"Vinyl Saves Lives" Booth And Demo At NPE2015

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 25. January 2015

A special booth at NPE2015 to be featured by SPI and its Flexible Vinyl Alliance (VFA) affiliate is designed to demonstrate how plastics, and specifically PVC, ‘save lives’.


Appearing at the lobby of the South Hall of the Orange County Convention Center, the booth’s showcased items will include an actual portable medical isolation containment unit similar to those used in Africa and elsewhere to isolate patients and protect medical personnel and the populace from the spread of infectious diseases and contain pandemics such as Ebola and SARS. Also on display will be Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as garments, masks and shoe covers.


Support for the booth comes from leading soft vinyl producers and manufacturers of specialized medical products and systems, as well as organizations using these materials in affected regions of Africa and other places. The Flexible Vinyl Alliance, SPI’s Flexible Vinyl Products Div., The Vinyl Institute (VI), and the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) among others, will be represented in the booth. Also expected to be part of the presentation is a wide range of other medical products and healthcare groups.


VFA is responsible for the planning and promotion of the project. Says VFA’s executive director Kevin Ott, “While some of the best-known, but often unrecognized uses of PVC include wire and cable jacketing, medical tubing, blood bags, roofing, flooring and wall coverings, the material is suitable for an almost limitless range of products offering superior and proven performance characteristics, particularly in healthcare settings, that are essential to patient safety and survival, as we deal with pandemic containment and protecting the general population. Lacking a vaccine for Ebola at this time, PVC plays an essential role as a barrier material between the health care worker and the fluids that are known to spread the virus.”


Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.



BPA Gets European Authority's 'Green Light' Following FDA Ruling

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 25. January 2015

Last week, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) ruled that Bisphenpol A (BPA), used in a wide array of applications from the lining of cans to plastic packaging, poses no threat to human health. This action follows the U.S. FDA’s confirmation in December that BPA is safe as currently used.


            Dr. Joseph Perrone, chief scientific officer of the Center for Accountability in Science, who has written extensively about BPA’s safety, points out that many of the studies linking BPA to various health ailments are significantly flawed. One such study, published by the prestigious American Heart Association, claimed that drinking from cans—and thereby ingesting Bisphenol A used in the lining, could raise your blood pressure and increase your risk for heart disease. The actual data, however, does not support the author’s sweeping conclusions. When one looks at the data, participants’ blood pressure didn’t actually rise after drinking from a can. Here’s how it went:


In this small study--only 70 participants, all over age 60, participants were given either two cans of soy milk, one can and one glass bottle of soy milk, or two glass bottles of soy milk. Blood pressure was measured both before and after consumption, and levels of BPA were measured after consumption.


Across-the-board, blood pressure decreased after drinking soy milk. It decreased by nearly identical margin when participants drank two bottles of soy milk or one can and one bottle of soy milk—despite much higher levels of BPA after drinking a can. After drinking two cans, blood pressure still decreased, but by a slightly lower amount. According to Perrone, at most, one could say that this small study found that drinking soy milk out of a can might temporarily lower your blood pressure slightly less than drinking it out of a glass bottle. It certainly does not show that drinking any beverage from a can might increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.  


Plastics Plug In To Charged-Up Electronics Sector

By: Tony Deligio 22. January 2015

That much was abundantly clear in Heinz Rasinger’s presentation at injection molding machine and automation supplier Engel’s recent “teletronics” (a mash up of telecom and electronics) technology symposium at its Technical Center in Corona, Calif.


Rasinger, VP of Engel’s teletronics business unit, examined broader market numbers through a regional lens and then shifted focus to how new technologies could influence future opportunities for plastics.


Where Electronics, Automotive and Medical Meet
Electronics as a plastics market were once largely relegated to expected consumer categories like TVs or desktop computers, but today they have significant penetration in other key segments for Engel, including automotive, as cars add displays, sensors and cameras, as well as medical, where the “wearables” segment is set to explode.


Rasinger noted that globally the entire teletronics segment, which includes everything from flat-screen displays and mobile phones to automotive connectors and photovoltaics for Engel, has grown from a value of $836 million in 2009 to  $1.068 billion in 2013, before shrinking slightly to $1.055 billion last year.


Most of that growth is coming in the Emerging Asia markets of China, Vietnam, and India, while business has stagnated or even reversed in established markets like Japan. Emerging Asia jumped from $181 million to $286 million over the last five years, expanding at around 15%/yr. More locally and coming off the recession of 2009, North America jumped from $223 million in 2010 to $250 million in 2011, and has grown, if slowly, from there, reaching $254 million last year.


Displays, Displays Everywhere
Rasinger discussed the ubiquity of displays in our everyday lives, ranging from a couple square inches on a printer to massive 67-inch televisions, with Engel machines molding bezels and other key components for all regardless of size.


Apart from continued growth, other trends for the segment predicted by Rasinger include back injection of touch-sensitive foils and the emergence of flexible OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screens, replacing LCD displays, that are more rigid and require backlighting.


OLEDs Take On LCDs (and Backlights?)
Rasinger was reluctant to predict how OLED tech might change the market, but he was certain they would evolve the sector. “Nobody really knows with certainty the impact of OLEDs on injection molding but there is one thing for sure, the backlighting units, as they were before, will be a thing of the past,” Rasinger said.


Asked to expand on his statement after the presentation, Rasinger still hesitated to make a firm prediction, but reiterated that OLEDs will remain a closely watched development by Engel and others.


“It would be good if we could really put our hands on OLED’s impact, and say, ‘This is the way it’s going to be,’” Rasinger said, “but electronics is a very rapidly moving area—they invent new things on a constant basis—and with every new invention there are opportunities that can be created that haven’t been possible thus far.”


Mobiles On the Move
Some of the most striking numbers presented by Rasinger came in the mobile phone segment of his presentation, including the fact that mobile phones have a global market penetration of 97%—meaning that for every 100 people on earth, there are 97 mobile phones. In fact, several countries boast more phones than population to use them, including the U.S. (103), Brazil (137) and Russia (155).


In terms of penetration, the top countries for smart phones are almost entirely a mix of the Mid and Far East: U.A.E.,  South Korea, Saudi Arabia,  and Singapore, with Norway as the lone western representative.


In 2013, 1.8 billion mobile phones were sold, according to Rasinger’s data, with almost half of global mobile phone production for smart phones. The rise of smart phones has been a boon for Samsung, Rasinger pointed out, and a bust for former market leaders like Research In Motion (Blackberry) and Nokia, whose inability to adapt cost them market share and sovereignty.  


Computers Log Out
Desktop computer sales have shrunk by 130% from 2012 to 2014, while laptops have contracted (down 15%), but not nearly as much. “I think the growth in this segment has been eaten up by these new mobile devices,” Rasinger said. “You could see from the graphs that desktops are stagnant but they still keep their level, while laptops are slightly decreasing. The real winners are the tablets.”


From Smart Phones to Smart Cars
With automotive production forecast to grow 6%/yr through 2017, reaching 107 million vehicles globally at that time, the automotive electronics market is forecast to reach a value of $48 billion.


That includes traditional applications like connectors and switches, as well as new areas like driver assistance systems, sensors,  and cameras. In the future, the addition of photovoltaics for power and OLEDs for rear lighting could mean even more opportunities for plastics on the road.


“I think driver assistance systems are really going to take off,” Rasinger said after his presentation. “As usual, things like this start in the luxury cars then migrate their way down.”


What’s next?
The future for electronics? Wearables (and the printed and flexible electronics that make them possible). According to IDTechEx, wearable electronics are forecast to explode from a value of $14 billion in 2014 to more than $70 billion in 2024, while the total printed and flexible electronic market grows by 27%/year through 2020. 

Nominations For SPE's 'Plastics For Life' Global Parts Competition Extended

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 22. January 2015

SPE announced this week that it is extending the nomination deadline for its second-annual Plastics For Life global parts competition. Winners in four feature-based categories—Protecting Life (preservation, safety, containment, protection); Quality of Life (preservation, safety, containment, protection); Improving Life (education, energy, opportunity, health); and Sustaining Life (environmental, conservation, sustainability, recycling, reduction)—plus People’s Choice and Grand Awards, will be announced at a special press conference on Wednesday, March 25, on the third day of SPE’s ANTEC 2015, held in conjunction with SPI’s NPE2015 in Orlando, Fla., that week.


According to SPE, because eligible parts must previously have won a category or a competition at an SPE TOPCON (topical conference) or Minicon (mini-conference) held during the last 12 months, extending the deadline from January 30 to February 13 allows teams of winning parts from SPE conferences that fall early in 2015 to enter this year’s competition rather than wait until 2016.


While the judges will preview nomination online in February, final balloting will take place on Monday, March 23, giving the judges the opportunity to see and touch physical parts during a walkthrough on the first day of ANTEC 2015. Says Jon Ratziaff, technical services manager at Chevron Phillips Chemical, who created the parts competition during his term as 2013-2014 SPE president, “As our competition enters its second year, interest is building and we’ve been asked to make a few rule changes that would enable us to pick up extra nominations. Since one of our goals for this competition is to highlight the incredible versatility of plastic materials in numerous markets and show how plastics truly enhance life on the planet, there was no question that we needed to be flexible. Hopefully the teams that are already at work on their forms will appreciate that they just got a two-week extension.”


Here’s a look at the 2014 Plastics For Life global parts competition winners:

•  Protecting Life Category: Carbon Fiber X-brace on 2013 SRT Viper supercar nominated by Plasan Carbon Composites (nomination previously won the 2013 SPE Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition Body Exterior and People’s Choice awards).



Quality of Life/Improving Life Categories: Bright Pack Packaging nominated by Plastics Technologies, Inc., (nomination previously own the 2013 SPE Blow Molding ABC Conference competition).



Sustaining Life/Grand Award Categories: Door Assembly on Renault Twizy electric vehicle nominated by Walter Pack (nomination previously won the SPE European Thermoforming competition).






Italian Technology Institute Develops Bioplastics From Agro-Waste

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 21. January 2015

Researchers at the Smart Materials, Nanophysics department of the Instituto Italiano di Tecnologia have succeeded in producing bioplastics through the direct transformation of edible vegetable waste. Coordinated by tenured scientist Athanassia Athanassiou, the team used industrially processed edible vegetable and cereal waste. Model bioplastic systems were synthesized from wastes of parsley and spinach stems, rice hulls, and cocoa pod husks by digesting in trifluoroacetic acide (TFA), casting, and evaporation.


According to researcher Ilker Bayer, many other elements present in these plants are carried over into the bioplastics rendering them with many exceptional thermo-physical properties. In a recent article that appeared in the American Chemical Society’ Macromolecules publication, the team showed that due to their broad compatibility with cellulose, amorphous cellulose can be naturally plasticized with these bioplastics by simply mixing during processing. 


Comparison of the mechanical properties of films made with these waste bioplastics with various petroleum based synthetic polymers, including PP, PE, PET, TPU, as well as starch-polymer blends, and biopolyesters such as polycarpolactoness and polylactic acids (PLA), show these unusual bioplastics to fill the performance gap between synthetic plastics and conventional biopolymers. For example, amorphous pure cellulose films display high ultimate tensile strength (UTS) at high Young’s modulus comparable to PET, whereas parsley, spinach and rice bioplastic films cluster close to elastomers and LDPE thermoplastic.


Bioplastics from cocoa pod husk can be compared with HDPE and PP. It is also possible to produce bioplastics designed to close the gap between PET and PP, the researchers say. For instance, a blend of microcrystalline cellulose with spinach (10 wt%) would yield a property that directly falls in the middle of this gap. This proves that a wide range of mechanical properties can be designed by simply blending these vegetable waste bioplastics that many times cannot be achieved by solution or thermoform blending of conventional polymers due to incompatibility issues. 


Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.


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