Green Materials Set to Dominate K 2010

July 29, 2010

7 Min Read
Green Materials Set to Dominate K 2010

Look for a very strong emphasis on "green" materials at theworld's largest polymer exhibition - K 2010 in Düsseldorf, Germany, from Oct.27 through Nov. 3.

The giant K is only held every three years and is a goodbarometer of where the plastics industry is heading, particularly on environmentalissues.

Environmental themes have been present before, but primarilyin side exhibits intended to show capabilities rather than mainstreamapplications.

This year's K, however, will show the emergence of plasticsmade from renewable resources as an important player even for injection moldingand food-contact applications. It's also becoming clear that bioplastic foams willmake a strong run at polystyrene foam for packaging applications.

Other environmental themes that have been stronglyemphasized in pre-K news conferences held this summer include:

  • Replacement of halogenated flame retardants withnewly developed proprietary chemistries that suppliers describe as highlyeffective.

  • Introduction of new blends and compounds toreplace polymers containing bisphenol A (BPA).

  •  DSM Engineering Plastics,based in the The Netherlands, is showcasing a group of products organized undera banner called Eco+. Arnitel Eco+ is a thermoplastic copolyester (TPC) with a20-50 percent content derived from renewable resources, depending on hardness. Targetmarkets include consumer electronics, sporting goods and automotive interior.

 "Life-cycle analysiscalculations of Arnitel Eco+ show a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,cradle to gate, of up to 50 percent versus oil-based thermoplasticcopolyesters," says Francis Aussems, project manager for bio-polyesters for DSMEngineering Plastics.

New Bioplastics

DSM is also making other significant moves into bioplastics.

The corporate venturing subsidiary of Royal DSM invested $20million in Tianjin Green Bio-Science Co. to build China's largest manufacturingplant for polyhydroxyalkanoates, which are produced by bacteria that processglucose or starch. DSM is also partnering with a French company to producepolybutylene succinate (PBS), a synthetic aliphatic polyester with similarproperties to PET. PBS can be made from fermentation of renewable feedstockssuch as corn sugars by microorganisms.

DSM Engineering Plastics has also introduced EcoPaXX, apolyamide which is approximately 70 percent derived from castor oil.

Another global polymer producer with plenty of skin in the bioplasticsgame is DuPont, which led the industry with the first families of high-performanceengineering resins based on renewably sourced polymers. The portfolio includesrenewably sourced grades of Hytrel RS thermoplastics polyester elastomer, ZytelRS nylon and Sorona EP polyester.

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Toyota is now using fibers made from Sorona for the ceilingsurface skin, sun visor and pillar garnish of Toyota's new model, SAI.Bioplastics comprise approximately 60 percent of the internal surface area ofthe SAI - a compact luxury car.

At least six global polymer producers exhibiting at K 2010have developed nylons (also called polyamides) derived from castor oil.

The technology was developed in Germany in the 1940s and wascommercialized after World War II by a French company under the Rilsan brand name nowowned by Arkema. Rilsan thrived because of its unique performance capabilities,not because of its non-petroleum origins.

Other companies now producing at least partially renewably sourcednylon compounds are DuPont, Rhodia, DSM, Evonik and BASF.

Food Packaging

Pre-K announcements regarding bioplastics underscore its rapidadvances in packaging applications.

Metabolix and Archer Daniels Midland Co. announced thattheir Telles joint venture has received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)clearance for food contact injection molding grades of Mirel bioplastic. Mirel F1005 andF1006 grades are now cleared for use in applications from frozen food storageto boiling water, including microwave reheating.

Also, Novamont, which produces thermoplastic starchcompounds, is coordinating a project to develop protective foam packaging madefrom bioplastics.

The four-year ReBioFoam project hasreceived $4.3 million in funding under the European Union's 7th FrameworkProgram (FP7) and involves 10 partners from eight European countries. Novamontsays the aim of the project is to develop a flexible low-energyprocess that uses microwave technology to expand biopolymers by takingadvantage of the water that is naturally present in the materials.

PolyOnehas developed the reSound platform formulated with a 30-percent minimumbio-derived content. Key improvements include levels of heat tolerance andimpact resistance unobtainable with neat bioplastics.

reSound compounds combine compatible engineeringthermoplastic resins with bio-based polymers such as PLA, PHB, PHBV andbiopolyesters. Future grades may take advantage of biopolymer resins currentlyin development but not yet commercially available. Initial reSound gradesfeature heat resistance (HDT) up to 120C (248F) and impact resistance up to 53J/m (12 ft-lb/inch).

Unlike current biopolymers, PolyOne says reSound blends willmeet or exceed performance requirements for durable applications previouslyconsidered out of reach for biopolymers, such as computer laptops, cell phones,PDAs and automotive components.

Nonhalogenated FR

Another major environmental theme at the K Fair will be thereplacement of brominated flame retardants that have been banned in theEuropean Union and some states.

Albemarle is phasing out production of decabrominate flameretardants and replacing them with a line of organic flame retardants calledGreenArmor under the Earthwise brand. GreenArmor is based on a proprietarypolystyrene.

DSM will show Stanyl ForTii, which it describes as the onlynew polymer developed in the 21st century. The "T" represents terephthalate. OnJune 22, DSM inaugurated its new Stanyl ForTii production unit, whichquadruples capacity.

Stocko Contact, aGerman manufacturer of electromechanical components, plans to switch all its SMTconnectors to Stanyl ForTii. Two new series of pin connectors are designedmainly for use in dishwashers, washing machines, dryers and refrigerators.

The connectors can be assembled with lead-free reflowsoldering, making this the first RAST platform that can be reflow soldered.

RAST is a new connector standard that was developed to avoidmismatched wires.

Stanyl ForTii properties include excellent dimensionalstability, full compatibility with lead-free reflow soldering, high stiffnessand mechanical strength at elevated temperatures, high melting and glasstransition point, as well as excellent processability in terms of flow andprocessing window.

In another application development, FCI, a supplier ofinterconnect products, has approved halogen-free V-0 Stanyl ForTii for its FPCconnectors product line of optical disk drives and is currently expanding theusage on various other connectors and sockets.

BPA Replacement

Another important environmental theme at the K Fair will bethe replacement of plastics such as polycarbonate that contain bisphenol A.

ViSi Mobile is a new medical device that monitors human bodyfunctions wirelessly in a classy fit-and-press assembly that uses copolyestercompounds that offer transparency and mechanical properties similar topolycarbonate.

The wireless device is under development by DD Studio inconcert with its client and manufacturer Sotera Wireless Inc. of San Diego, CA.It was unveiled at Canon Communications' MD&M East show inNew York City.

Sensors attach to a patient's arm to monitor vital signs,such as blood pressure and heart rate so that clinicians can remotely monitorpatients' information. The system also includes an eight-port charging station.One of the benefits of the device is the ability to capture continuous bloodpressure measurement for ambulatory patients without the need for frequent cuffinflation.

"When Sotera Wireless approached us with this medical-devicedesign concept, it wanted the look and feel of a small, user-friendly consumerproduct, but had a number of specific demands. The device had to bechemical-resistant, durable, easy-to-clean and submersible under water. Weweren't sure the design was possible," says Michael Swartz, growth strategist,DD Studio.

The device's lens, housing, printed circuit board assemblyand connectors are made with Eastman Tritan copolyester MX711.

DD Studio relied on compatibility samples and testingresults from PolyOne to select GLS Versaflex OM 3060 TPE, which adheres to thecopolyester substrate to seal the device housing, including speaker port andmicrophone, from water seepage and protect internal electronics.

The housing components use a two-shot injection moldingprocess, combining Versaflex TPE with the Eastman copolyester substrate. Inaddition, insert-molded Versaflex is used to hold cables in place on the fourdevice connectors. DD Studio and the product development team worked withPhillips Plastics Corp. to ensure the manufacturability of the design. Phillips Plastics Corp. of Hudson,WI, took the designs DD Studio created and conducted a detailed DFM exerciseand created market-entry prototype tooling.

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