundation.