Curbell Plastics (Orchard Park, NY) received the top award in the Plastics Application Design Competition today at the annual International Association of Plastics Distribution (IAPD) Convention and Plastics Expo in Chicago. Its design of a component for the National Synchrotron Light Source II at the Brookhaven National Laboratory beat entries from Cope Plastics (Alton, IL), which came in second, and Vycom (Chicago). Keith Hechtel, Director of Business Development at Curbell, who was directly involved in the material selection process, accepted the award.
An engineer working on the synchrotron, an electron storage ring roughly the size of a football field, needed a nonmetallic component for a magnet and called up Curbell, Hechtel recounted. "The material needed to be strong, because the machine needs to last 30 years; it had to have tremendous dimensional stability; and be able to operate in a vacuum environment," said Hechtel. No problem, Curbell has materials that can meet those requirements, he thought. "But there was one more thing: it had to withstand one billion rads of radiation. I had to tell him the one thing I hate to say to a customer: let me get back to you on that," said Hechtel.
He did his research and found that G10 glass epoxy and PEEK could handle that radiation, and then some. The synchrotron is almost finished, he added, at a cost of $950 million, and he is understandably proud of his and his company's contribution to the project.