Plastic bottles upcycled through chemical recycling have become Valox iQ PBT used to make the brackets of the side air deflection system in all seven models of Volvo's VN family of 2012 heavy trucks. (Source: SABIC Innovative Plastics)
They tried to tell me my bottled water habit was destroying the environment. But, thank goodness, I have helped Volvo solve a problem that couldn't have happened without my help. They used my bottles to make their trucks safer. I accept your thanks!
There must be a fortune in the garbage dumps around the world if we engineers could just find a market and a way to use this vast "natural" resource. Maybe we are going about this all wrong? It took hydrocarbon-based plastics to create much of the landfill, and maybe we can find a way to reverse some of the processes and solve some fuel issues. There must be 100 years of petrofuels just waiting to be reconstituted...
Ann, that's a good and innovative idea. As of now plastic is an un-decomposed material and it's not an ecco friendly material. I think the new move from Volvo can cause a drastic change in automobile world, where other companies may follow the similar procedures. This in turn can help to reduce the plastic content from earth surface. But, am not sure about the future of replacement plastic parts from automobiles.
Warren, you're not the only one to conclude that there's a lot of valuable material in the world's landfills (let alone all the BTUs). That's part of the move to divert, convert and reuse recycled plastics. Thermoplastics can either be recycled mechanically by grinding them up and reusing them, which usually results in downcycled plastics, i.e., of a lower grade, or by completely melting them and turning them back into their original constituents, either for use as fuel or as virgin polymers. What's unusual here is that the mechanical process has resulted in upcycled plastics, not downcycled ones.
Mydesign, thanks for the feedback. I'm curious to know what exactly you mean by your statement that you're "not sure about the future of replacement plastic parts from automobiles." What are you not sure about? Their value as materials for those applications, or something else?
Ann, I mean it in a different way. Plastics are recycled to form truck parts and any recycling method for reusing the damaged spare parts made out of plastic. I mean reusing the damaged plastic spare parts. What about the durability of recycled plastic spare parts when compare with the metallic components.
Chuck, good question. I don't see why not, assuming the spec requirements were the same. The material, and a couple of others they showed, definitely have other automotive apps: there was a large array of prototype parts made of several of these materials, including this one.
Mydesign, thanks for the clarification. As I mentioned in my reply to Warren, below, it all depends on the process you use. Whether parts made of plastic are damaged or not at their EOL, they are not reused--they are recycled. Thermoplastics can either be recycled mechanically by grinding them up and reusing them, which usually results in downcycled plastics, i.e., of a lower grade, or by completely melting them and turning them back into their original constituents, either for use as fuel or as virgin polymers. Those virgin polymers are just as strong--hence the term "virgin"--as the original polymers. What's unusual here, and the innovation SABIC rightly claims, is that a mechanical process has resulted in upcycled plastics, not downcycled ones. Of course, they are not telling us how they did this.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
A fun and informative tour you can attend at the upcoming Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis, MD&M Minneapolis, and other events there, is the Materials Innovation Tour on Wednesday afternoon. I'll be leading it.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies.
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