Global Lactic Acid Producer Plans To Enter PLA Business

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 2. November 2014

Dutch global producer of lactic acid and lactides Corbion Purac (U.S. office in Lenexa, Kansas) has its sights on becoming a PLA producer. Cobion’s CEO Tjerk de Ruiter recently commented that as part of the company’s strategic review, they have confirmed that the demand outlook for PLA is attractive, though at a lower growth pace than assumed previously.

            “Given our strong position in lactic acid, our unique high-heat technology and the market need for a second PLA producer, we plan to forward integrate in the bioplastics value chain, from being a lactide provider to a PLA producer,” says deRuiter. Corbion’s plan is to invest in a 75 kTpa (over 165 million/lb) PLA plant in Thailand, but de Ruiter says that they will only move ahead is they can secure at least one-third of plant capacity in committed PLA volumes from customers. He also says that Corbion will continue to explore strategic alliances as part of its PLA growth strategy, in order to enhance business opportunities while mitigating associated risks,

            Corbion will continue to sell lactides to both existing and new PLA polymerization customers. Many of the company’s existing polymerization customers have already built successfully a strong local presence and distribution channel, with great market coverage, according to de Ruiter. Woldwide PLA capacity is nearly sold out and with the PLA market expected to reach 600 kTpa (13 billion lbs) by 2025, the market is seeking additional PLA suppliers, he says.  

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


Advancements Discussed At Plating-On-Plastic Summit

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 31. October 2014

Earlier this month, specialty chemicals supplier MacDermid Industrial Solutions, Waterbury, Conn., hosted a two-day Plating-On-Plastic (POP) summit at the impressive Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Mich. MacDermid specializes in surface finishing, pretreatments and is a leader in POP technology for the automotive, electronic, aerospace, plumbing and other industries.


The company updated attendees on the latest advancements in POP technology. Included is the company’s new Electrolac UV process. It allows for curing a colored lacquer by UV instead of at high temperatures so that the coatings can be used effectively on plastics. POP advances in double-shot molding, and a qualification process for decorative fashion finishes were also discussed. Of particular interest were presentations on molding and plastics by Mitch Gordon, OEM account manager at Synventive Molding Solutions, Livonia, Mich., and Brian Grosser, business director USA/Mexico of Samsung Chemical USA, Detroit, respectively. A round table discussion with officials from Chrysler, Ford and General Motors was another highlight on the topic.


The decorative or functional applications of plating metal on plastic substrates is accomplished with the electroplating process. Before electroplating, plastics need to be metalized which is achieved by etching the surface to provide a tough bond and then coating the roughened surface with traces of a precious metal. Nickel and chromium are the most commonly applied, normally called ‘chrome plating’ or ‘plastic chrome plating’. This coating provides both technical and aesthetic benefits and can be applied to meet the criteria of a broad range of applications.


For example, highly-visible and corrosion-resistant exterior automotive components are often chrome plated plastics, which provide a lower weight option to metal components. Plastic chrome plating has also been found to be ideal for sanitary fittings that require a durable and wear-resistant coating to resist the humid bathroom environment. Similarly, electronic devices often benefit from EMI-RFI shielding of sensitive electronic components for which plating on plastic can be ideal.


MacDermid also discussed its latest innovation in hex-chrome-free pretreatment. Called evolve the new process is an acid-based solution that allows for etching of plastics without chromium trioxide, permanganate, or PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate)--a substance that has been traditionally used as a mist suppressant in hexavalent chrome processes and which is being banned as it is considered a substance of high concern (SVHC). The evolve process requires no extra process tanks or processing times when compared to conventional metallization cycles. MacDermid revealed that it is currently in production, meeting automotive specifications and demonstrating outstanding adhesion.

Don’t Let Your New Strategy Succumb to Your Old Culture

By: Tony Deligio 29. October 2014

U.S. Army Col. Fred Gellert shared that insight and others in a presentation that distilled some key leadership principles from his coursework as an instructor at the U.S. Army War College, where he is the director of force management studies. Speaking at SPI’s Equipment and Moldmakers Leadership Summit (Tucson, Ariz., Oct. 26-28), Gellert asked attendees to think about the environment into which they introduce a new strategic vision for a company.


“Culture eats strategy for lunch every time,” Gellert said. “You can have the best plans and the best strategy, but if the culture of the organization isn't right, none of that is going to matter over the long term because the existing culture will slowly erode away what you're trying to do.”


Companies interested in changing their culture, particularly as a means to support a new strategy, should consider what Gellert called embedding mechanisms and reinforcing mechanisms. The former involves who and what you promote in your leadership role, while the latter deals with processes that support those goals.


“Embedding is the most important,” Gellert noted. “What culture are you putting into the organization?” It’s also important to understand that cultures within a company aren’t typically monolithic, with potential sub cultures impacting strategy in different ways. How does manufacturing interact with sales and sales interact with accounting, for example. Do they represent distinct cultures within the greater company? “Do the manufacturing guys think like the sales people or like the budget people,” Gellert asked. “How connected are they as an organization?”


The title of the presentation was “Leading and Managing Change in a VUCA World,” wherein VUCA, which was coined in the military, stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. With his students, Gellert stresses the ongoing battle that is management, a concept that can be difficult to understand.


“The solutions of today, cause the problems of tomorrow,” Gellert said. “When we solve something today, almost invariably it sets us up for the problems of tomorrow. Managers want to knock down the target, they want to solve the problem, but the complexity of this is tough.”


Assessing those problems requires intelligence and data gathering, which poses its own obstacles. “Ambiguity….we get all kinds of intelligence, but what does it mean; what connects to what; what is the right interpretation; and what direction should we head to go in?”


Gellert simplified the concept of strategic intelligence into three keys; get the information, make the correct interpretation, and, most importantly, believe the information. “History is replete with examples where we had the information but didn't believe the interpretation,” Gellert said.


Finally, Gellert told attendees to push their companies to not only be proactive to their environment but take a hand in creating an environment that supports your goals.


“Shaping the environment is at least as important as responding to it,” Gellert said. “Try to put some focus into how you get ahead of things,” he explained, adding that companies should ask what parts of their organization don’t have to be as worried about today and can try to look forward. “When the future is unclear, invest in leader development, intelligence and a reserve.”

Integrated Multi-Process Cells Hum at Fakuma Show

By: Matthew H. Naitove 29. October 2014

Some of the most dazzling exhibits at recent plastics exhibitions have demonstrated intimate pairings of injection molding with other processes in an integrated cell. The Fakuma 2014 show last week in Friedrichshafen, Germany, was no exception. It showed how machinery OEMs are pulling out the stops to show that virtually anything can be integrated with injection molding.

KraussMaffei (U.S. office in Florence, Ky.) caught my attention (and that of a crowd of other visitors) with a two-shot molding cell in which a first shot of polycarbonate was overmolded with metal—yes, pure zinc metal. The technology was developed by German molder and moldmaker Krallmann Group, which also built the small metal-injection unit on the side of the press. That unit melts a billet of zinc at 250 C and injects it through a special hot runner. Shot capacity is up to 30 g (at a density of 7.5 g/cc). In this case, only 3.5 g of metal was injected to show the capability of adding conductive paths or electrical contacts to a plastic part (photo above).

Arburg (U.S. office in Newington, Conn.) operated a cell in which a bead foam molding press was integrated with an injection machine, using a six-axis robot to transfer foam components to the injection mold and to demold finished parts. The part was a socket consisting of a circular EPP foam part and a solid PP threaded component that was molded inside the foam I.D. According to Arburg, it’s not possible to achieve a permanent bond between the bead foam and solid PP without this overmolding process, which is called Particle-Foam Composite Injection Molding (PCIM). The photo above shows the part and how it can be incorporated into larger bead-foam components, represented in this case by an EPP board.


Although less exotic, close coupling of a laser printer to an injection machine is not something you see every day. Boy Machines (U.S. office in Exton, Pa.) ran a cell in which laser printing was performed side by side with the injection press molding an ABS “business card.” The laser printer was integrated with the machine controls, where the print program was selected.

A Rare ‘Resurrection’ in Engineering Plastics

By: Matthew H. Naitove 27. October 2014

I’ve seen a number of interesting new plastics snuffed out in their first bloom of youth because they weren’t growing fast enough for impatient corporate parents, because they weren’t sufficiently differentiated from the competition, or perhaps the timing just wasn’t right. Right now, we’re seeing an exceedingly rare case on of one of them coming back from the dead.


Some of you may recall Carilon polyketone (PK), a semi-crystalline thermoplastic developed by Shell Chemical and commercialized in 1996. It was made from ethylene, carbon monoxide, and a dash of propylene. It offered promise as a new competitor for nylons, acetals, and polyesters. In its first few years, it attracted interest from compounders like LNP (now part of SABIC Innovative Plastics) and RTP Co. and a handful of applications emerged in injection and blow molding and extrusion. But it appeared that a giant oil company was not ideally suited to nurture a fledgling novelty like PK. Shell discontinued Carilon in 2000. It was unable to sell the business but did sell the polymerization technology and licensing rights to SRI International, Menlo Park, Calif.


So it was with a shiver of recognition that I learned recently that Lehvoss North America, Pawcatuck, Conn., and its German parent Lehmann & Voss are reintroducing Luvocom 70 series engineering compounds based on polyketone (PK) resin. These compounds are said to fill a gap separating nylon 6 and 66 and acetal from resins like PPS, PEI and PAEK. “The introduction is actually a re-launch,” says Michael Sandeen, sales and business development manager. “Luvocom 70 products had been available until the year 2000 but had to be canceled due to Shell Chemical’s discontinuation of Carilon PK polymer production.” With the polymer now available (produced by at least three companies in China and Korea), Lehvoss decided to resume development of these high-performance compounds.


PK reportedly offers good hydrolytic stability, low water absorption, low permeability, good weld-line strength, and good processability, with shorter cycle times than nylon 66 and acetal. “In many cases, PK is better than acetal and nylons,” says Sandeen. “It can replace even high-temperature polymers in tribological applications. It’s low wear rate offers excellent advantages for gear wheels and bearings.” And its high chemical resistance is said to suit PK to fuel filters and other fuel-system components.


Luvocom 70 currently comes in three grades: 70-9045 reinforced with carbon fibers; 70-9046 lubricated with PTFE; and 70-9113/BK formulated for low friction and wear. Detailed information is available here.

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