Molecular orientation distributions during injection molding of liquid crystalline polymers: Ex situ investigation of partially filled moldings



The development of molecular orientation in thermotropic liquid crystalline polymers (TLCPs) during injection molding has been investigated using two-dimensional wide-angle X-ray scattering coordinated with numerical computations employing the Larson–Doi polydomain model. Orientation distributions were measured in “short shot” moldings to characterize structural evolution prior to completion of mold filling, in both thin and thick rectangular plaques. Distinct orientation patterns are observed near the filling front. In particular, strong extension at the melt front results in nearly transverse molecular alignment. Far away from the flow front shear competes with extension to produce complex spatial distributions of orientation. The relative influence of shear is stronger in the thin plaque, producing orientation along the filling direction. Exploiting an analogy between the Larson–Doi model and a fiber orientation model, we test the ability of process simulation tools to predict TLCP orientation distributions during molding. Substantial discrepancies between model predictions and experimental measurements are found near the flow front in partially filled short shots, attributed to the limits of the Hele–Shaw approximation used in the computations. Much of the flow front effect is however “washed out” by subsequent shear flow as mold filling progresses, leading to improved agreement between experiment and corresponding numerical predictions. POLYM. ENG. SCI.,, 2011. © 2011 Society of Plastics Engineers