IBM Researchers Discover a New Way to Recycle PC

By: Heather Caliendo 29. June 2016

IBM says it has discovered a new process to turn old smartphones into medical-grade plastic.


The Digital Age has produced a pretty extensive e-waste problem and while this issue isn’t going to just suddenly disappear, IBM believes it has discovered a new process to help. Researchers from IBM’s Almaden lab in San Jose, Calif. say they have discovered a new, one-step chemical process that recycles polycarbonate into plastics safe for water purification, fiber optics and medical equipment.


In the study, IBM Researchers added a fluoride reactant, a base (similar to baking powder) and heat to old CDs to produce a new plastic with temperature and chemical resistance reportedly superior to the original substance.


“Polycarbonates are common plastics in our society, especially in consumer electronics in the form of LED screens, smartphones and Blu-rays, as well as everyday eyeglass lenses, kitchen utensils and household storage gear,” said Gavin Jones, research staff member at IBM Research Almaden. “We now have a new way of recycling to improve how this prominent substance impacts the world’s health and environment.”


“While preventing these plastics from entering landfills, we simultaneously recycle the substance into a new type of plastic—safe and strong enough for purifying our water and producing medical equipment,” said Jeanette Garcia, research staff member, IBM Research Almaden.  “It’s an environmental win on many fronts.”


In this study, researchers used a combination of predictive modeling and experimental lab work to make the discovery. As part of the IBM Research Frontiers Institute, scientists are combining expertise in informatics and polymers, and other materials, to prototype systems to extract, organize, analyze and predict insights from materials datasets. By leveraging existing knowledge from the world’s scientific databases and accelerating computations used in these types of experiments, these cognitive tools could help identify patterns and bring new discoveries to realization faster.


Check out the full research paper, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 


New Resin Made From Disposable Paper Coffee Cups

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 28. June 2016

Consultancy and recycling manufacturer may have the answer to turning disposable coffee cups into durable resin.


Consulting firm Nextek and recycling manufacturer AShortWalk of the U.K., have partnered in the development of a new resin, NextCupCycle, made from disposable paper coffee cups.


It turns out that less than 25% of an estimated 3 billion paper cups used annually in the U.K are currently recycled. Part of the problem is the hot beverage cups themselves, which are made from paper fiber tightly bonded with a PE coating layer. This construction makes them troublesome to recycle, as it would require the painstaking separation of each layer.


Dr. Edward Kosior, Nextek’s managing director and professor at Brunel University London’s Wolfson Centre for Materials Processing, saw the solution not in the separation of tightly combined materials, which often results in neither component coming out pure, but rather capitalizing in the strength of the materials in their combined form. A four-year research project at Imperial College London, led to the creation of a new resin that is up to 40% stronger than conventional plastics in weight-handling capabilities and which can be molded into products at high speeds.


The partners have aimed for a 50:50 ratio of paper fibers to plastic coating (PE) to improve the adhesion between the two materials, and have added by-products such as plastic lids and straws to the help achieve the mix. Plans for the future include the development of a recycling plant for exclusive production of NextCupCycle resin that can be used to create a range of durable products such as cafeteria trays. This could be as soon as 2017, according to Kosior.


Search recyled resins in PT's Material Database. 


Strong Growth Projected for Wood-Plastic Composites Market

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 28. June 2016

North America held the largest share of the multi-billion dollar market in 2015.


I remember reporting on wood-plastic composites products, primarily weatherable decking, well over a decade ago when quality issues would steadily crop up. Not only has this market nicely matured with a broad spectrum of quality products, including decking, fencing, railing, trim and automotive parts, but its growth pattern is strong.


This according to a new study from India-based global market research firm MarketsandMarkets, “Wood Plastic Composite Market by Type (PE, PVC, PP,others), Application (Building & Construction Products, Automotive Components, Industrial & Consumer Goods, Others), Region (North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, RoW)—Global Trends & Forecast to 2021.” Here are some of the study’s key highlights:


• The wood-plastic composites market is projected to reach $5.84 billion, at a compound annual growth rate of 12.4% for the forecast period of 2016 to 2021.


• North America accounted for the largest share of the wood-plastic composites market in 2015, followed by Asia-Pacific and Europe.


• North America is one of the globe’s major producers of wood-plastic composites. Increasing investment in infrastructure projects, followed by replacement of old housing infrastructure with advanced materials, are the key drivers in this region.


• Building & construction is the largest application of wood-plastic composites and constituted a major share of the total wood-plastic composite market by application in 2015. The growing demand for wood-plastic composites from this market segment is projected to drive the demand in coming years thanks to the superior performance benefits, durability, and low maintenance cost of these composites as compared to that of conventional materials.


• Polyethylene constitutes the largest wood-plastic composite type, capturing over half of the total wood-plastic composite market share in 2015 among type segments. The superior molecular structure and stability makes PE type wood-plastic composites a robust, high-performing material for applications, thus creating a healthy market demand for the same, says the M&M study.


The following are among some of the prominent players in the wood-plastic composites market identified by the study:


Trex Company, Inc. (U.S.)

Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies, Inc. (U.S.)

Universal Forest Products, Inc. (U.S.)

Fiberon, LLC (U.S.)

TAMCO Building Products, Inc. (U.S.)

TimberTech (U.S.)

Axion International, Inc. (U.S.)

Beologic N.V. (Belgium)

Certain Teed (U.S.)

Fkur Kunststoff GmbH (Germany)

Josef Ehrler GmbH & Co. KG (Germany)

Polymera, Inc. (U.S.)

Polyplank AB (Sweeden)



Look for more on wood-plastic composites in PT’s materials database or PT’s Wood & Natural Fiber Compound Zone; photo courtesy Lanxess.


The 5 M’s of Molding—Part 5: Method

By: Garrett MacKenzie 27. June 2016

Once a molding problem has been identified, use “method” to determine whether the issue is with Man, Mold, Machine or Material.


The final M in the 5M equation refers to “Method”. Method is a very broad category that directly applies to Man, Mold, Machine and Material. Method also considers all internal and external contributors that affect the key measurables of a lean production operation.


Key measurables in plastic injection consist of production efficiency, scrap and downtime. The primary goal of lean manufacturing is 100% efficiency, 0% scrap and down time that is planned, not unplanned. These goals can sometimes seem to be challenging to achieve, but with proper analysis and approach the end result can be successful and profitable.


As measurables are recorded, a part history is developed. It is this historical data that we use to identify repeating and/or poorly performing variables. It also helps us to scrutinize what areas of production need improvement.


Once clear identification of a problem has been accomplished, it is then time to ask the question, “is this problem directly associated with Man, Mold, Machine or Material?” In some situations, only one of these will require change. In others, it could be all four that need correction. By establishing which of these categories need to be addressed, it becomes easier to develop solutions that will improve our “method”.


Here is an example of the 5 M method in use:


A Japanese headlight manufacturer determined through scrap data that a significant amount of scratches was appearing on parts already assembled. The cost of this sort of rework is quite costly… parts already assembled would need to be tore down, replacement lenses molded and then a second assembly performed to refurbish the part to an acceptable quality level.


Man, Mold, Machine and Material were all considered to determine when and how the scratches were occurring. After review of the entire production process from in-mold to assembly, the cause of the scratches was tracked to two separate problems, both of which were directly related to “man”. The problems were:


Parts produced were packed into cardboard for storage. Some scratches were due to operator handling as they were packed. The boxes were stacked on skids and then transported into warehouse racking.


When parts were needed, they were pulled from warehouse and then transported to the assembly area. Some scratches resulted directly from parts jostling as they were handled by warehouse personnel.


To eliminate the problem, special carts were developed made of a soft cloth that allowed for the parts to be packed, stored and transported to assembly without the threat of scratched product from packing and transport. What had been a very large problem became non-existent through proper analysis and methodical approach.


The 5M approach to molding is an excellent way to clearly identify problems, which is the foundation to any problem solving event. Full understanding of any problem helps to develop the most credible solution to the problems presented. Develop, maintain and regularly review recordable data for measuring production, scrap and downtime efficiencies. As the level of historical data increases, factors that improve production are discovered and implemented. That same data also offers insight into what problems exist. Clearly define the problem, and then review whether it is directly related to man, mold, machine or material. Remember that it could be one, several or all four contributing to the situation.


Develop a solid list of all areas contributing to the problem, and then systematically define solutions to those issues. Effective solutions require a complete understanding of the problems being addressed. Utilize all personnel directly related to the problem to best develop understanding and methods for correction. Effectively defining problems and solutions is dependent upon the complete knowledge base of your entire team. As their ability to create and adapt to change is refined, continuous improvement becomes more enjoyable. Clearly defined solutions add to the strength of your organization, bringing it one step closer to world-class manufacturing.


Garrett MacKenzie is the owner and editor of Mackenzie started in plastics at the age of 19 as an operator, eventually moving up through the ranks to engineering and management over a 29-year timeframe. He currently works as a plastic injection consultant in engineering and training capacities. He can be contacted at


Read Part 1, Man

Read Part 2, Mold

Read Part 3, Material

Read Part 4, Machine


Innovation On the Agenda at TCC Auto 2016

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 23. June 2016

Lots of new developments discussed including Covestro’s strategy to launch continuous reinforced PC sheet.


It was very gratifying to see full attendance, often at standing-room only, at each of the 22 presentations of our second “Thermoplastic Composites Conference for Automotive” (TCC Auto 2016), which covered topics in Applications, Materials, Machinery and Processes.


Held last week concurrently with the Amerimold 2016 show and conference in Novi, Mich., TCC Auto 2016 was presented by Plastics Technology and Composites World, sister publications within Gardner Business Media. It was moderated by my colleague, PT’s executive editor Matt Naitove and CW’s editor-in-chief Jeff Sloan, and I had the pleasure of helping a bit as well.


And, you can bet that there were new developments discussed, some of which have been reported on previously, but with significant updates on what is to come. This included news from Covestro, which is planning to launch a line of continuous reinforced glass and/or carbon fiber PC tape and sheet products within the next couple of years.


 In his excellent presentation, “Development in Continuous Fiber-Reinforced Thermoplastic Composites Using Polycarbonate”, Paul Platte, senior market manager, automotive & transportation at Covestro, elaborated on the company’s developments following its March 2015 acquisition of Germany’s Thermoplast Composite GmbH (TCG), and its technology, patents and facilities for continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastics. Here’s an update:


Covestro is now in the development stages and has been able to successfully produce 2-ft by 2-ft continuously reinforced fiber PC sheet for which consumer electronics and automotive applications are initial targets. But, in a brief chat with Platte earlier today, he noted that they are open to serving other markets. “One guy at the conference approached me and asked about drones,” he noted.


While automotive is the bigger target, Platte acknowledges that application development needs to start now. He foresees the first commercial use of the new continuous-fiber reinforced PC sheet and tape products emerging in 2018 for consumer electronics, and in the early 2020s for automotive.


Search for more on Covestro’s PC resins in PT’s materials database.


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