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A number of plastic sleeves used in an automotive application cracked after assembly but prior to installation into the mating components. The sleeves were specified to be injection molded from a 20% glass-fiber-reinforced polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) resin. After molding, electronic components are inserted into the sleeves, and the assembly is filled with a potting compound. Investigation of the cracked parts and some reference parts available for testing included visual inspection, micro-FTIR in the ATR mode, and analysis using DSC. Subtle spectrum differences suggested degradation of the failed part material, and the thermograms supported this. The conclusion was that the failed sleeves had cracked due to embrittlement associated with severe degradation and the corresponding molecular weight reduction. The reduction in molecular weight significantly reduced the mechanical properties of the sleeves. The cause of the degradation was not evident, but the likely source appears to be the molding operation and exposure to elevated temperature for an extended period of time.

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