PITA Fiscal Year 2010 Projects - Product and Process Design and Optimization

Dynamic Melt Control For The Manufacture Of Enhanced Polymer-Based Biomedical Devices

Principal Investigators: John P. Coulter, Burak Bekisli

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. Components of the study will explore 1) the development and assessment 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 via dynamic melt control during manufacturing. Matching support for the project will be provided by the National Science Foundation, and Pennsylvania based companies likely to commercialize the technology if successful will be involved throughout the project’s entirety.