Breakthrough Process Opens Up Vast Landscape for Biobased Materials

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 21. January 2016

DuPont and ADM have “game-changing” platform technology based on long sought-after molecule.


With a Dupont-Dow Chemical merger in the wings, any industry observer can say sustainable materials have been a key focus of each company in recent years—be they engineering thermoplastics with biobased content or innovative packaging breakthroughs (e.g., stand-up pouches) with structures that promote recyclability. So, while this mega-merger is pending, new developments continue to emerge.


The newest one is the announcement of a new “breakthrough process” jointly developed by DuPont Industrial Biosciences and Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) reportedly enables the production of furan dicarboxylic methyl ester (FDME) from fructose. A high-purity derivative of furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA), FDME is one of the 12 building blocks identified by the U.S. Dept. of Energy that can be converted into a number of high-value, biobased chemicals or materials that can deliver high performance in a number of applications.


The partners see this molecule as a “game-changing” platform technology that has the potential to expand the materials landscape in the 21st century with truly novel, high-performance renewable materials with applications in packaging, engineering plastics, textiles and other industries. This collaborative effort brings together ADM’s expertise in fructose production and carbohydrate chemistry with DuPont’s biotechnology, chemistry, materials and applications expertise—all backed by a strong joint intellectual-property portfolio.


“This technology will enable cost-efficient production of a variety of 100% renewable, high-performance chemicals and polymers with applications across a broad range of industries. ADM is an agribusiness powerhouse with strong development capabilities. They are the ideal partner with which to develop this new, renewable supply chain for FDME,” said Simon Herriott, DuPont’s global business director for biomaterials.


One of the first material under development utilizing FDME is polytrimethylene furandicarboxylate (PTF), touted as a novel polyester also made from DuPont’s proprietary Bio-PDP (1.3-propanediol). A 100% renewable and recyclable polymer, PTF is said to substantially improve gas-barrier properties over other polyesters in bottles and other beverage packages. So, PTF will be positioned as a challenger in applications where the beverage packaging industry is aiming to improve shelf life and lighten the weight of their products.


The partners are taking the initial step in the process of bringing FDME to market by moving forward on the scale-up of the project. Plans are for an integrated 120,000 lb/yr demonstration plant in Decatur, Ill., which will provide potential customers with sufficient product quantities for testing and research.


Among the key advantages cited for the new approach to producing FDME are:


Higher Yields and Lower Operating Costs: This process is said to deliver the possibility of commercially available FDME. Compared to the current process, which also makes other byproducts, this innovative process uses all sugar in the feedstock—either to make FDME or for energy recovery.


Better Performance: The process is said to result in increased performance for all the products that will use FDME as a building block, including high-performance renewable chemicals and polymers (polyesters, nylon, plasticizers, and polyurethanes) with applications in industries such as packaging, engineering thermoplastics, and textiles.


Smarter Renewable Materials: Not only can this process reportedly replace petroleum-based materials in a wide variety of applications, but the process of making FDME is ‘smarter’. Additionally, with all the process steps co-located in one facility, all operations are more energy efficient.

ADM Decatur, Ill.

Make Your Machine Time Count

By: Tony Deligio 20. January 2016

At the end of the day, injection molders are ultimately only selling one thing: machine time.


Getting and keeping injection molding machines running, despite all the other services processors typically offer, often means the difference between boom or bust for molders. With that in mind, Plastics Technology has created an entire session at its Molding 2016 Conference & Exhibits (Westin New Orleans; March 29-31) devoted to ‘Establishing & Maintaining a Robust Process’.


Eight speakers from leading custom molders, machinery suppliers, OEMs, consultancies and plasticating component manufacturers will address how to create, maintain and repeat a robust molding process, replacing downtime and scrap with on-time deliveries and profits.


Joachim Kragl, director Advanced Injection Molding Systems & Processing at Engel, will walk attendees through the latest developments for the company’s iQ control package, including the most recent advances which allow the system to automatically adjust clamp pressure to compensate for viscosity changes in the material and create for consistent parts without tinkering with back pressure.


Robert Gattshall (author of this Plastics Technology article on scientific molding) will present on process development and establishing effective process limits, including defect and variation thresholds, while asking which process outputs should be monitored. In addition, Gattshall will speak to a problem shops with a mixed machine stable face: the lack of standards across machine manufacturers and machine-to-machine variation.


As important as melt temperature is to the molding process, its true measurement has remained illusive if not completely indiscernible. Two papers at Molding 2016 will directly address the “mystery of melt temperature.” Michael F. Durina, inventor and president Md Plastics Inc., will talk about the development of an inductive electromagnetic melt temperature sensor that is actually located with the machine barrel and nozzle. This new technology relays data on melt temperature, viscosity and equipment condition in real time.


In addition to Durina, Mark Berry of PPD Tech LLC and Yasuo Ishiwata, of Futaba Corp. of America will discuss use of a fiber-optic infrared sensor to measure true melt temperature. In addition, the paper will discuss how the technology can help find the ideal cooling time by measuring key parameters while the part is in the cavity.


Tessy Plastics Virginia, whose innovative integration of process and production monitoring for a paperless plant was highlighted in this Plastics Technology article, will also present at Molding. Doug Jobe, Tessy’s director of operations, will discuss how his company’s real-time process monitoring is helping it grow into Industry 4.0.


Scott Rogers, technical director of Noble Plastics, will present a paper entitled “The Value of Predictive Inspection.” Specifically, Rogers will share a method whereby dimensional inspection of molded parts can be predicted and how this method can be used to enhance mold design, part design, and production capability.


Suhas Kulkarni, author of this two-part series on how to optimize pack and hold times for hot-runner and valve-gated molds, will conclude the session with a discussion of Design of Experiments as a means to process simulation. Founder of consulting and training firm FIMMTECH and author of Robust Process Development and Scientific Molding, Kulkarni will discuss how out-of-spec parts can lead molders to change one parameter, without accounting for how that alteration can have knock-on effects with other specifications. His solution: A Design of Experiments simulation that’s done after actual data are collected and analyzed from a set of molder-led experiments. “Simulation is now based on actual data and not on initial flow simulations typically done at the part and mold design stage,” Kulkarni notes.


Register now and save for Molding 2016! Make the machine time you sell count.

Engel IQ Clamp Control

Two Interesting Body Exterior Finalists of SPE Auto Innovation Awards

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 20. January 2016

Exterior applications meriting mention from the 2015 SPE Auto Innovation Awards include entrants from Ford and GM.


As a continuation of a series of blogs that I have posted in the last couple of months on finalists of the 2015 SPE Automotive Innovation Awards, here is one on two interesting body exterior applications that captured the judges’ attention.


• Charge Port Bezel: This injection-molded charge port bezel, which is located very precisely with no gaps or movement normally associated with typical cantilevered snap-fit components, is featured on GM’s 2016 Chevrolet Volt BEV. This patented GM innovation utilizes the natural elastic properties of the material to create engineered interferences within a part design. The technology significantly over-constrains mating components with a large number of relatively compliant members.

As the system is preloaded, the elastic properties of the material allow for the size and position error of each individual contact feature to be averaged out over the sum of contact features throughout the solid body. This provides precision alignment while eliminating part-to-part relative motion.


The component utilizes molded-in color, electrically-conductive MetalLX Hostaform POM acetal copolymer from Celanese, Irving, Texas, which provides the appearance of chrome without the cost of environmental concerns. This application was the first within GM to provide retaining elastic averaging features. The engineered interference of the tubes to the female receptacles provide a “spring force” against the retaining features which hold the retention features in a positive engagement throughout the life of the parts.


Compared to the previous design, adding elastic averaging features to the charge port bezel and housing eliminated looseness and noise issues as well as part float from locating feature clearances. Increased stiffness and load capacity give the part a quality ‘solid’ feel, and created a part locating scheme, which was more robust to wear. The design helped reduce labor to install and ensure the part was centered in the charge-port opening. ITW Fuel Systems was the Tier I supplier.


• Emblem Front-Camera Deployment Mechanism: This multi-material injection molded component is featured on Ford’s 2016 Lincoln MKX CUV. This 360-degree camera system was a critical feature for this model to meet customer needs in the global premium market. With the signature Lincoln split-wing grille, it was difficult to package a front camera on the face of the 2016 MKX without blemishing the face of the vehicle with the mechanical appearance of an exposed camera.

The goal was to have a camera that is hidden and then deployed only when function is required. A front camera helps drivers see curbs while parking. Traditional deployable cameras were on the rear of vehicles and required bulky and heavy metallic housings and components. Using a similar approach on the front of the vehicle posed a problem due to lack of structure that a rear mechanism has. Mounting a mechanism on the front of a vehicle requires the lightest possible solution to avoid fascia deformation and excessive vibration under road loads. This drove the mechanism development to a nearly all-plastic design with minimized metal content.


The all-plastics mechanism for the MKX is 41% lighter than the traditional mechanisms used by VW and 55% lighter than that of BMW with no loss of function. Moreover, converting to this mechanism allowed a camera washer nozzle to be hidden so the camera is washed in its stowed position, and led to multiple patent filings.


The Tier 1 system supplier is Huf North America, Greenville, Tenn. Four major material suppliers were part of this collaborative effort for the various parts of this component. A 15% glass-filled PBT from DuPont, Wilmington, Del. is used to make the gear/PCB cover. The gears are made of a polyacetal from DuPont and a nylon 66 from BASF, Florham Park, N.J. The overmolded drive links are made of a 30% glass-filled nylon 66 from Lanxess, Pittsburgh. Finally, the camera bracket is made from 15% glass-filled acetal from Celanese, Irving, Texas.

PE Prices Down, PP Prices Up?

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 19. January 2016

Global factors like plunging oil prices and larger resin price decreases overseas impact domestic polyolefin prices.


Factors that affect polyolefin prices have been changing over the last couple of years. Traditional factors such monomer prices no longer appear to be among the key drivers, replaced  these days by plunging crude oil prices and other global factors such as slowed economies and larger resin price decreases overseas. This introduces more “ifs” and makes it more than a tad difficult to wager what will happen more than a month or so down the road. So, here is the current state of things for PE and PP.


PE prices down? “North American PE suppliers may be forced to respond with lower prices in January or February to remain competitive with imported finished products,” said Mike Burns, v.p. of client services for PE at Fort Worth, Texas-based Resin Technology, Inc. (RTi) at the start of the year. He noted that imported, finished film and bags with lower competitive prices have started to surface in North American markets. In the first week of this month, bags from China coming into the U.S. were going for 75ȼ/lb while domestically produced bags were at 82ȼ/lb. Burns sees this as becoming an urgent issue if the difference widens beyond 10ȼ/lb.


This is one major reason why PE suppliers who are still pushing to implement their 5ȼ/lb increase, first issued in June 2015, need to think twice. And, apparently they are, with most suppliers postponing the increase from January to February. Moreover, Houston-based PetroChemWire reported last week that one supplier had notified customers that it would reduce its PE prices by 3ȼ/lb.


Michael Greenberg, CEO of Chicago-based The Plastics Exchange reported last week that in order to better reflect current PE market conditions and spot domestic railcar pricing—including the bearish state of energy and feedstock markets—a PE contract decrease on the order of 3-5ȼ/lb would be reasonable for this month.


Burns stresses that global demand and the price of oil will be the key drivers of PE prices throughout this quarter.


PP Prices Up? Industry pros see this year’s supply situation becoming even tighter than last year owing to no new capacity coming on stream, continued strong demand, and planned maintenance outages though this quarter. PetroChemWire reported earlier this month that relatively weak international PP markets could well drive an influx of both imported resin and finished goods.


Scott Newell, RTi’s v.p. of PP markets noted that the domestic PP price is carrying a big premium over the rest of the world—nearly 25ȼ/lb over Chinese PP prices. “This spread is growing as domestic suppliers continue to implement profit-margin increases, and this could result in demand destruction over time for the domestic PP market.” He ventures that such demand destruction could come in the form of imported resin or PP finished goods and transition from PP to other resins.


The Plastics Exchange’s Greenberg noted that PP sales in 2015 were up over 5%—about 850 million/lb more than 2014. “While some processors are grateful for the 13.5ȼ/lb price decrease during 2015, others just see suppliers keeping the lion’s share of the cost savings for themselves, especially with another 6ȼ/lb margin enhancing increase in play for January.”


Which brings us to what will happen to this 6ȼ/lb increase. Newell, for one, ventures that the entire price hike will eventually be implemented this quarter, but not all at once. He and PetroChemWire reported on unconfirmed industry talk that the initiative would be evenly split between this month and next. The latter also reported that one PP supplier had made no announcement for this month but had issued a 6ȼ/lb increase for February.


Greenberg noted that while cheap energy and monomer costs have led to larger PP price declines overseas, the U.S. supply/demand dynamic remains tight and prices need not cave in. “U.S. suppliers only export around 2% of PP production, so they are not really impacted by competitive offers from regional suppliers. In order for domestic processors to reap the benefit of cheaper international PP, they cannot remain passive—more resin imports would need to flow into the U.S., which would require ripping a whole lot of undesirable 25kg bags, an alternative resin handling program, or simply an altered attitude after a quick cost/benefits analysis.”

Making Molding An Absolute ‘Joy’

By: Jim Callari 18. January 2016


The recently released film Joy featured a mock injection molding plant that was put together by equipment supplier Absolute Machinery Corp., Worcester, Mass.


The movie starred Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano, the American inventor and entrepreneur known for the Miracle Mop and other ingenious household items sold via shopping networks. Last April, the 20th Century Fox production crew filmed in Massachusetts on a set that replicated a working injection molding plant, complete with operating machines, auxiliaries, typical office equipment, shelving, cabinets and anything else that would be typically in such a facility. All machinery and office furniture was supplied by Absolute sales manager Steve Murdoch and his team. What's more, Absolute technician Joe Hopper and technical manager Stuart McCarthy worked on the set as extras for five days to make sure everything ran smoothly.


“We learned that when film crews need set pieces, they need them quickly. We were able to provide 20th Century Fox with five molding machines, two of which were horizontal and three vertical, in just a few days” says Absolute Machinery’s Nathan Smith. “We loaded up trucks full of used auxiliary equipment including mold temperature controllers, molds, material and typical manufacturing ancillaries from our stock and headed over to Wilmington, Mass., where the shoot was taking place. Although we weren’t sure if they would be seen making parts, we had to make sure the used equipment was able to run in order to give the director the option to do so.”


“This was a challenge we’ve been able to deliver on in the past when customers have asked us to set up entire factories and turnkey operations for companies both here in North America and around the world,” notes Smith.


The movie, which earned Miss Lawrence a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination, also starred Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper. There is no indication that any of the actors were required to take a Scientific Molding course as part of their preparation.

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