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)
Excellent article and very timely.GE sold its "plastics" division to SABIC about three years ago.I felt at that time this would mark the last we hear of engineering efforts for the company.I'm happy this is not the case.With petroleum prices escalating every week, manufacturers are searching for methods to lessen weight if that can be accomplished without sacrificing safety yet maintain integrity of design.Recycling is an excellent use of products that otherwise would be garbage sitting in a landfill.Improving your carbon footprint is a useful byproduct of that exercise also.We certainly must applaud the efforts of Volvo and SABIC for extending the life of products no longer used for their primary function. By the way, this is one of the things engineers do—innovate!This is one of those stories that should be told to graduating high school seniors who sit "on the bubble" wondering whether or not to enter the engineering field.We also might let Congress know there are still people and companies who can cooperate to get things accomplished.Maybe they will take a hint!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
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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.
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