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Plastic Pallets Manufacturer Gets Grant To Further Expansion Into Thermoplastic Composites

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 28. August 2014

Indiana-based Jeco Plastics Products recently received a research grant from Purdue University under the IN-Mac program to study how thermoplastic composites with continuous internal fibers in either single or multiple directions develop wrinkles when being molded with multiple cavity thermoforming tools. The aim is to compete with thermoset composites used in applications such as aerospace and defense components. “Thermoplastic composites are lighter weight, less expensive and have fewer design limitations” says Jeco president and CEO Craig Carson.

 

Jeco was the first to receive a grant under this program which is tailored to assist companies extend existing technology. In Jeco’s case, the grant focuses on the company ability to design sophisticated multiple cavity thermoforming tools for molding complex structures that cannot be manufactured using other processing technologies. In fact, Carson points out that critical to his company’s selection for the grant is its unique thermoforming capabilities, which were recently used to develop a thermoformed door liner for a cryogenic container to be used by NASA on the International Space Station. In a recent interview, Carson told me that this cryogenic container is formed from a PP composite reinforced with continuous PP fibers which boasts significant durability even in thin gages at cryogenic temperatures of -195˚C (-319˚F).

 

Jeco’s mainstay has been the design and manufacture of  rotationallymolded, highly durable pallets and containers made of LLDPE and reinforced with steel or tension members for the worldwide printing and automotive industries, along with other industries handling heavy product that needs damage protection.

 

However, this forward-thinking company has developed capabilities that include the ability to produce large plastic structural components made with continuous carbon, fiberglass and PP fibers in a variety of thermoplastics including PP, nylons, PEEK, PEKK, and polysulfones. Carson told me they also have integrated custom woven cloth of various metals and other fibers into laminated thermoplastic structures to create materials with unique properties. “The IN-Mac grant has allowed us to discover how to predict the wrinkling of the fabric and optimize our tool design to minimize this problem.” He also notes that controlling the amount of wrinkling taking place is very difficult, as the necessary sheet control is too limited in existing thermoforming equipment. “It was necessary to develop and fabricate extensive modifications to address this shortcoming”, he notes. He also adds that tooling software currently available does not take into account the within the sheet. “So, after much trial and error, as well as simulation modification and validation, we are now capable of producing, for example, structural components with PEEK and PEKK with unidirectional carbon fibers and PP with bidirectional PP fibers.”  Be on the lookout for more extensive coverage on this innovator in an upcoming PT issue.

 

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

 

Exploring The Processing Of HDPE-Exfoliated Graphene Nanocomposites For Fuel Tanks

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 21. August 2014

There were three best paper award winners just announced by the organizing committee of the SPE Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE) for its

fourteenth-annual show coming up Sept. 9-11, in Novi, Mich. I will be attending this event and, judging from the roster of papers to be presented, expect to further report on emerging developments, particularly in the thermoplastic composites arena.

 

One of the three winning papers, “Processing Methods of High Density Polyethylene-Exfoliated Graphene Nanoplatelet Nanocomposites for Automotive Fuel Tank Applications, is based on a study jointly conducted by the Composite Materials and Structures Center at Michigan State University and the Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center. Lead author Keith Honaker, a graduate student at Michigan State University and a 2013-2014 SPE ACCEE graduate scholarship award winner, will discuss how HDPE-exfoliated graphene (GnP) nanoplatelet composites were synthesized and tested.

 

In order to further enhance the mechanical and barrier properties of the composite, different processing techniques were explored including microlayer coextrusion and solution mixing with sonication followed by extrusion. The researchers investigated multiple modifications to the nanocomposite constituents including cryo-milling of the HDPE pellets and coating the platelets with a wax or polyolefin elastomer before extrusion.

 

Among the key results: simple melt mixing of HDPE and GnP resulted in an increase in stiffness, a decrease in Izod impact resistance, and a 50% decrease to both oxygen and fuel permeation with 5% wt. GnP. Meanwhile, microlayer coextrusion yielded a high alignement of the nanoplatelets in the direction of the flow and resulted in improved permeation resistance at low GnP concentrations, but did not result in improvement of barrier properties at concentrations above 5% wt.

 

In contrast, cryo-milling the HDPE pellets into a powder resulted in a minor decrease in mechanical properties and a 35% decrease in oxygen permeation. A wax coating on the platelets before melt extrusion resulted in an increase in both Izod impact resistance and barrier properties, but a decrease in flexural modulus. A polyolefin elastomeric coating on the GnP resulted in retaining the flexural modulus properties with only a slight improvement to Izod impact resistance and barrier properties.

 

Overall, the researchers concluded that obtaining outstanding barrier properties without affecting the mechanical properties of HDPE-GnP nanocomposites using melt mixing, extrusion and injection molding processes is very challenging. For this reason, the focus of their current research is on combining a few of these methods to create synergistic effects.

 

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

 

Polystyrene Recycling Partnership Spurred By Demand For Post-Consumer Content

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 21. August 2014

Here are at least two companies making significant efforts to promote the recyclability of polystyrene and trying to halt the emergence of bans particularly for EPS foam in the food-service sector.

 

With a focus on the residential recycling stream and spurred by increasing demand for post-consumer content in food-service packaging and related applications, a new facility that will process both rigid polystyrene and EPS foam is being built  by Dart Container, Mason, Mich., and Plastics Recycling, Inc., (PRI) Indianapolis, Ind. The former is a manufacturer of a broad range of quality, single-use products for the food service, retail and food packaging industries and the world’s largest manufacturer of foam cups, while the latter has established itself as one of the nation’s largest and forward-thinking PS recyclers. The partnership is said to be ideal as it combines Dart’s washing technology for reclaimed PS and PRI’s recycling and compounding expertise.

 

Slated to be fully on stream within the first quarter of 2015, the facility will initially have a 25-million lb/yr capacity but is being designed to allow for growth. It will essentially boost PRI’s existing annual 60-million/lb EPS and PS recycling capacity at the Indianapolis site to 85 million/lbs. PRI’s owner Alan Shaw views the largely untapped residential recycling stream as a tremendous source for generating more of this valuable material. The facility is expected by the partners to enhance local governments’ ability to launch recycling efforts to remove rigid PS and EPS from the waste stream and generate revenue.

 

For its part, Dart Container has been strongly advocating the recyclability of PS in the last several months in an effort to convince municipalities across the country to bring the material into recycling steams instead of enacting bans restricting the use of foam in foodservice settings. By the end of 2013, the company had helped lobby legislators in New York who were considering a ban. The Big Apple ultimately decided to wait a year and test out the practicality of bringing foam products into the municipal recycling system. Although the tests are not as yet underway, Dart Container and PRI feel that the expanded operation in Indianapolis will prove a big boon as it will be the destination for recovered PS from New York City if the program gets underway.

 

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

 

 

"Arpro" EPP Manufacturer Exceeds Sustainability Goals; Launches EPE Sheet Foam Business Here

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 14. August 2014

JSP (U.S. office in Madison Heights, Mich.), a pioneer and world leader in engineered plastic foam technologies and most widely known as the manufacturer of Arpro EPP, recently reported that it is more than meeting its ambitious Minus40% project to reduce its environmental impact by 40%. The program was launched in 2012, and by end of this year, JSP expects to have reached the 30% mark, according to Paul Compton, president and CEO Europe, Middle East and Africa.

 

By the end of July, JSP had achieved a 23% reduction in CO2 emissions, water use and waste; had saved 2.38-million/gal of water; and generated a 13,000 kWh/yr electricity savings through new LED lighting installed across its plants. It has also placed economizers on all boiler stacks, heat recovery on compressors and boiler feed water tanks. Currently in planning is a project that would see the recycling and re-use of CO2 to achieve up to 39% savings if installed in two Arpro plants. It would involve recycling CO2 directly from the production line, which would be captured, compressed, liquefied and stored ready for re-use.

 

Moreover, the company set about conducting research to reduce energy requirements of its Arpro EPP, now used widely in automotive, packaging and a range of consumer goods, which led to the development of a further improved version: Arpro 1000. This bead can be expanded on-site and according to JSP, it can provide the same molding cycle times, shrinkage and appearance characteristics as conventional molding beads. It is also possible to mold a density range from 18-60 g/l with a single grade. The intent of this development was to help redress geographic logistic penalties by significantly reducing transport costs and emissions, increasing the likelihood of material adoption regardless of location.

 

Meanwhile, JSP has now launched a crosslinked expanded PE sheet foam business in North America that utilizes an electron beam cross-linked method.  Compared to chemically cross-linked PE sheet, the electron beam technology produces more uniform and finer cellular structure and surface. Applications include high-performance tape medical applications, general and industrial converting solutions, flooring, and automotive components. Currently, PE sheet foam is being produced at JSP’s plant in Detroit. To accommodate future increases in demand, it is constructing a 3400 sq.mt. PE sheet foam manufacturing facility in Jackson, Mich., close to its existing plant that produces EPP packaging and components. 

 

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

Are Cartons Or Pouches Serious Contenders For PET Water Bottles?

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 23. July 2014

Is water packaging like milk carton-like boxes or for that matter stand-up pouches likely to pose a threat to PET bottles?

 

Michigan-based Boxed Water is Better, the originator of the carton water packaging, has expanded its reach since its inception in 2009, to 14 states plus Canada and Australia, with 56 distributors and over 6000 stores in the U.S. It is also generating large revenue by supplying boxed water to music festivals such as Lollapalooza in Chicago. The company says it “recyclable” cartons are made of 76% renewable resource, and that the trees used to make their boxes come from certified, well-managed forests. It also ships its boxes flat to its filler which is significantly more efficient compared to shipping empty plastic or glass bottles.

 

I asked John Maddox, president of SBA-CCI consultancy and a 34-year PET expert to give us his take. “I’ve drunk water from these containers (at an undisclosed paper container supplier). It is absolutely deplorable! The PE liner taste made it undrinkable…so, on taste alone, it will be a loser.” He also sees total life cycle a problem noting that mixed materials pose major hurdles on recycling and that, without recycling, the whole life cycle analysis falls apart.  On a positive note, shipping and shelf cube are good and graphics are awesome, he says.

 

One my colleagues remarked that he dislikes gable-top cardboard “boxes”, noting how unpleasant they are to open and that they appear low-class compared with a PET bottle, especially the newer ones with a wide mouth and a giant cap. Personally, I doubt I would ever want to jog or go to the gym carrying boxed water though I might think of it as an option for my disaster preparedness kit.

 

Another colleague says he can see water going to stand-up pouches, noting, “With how flimsy PET bottles are now, we’re practically there.”  Maddox concedes that stand-up pouches, which he says often don’t stand, are really hot right now.  He says that for lunch boxes and hiking trips, they might be a good alternative but sees taste still being an issue, unless the inner layer is a PET coating.

 

He also emphasizes the attractive feature of resealability on a water bottle versus pouches which he says don’t deliver a very attractive resealable closure. “If they do, then the cost is up and then you have the option of a very flimsy PET bottle with a cap. In fact, I squeeze down my partially consumed PET water bottles. They do not roll away, they take up less space, and squeezing them helps dispense the contents. When empty, I squeeze them all the way flat, replace the cap so they stay that way and contribute to smaller volumes going into recycle bins, recycling transportation, or perhaps even a landfill. So, why make a ‘stand-up’ pouche for water? We already have them…a 9-gram PET bottle!”

 

Please don’t hesitate to let us know your take on this! 

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




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