Techmer PM's New Partnership Applies DNA Tagging to Fibers; Plastics to Follow

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 21. September 2015


Earlier this month, specialty colorants and additives masterbatch supplier Techmer PM, Clinton, Tenn., announced a partnership with Applied DNA Sciences, Inc. (ADPN), Stony Brook, N.Y., a provider of DNA-based anti-counterfeiting technology, supply chain, and product authentication methods—first for fiber applications and then beyond.


Initially, the collaboration is aimed at applying ADPN’s patented SigNature T DNA system to tag, and authenticate polymer-based fiber materials. This application offers consumer and industrial product manufacturers the ability to protect their products by applying SigNature T to masterbatch pellets at the point of origin, and verify products as they move throughout the supply chain. Ultimately say the partners, SigNature T is designed to protect products and brands from counterfeiting, providing forensic evidence, and a trail to the source. It is reportedly safe, and has been shown to perform successfully in fibers and film, among other materials.


I recently asked product development manager Bhushan Deshpande some key questions about the technology and its application in plastics. Here’s what he had to offer:


• Are there potential applications for plastics?

Yes. We believe there would be applications in fiber, film, and injection molded products. Basically, any process where there is a requirement of a tracer…this technology can be an option.


How does it work?

The plastic part (film, fiber, or molded product) contains a masterbatch from Techmer PM. This masterbatch contains a plant-based DNA unique to Techmer PM and can be further individualized for the end customer. In case of questions on the authenticity of the part, the part can be analyzed for the presence of the unique DNA confirming that the part was indeed produced by the OEM using the masterbatch.


How does one “read” the DNA signature?

Working with our partner ADPN, the DNA is analyzed in the plastic part via DNA analysis methods—polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and capillary electrophoresis. The key in these test methods is that the exact type of DNA has to be known prior to testing to be able to detect the DNA in the test part. Even if someone has used a different DNA, it will not show up in the test method.


According to James Hayward, president and CEO of ADPN, no other tracer has the forensic fidelity and strength of SigNature T. “Working with Techmer PM, we have successfully tested SigNature T DNA at their technical center. The DNA tagging has been rigorously evaluated, following Techmer’s standards, and is now being actively piloted with customers involved in all stages of the supply chain.”

Recovery of Flexible Packaging Study Gets Underway

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 18. September 2015


Materials Recovery for the Future is reportedly the first-of-its-kind study that brings together brand owners, manufacturers, and packaging industry organizations that are committed to enhance recovery solutions for increasingly popular flexible film and packaging options.


An initiative of the Research Foundation for Health and Environmental Effects (RFHEE), a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organization established by the American Chemistry Council, this research effort represents a first step in what will be a series of projects aimed at creating a mainstream recovery solution for flexible packaging.


Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) consultancy developed the test methodology and will conduct the first phase of the research, which will include baseline testing of the existing sortation technologies commonly used in material recovery facilities, such as screens and optical scanners. A representative mix of the flexible packaging generated by consumers will be created and added at an appropriate concentration to single stream recyclables for testing. This mixed stream will be run through the sorters, and the amount of flexible packaging captured in the resulting bale will be measured to determine sorting effectiveness.


Results are slated to be published in the second quarter of 2016. Project sponsors include The Dow Chemical Company, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Nestle Purina PetCare and Nestle USA, Sealed Air, and SC Johnson, as well as the Association for Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), and SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association.


Says Jeff Wooster, global sustainability director, Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics, “Flexible packaging offers many benefits we take for granted. It typically uses less energy and materials than other packaging options, helps extend food shelf life and minimize spoilage, and reduces waste by preserving and protecting products until they are consumed. This new sortation research is critical in helping to close the recovery loop for flexible packaging and we are committed to this collaboration to drive solution for increased recovery rates.”



Impact of New Forces on the Global Plastics Industry: A focus of GPS2015

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 11. September 2015

The third Global Plastics Summit (GPS2015), jointly presented by IHS Chemical and SPI, is taking place October 28-30 in Chicago. I’m looking forward to attending and reporting on this year’s event, which will focus on the impact of new forces affecting the global plastics industry.


Expert analysts, economists, and business executives will discuss  both the threats and opportunities created by these forces for the many end markets supplied, including packaging, automotive, construction, electronics, and medical.


IHS experts have been identifying disruptive forces to the global plastics industry that keep people up at night and have set the groundwork for a roadmap to navigate them. They point out that in the year since the last GPS, there are now even more to contend with, thanks to plunging oil prices. They will address such questions as: who benefits and who fall short from this downward trend? What is the impact on inter-material competition in the plastics industry?


Says Dave Witte, senior v.p. of IHS and general manager of IHS Chemical, “The resulting global volatility in the industry presents both significant risks and opportunities, and the GPS2015 agenda is focused on providing business executives with unique insights and information they need to manage risks and capitalize on business opportunities.


SPI president and CEO William Carteaux notes that there are a number of issues facing the industry, all of which trickle down to affect the countless end markets to which plastic materials and products are vital. “With GPS2015, the agenda is specifically tailored to give plastics executives the tools they need to navigate the new challenges gripping the global market, while giving them the insights and proven strategies they need in order to expand, invest and innovate into new markets and better meet the needs of brand owner customers and consumers around the world.”


During the three-day summit and industry training workshops, attendees can expect to discover:


• The latest developments in manufacturing technology.


• Material insights for capacity and pricing trends.


• Forecasts for end and emerging markets.


• Proven Sales and marketing strategies.


• Networking opportunities with key players at every stage of the supply chain.




Trex Starts Up Recycled LLDPE Compounds Business

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 9. September 2015


Trex Company has entered the recycled plastic compounds business. More specifically, the leading manufacturer of wood-alternative decking and railing and one of the largest recyclers of post-consumer and industrial polyethylene, has come up with a viable way to close the recycling loop by using its excess raw material to produce LLDPE pellets.


In fact, Trex’s entirely new business venture already has four lines dedicated to recycled pellet production, making it one of the country’s largest producers of recycled LLDPE, and has plans to add several more lines in the future.


According to senior director of material resources Dave Heglas, Trex’s engineering team leveraged its best-in-class recycling and extrusion capabilities, and using equipment downtime to experiment with and test different solutions, ultimately delivered a LLPDE pellet ideal for a variety of products. He envisions numerous applications for their recycled pellets, including a variety of bags, as well as molded products such as bins, totes, and even kayaks. He also see considerable potential in the manufacturing of both rigid and flexible tubing, such as agricultural drip tape.


The company is actively working with manufacturers across a wide range of industries—such as rotational molding, blown film, profile extrusion and material compounding—to explore additional uses for its LLDPE pellets. The company has the flexibility to modify and reformulate pellet content as needed to better fit specific needs, processes and applications.


Says Heglas, “Trex was literally built on sustainable principles and these continue to be at the heart of everything we do. With this new business, we are looking to partner with manufacturers that recognize the many benefits of using recycled materials and share our commitment to protecting the environment.”


A chemical engineer with a background in rocket science and missile design, Heglas joined Trex in 1996 as an engineer responsible for the raw materials and plastics processing side of the business. After a few years working with recycled materials, he saw opportunities and potential value in using and repurposing recycled plastic. In 2004, Heglas formalized the company’s recycling operations, an initiative which has evolved into a company within a company.


“Turning Trex from a company using recycled plastic into a plastic recycler was something that made perfect strategic sense. We were collecting way more than we needed or could ever use in our deck boards, so we began selling off some of the inventory to manufacturers in other industries,” says Heglas. Among those manufacturers were small companies that Trex contracted to produce plastic pellets.


Over time, it occurred to Heglas that Trex could be fabricating in-house rather than outsourcing to third parties. After nearly a decade of producing pellets for Trex internal use, the next logical step was to leverage the in-house expertise and expand capabilities to produce pellets for additional industries and markets. “We came to realize that we were the only company capable of producing LLDPE pellets in high volumes and with greater consistency. Previously, manufacturers had to rely on multiple sources for plastic pellets which meant unpredictable quantities and widely-varying product characteristics. With our extensive supply and equipment capacity, Trex is able to deliver the quantities and quality manufactures need at a lower price and with the added convenience of a single-source provider.”


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



MIT's 3D Printer Can Combine Up to 10 Different Resins in One Part

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 8. September 2015


The evolution of 3D printers continues at a steady, if not accelerated, pace with one of the latest new developments emerging from MIT’s Computational Fabrication Group. MultiFab is a low-cost (could be built for less than $7000) system that can combine up to 10 different resins in one part and also includes a 3D scanning system to identify and fix errors during production.


Analyst Anthony Vicari of Lux Research, Inc., a company that provides strategic advice and ongoing intelligence for emerging technologies to leaders in business, finance and government, recently reviewed MultiFab.


I’m going to mention Vicari’s concluding critical remark prior to noting some of the key positive implications of this latest development. “MultiFab is no panacea—it is limited to photopolymers and does not solve the problem of poor mechanical performance of printed plastics—but it paves the way for many more researchers to put their minds to solving those challenges.”


That said, Vicari also notes that MultiFab’s enhanced multimaterial capabilities, open platform, and order-of-magnitude cost-reduction potential are high-value, high-impact challenges to the status quo among leading 3D printer companies and offer a clear path to affordably printing polymer parts with a much wider range and combination of properties. “Cheap hardware and materials will then make 3D printing affordable in more applications for making both prototypes and end parts,” he ventures.


Here are the key implications of the MultiFab, as viewed by Lux Research:


Stratasys, 3D Systems, and EOS need to raise their game. If MIT’s claims hold up, then MultiFab beats incumbent polymer printers on price, performance, and adaptability. Today’s giants will need to follow suit or watch new entrants quickly capture market share.


Computer vision shows cheap path to higher reliability. MultiFab’s 3D optical 3D monitoring system uses low-cost hardware and standard computer vision techniques to self-calibrate and prevent errors. This increases part-to-part consistency, which has historically been one factor limiting adoption of 3D printing for manufacturing end-use parts.


Open platforms will accelerate development. Just as the open source RepRap project let to low-cost consumer printers, MultiFab’s open hardware and software platforms will lead to cost reduction, material selection expansion, and more experimentations with new printer design modifications in industrial polymer printers.


Says Lux Research’s Vicari, “As with all new research, MultiFab will need to continue to prove its lofty claims, but early signs look promising. The systems lays bare technological and business model weaknesses that incumbents have been able to avoid confronting for decades.”


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