PolyOne Expands Into Thermoplastic Composites

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 29. July 2016

Through acquisition of two key businesses, PolyOne positions itself for “next-generation” composites development.


Just last month, my colleague senior editor Heather Caliendo reported on how PolyOne, is part of a consortium of corporations which includes three processors that make up the Composite and Nanocomposite Advanced Manufacturing (CNAM) Center at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City.


Heather quoted Joe Golba, lead scientist, reactive extrusion at PolyOne, who told her, “What is compelling about CNAM is the overall intent to bring composites more into the mainstream for applications like transportation, infrastructure and energy.”


So, it was not entirely surprising to hear this week that PolyOne has acquired two key Colorado-based specialty businesses from Gordon Holdings—Gordon Composites of Montrose, and Polystrand of Engelwood, which design and produce innovative, lightweight, high-performance solutions, utilizing advanced composite technology and state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities. Here is what this important move does:


• It strengthens PolyOne’s existing portfolio of thermoset composites, with the acquisition of Gordon Composites, which develop high-strength profiles and laminates for use in vertical and crossbow archery, sports and recreation equipment, prosthetics, and office furniture systems.


•  The acquisition of Polystrand, which has been a pioneer of continuous thermoplastic composite technology that delivers the high strength and lightweight characteristics of composites along with the design flexibility to form more complex shapes, places PolyOne at the vanguard of this next-generation technology. Current applications include materials for the aerospace, transportation, outdoor and security and protection markets.


• The acquisition, which totaled $85.5 million and comprised all assets related to the businesses, including intellectual property, trademarks and production assets, will join PolyOne’s existing portfolio of complementary products in a comprehensive platform which will form the new PolyOne Advanced Composites group.


Back in 2012, PolyOne entered into a cooperation and supply agreement with Italy’s Xenia Srl Unipersonale, a specialist in development and production of high-end polymer solutions reinforced with carbon fibers.


Their agreement offers customers support to transition from metal or thermoset resins to thermoplastic composites in high-end applications. Both PolyOne, with its OnForce long-fiber reinforced materials, and Xenia, with its Xecarb carbon fiber reinforced materials, have had substantial experience helping customers make such transitions.


For more on PolyOne’s broad range of compounds and additive concentrates, see PT’s materials and additives databases.

Photo courtesy: CompositesWorld

Novel, Vivid, and Durable Blue Pigment Could Soon Debut

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 27. July 2016

First new blue pigment in two centuries created accidentally in a university lab.


Shepherd Color has partnered with Oregon State U. chemists to bring the new blue to the market. Stumbled upon by materials science professor Mas Subramanian and his students at Oregon State University back in 2009, the pigment came about while they tested the electronic properties of chemical compounds. The team named the new vivid blue YinMin, after the elements from which it is composed—yttrium, indium and manganese.


Now, through an exclusive partnership with Shepherd Color Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, the new blue is on the way to commercialization. It is making its debut in paint, but its use in plastics is surely to follow.


With roots dating back to the 1920s ceramics industry, the family-owned company has been offering a full range of complex inorganic color pigments for the premium coatings and plastics markets since the early 1960s.


According to the company, the new blue’s beauty extends past the visible spectrum into the near infrared spectrum. As such, it allows for the formulation of darker shades that stay cooler than standard blues. It is for this reason that scientists are exploring its use on the development of an energy-saving roofing material, as this compound has water and UV resistance that outperforms other blues, including the last one created, cobalt blue.


Shepherd Color is completing its production scale-up and is aiming to obtain regulatory compliance from the EPA for this new pigment chemistry, for which it does not anticipate any obstacles. The company states that approvals to gain commercialization for new material chemistries are fastidious and well-controlled.


“Care and attention to the safe handling and processing of the materials used in manufacture to the final product as well as regulatory compliance, environmental impacts and even perspectives from global chemical inventories need to be taken into consideration.” Such inventories are used to manage the safe use of materials within different regions and countries; TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) is the relevant inventory in the U.S.


Shepherd Color provided limited samples to specific industrial users for R&D and market evaluation purposes. The company’s filing for commercialization approvals with the EPA was bolstered by the very encouraging feedback it received. While the company is not certain of the timeframe for full commercialization, it has noted that because the materials used in the manufacture of the new pigment are expensive prices are expected to be $1000/kg ($454/lb) plus shipping.


Meanwhile, Artnet Worlwide Corp.’s art market website has reported that the brilliantly bright and durable YinMin has been entered in a Harvard Art Museum pigment collection that preserves the “world history of color”. Artists are calling the new blue “Más Blue” (más in Spanish means “more” and also happens to be professor’s Subramanian’s first name.)


For more on Shepherd Color and pigments for plastics, see PT’s additives database.


A Discussion on the Value of Materials Testing

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 26. July 2016

The top three reasons processors should consider materials testing.


I found this brief discussion on how plastics processors can benefit from materials testing, offered to us by Americhem, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, extremely interesting. The company, a longtime global masterbatch and additives manufacturer, also made its entry into the plastics compounding business with three important acquisitions over the last four years.


The discussion features two of the company’s key research analytical scientists addressing why many processors are missing out by overlooking the value-added services from their material suppliers.


Pavan Maheswaram and Russ Howard, provide the brainpower behind Americhem’s Analytical and Physical Testing value-engineering services. Their key job: analyze raw materials and their customers’ products to assess quality and provide technical services.


“We spend most of our time developing, improving and implementing analytical testing methods, formulations and manufacturing processes,” says Maheswaram. Adds Howard, “There is a number of reasons we run tests, but we are ultimately providing technical data that customers and other Americhem experts can use to design, improve or otherwise engineer products.”


Their jobs entail doing testing for just about every business unit in the company. “We work with producers of residential and industrial carpets, vehicles and transportation equipment, architectural products, packaging, and specialty products—like nonwovens in dryer sheets. There is plenty of value to be found in taking a closer looks at the composition of your product, regardless of what that may be,” says Howard.


According to Maheswaram, the top three reasons for doing testing are:


Providing customers with documentation to serve as proof of a product’s composition or performance properties;

Troubleshooting—looking for problems or causes of problems with products or processes;

Assessing quality of certain types of products after they’ve been manufactured.


These pros conduct a broad spectrum of tests. With regards to analytical testing, says Maheswaram, thermal analysis is a core competency—whereby they look at how properties of materials change as temperature increases or decreases.


They also do a lot of spectroscopy work—seeing how light reacts with materials, when analyzing a masterbatch, as well as some microscopy when looking at particle sizes, for example. Adds Howard, “We are also focusing more on chromatography lately—separating mixtures to look at proportions of different ingredients to make sure ratios are right or to look for contamination that may have occurred during processing.”


How Long Does Testing Take?
It depends on the application and type of testing, according to these experts. They say the process could range from a few hours to perform some qualitative tests, with other tests taking much longer; generally, tests rarely take more than two weeks to perform, and almost never more than a month.


Greater Interest in Chromatography
A trend they are seeing, according to Maheswaram, is an increased interest in chromatography, as people want to better quantify and analyze the composition of various compounds. “We are also seeing interest in elemental testing super-microscopy, which requires very specialized equipment to carry out.”


Testing Challenges
Asked about testing challenges of which plastics processors should be aware, these pros say it’s important to know that testing methodologies are often proprietary. Says Howard, “If a company doesn’t have knowledge internally about how to conduct certain testing, it can be difficult to look up externally sometimes. You have to develop the tests yourself sometimes, so it isn’t as if someone can just decide one day they are going to conduct a new type of test.”


According to Maheswaram, not everyone has the same expertise. “It takes a lot of time, effort and money to establish certain testing capabilities, which is why we have people all over the world sending things to Americhem’s headquarters for testing.”


Don’t Miss Out
Asked what is the key takeaway from this discussion, Maheswaram advises not to overlook the value of testing—particularly if it is a service an “industry partner” provides at minimal cost.


“There is a lot you can learn from testing that can influence the way you design or improve your products, and you are missing out if you don’t take advantage.” Howard adds that processors should stay in touch with their material suppliers. “We are always looking for ways to expand our capabilities as we work with customers to overcome challenges, so don’t assume you know the full extent of a lab’s testing abilities. They might have changed since the last time you checked.”


For more on Americhem additives and compounds, see PT’s additives and materials database.


Car Parts Made From Agave?

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 25. July 2016


Ford and Jose Cuervo explore development of sustainable bioplastic.


As a company that has long considered itself a leader in biomaterials development for the automotive sector, it was not surprising to hear that Ford Motor, Dearborn, Mich., teamed up with tequila giant Jose Cuervo, to develop a sustainable bioplastic using the fiber byproduct of agave plants.


The Plastics Research Group, part of Ford’s Research & Innovation Center, has been developing bioplastics for over a decade, starting in 2000. In fact, Ford now uses eight sustainable-based materials in its vehicles including soy foam, castor oil, wheat straw, kenaf fiber, cellulose, wood, coconut fiber, and rice hulls.


Now, researchers are testing the developmental bioplastic, for which initial assessments indicate to be very promising due to its durability and aesthetic qualities.  Its use in vehicle interior and exterior components such as wiring harnesses, HVAC units, and storage bins is being explored. Said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability research department, “As a leader in the sustainability space, we are developing new technologies to efficiently employ discarded materials and fibers, while potentially reducing the use of petrochemicals and light-weighting our vehicles for desired fuel efficiency.”


The growth cycle of the agave plant is a minimum seven-year process. Once harvested, the heart of the plant is roasted, before grinding and extracting its juices for distillation. Jose Cuervo uses a portion of the remaining agave fibers as compost for its farms, and local artisans make crafts and agave paper from the remnants.


Teaming up with Ford is part of the tequila maker’s broader sustainability plan to develop a new way to use its remnant fibers. Said Sonia Espinola, director of heritage for Cuervo Foundation and master tequilera, “As the world’s No.1-selling tequila, we could never have imagined the hundreds of agave plants we were cultivating as a small family business would eventually multiply to millions. This collaboration brings two great companies together to develop innovative, earth-conscious materials.”


Noting that a typical car has about 400 pounds of plastic, Ford’s Mielewski added, “Our job is to find the right place for a green composite like this to help our impact on the planet. It is work I’m really proud of, and it could have a broad impact across numerous industries.”


According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 5-billion metric tons (over 11-trillion lbs) of agricultural biomass waste is produced each year. A byproduct of agriculture, the supply of materials is abundant and often underutilized. Yet the materials can be relatively low cost, and can help manufacturers to offset the use of glass fibers and talc for more sustainable, lightweight products.


For more on bioplastics, see PT’s Materials Database.


NAFTA Color and Additives Concentrate Market Continues to Grow

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 20. July 2016

Market is expanding at rates not seen since the 1990s.


The latest research from Applied Market Information (AMI) Consulting (U.S. office in Wyomissing, Pa.) reveals that the NAFTA market for thermoplastic color and additive concentrates continued to have strong prospects for growth and market penetration. At the same time there are new opportunities to profit from increased customer service needs among major brands.


In fact, AMI’s detailed market report “Thermoplastic Concentrates in NAFTA”, indicates that in recent years, this market has seen a period of sustained growth not experienced since the 1990s, with North America increasingly a key center of innovation and global brand developments, making it an ideal place to develop new colors and property enhancing products.


According to AMI, the largest market for concentrates in NAFTA is still for additive types—especially mineral-based products, which account for 47% of demand. The color segment is, however, the most important in value terms in a market which now exceeds $3 billion in sales.


For many years, the concentrate industry in NAFTA tended to outperform the overall polymer industry as plastics processors recognized the technical and business advantages of using concentrates over compounds or other systems. Although in the future, the delta between polymer growth and the concentrate market advance will narrow, with the prospects in value-added areas such as custom color and additive materials still being very good.


The NAFTA market is seeing a considerable volume of new investment both from the traditional major players but also new market entrants. This will only emphasize the competitive nature of the market where there have been clear winners and losers in recent years with some players cutting back their activities and closing plants while others have sought new markets to sustain their business. AMI’s research highlights the way in which a number of new names in the industry are coming to the fore in the color segment.


AMI also notes that NAFTA continues to have a strong export surplus in concentrates of well over 50 million lb. This is further testament, says AMI, to the strength and size of the concentrate industry in NAFTA. The surplus is most significant in additive and color varieties, but all product types show net levels of exports.


The AMI report concludes that the market in NAFTA will continue to grow, albeit at levels much lower than has historically been the case because of much slower growth in the traditional volume market for concentrate in PE film and blow molding. Opportunities will arise in more specialty sectors such as glass yarn and high performance packaging and in the growing use of recycled materials that will require additive packages to modify performance.


Look for a special PT supplement on plastic colorants that will accompany our September issue. It offers tips and best practices on how to avoid typical challenges encountered when choosing, processing, metering and measuring color.


For more on color and additive concentrates, see PT’s additives database.


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