UC Berkeley Creates 3D-Printed Cap That Checks Food Safety

By: Heather Caliendo 28. July 2015

The proposed “smart cap” features 3D-printed plastic with embedded sensors to measure the freshness of liquid food.


How many times have you thrown away a food item because the “sell by” date has passed? You're not alone. Those confusing labels oftentimes fail to tell us anything about the safety of food. Food waste isn’t some small problem either—the U.S. throws away about $165 billion worth of food each year. But new technology from UC Berkeley engineers may assist with this issue. 


UC Berkeley engineers, in collaboration with Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University, have been working on developing 3D printing technology that also includes include electrical components, such as resistors, inductors, capacitors and integrated wireless electrical sensing systems. Their latest innovation is to print a wireless “smart cap” for a milk carton that detects signs of spoilage using embedded sensors, according to a news report from the university.


 “Our paper describes the first demonstration of 3D printing for working basic electrical components, as well as a working wireless sensor,” said senior author Liwei Lin, a professor of mechanical engineering and co-director of the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center. “One day, people may simply download 3D printing files from the Internet with customized shapes and colors and print out useful devices at home.”


We know how much polymers are used for 3D printing, however, when it comes to conductors of electricity, the material can be a poor candidate. So the researchers produced a system that used both polymers and wax to still take advantage of 3D printing to produce an object. After the print was completed, the researchers removed the wax, leaving hollow tubes into which liquid metal – silver – was injection and cured. They produced various electronic components using this method.  



The UC Berkeley engineers created a variety of 3D-printed electronic components including resistors, inductors and capacitors.


The researchers then integrated the electronic components into a plastic milk carton cap to monitor signs of spoilage. According to the university, the “smart cap” was fitted with a capacitor and an inductor to form a resonant circuit. A quick flip of the carton allowed a bit of milk to get trapped in the cap’s capacitor gap, and the entire carton was then left unopened at room temperature (about 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit) for 36 hours.


The circuit could detect the changes in electrical signals that accompany increased levels of bacteria. Those changes were detected wirelessly using the smart cap, which found that the peak vibration frequency of the room temperature milk dropped by 4.3% after 36 hours.


“This 3D-printing technology could eventually make electronic circuits cheap enough to be added to packaging to provide food safety alerts for consumers,” Lin said. “You could imagine a scenario where you can use your cellphone to check the freshness of food while it’s still on the store shelves.”


Lin said his lab is working on developing this technology for health applications.


The findings are published in a new open-access journal in the Nature Publishing Group called Microsystems & Nanoengineering.

Spotlight On Extrusion

28. July 2015

Over two days, Extrusion 2015 will offer attendees more than 60 presentations, including two roundtable discussions and six separate speaker question and answer sessions, with 100% of the discussion focused on all things extrusion. Registration is currently open so book your Extrusion 2015 experience today.


Morning sessions will cover 13 different topics applicable across the extrusion industry, including materials, additives, blending, drying, conveying, training and more, with process focused afternoon breakout sessions specifically catering to film/sheet; pipe/profile/tubing; and compounding extrusion.


Created by Plastics Technology, Extrusion 2015 will kick things off with breakfast starting at 7 am on Monday, November 2, and wrap up at 5 on Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 5:15 p.m. In between those times, attendees can choose from more than 60 presentations, including discussions from some of the top names in extrusion and plastics technology, including :


Addex JSW America
Addivant Key Filter
American Kuhne KraussMaffei
Asaclean Sun Plastech Leistritz
Bohler Uddeholm Macro Engineering
Brampton Engineering Nordson EDI
Castle Associates Nordson Xaloy
Cloeren Pelletron
Compuplast Piovan
Conair PSI Polymer Systems
Coperion K-Tron PTI
CPM Century Extrusion Randcastle Extrusion
CW Brabender RE Scheer
Davis-Standard Riverdale Global
DR Joseph Siemens
Dri-Air Teel Technical Laboratories
EEMount Technologies Trexel
Novatec Vac-U-Max
Gloucester Vecoplan
Gneuss W&H
Guill Tool  


Plastics Technology publisher and event organizer, Gardner Business Media, Inc., have arranged for a special rate at the show hotel, but rooms are limited so make sure you book now.


For all those working in extrusion, seize the opportunity to attend an event that’s 100% focused on you!

Extrusion 2015

PE Film Market Analysis: Frozen Foods

By: James Callari 27. July 2015


Last year, polyethylene  resin consumption for frozen-food packaging reached 343.5 million lb. This market's consumption of PE is expected to increase at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 5% over the next three years, boosting it to 397.8 million lb.


These are among the conclusions of the most recent study of the PE Film market conducted by Mastio & Co., St. Joseph, Mo.


Industry analysts estimated that U.S. retail sales of frozen foods were flat and amounted to approximately $44 billion in 2012 (most recent figures), with nearly all dollar sales gains resulting from inflation or new products. Previous forecasts that this market would expand aggressively did not come to pass due to the nation’s slow economic recovery, changing consumer eating patterns, demographics, and shopping patterns, according to the Mastio report.  Retailers are expected to continue focusing on the “freshness” factor and promote fresh foods, due to competition from prepared fresh foods, shelf-stable foods, and restaurants; thus hurting frozen foods and frozen foods packaging sales.


PE film used in frozen foods is limited to packaging some, not all, of the frozen foods sold such as vegetables, fruits, pizza, pastries, potato products, appetizers, and some breakfast and side-dish items. According to several industry analysts, U.S. product shipments of frozen fruits and vegetables reached $11.1 billion dollars in 2011 (most recent figures). A little more than 72% of the product shipment value amount was captured by the frozen vegetables segment, and the remaining by the frozen fruit segment.


PE frozen food film is typically sold as rollstock, but some companies manufacture finished bags. Rollstock frozen food film varies in width and length depending upon customer specifications. Typically, widths range from 6 in.  to 40.0 inc., but can be as wide as 90 in, Mastio’s research reveals. The gauge of this film ranges from 0.5 mil to 6.0 mils, with 1.5 mils and 2 mils being the most typical. Institutional (food service) rollstock is typically 1.5 mils to 2 mils, and retail (consumer) rollstock typically has a gauge ranging from 2 mils to 2.5 mils.

According to the study, finished bags are commonly 12-in. wide by 12- in. long . Smaller bags are commonly 8-in. wide by 15-in. long. The largest (institutional) finished bags are 48- in.-wide by 60-in. long. Finished bags are generally 2.25 mils and typically come in 9-, 16-, 20-, 32- and 40-oz capacities, says Mastio


Some performance specifications for frozen food film include the following: sealability, strength, puncture resistance, moisture barrier, odor barrier, oxygen barrier, toughness, cold temperature resistance, opacity and appearance. Because of the damaging ultraviolet rays from fluorescent lighting in grocery store freezers and unsightly ice crystals which surround frozen foods, many manufacturers blend titanium dioxide (TiO2) in the film structure to produce opaque film.


Zippered closures have been accepted in the frozen food packaging market. Zippered bags have been used to package fish, battered chicken strips, and various other appetizers. Zippered closures enable the consumer to use a portion of the product, reclose the package, and return it to the freezer with the food product protected from possible freezer storage damage. Although the zippered closure offers convenience, added value, and product freshness; it has yet to completely penetrate the market, primarily because it is more expensive than traditional frozen food bags.



Other materials, such as biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) film, PP film, polymer-paper structures, polyester film, wax paper, and extrusion coated paperboard cartons, all compete with PE film for frozen-food packaging, says Mastio. Although alternative packaging is commonly used in the frozen foods market, PE film is the preferred material because of its superior moisture retention properties. Over time, frozen produce packaged in extrusion coated paperboard cartons loses moisture and become brittle, while PE bags retain the natural moisture in frozen foods. When frozen foods film producers were asked what the advantages of PE film were, responses included: cost effectiveness, good sealant properties, ease of disposal, source reduction of packaging, and ease of recycling, Mastio says.



Frozen food packaging is produced via blown and cast film extrusion processes. That said, according to this report, approximately 99.1%  of the PE film for this market was processed via blownfilm.


Frozen food packaging can be either monolayer or multi-layer coextruded in construction. Approximately 46.1% of PE film utilized in the frozen food packaging market was monolayer in construction. More frozen-food film is multi-layer. Participants in the Mastio study reported producing 2-, 3-, or 5-layer coextruded films; several companies have capabilities of coextruding up to 11-layers.


Mastio & Co. profiled 32 North American film extrusion companies in the frozen food film market during 2014. The five largest producers of frozen food PE film are: Bemis North America; Sigma Plastics Group; Apollo Management, L.P. (Berry Plastics Corp. Div.); EPC Industries Ltd. (Polycello Ltd. Div.) ; and Sigma Plastics Group (ISO Poly Films, Inc. Div.). Collectively, they consumed approximately 51% of PE resin this market gobbled up last year.



“Millennials” (the generation born between 1982 and 2001) will play a strong role in determining the future of this market. By and large, they  are less brand-loyal and are more willing to purchase organic and locally produced products and meal solutions. As millennials move into their peak earning years, this growing consumer segment will spend nearly 50% of their food budget on ready-to-eat solutions, such as take-out food and restaurant meals. Millennials buy fresh food more frequently and eat immediately versus the older generations that buy, store and eat later.


That said, some PE film processors are predicting and hoping for growth through innovative products and packaging, population growth, and the fact that companies such as Nestle S.A. and ConAgra Foods, Inc. are improving efforts to reinvigorate this sluggish food segment.


One other point: unlike higher-volume PE markets, the major players in frozen-food film hold a strong yet not overwhelmingly dominant position in the market, suggesting there is room for processors with innovative solutions to either enter the market or grab market share.


Victrex Acquires Kleiss Gears to Bolster PEEK Gears Business

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 27. July 2015



Victrex, West Coshohocken, Penn., has enhanced its ability to provide complete ‘integrated’ service through its acquisition of PEEK polymer gears specialist Kleiss Gears, Grantsburg, Wisc. In moving downstream in this manner, the company is aiming to accelerate the adoption of its Victrex PEEK gear proposition to meet the needs of the automotive industry.  Asked if this means the company will now be competing with its customers in PEEK gears, sources at Victrex gave us the following response.


First that Victrex’s focus is on building PEEK market growth and as such is striving to continuously improve the products and services it offers existing and new customers. The strategic decision to acquire Kleiss Gears is consistent with their goal to provide and improved service specifically on PEEK-based gears, bringing the much needed capability around engineering design, tooling, and durability testing.


“The market for PEEK gears is still much in its infancy and in order to facilitate market growth, Victrex has identified that an integrated capability is needed to provide the right robust gear solution in order to meet the high demands of the Tier1/OEM customers,” says one Victrex source.


According to Victrex, the aim is to use this integrated capability to shorten the development cycle for their customers. This starts from understanding the needs and challenges of its customers, leading to a design review of the typically metal gear system when NVH, wear and energy benefits can be clearly gained by moving to PEEK design.


The Kleiss manufacturing capability is built around polymer gear application technology only.  Victrex says its intention is to build further the global market for PEEK gears and help pioneer the replacement of metal gears in demanding environments, which in turn should increase the market opportunities for all of its customers—directly and indirectly.


Added Rod Kleiss, president of Kleiss Gears, “We have been partnering with Victrex for many years and are convinced that our customers and end-users will benefit from a more integrated approach, enabling them to develop and launch gears that solve their key challenges with greatly reduced development cycles.”


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


Ingeo Biopolymer Tops 'Smallest Carbon Footprint' List Among Commonly Used Plastics

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 24. July 2015


With many consumer product brands increasingly looking to reduce their carbon footprint, several different types of plastics recently have had  reassessments of their eco-profile—energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). In step with this market trend, there has been an update to the profile of Ingeo biopolymer from NatureWorks, Minnetonka, Minn. Called “Life Cycle Inventory and Impact Assessment Data for 2014 Ingeo Polylactide Production”, the article was also just recently peer reviewed and approved for publication in the June 2015 issue of Industrial Biotechnology by an independent panel of experts.


The eco-profile of a polymer gives information such as the total energy and raw materials consumed, and the total emissions to air, water, and soil from the cradle to the finished polymer pellet. A life cycle inventory (LCI) is an essential input to any full LCA conducted on consumer products made from that polymer.


“Our most recent eco-profile in 2010 was calculated using the methodology, the modeling software, and core database in place at the time. The same approach was used by such industry organizations as Plastic Europe since the beginning of the 1990s to calculate the eco-profiles for the fossil-based polymers. However, LCA tools and databases have progressed in the past four years, and we decided it was time to recalculate the eco-profile based on those advancements,” says NatureWorks environmental affairs manager Erwin Vink.


Overall, the publication of the new Ingeo life-cycle assessment (LCA) shows that GHGs and energy usage during its manufacture is lower than all commonly used plastics, including PP, PET, GPPS and ABS. The article documents the energy and GHG inputs and outputs of the Ingeo production systems, the revised 2014 Ingeo eco-profile, and the calculation and evaluation of a comprehensive set of environmental indicators. It also addresses topics such as land use, land-use change, and water use.


To help brand owners and researchers in the direct use of this life-cycle assessment data, NatureWorks now has available an online calculator--Environmental Benefits Calculator--providing them with a  tool for comparing the net GHG emissions and the nonrenewable energy use of products made with different plastics. The calculator provides an intuitive interface from which manufacturers and brands can input data details and receive instantaneous feedback on the environmental impact of the materials they are using.  


This revised eco-profile (the cradle-to-polymer life cycle inventory data), which is based on the latest version of Thinkstep’s GaBi LCA software and database, follows the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards and reinforces the fact that the production of Ingeo polymer emits fewer GHGs and consumes less non-renewable energy compared to other commonly used plastics.



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




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