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  • Overview of 2019 Quality Show – Quality Management in Laboratories and Manufacturing Operations

    By Allen Licha, PMP, Cospheric LLC

    Last month Cospheric attended the Quality Show in Rosemont, IL. As a global supplier of precision spherical particles, striving to provide the highest quality microparticles on the market, quality is a huge part of what we do at Cospheric. Performing accurate measurements is vital to our business.  Metrology, the science of measurement, is how we ensure that we can confidently compare the results of measurements made worldwide.

    The Quality Show offered an opportunity to learn more about how quality fits with other organizations, what are their challenges, and what are the tools/solutions being used in the industry.

    When I think of Quality, I think of many different aspects, including Quality Planning, Quality Assurance, and Quality Control.  I also think of a Quality Management System, which is a set of policies, processes and procedures required for planning and execution in the core business area of an organization (i.e., areas that can impact the organization’s ability to meet customer requirements).   The Quality Show focuses on Quality in the manufacturing environment, specifically on measurements, or metrology/CMM.  If you are looking for the latest technologies/trends in measurement tools, this show is great!

    This is only the third time they have put on this show, so I do believe that future shows will have more emphasis on all areas of quality. The show is well run and very affordable (free for attendees if you register early).

    Below are the summaries of the four presentations that I found particularly valuable.

    Quality Show Keynote – Building a Culture of Quality by Deb Andree, Northrop Grumman

    The keynote presentation, Building a Culture of Quality, delivered by Deb Andree of Northrop Grumman was very powerful! She talked about how Northrop Grumman, who’s Palmdale facility was awarded Quality Plant of the Year, gets employees to put quality first by communicating the importance of quality in all functions, across all programs and at every level withing the organization.  Three key points she touched on were:

    • Quality is a journey – Quality is on-going project, striving for continuous improvements over the previous results, as customers specifications and market demands are contstantly evolving.
    • Quality is personal – Does each employee in the organization know where they fit in a culture of quality? Is every employee giving a personal guarantee on the outputs they are producing? The actions of each person has a huge impact throughout the organization. The mindset at Northrop Grumman when it comes to quality is that employees are their biggest asset. Employees are highly recognized for their commitment to quality and encouraged to speak up if something does not seem right or they are unsure.
    • Quality is a commitment – Executive management support is one of the biggest indicators of whether or not a project will be successful.  At Northrop Grumman there is commitment to quality from leadership at every level.

    Setting Calibration Intervals with Confidence by Eric Gasper, PQ Systems

    Performing regular calibrations on measuring equipment is vital to ensure trust with the equipment and the product produced as a result of those measurements.  Gasper dived into the importance of having properly defined intervals.  Why is this important? If you calibrate too often, then it is a waste of time and money. If you do not calibrate often enough, then you risk using faulty equipment to measure your product. So how do we determine the proper calibration frequency? Gasper recommends performing a stability study to determine if your measurement system is stable (i.e. in control).  “We are looking to catch when the measurement tool has an issue or becomes unstable prior to the scheduled calibration date.  We are also looking at the results to see if it remains stable between calibrations.”  The whole point of this study is to build evidence to support lengthening or shortening the calibration frequency.  In either case you will save time by reducing rework/rechecks if calibrations are not frequent enough or save time in performing calibrations if they are too often.

    Cospheric Team reflected on this presentation and used it to provide validation for the Calibration/Verification Module that we have recently developed as part of our in-house Manufacturing Execution System. In our system we pre-define Verification Intervals for each piece of equipment, which will prevent the operator to record data for the equipment that has passed its verification date. We also pre-define control limits which will automatically tell us whether the equipment passed verification (and will be released for use) or fails verification, in which case it will be off-line for troubleshooting and/or calibration. Equipment will not be released for use until a successful verification has been performed. This way we ensure that we only recalibrate when equipment is outside the control limits. We also verify the performance of equipment regularly to ensure that a product will not be released with a faulty measurement.

    Technical Learning in the Workplace by Aliesha Anderson, ZEISS Industrial Quality Solutions

    In this learning session, Anderson covered the impact of Industry 4.0 on Quality and Manufacturing.  She talked about how the manufacturing industry has changed dramatically in recent decades due to new and emerging technologies.  Many open positions are vacant due to a skill shortage.  Anderson presented data from the Deloitte Millennial survey, which found that 43% of Millennials envision leaving their jobs within two years and only 28% seek to stay beyond 5 years.  In a recent national survey 87% of Millennials cited professional development /career growth as being very important to their decision to stay of leave a company.  What does that mean for companies today? It would be in their best interest to view employee training as an investment instead of an expense.

    Benefits and Challenges of ISO/IEC 17025 Accreditation for Laboratories in Manufacturing Facilities by Melanie Ross, Training Products Specialist, ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB)

    ISO/IEC 17025 is a company level accreditation based on a standard published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) titled “General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories.”

    So, what is the difference between ISO 9001 and ISO/IEC 17025?

    Ross explains that ISO 9001 is focused on the general management system where an organization demonstrates the ability to provide consistent products and services that meet requirements. ISO/IEC 17025 focuses on the management system with technical laboratory requirements. You demonstrate competency of the laboratory.  Once key difference between the two is that ISO 9001 is a certification, where ISO/IEC 17025 is an accreditation.

    Why should you seek this accreditation?

    More agencies are requiring this accreditation, including DOD, DOA, FDA, FAA, and state governments.  Another thing that Ross mentions, is that if you already have an QMS, then you are already 80% there to having your ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation. You can find more information on accreditation and training by visiting www.anab.org.

  • Are Microplastics Toxic to the Environment? Literature Review

    by Nathan Garnica, Cospheric LLC

    What are microplastics?

    Microplastic is a broad term used to describe microscopic plastics with sizes ranging from 1µm to 3mm1. The shapes of microplastics can vary from fragments, fibers, pellets, film, and spheres2. Anything less than that can be considered nanoplastic, which is also prevalent in the ocean. The properties such as the size, shape, and charge are constantly changing which affects the bioavailability, or circulation into living organisms1. The plastic production generated in 2016 was estimated at 335 million metric tons and the demands continue to increase2. It is estimated that over 5 trillion plastic particles weighing over 250,000 tons resides in the ocean1. The most common forms of polymer microplastics are polyethylene (PE), polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP), polyester (PES), polyvinylchloride (PVC), polyamide (PA), acrylic polymers (AC), polyether (PT), cellophane (CP), polyurethane (PU), and others that are not specified2.

    How are microplastics being accumulated in the ocean?

    Microplastic accumulated in the ocean can be divided into two categories. The primary means of accumulation of microplastic is released directly into the environment via domestic use, industrial effluents, spills, and sewage discharge2. The secondary means involves the gradual degradation and fragmentation of larger plastic particles already present in the environment. About 80% of marine plastic debris derives from land-based sources including beach litter4. Roughly 18% of marine plastic debris comes from the fishing industry4. These particles can continue to degrade into nanoparticles that can range from 1nm to 100nm2.

    Are microplastics toxic?

    The toxicity of microplastics in living organisms has been largely debated in scientific literature. Research has shown conflicting results regarding entry and harm to organisms.

    Clear Polyethylene Microspheres from Cospheric LLC, 0.96g/cc - Various Sizes 1um to 1700um (1.7mm)

    Clear Polyethylene Microspheres from Cospheric LLC, 0.96g/cc – Various Sizes 1um to 1700um (1.7mm)

    A recent article published in Marine Pollution Bulletin utilized a wide range of sizes of polyethylene microspheres, such as those produced by Cospheric LLC (USA), and showed that polyethylene microplastics used in this study were not toxic to the unicellular marine organisms exposed at environmentally relevant concentrations or even at higher concentrations6.  In this study non-fluorescent low-density and high-density polyethylene microparticles were used in sizes from 1micron to 500micron in diameter. The authors state that ”in this study, bacteria luminescence inhibition and micro algal growth were not affected by either the virgin or the oxidized PE-MPs at concentrations of up to 25 mg/L. These results confirm previous data on the absence of ecotoxicological effects included in standard test guidelines in decomposers and primary producers exposed to MPs.” The authors refer to prior publications by other researchers who also investigated ecotoxicological effects of plastic microparticles in the same bacterium as well as several microalgae and did not find any toxic effect at environmental concentrations.

    Due to limited number of studies in this area, the questions remain. For example, would nanoplastics (particles smaller than 1um in diameter) would behave differently and have a stronger effect? Are we measuring the right parameters? Do we need to investigate alternative responses to detect the potential risk and influence on plastics on unicellular organisms?

    It is important to note that, as they disperse and degrade in the ocean, polymer microparticles undergo changes which can alter their bioavailability and access into living organisms.

    The dispersal determines which depth and area of the ocean and which organisms are impacted. The density, size, and surface properties determine the depth and distance microplastics particles travel. Any given microparticle can take weeks to years to reach the ocean floor1. This dispersal directly impacts the marine communities inhabiting that area.

    Factors that influence degradation of microplastics include chemical additives, water permeability chemical composition, molecular weight, morphology, porosity, size, and more3. Additives define the outer surface which change the overall properties of particles. Porous particles allow cells to migrate into the pores which can help in the degradation process3. Nonporous particles degrade more slowly than porous particles3.

    Do microplastics alter the ocean ecosystem?

    The effect on the ecosystem could potentially happen indirectly by altering the environment around marine life.

    Polystyrene Microspheres from Cospheric LLC, Crosslinked, 1.07g/cc - Diameters between 9.5um and 105um

    Polystyrene Microspheres from Cospheric LLC, Crosslinked, 1.07g/cc – Diameters between 9.5um and 105um

    A study shown in “Interactions of Microplastics throughout the Marine Ecosystem” by Galloway et al. observed the digestion effects of polystyrene microspheres in zooplankton. The fecal pellets of zooplankton are a vital carbon source for marine life in the deep depths of the ocean1. The polystyrene fecal pellets took 53 days longer to reach the bottom of the ocean1. This delay in carbon supply impacted deep ocean life that is dependent on this maintenance of carbon flux. The experiment used polystyrene microspheres but polyethylene and polypropylene, which are more abundant in the ocean, are less dense and may take even longer to sink1.

    Fertility and fecundity were greatly reduced in oysters during an 8-week exposure experiment to polystyrene microparticles 1.  The findings showed a decrease in sperm motility, oocyte production, and size of oocytes1. Similar effects were found in offspring not exposed to microspheres1. The study suggested that the microspheres were present where the food should have been and had adverse biological impacts1. A similar result in Daphnia magna led to immobilization1. The energy production was most likely inhibited using the 1µm polyethylene experimental particles 1.

    Biofilms, which are communities of bacteria surrounded by their extracellular matrix, colonize microplastics1. A typical colonizer of microplastics are the ubiquitous Vibrios1. Vibrio crassostrea is a common pathogen that can colonize microplastics which can then be ingested by oysters1. The bacteria can then cause infections to the oysters1.

    It is difficult to define a specific threshold of harmful microplastics due to the changing nature of material properties over time. A harmless microplastic may degrade to become toxic or a toxic microplastic may degrade to become passive.

    How can we limit microplastic pollution?

    There are many strategies to help reduce the amount of microplastic accumulation. The public can reuse, recycle, and recover plastics5. Alternatives to biodegradable products can be made such as polylactatide (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA)5. Laundry balls can help catch microfibers from falling off clothes in the washer.

    There is also research that shows great promise towards reducing microplastic through new technologies or through bioremediation strategies. Improved water filters can help catch microplastics in wastewater treatment facilities before the water enters rivers and the ocean5. Several species of microbes and fungi have been found to degrade polymers5. Polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, and Polyethylene terephthalate have been found to be degraded by Bacillus and Enterobacteria along with several different fungi5. Polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene are considered nonbiodegradable5. These promising developments demand collective support from industry, government, and the general public if we are to move away from a plastic ocean.

    1. Galloway, T S, et al. “Interactions of Microplastics throughout the Marine Ecosystem.” Nature Ecology and Evolution, vol. 1, no. 5, 20 Apr. 2017, doi: 10.1038.
    2. Sá, Luís Carlos De, et al. “Studies of the Effects of Microplastics on Aquatic Organisms: What Do We Know and Where Should We Focus Our Efforts in the Future?” Science of The Total Environment, vol. 645, Dec. 2018, pp. 1029–1039., doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.207.
    3. Sá, Luís Carlos De, et al. “Studies of the Effects of Microplastics on Aquatic Organisms: What Do We Know and Where Should We Focus Our Efforts in the Future?” Science of The Total Environment, vol. 645, Dec. 2018, pp. 1029–1039., doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.207.
    4. Wu, Wei-Min, et al. “Microplastics Pollution and Reduction Strategies.” Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering, vol. 11, no. 1, 2016, doi:10.1007/s11783-017-0897-7.
    5. Wu, Wei-Min, et al. “Microplastics Pollution and Reduction Strategies.” Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering, vol. 11, no. 1, 2016, doi:10.1007/s11783-017-0897-7.
    6. Gambardella, Chiara, et al. “Microplastics Do Not Affect Standard Ecotoxicological Endpoints in Marine Unicellular Organisms.” Marine Pollution Bulletin, vol. 143, 2019, pp. 140–143.
  • Bichromal Janus Particles, Microspheres, Microbeads – Stock selection or Custom-made

    Bichromal (half-white half-black or any other color) Microspheres, Janus Particles

    Bichromal (half-white half-black or any other color) Microspheres, Janus Particles. In this picture - Paramagnetic black microspheres with partial white coating - Magnification 40x.

    Cospheric offers unique capability to manufacture Janus microspheres and microparticles with partial coatings and dual functionality. Currently half-shell or hemispherical coatings can be applied to any sphere (glass, polymer, ceramic) in sizes 45micron in diameter and higher. Coatings can be customized for any color and coverage of between 20% to 60% of the sphere. Each coating is custom formulated for color, charge, magnetic, electric, and surface properties, and solvent resistance per customers’ needs.

    Half-coated glass microspheres - Partial coating on glass particles

    Half-coated glass microspheres - Partial coating on glass particles. In this picture - Soda lime glass microspheres with partial red coating - Magnification 40x.

    Hemispherical coatings of less than 1 micron with tolerances as low as 0.25 micron have been routinely demonstrated.  Color combinations are truly unlimited. White, black, silver, blue, green, red, yellow, brown, purple as well as transparent microspheres have been made. Sphericity of greater than 90% and custom particle size ranges are offered.

    We have successfully coated solid and hollow glass microsphere, including soda-lime, borosilicate, and barium titanate glass microspheres. We have also coated on silver.

    Half-coated Microspheres

    Half-coated Microspheres

    Optically anisotropic spheres and janus particles with magnetic half-shells have been originally developed for applications in electronic displays, such as e-paper, but are now widely used in numerous applications in diagnostics, medical research, microscopy and biotechnology, as well as electronics, due to their ability to orient themselves in response to electromagnetic field and show a visual response. This is achieved by making spheres both bipolar and bichromal, with dipole precisely aligned with two differently colored hemispheres. As the spheres align themselves, the viewer will observe the color of one hemisphere, while the other hemisphere will be hidden from view, providing an obvious strong visible indication of the presence of the field or other stimuli.  In alternating electromagnetic field, these microspheres have been proven to spin at hundreds of times per second.

  • Market Research Report – Microspheres: Technologies and Global Markets – 2013


    In summer of 2013 BCC Research has issued an updated market research report on Microspheres: Technologies and Global Markets. According to the report, the global market for microspheres was estimated to total nearly $2.2 billion in 2012 and is projected to increase to $2.4 billion in 2013; the market should total $4.4 billion by 2018 and have a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for of 12.6%.

    This report provides:

    • An overview of the global market and technologies for microspheres, which are spherical microparticles used as components in many advanced materials and composites, in the healthcare and personal care industries, and in many specialty research and development applications.
    • Analyses of global market trends, with data from 2012, estimates for 2013, and projections of compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) through 2018.
    • Identification of a variety of types of microspheres available on the market, as well as relevant industries, technologies and applications.
    • Examination of demand for microspheres in six major industries: composites, paints and coatings, oil and gas, cosmetics and personal care, biotechnology and life sciences, and medicine and medical devices.
    • Descriptions of different types of microspheres with respect to their chemical composition, including glass, ceramic, and polymer microspheres, and unique material properties that make them suitable for specific industries and applications.

    ($ MILLIONS)
    To submit your query click here


    BCC analyzes the global market for microspheres from both the manufacturing and demand points of view. Since there are several types of microspheres that vary drastically in quality, chemical properties, functionality and price, each type of microsphere is discussed in detail, including materials, manufacturing processes, advantages, prices and primary applications. Similarly, due to these variations microsphere use in six major industries are discussed and analyzed in detail.

    Detailed analysis and market forecasts are provided per industry, type of microsphere and geographic region through 2018. The report describes major players in the industry and examines recent advances in technology, newly evolving markets and companies as well other factors influencing supply and demand.

    This report analyzes microspheres—homogeneous microparticles of 1 micron to 1,000 microns in diameter. Microspheres can be solid or hollow and made from a variety of raw materials.


    BEWARE of rip-off reports that have been published this year by Research and Markets, Transparency Market Research, and other non-USA-based research firms, they contain partially plagiarized (reworded) and some completely inaccurate information.

    This authentic and accurate report was published by BCC research – a leading market research company specializing in reporting on changes driven by science and technology.  The analyst for this report is an expert in the field of microspheres. Yelena Lipovetskaya, CTO of Cospheric LLC, has more than 15 years of experience taking new technologies from concept to production in a variety of industries, including rotating microspheres electronic paper, charged microparticles for printing toner, digital displays, optical fiber, and medical devices.

    Yelena is the author of numerous applications, patents and published articles on microspheres technology and its applications and has held technical and managerial positions at Xerox Corp, Corning Inc., Cardinal Health, Gyricon, and Cbrite Inc. Yelena has a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Polytechnic University and a Master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology, both in New York.

  • Microparticles for simulating fish egg dispersion and recruitment

    Understanding survival and mortality of fish in the early life stages has been a fundamental issue in biology and a central problem in fisheries oceanographic study for more than a century. It has been argued that most marine fishes begin life as an egg that floats in the sea, and, during their evolutionary history, the early life of fishes has surely been shaped to ensure the “continued existence of species” by the sheer pressure of natural selection, and stated that a fish to survive must deal with and exploit its physical and biological environments. However, although we are now in the 21st Century, there still remains a lot to be made scientifically clear in the early life of fishes. In the present lecture, I will talk about fundamental issues in the isolated floating eggs of marine fish, which many pelagic species spawn in thousands, millions, or sometimes almost billions during a life of an individual female. The topics contain description and discussion on the egg size, buoyancy and rising speed. Measurements on the eggs naturally spawned in aquaculture systems are firstly introduced. Several examples of egg vertical distribution, accumulation and dispersion observed through field surveys will be shown to consider how the egg size and buoyancy are adaptive to survive in the pelagic environment.1

    UVPMS-BG 180-212um - 40x MagnificationScientists who study fish require artificial micro-particles to simulate fish eggs and their dispersion behavior in water. In order to accurately simulate the dispersion of fish eggs it is important to use particles of the proper size and buoyancy/density. Particles with accurate size ranges and densities are now available from Cospheric LLC. Densities from 1.00g/cc up to 1.12 g/cc are available in size ranges from 10-27um on up to 0.85-1.0mm. Sea water particles of 1.025g/cc (UVPMS-BG-1.025), and fresh water beads of 1.00g/cc are in stock and available for quick delivery.

    Most fish eggs are in the size of 0.5-5mm1 with the typical size of 1mm being the most common.   Salt water fish eggs tend to be slightly less dense than medium saltwater at a density of about 1.020g/cc1.

    Continue reading “Microparticles for simulating fish egg dispersion and recruitment” »