Technology and Invention is a series by Rogers Corporation about the innovation, pioneering spirit, and transformative technologies that are creating a cleaner, safer, more connected world. Part 1: Historical Milestones.
Part 2: The Promise of Plastic
“Have you ever seen a polypropylene molecule?” a plastics enthusiast once asked me. “It’s one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen. It’s like looking at a cathedral that goes on and on for miles.” – Susan Frienkel in Scientific American
The word “plastic” comes from the Greek verb plassein, which means “to mold or shape.” The term was first recorded in the early 1900s, about 100 years after the early chemists starting working with natural rubber.
Plastics can be shaped because of their long, flexing chains bonded in a repeating pattern into one gigantic molecule. This structure promised a glorious revolution.
The plastics revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries held out the promise of a new material, even cultural democracy. “[Plastics] freed us from the confines of the natural world, from the material constraints and limited supplies that had long bounded human activity,” said Susan Frienkel in “A Brief History of Plastic’s Conquest of the World.” She continued, “That new elasticity unfixed social boundaries as well. The arrival of these malleable and versatile materials gave producers the ability to create a treasure trove of new products while expanding opportunities for people of modest means to become consumers.”
Parkesine is considered the first man-made plastic, patented by Alexander Parkes, Birmingham, UK in 1856. Made from cellulose treated with nitric acid as a solvent, it won a bronze medal at the 1862 World’s Fair in London.
Modern plastics development took a big turn in the 1860’s when a young printer, John Wesley Hyatt, used cellulose nitrate (celluloid) as a way to produce billiard balls from materials other than the rapidly diminishing supply of ivory.
In 1899, Arthur Smith patented phenol-formaldehyde resins for use in electrical insulation. Shortly thereafter, cellulose acetate, a thermoplastic, was developed; similar in structure to cellulose nitrate, it was found to be safer to process and use.
The commercial development of today’s major thermoplastics began in the 1930-1940’s. The advent of World War II brought plastics — polyvinyl chloride, low density polyethylene, polystyrene, and polymethyl methacrylate. — into demand, largely as substitutes for materials in short supply, such as natural rubber.
During this era, the major thrust of research at Rogers Corp. was centered in the new field of polymeric materials. In 1932, Rogers began a long-term association with Dr. Leo Baekeland, a Belgium-born, American chemist who invented Bakelite in 1907. Bakelite was an inexpensive, nonflammable, versatile plastic that marked the beginning of the modern plastics industry. A popular product, Bakelite was the first plastic to hold its shape after being heated – also known as a thermoset plastic. Rogers’ association with Dr. Baekeland would lead to a family of phenolic resin plastics, Fiberloy, for insulation in early electric motors.
By the end of World War II, Rogers Paper Manufacturing Company was renamed Rogers Corporation, reflecting the broad diversity of products, services, and markets.
The Modern World of Plastics
The first decade after World War II saw the development of polypropylene and high density polyethylene and the growth of the new plastics in many applications. “In product after product, market after market, plastics challenged traditional materials and won, taking the place of steel in cars, paper and glass in packaging, and wood in furniture,” said Frienkel.
In 1949, Rogers introduced fiber-reinforced polymer materials – named Duroid® – for gaskets and electrical insulation. In 1953, RT/duroid® glass microfiber and ceramic fiber-reinforced PTFE materials were developed, initially as chemical resistant gasket materials. Rogers entered the Space Age when Duroid® 5600 was incorporated in the Jupiter space vehicle as the electronic window material.
In the mid 1950s, Rogers acquired a small elastomer fabrication company in Connecticut, which developed Mektron® molded circuits for use in mechanical switches and timers in appliances, automobiles, and other industrial applications. This was the beginning of an extended period of sustained growth for Rogers Corp., for polymers, and for the new world of electronics.
Next: The Age of Electronics
Rogers Corporation provides innovative solutions for power electronics, advanced foams for cushioning and protective sealing, and high-frequency printed circuit materials. For over 180 years, we have empowered breakthroughs in reliability, efficiency, and performance, to help our customers build a cleaner, safer, and more connected world.
A plethora of standards have been developed or are in the works for connected car / intelligent transport system (ITS) technologies. Implementation is now largely in the hands of automotive manufacturers.
In 2015, more than 20% of vehicles sold worldwide will include embedded connectivity and more than half will be connected by embedded, tethered, or smartphone integration. By 2025, every new car will be connected in multiple ways.
A variety of development projects are in the works related to in-car, car-to-driver, and car-to-x connectivity. In a recent survey of 250 CxOs in European automotive companies, challenges remain in software development, security, and testing (Figure 1).
Jaguar, for instance, has added a new pothole warning system to the Land Rover. Using data from the road-sensing magnetic shocks, “the system records the magnitude of road impacts, tags their location, and uploads them to a cloud server where other drivers would be warned of a potential pothole, sunken manhole cover, or deep storm drain. When combined with a stereo camera – two optical cameras positioned close together for judging depth – the car could precisely locate that hole in the road, snap a pic, and report it to the local public-works authority. The Range Rover’s shocks would also prepare for impact if the driver doesn’t heed the warning, tensing and slackening accordingly.”
The next stage of the project at Jaguar Land Rover’s Advanced Research Centre in the UK is to install new road surface sensing technology in the vehicle, including an advanced forward-facing stereo digital camera.
When it comes to infotainment and smartphone integration, several competing vendor-initiated connectivity systems are in play.
Google Android Auto leverages the strength of Google Maps, and also supports messaging, music, weather, and other smartphone apps. Following closely on Google’s heels, Apple’s CarPlay integrates iPhone apps with a car’s digital systems. It works with Siri voice control and the car’s control knobs, buttons, or touchscreens. Functions include maps, phone, messaging, music, news, audiobooks, and more.
But Toyota hasn’t jumped on board either yet. Their engineers are studying whether to adopt SmartDeviceLink (SDL) technology, an open source version of Ford AppLink. AppLink gives drivers command and control of smartphone apps through dashboard buttons, display screens and voice recognition technology.
The Hyundai Sonata is the first car to integrate Google Android Auto. Chevy will offer both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in 14 models that will debut this year. But Ford’s SDL technology is already in more than 5 million Ford vehicles globally, giving it a big head start.
The automotive radar market is evolving into a mix of frequencies – 24 GHz, 77 GHz, and 79 GHz – as technology allows and economics permit, said John Coonrod, Market Development Manager at Rogers’ Advanced Connectivity Solutions. For circuit designers and component specifiers, the rules change at these higher millimeter-wave frequencies.
The RO4000 Series High Frequency Circuit Laminates are an excellent choice for cost/performance for 24GHz radar applications. The RO4835has been developed for extreme stability, even when exposed to the harsh environments of automotive applications. For high moisture environments, the RT/duroid® 5870 and 5880 high frequency laminates have a very low dielectric constant and extremely low water absorption characteristics. For 77GHz automotive radar applications, the RO3003 laminate is the preferred choice due to high material uniformity.
According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Rear-end crashes kill about 1,700 people every year and injure half a million more. More than 80% of these deaths and injuries might have been mitigated had the vehicles been equipped with a collision avoidance system.”
A Con-way study of its fleet supports the NHTSA data. Con-way drivers operating truck-tractors equipped with safety systems showed a lower crash rate and a decline in risky driving behavior. The study showed a 71% decline in rear-end collisions and a 63% decline in unsafe following behaviors.
Safety concerns have led to a strong push around the world for more rapid uptake of connected car technologies, especially in the area of collision avoidance. These technologies are part of the larger class of developments referred to as intelligent transport systems (ITS), which cover everything from car navigation and parking guidance to bridge de-icing and container management.
In a new report, “The Use of Forward Collision Avoidance Systems to Prevent and Mitigate Rear-End Crashes,” the NTSB recommends that manufacturers make collision avoidance systems standard equipment in new vehicles, beginning with collision warning systems, and, once the standards are finalized, autonomous emergency braking. According to the report, “Slow and insufficient action on the part of the NHTSA to develop performance standards for these technologies and require them in passenger and commercial vehicles, as well as a lack of incentives for manufacturers, has contributed to the ongoing and unacceptable frequency of rear-end crashes.”
Intelligent Transport Systems / Connected Car Technologies
The primary goal of collision avoidance technology is to prevent crashes by detecting a conflict and alerting the driver, and, in many systems, aiding in brake application or automatic application of the brakes. As shown in Figure 1, a complete collision avoidance system includes the collision warning system (CWS), dynamic brake support (DBS), and autonomous brakes (AEB). In commercial systems, the DBS is limited or absent.
Figure 1. Components of a collision avoidance system. Source: “The Use of Forward Collision Avoidance Systems to Prevent and Mitigate Rear-End Crashes.”
A typical collision avoidance system uses LIDAR, radar, or cameras to monitor the driving environment. When a conflict is detected, warning cues alert the driver. If the conflict persists, the system initiates AEB or provides additional braking force if the driver response too slowly or not strongly enough.
There are a lot of moving pieces in this industry (pun intended J ) So where do things stand in terms of connected vehicle standards? A variety of efforts have been in the works from a number of organizations for 10+ years. Recent developments include integrating commercial vehicles into the ITS framework and some interesting work by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The ISO 15638 series “Telematics Applications for Regulated commercial Vehicles (TARV)” standards are based on the same secure communications that are used for cooperative intelligent transport systems (C-ITS). This technology uses the 2G/3G mobile technology already installed for today’s fleet management systems. It also can use the 5.8 GHz technology used for electronic toll collection, and it can migrate to LTE/4G communications or use the new dedicated 5.9 GHz technology being developed for C-ITS.
Recognizing increased consumer demand for data and services in connected cars, W3C has launched a new automotive industry collaboration to bring drivers and passengers a better Web experience. The effort will focus initially on giving application vendors standard and more secure access to vehicle data.
ISO is the most active standards organization in this area. For a preview of what the new connected car driving experience will look like, they have created this fun, interactive infographic that includes references to the relevant standards:
Here at Rogers Corporation, we help power, protect, and connect our world. On the surface, it means Rogers helps our world with greater reliability, efficiency, and performance, to build a safer, cleaner, and more connected world. The materials technologies we create deliver solutions for tomorrow’s breakthroughs. These range from end market applications that include mobile internet devices, broadcast satellites, medical instruments, automotive safety sensors, and even radar.
Dig deeper, though, and you see that Rogers is taking the meaning of “power, protect, connect our world” to also include being a good global corporate citizen. Being a good global corporate citizen involves being environmentally responsible, safety and socially conscious with our employees and individuals we interact with, and being an active participant in the communities in which we operate.
This means that at Rogers there are a lot of things we’re doing behind the scenes to make the world a better place to live. These things come with every piece of material we ship, whether laminate or bondply. Because when you buy RT/duroid®, RO3000®, RO4000®, CLTE™, or any other dielectric materials from Rogers, you should have peace of mind knowing that you in turn are also being a good citizen by buying from a responsible supplier.
Here’s how ROG cares…
Environmental protection starts at Rogers with an active Pollution Prevention Plan. Our Pollution Prevention Plan drives the efficient use of materials, reduces our environmental burden, reduces facility costs, and helps create a healthier workplace for employees. Air quality, water quality, and waste management are all taken into account in our plan and we try to not just meet but exceed any regulatory requirements. Renewing our Pollution Prevention Plan annually ensures that we are always striving to create new environmental goals and further reduce our environmental impact.
All projects at Rogers start with this question: “How can we make this safer and more environmentally friendly?” When we find room for improvement, we strive to make those necessary changes.
At Rogers, the health and safety of every employee is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. From the personal protective gear worn, to the volunteer safety teams that meet weekly to brainstorm safety suggestions for their floor manager, safety is clearly the priority. Employees at all levels have the authority to stop manufacturing operations immediately if they perceive the safety of employees is threatened. Sending employees home at night with the same health they arrived in the morning is of the utmost importance.
Participation in safety initiatives is part of the Must-Do Results all employees must complete. Even during meetings, safety is the first objective to be met, as a way to ensure everyone is aware and refreshed on the procedures. New and innovative ways of decreasing injury on the job are being thought of and implemented with safety suggestions. Additionally, it’s just not employees’ physical health that gets taken into account. The mental health of employees is just as important.
When it comes to safety, everyone’s voice matters and all opinions are listened to.
Social Consciousness and Community Participation
Rogers is aware of the impact that a company can have. Part of being a conscious global citizen is realizing that it is possible to make a difference. Because of this mindset, new products are being created that are halogen free. Rogers’ employees are not afraid to speak up when they see someone that needs help. Engaging employees is the number one Must-Do Result for Rogers, and as part of that goal, we set out to have socially conscious employees that are always striving to improve the lives of everyone they touch. The culture at Rogers is such that your coworkers are your family.
The family mentality is not just restricted to employees. Rogers has an extended family: the community. We reach out to the communities we’re located in by being involved with various non-profits and charities.
Some are local, like A New Leaf®, which focuses on Arizona families in need. We have worked with A New Leaf® for the last four years providing school supplies each new school year. Others span the globe, such as Feed My Starving Children®, which provides malnourished children in 70 countries with food. Some initiatives have a smaller impact, like Be a Santa to a Senior®, which brings some holiday joy to seniors in assisted living and nursing homes. Others are targeted to have a broader impact, like blood and food drives for United Way.
Rogers is located around the globe, with plants in Belgium and China following the same standards. It would be easy to become complacent regarding environmental and safety issues across borders, but that’s not the case. Process Safety Management (PSM) has been implemented worldwide, despite it being only a U.S. regulation, because it provides the best overall program to ensure the safety of the plant and the employees. A new treater was installed in Suzhou, China that implements the latest technologies to reduce emissions and noise. Employees in Suzhou stay involved in the community by participating in programs aimed to educate school children. In Ghent, Belgium, Environmental, Health, and Safety (EH&S) objectives are put in place annually to monitor continuous improvements. Recycling of natural resources and supplies is an important element of reducing our environmental impact.
The various examples listed above are just a sampling of the initiatives Rogers is involved in. We are dedicated to being environmentally and socially conscious, to being a valued member of the communities in which we work, and above all, to do our best to ensure the health and safety of our employees.
When you buy from Rogers, you can have peace of mind knowing that you are buying from a supplier that makes the world truly run better by powering, protecting, and connecting our world.
We’re here to help you understand all the good work being done at Rogers. To read more about what we are doing to be a good global corporate citizen, stay tuned for more information about specific programs and initiatives.
When someone says “Internet of Things,” the public tends to think of interconnected Apple watches and smart thermostats…and maybe a lot of hype (see Gartner’s Hype Cycle, 2014). But the IoT is much more…it’s about intelligent, adaptive sensors, actuators, and other devices that provide a digital interface for our analog world, and connect streams of digitized data from these devices to a vast array of networks. These networks then communicate with back-end services, computing ecosystems, even social networks.
The numbers are astounding. We are rapidly moving from thousands to millions to billions of smart, connected devices that seamlessly integrate and interoperate. Vertical market opportunities that are showing early growth are consumer goods, eHealth, transportation, energy, and industrial automation.
The beauty of this hot new market opportunity is that the IoT takes advantage of existing global telecom systems and data protocols (e.g. TCP/IP, wi-fi) to provide limitless scalability.
Reducing Power Consumption
But the IoT isn’t without its’ challenges. Power, for instance. Devices need to become more energy efficient as many will run on batteries. Joe Weinman, Chair of IEEE’s Intercloud Testbed Initiative states that battery power needs to be either extended or complemented, possibly by generating power through piezoelectricity based on microscopic vibrations in the environment. In addition, the networks need efficient, low-latency protocols as architectures that support more ubiquitous networking, such as mesh technologies. Nanotechnology also plays a role as new technologies deliver increased efficiencies in price/power/performance in IoT infrastructures.
Given the tremendous number of devices, does the IoT need its own network? Industry experts are debating the issue. Many say that the three big wireless technologies – cellular wide area networks, wi-fi local area networks, and Bluetooth smart personal area networks – will suffice. According to Forbes:
While existing infrastructure is sufficient in some nations, like South Korea, where high-speed broadband access is the norm across the country, high-speed access is not yet pervasive outside major U.S. cities. Although ranked 10th in the world for high Internet speeds, “we aren’t even at the point where every city has good Internet,” IEEE’s George K. Thiruvathukal points out. Most U.S. cities lack fiber-optic Internet access and, average connection speeds overall in the U.S. are 10 MB per second (Mbps). South Korea’s average connection speed is 21.9 Mbps.
The major telecom operators focus their services on cell-based networks to facilitate high data rate applications. But those are too expensive and demand too much energy for the majority of IoT applications. Most IoT devices (also known as M2M or machine-to-machine devices) aren’t bandwidth hogs; they only need enough capacity to periodically send small amounts of data. LPWAN (low power, wide area networks) are “unapologetically slow.” These networks are based on a new protocol that taps the unlicensed wireless spectrum of the industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) radio band (such as the 900MHz band in the U.S.). Speeds are measured in the hundreds of bits per second or less and they can coexist with cellular nets. They can also be used as backup for cellular networks to keep devices connected when broadband just won’t reach.
According to Stephen Lawson, writing in Computerworld, “One advantage of the low data rates on LPWANs is that they don’t require as many base stations as cell networks do. With that factor and unlicensed frequencies, the cost of connecting can be dramatically lower. Enterprises buying connectivity for many devices may pay as little as $1 per connection, per year.”
These slower data rates also have implications for chip technology. Soon we won’t need vast amounts of calculations per second. Sending a temperature measurement once a second or once a minute from a remote sensor requires far fewer instructions than rendering a complicated, 3D CAD drawing.
LPWAN provider Senet uses an RF-based solution to transmit and receive data to and from sensors and controllers over long distances at very low costs. “We can connect sensors over distances of more than 100 km (62 miles) in favorable environments with sensors that can be powered over 10 years with AA batteries. In addition, it’s highly secure, using AES128 keys, making communication tampering and eavesdropping virtually impossible,” said George Dannecker, CEO, Senet.
Cliff Ortmeyer, Newark element14, provides an overview in EBN of the biggest IoT adoption issues that need to be resolved. For instance, several competing IoT architecture standards have emerged, including Google’s Physical Web, the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), the Open Interconnected Consortium, and Thread, a new IP-based wireless networking protocol pulling together support from Google, Samsung, ARM, and Freescale Semiconductor.
Every device that connects to the Internet requires its own unique numerical label – an IP address. As it stands, the vast majority of these IP addresses run on a fourth generation version of the Internet Protocol known as IPv4. Unfortunately, that limits us to about 4.3 billion unique addresses. We’re already way over capacity and using workarounds like Network Address Translation (NAT) to provide the illusion of more space. IPv6 is a 128-bit protocol that offers 340 unidecillion addresses (34 plus 37 zero’s)!
In the meantime, developers are forging ahead, developing new technologies that will help the IoT become a self-sustaining network of everyday objects that provides a higher collective value than the individual objects.
• High frequency circuit materials deliver the performance needed by M2M sensors, wireless base stations, satellite antennas, and network servers and storage.
• High temperature silicone materials are ideal as gaskets and seals, cushions, and thermal and acoustic insulation in demanding conditions.
• Laminated multilayer busbars provide efficient and compact connections for propulsion, auxiliary, and other IGBT based converters in transportation systems.