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.


Why Five-Axis Cartesian Robots Are a Hit With Molders

By: Matthew H. Naitove 21. January 2015

Why is five better than three—or six? At the recent Fakuma 2014 show in Germany, Sepro Robotique of France (U.S. office in Warrendale, Pa.; said it has seen sales of five-axis Cartesian robots take off. Such robots are more capable than standard three-axis linear robots and often are a more cost-effective choice than a six-axis articulated robot (which Sepro also offers).

Based on a standard three-axis Cartesian beam robot, Sepro’s 5X line adds a two-axis servo wrist developed in partnership with Staubli Robotics (U.S. office in Duncan, S.C.; In the two years since the 5X line was introduced at Fakuma 2012, Sepro says sales of these units have grown nine-fold and should double last year’s sales. It is by far the company’s fastest-growing new product line. According to CEO Jean-Michel Renaudeau, “We are seeing molders buying five-axis models even when they don’t have a need for them today, because they expect to in the future.”


There are several reasons for this popularity:


 •  Molders increasingly require high accuracy and flexibility in gripping and downstream positioning. Loading multiple inserts at high speeds, or multiple motions to demold complex parts in a tight mold space are facilitated by the extra axes. The same goes for secondary operations like passing the edge of a part past a flaming fixture or placing parts in trays in different positions. And unlike a pneumatic wrist, the servo wrist can grip parts at any angle and perform multiple servo motions in synchronization with other robot movements.


 •  Another benefit is adaptability to different molds and machines. Ability to reprogram servo motions in software is especially helpful for custom molders dealing with transfer tooling that they did not design, or that must run a given mold in different machines to meet scheduling requirements.


 •  The servo wrist boasts clean operation, suitable for medical and other applications that cannot tolerate particulates resulting from drive-belt wear or lubricant contamination.


 •  High accuracy and repeatability are afforded by servo wrist operation with a positional encoder that recognizes exactly where the drive shaft is at any moment. And the system control can integrate positional signals from all of the servo motors on all five axes so that it knows exactly where the gripper and part are in space at all times.


 •  Many of the complex part manipulation tasks mentioned above have historically been assigned to six-axis articulated-arm robots. But a linear Cartesian robot offers faster access to the mold space and simpler programming.


These capabilities were demonstrated at the booth of Billion, the French injection machine builder (, where a Sepro 5X robot was mounted on a Billion Select 200 all-electric two-shot press. This demonstration of in-mold assembly involved multi-shot injection (a Billion specialty) encapsulates a liquid (water) inside a closed, cup-like container and with dice floating inside. The mold, built by MIHB in France (, uses two rotating plates for a multi-step process (see it on YouTube here at

  1. The machine injects the top and bottom of the container on opposite sides of the mold. One of the two rotating plates holds the lid of the cup and a finished part. The other rotating plate holds the body of the cup. One plate nests into the moving half of the mold and the other into the stationary half, but both are connected by a shaft to the moving half of the mold.
  2. The mold opens and the two rotating plates index forward and turn 180° so as to bring the two parts of the cup in line with each other. One plate retracts again into the stationary mold half, and the Sepro robot descends and removes the finished part and turns 180° to insert the dice into the body of the cup.
  3. The plate holding the bottom half of the cup retracts against the other plate, holding the two parts of the cup together with mild pressure. Meanwhile, the robot turns 90° moves laterally to insert the end of a long filling nozzle into a hole in the lid of the cup. Water is dispensed to fill the cup about two-thirds full.
  4. The robot retracts and the mold halves clamp together, and the second Billion injection unit overmolds the seam between the cup halves to create a water-tight seal.
  5. The mold opens so the finished part can be removed and the cycle repeats.


In this demo, the robot performs multiple functions: inserting the dice, filling the part with water, and removing the finished part. This involves several lateral motions and two rotations inside the mold area.


The material was Eastman’s Tritan clear copolyester for the lid and body and Tritan with color masterbatch for the overmolded seal.

PolyOne Releases Four Color Palettes For 2016

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 21. January 2015

PolyOne has just released InVisio Color Inspiration 2016, a collection of what it deems to be four influential and emerging color palletes. The company developed these colorant collections by drawing on global trends and expertise in color research and is targeting them to brands and designers to inspire future creative decision-making. Color Inspiration 2016 is one of the elements from the company’s InVisio Color and Design Services, which leverages comprehensive color and materials resources to drive innovation in plastic product development.


Says Fernando Sanchez, global marketing director for PolyOne Global Color and Additives, “Whether designers are developing a new color range or adapting existing colors to accommodate a new phase in their product’s lifecycle, these innovators can work with InVisio services throughout the design development process to bring their vision to life.” PolyOne says its new collection includes the following four color stories.


Power Play echoes the erosion of convention. A blend of bold saturated colors work together to tell the story of this new ear of empowerment. Pink is reclaimed as a symbol of strength for both men and women, championed for its versatility and positive connotations.



• Basic Instinct places emphasis on the constant and accelerating pace of change on our planet. As we evolve to cope with these changes, we look at the way life forms on earth managing the extremes in their environment—often with primitive elegance. Unique survival characteristics such as bioluminescent become a major inspiration, combined with unexpectedly colorful camouflage and fluorescent pigments that feature high impact hues found under the sea.



• Brain Reign embraces a palette of cerebral hues that are engaged and plugged in. Electric blue channels the energy of synaptic exchange, while vibrant orange generates feelings of optimism and encourages positive consumer behavior. Super-charges highlighter yellow is softened with transparency, and subtle notes of pale grey and blush offset and humanizes this Technicolor surge.



• Divergent Desires deals with the paradox of connected disconnectedness by exploring the convergence of technology and nature in unexpected and often ironic ways to reconcile these divergent desires. Products embrace natural materials and color applications while utilizing sophisticate technological innovation. Colors are expressed with multidimensional finishes that showcase polymer creativity with an elemental edge. 



Injection Molding Know How, Live

20. January 2015

Are you interested in creating an optimized injection molding process that can be validated to FDA standards and not tied to a single press or plant? Instructor John Bozzelli, author of Plastics Technology’s Injection Molding Know How column since November 2009, will walk registrants through applying Scientific Molding to develop processes for new tools with at-the-press training this January 27-29 in Troy, Mich. at the Incoe Hot Runner Research Center. Register today, enrollment is limited. (Pictured: Bozzelli leading at-the-press training at M.R. Mold & Engineering in April 2011). 

SPE Auto Awards Innovations In Safety, Environmental, Process, Power Train

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 15. January 2015

Having had the honor to be one of the Blue Ribbon judges of the 2014 SPE Automotive Innovation Awards, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of up-close presentations of such a broad variety of innovations. In this month’s issue, I reported on the award winners of each of the eight categories. Since I saw that nearly all other finalists’ innovations were newsworthy, I followed up with a series of blogs covering the categories of interior, exterior, materials, and chassis/hardware. Take a look at these four attention-grabbing innovations in the safety, environmental, process/assembly, and power train—all of which are transferable to other vehicles.


• Safety—Blind Spot Information System Tail Lamp: Featured in Ford’s F-150 pickup, this week’s announced winner of the 2015 North American Automotive Show for this vehicle category, this innovation is injection molded by Flex-N-Gate using Arkema’s V826, 1803/1808/18304 polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). This, has been uniquely integrated into the rear blind-spot information system (BLIS) sensor rail-lamp assembly because the vehicle’s aluminum bumper does not permit normal installation behind the plastic fascia. The radar unit is housed behind two layers of plastic on a three-color, three-shot tail-lamp lens and features a cast-aluminum serviceable door, which also acts as a heat sink. In order to have the red opaque and clear material as one layer, the red opaque is the first shot in the molding process, followed by the clear over the red as the second shot which forms the backup window in the module area. By installing the BLIS system in the tail lamp, the lens cover also protects the module from direct impact, water, mud, or snow and the system saves $10 USD/vehicle.  By having it designed this way, vs the initial design which was to have the module installed below the lamp, the following components were not needed: bracket, plastic cover, three fasteners; two gary ball attachments and unique D-Pillar.  



• Environmental—Lightweight Material with Unique Synthetic & Bio-Fillers: This is featured on the 2015 Ford Mustang and injection molded by Tribar Manufacturing using the specialty TAP01 TPO from Amplas Compounding. The innovation entails the use of a unique synthetic mineral-based fiber plus a bio-filler (coconut powder) that replaces talc and PP plus rubber from recycle battery cases, and which provides a 5% density and 33% wall-thickness reduction in a rear decklid applique bracket and side-door cladding without sacrifice of properties. In addition, the material provides a 30% reduction in injection-molding cycle time and a 15% material cost reduction.



• Process/Assembly—High-Gloss Entertainment System Bezel: Featured in the 2013 Daimler Mercedes-Benz S-Class luxury sedan, this is produced by Johnson Controls and Trexel using Bayer MaterialScience T65 XF ABS/PC injection molded with Mucell foaming. This injection-molded frame for a DVD video bezel had to provide high dimensional stability, reduce warpage, lower weight and cost, and achieve a high-gloss Class A surface finish. Replacing an earlier two-part design featuring multi-layer painting, this single-piece part met all performance requirements thanks to the combination of two process technologies: microcellular foaming and tool heating/cooling. This led to a 40% weight savings and a 20% cost savings along with an additional 10% product cost savings while improving global quality perceptions due to excellent appearance and lower NVH--noise/vibration/harshness.



• Power Train—Charge Air Cooler Duct and Resonator: This is featured on the 2014 Fiat Chrysler Jeep Cherokee SUB and injection molded by Hutchinson FTS using Stanyl Diablo OCD2100 Nylon 4/6 from DSM Engineering Plastics. The DSM super-stabilized nylon 4/6 grade is used to mold a combination hot-side charge air cooler duct plus resonator in a unique shape that accommodates a difficult packaging environment. Doing so, eliminates one sub-component, delivering corrosion-free performance for longer life, and improved captive screw retention. Moreover, it enables improved seal design and retention, reduces weight by 32% and cost by 42% vs. its metal predecessor. It also allows the resonator to be incorporated as an insert for easier acoustic tuning and flexibility to use the same part in a similar package with different acoustic requirements. 





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