An expert in all things plastic
Morten Nielsen has specialist skills in plastics that few people possess. He has worked at Semcon since 2012 and has held various roles, such as team leader, project manager and designer. In his Semcon Story, Morten allows us to tag along and scratch the surface of his vast knowledge of and passion for plastics and innovative product development. Join us!
Morten was fascinated by plastics even before he started his engineering studies.
“It’s a relatively new material with boundless possibilities. In Denmark, where I live and grew up, there was only one engineering degree that you could do that specialised in plastics, in Helsingør, so I did that. Since then, I’ve spent more than 30 years working on my specialist skills and interest in plastics,” says Morten.
With experience comes knowledge of how to combine and tailor material performance, for example, and how to learn to choose the right plastic and design for the purpose.
Great opportunities for recycling plastics
“There are about 50 different polymer families, and these can be combined with one another. And what’s more, all these combinations can also be combined with additives such as reinforcing fibres, colour pigments, metal pigments and so on,” says Morten.
“Thermoplastics are also beginning to compete with traditional thermosetting materials such as the ones used for fibreglass and rubber components,” he continues. “It’s a really exciting world with some fantastic opportunities as regards to material performance, and there are some massive developments to come when it comes to recycling plastics and devising new options for producing bio-based plastics in the current world transformation, where we’re aiming to become more sustainable.”
From life science to mobility and energy
Plastics are used in most industries, so Morten has moved freely across many sectors; from medical technology and mechatronics to car design.
“The most enjoyable bit is being involved right from the outset,” says Morten. “But I also love being involved in ‘firefighting’, going in and analysing things and finding solutions to design work that’s gone wrong,” he counters quickly.
Both are things that Morten does in his various roles, which have included being involved in the development of products in the life science, consumer electronics, food and packaging, mobility, energy and security industries.
Morten explains that the molecular structure of polymers makes them less resistant to constant stress over long periods. Polymers behave quite differently to metals. Polymers are made up of polymer chains with long structures in a chaotic pattern. They behave in a very complex way as the interaction between the various external factors such as temperature and stress level makes it difficult to calculate how the plastic will behave and what it will be capable of withstanding.
“Telling when the material is failing becomes very complex when you combine all these factors. Moreover, it’s difficult to know exactly what state the material will be in.”
Simulation tools help to enhance understanding
Joining projects for the purpose of firefighting means that Morten really gets to challenge his expertise.
It’s important to analyse the stress level and the performance of the material and find a solution to the problem. Advanced simulation software helps me to understand more accurately where the problems occur on the component.
– Morten Nielsen, Mechanical Engineer
One of the many advantages of working at Semcon is the partnership between areas of expertise and the exchange of knowledge. For instance, Morten says that the great cooperation with electronics engineers has created some excellent product values.
“The plastic can have electrical functions as well. We can make electrically conductive plastics by mixing in metal fibres, and we can make them conduct heat as well. EMC (electromagnetic radiation) problems can be reduced by means of shielding.”
Morten also explains that if you want to make a plastic sleeve, you can make a casing from a conductive material so as to create a damping effect on the product so as not to interfere electronically. You can also place electrical conductor paths in the plastic using special injection moulding technology.
Motivated by the variety of assignments
There is no doubt that Morten enjoys working as a consultant and is passionate about what he does. He explains how the wide variety of assignments and clients motivates him. Morten tries to remain open and curious, gaining insight into and understanding the challenge he is facing, and then gaining further insight into the technical possibilities that can lend strength and help with finding the best solution.
"And it’s also important to find your complement to the engineering role, which takes up so much brainpower. Personally, I love music, singing and salsa dancing.” says Morten.
Title: Mechanical engineer
Education: Mechanical Engineering, specialising in Plastics Technology and Lean Product Development.
Worked at Semcon since: 2012
I have the most fun at work when: I can make a difference for my customers