Collaboration on Recycling Chewing Gum into TPEs

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 11. October 2016

Teknor Apex teamed up with U.K.’s Gumdrop to divert gum waste from landfills and into TPEs.


That icky-sticky stuff that sticks to the bottom of your shoes—now it can be what your shoes themselves are made of. Teknor Apex, Pawtucket, R.I. has been working with U.K.’s Gumdrop Ltd. to advance the latter’s sustainability program of diverting chewing gum waste from landfill by converting it into a raw material for TPEs. The London-based company is reportedly the first in the world to take on such an endeavor.


Founded in 2009 by Anna Bullus, a designer with a special interest in plastics and recycling, Gumdrop created a program  for reclaiming  pre- and post-consumer gum waste for use in material it has dubbed  Gum-Tec. The company then approached Teknor Apex Co. to develop and produce compounds from the chewing gum industry’s large, annual waste stream of 500,000 tons (1-billion lbs).


Custom compounder Teknor, with its extensive experience in TPE production took on the challenge; namely, to devise formulation and manufacturing techniques from an altogether new type of raw material with the aim of producing commercial-scale quantities of compounds. Such compounds would need to consistently meet the requirements of specific applications, including optimized elasticity, compression set, tensile properties, and other mechanical properties as well as processability.


Teknor’s senior market manager Stef Hordijk noted, “We assembled a multi-disciplinary team drawing on our capabilities for materials analysis, process engineering, and manufacturing. The team addressed basic considerations such as feeding it into our equipment, formulating compound recipes using this unique raw material, determining optimal compounding process parameters, and other issues posed by such an unusual feedstock.”


Similar to standard TPEs, the resultant Gum-Tec compounds have been shown to exhibit a low compression set, can be formulated for either glossy or matte finishes, readily accept colors, and are recyclable, according to Hordijk.


The new gum-based TPE compounds are comprised with up to 30% chewing gum waste. Among the first commercial applications was that of Wellington boots. The latest is shoe soles. Some other uses are caster wheels, automotive bumpers and floor mats, window gaskets, wristwatch straps, toothbrush grips, and extruded pencils.


Director at Gumdrop, Anna Bullus said, “Our aim is to divert the substantial amount of chewing gum waste and convert it into Gum-Tec compounds for use in the rubber and plastics market, giving the waste stream a second life and putting it to use in high-quality end products that contribute to sustainability….Every kilogram of chewing gum that goes into a Gum-Tec compound means one less kilogram going to the landfill.”


The company has designed a closed-loop recycling process. Gum-Tec material is used to manufacture both the Gumdrop and Gumdrop on-the-go, pink receptacles designed specifically for the disposal of the waste chewing gum. Gumdrops are bright pink—with the look of strawberry-flavored bubble gum bubbles. Once the Gumdrop is full, the whole unit and its contents is recycled and processed to manufacture new Gumdrops. 


Dimensional Stability of Subtractive Manufacturing With the Design Freedom of Additive

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 7. October 2016


IKV to demonstrate additive manufacturing of materials in granular form, including highly filled thermoplastics.


Using a hybrid production strategy, the Institute of Plastics Processing (IKV) will demonstrate the potential automation of additive manufacturing at K 2016 utilizing a screw-based extruder for the application of small melt volumes.


Doing so not only makes it possible to process standard materials in granule form, but the high pressure in the antechamber of the die also makes the processing of highly-filled thermoplastics via additive manufacturing possible for the first time, according to the IKV.


As a result, mechanical properties can be enhanced while minimizing the shrinkage potential and resultant warpage. Here’s more on what show visitors can expect to see:


In a production cell, IKV researchers will show the automatic sequential production of different demonstrator parts without manual intervention. The various processes used to achieve this are networked digitally and physically into one unit. The CAD data are generated via its own pre-processing system.


The hybrid system reportedly combines the advantages of the respective manufacturing processes, such as the good dimensional stability of subtractive processing (CNC machining) and the high-design freedom of additive manufacturing.


The order-oriented individual production of “batch size 1” parts can also be implemented. For this, an innovative process is used in which a sequential change is made between the individual product processes.


This bypasses all the current issues and disadvantages associated with additive manufacturing, including dimensional stability, tolerated surfaces, integration of inserts, and multi-material aspects, according to the IKV. At the same time, the freedom of additive manufacturing— such as shaping with complex undercuts—is not cancelled out by the restrictions of other production processes.


To implement the coupling technology, the IKV team uses a drive unit with an automatic mold-changing system. Via a standardized coupling, different molds can be deployed flexibly and use the kinematic power of the drive unit. Possible molds include screw-type extruders, conventional Fused Layer Modelling (FLM) extruders, milling adapters and grippers. Via additional coupling elements, melt and fluid throughputs as well as electrical signals can be transmitted, and the energy supply of the respective tools can be ensured, reported IKV.


Bicycle Saddle Can Be Locally Reinforced From One Shot to the Next

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 4. October 2016

At K 2016, IKV to demonstrate production of a sports bicycle saddle molded from LGF-PP foams bolstered by UD laminates, with visitors able to personalize parts.


Once again, exciting developments can be expected as at every K show from the Institute of Plastics Processing (IKV) and the Skilled Crafts at RWTH Aachen University. With the aid of two production cells, IKV’s main research topics; namely, lightweight construction, additive manufacturing, Industry 4.0 and integrative plastics technology will be demonstrated live at Hall 14/C16.


With its 13 partners from different areas of the industry, IKV will demonstrate the implementation of Industry 4.0 in plastics processing via production cells customized for the production of foamed, continuous fiber-reinforced plastic hybrid parts. The entire production is networked in line with the principle of Industry 4.0 and reportedly allows continuous documentation from the input of the original order, via the production data to the subsequent quality assurance, which can be viewed by the respective customer.


A sports bicycle saddle which can be locally reinforced from one shot to the next, depending on the customer’s specs, is the demonstrator part in this project. The saddle is a molded long glass fiber reinforced polypropylene (LGF-PP) foam that can be optionally supplemented by unidirectional (UD) laminates on the top and underneath. The ProFoam technology used in this foam injection molding process is said to allow for gentle, stress-free processing of the LGF-PP. This reportedly makes it possible to attain large residual fiber lengths in the part.


In addition, it will be shown with the aid of the demonstrator how thermoplastic continuous fiber-reinforced laminates can be fully integrated automatically into the reproducible injection molding process. IKV says its approach allows the weight-specific mechanical properties of FRP materials to be combined with the automation potential of the injection molding process. As such, the economical use of the individually acting reinforcing inserts in injection molding will be demonstrated for the first time.


IKV is inviting visitors to actively control the production process and select a personalized part from the variants, and then have it made. The production parameters of shot volume, part thickness and type of fiber reinforcement can be varied from one shot to the next.


The project partners are: Arburg, ASS, Georg Kaufmann Formenbau, gwk, Hasco, HRS flow, IOS, Kistler, Krelus, Motan, SABIC, Sensopart and Staubli.


‘Smart Lid’ Changes Color If Drink Is Too Hot

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 30. September 2016

The Aussie-based company has appointed large-scale European thermoformer to make its lids, with the hunt on for a U.S. supplier.


It’s been only a little over two years ago that Sydney-based packaging firm Smart Lid Systems began production of its heat-sensitive ‘smart coffee lids’ for distribution to coffee roasters, packaging distributors, and cafes in Australia. Now, the company has appointed large-scale packaging thermoformer Macpac SA of Greece to manufacture its lids for distribution throughout Europe and Russia. And, the aim, is to bring the lids to North America.


Made of food-grade HIPS, the Smart Lid contains a thermochromic masterbatch, so that when such a lid is placed on a cup with a hot beverage, it changes color to bright red; as it cools, its changes back to its original dark red ‘cooler’ color.



Serving temperatures start at 68 C (154 F) and go up to 100 C (212 F) for hot tea. Ideal brewing temperature for hot coffee is around 87 C (188 D). Liquid burn hazards are initiated at about 48 C (118 F); when a Smart Lid is applied to a beverage cup with a temperature above that level, its electron state is changed by the heat, and a visible change in color, in this case bright red, takes place.


Smart Lid was started by the Bayss family, which owns several cafes in Sydney, with the aim of designing a safer coffee lid. After several years of research and many prototypes, the family gained the technical and production backing of RemaPak, Australia’s largest coffee lid manufacturer.


In a press release about the commencement of the European production, Smart Lid’s co-founder Anthony Bayss said:


“Consumers of all hot drinks the world over will be introduced to the Smart Lid over the next 12 months…the technology is not just suited to cafes, fastfood chains, and aged-care facilities; there are billions of units of cups and lids sold through supermarkets and retails outlets each year.”


In my recent direct exchange with Bayss regarding Smart Lid’s European production and the likelihood of ‘arrival’ to our shores, he confirmed the following:


“We took the decision to secure a regional manufacturer to ensure the produce could meet the continuity of stock demand, as we were receiving lots of European enquiries—thus it made sense to get the Smart Lid made in Europe…..We are now going to concentrate on securing a U.S.-based lid manufacturer (hopefully within the next 12 months). Our specialty raw material supplier is based in the U.S.—CTI Inks, Colorado Springs, Col., so we believe an American-made Smart Lid will do very well in your country.”


CTI Inks provides specialty packaging inks including thermochromic temperature-activated inks, U.V.-activated inks, and reveal inks.


Single-Serve Package Reduces Carbon Footprint By Over 30%

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 29. September 2016

The Freshpack is tailored to workplaces and reduces emissions from raw material extraction by 40% by eliminating aluminum.


Increasing concerns in the coffee industry and beyond on the environmental impact of single-serve plastic pod packaging are bringing about innovative design alternatives that aim to minimize that impact.


One such example is the film-based new-generation Freshpack, recently launched by Mars Drinks, a business of Mars, Inc., headquartered in West Chester, Penn. The company’s exclusive focus with its single-serve business is offices and other workplaces globally. Its single-serve packaging is designed to work with Mars Drinks brewers.  


The company produces the Freshpack packaging at its LEED-certified West Chester, Penn. facility using a horizontal form, fill and seal process. They are made from purchased extruded film, including PP, PLA, and PE, and have the following dimensions: for coffee and instants, 70 mm (2.76 in.) wide and 101 mm (3.98 in.) tall; for tea, 50 mm (1.97 in.) wide and 101 mm (3.98 in.) tall.


The company achieved a 31% carbon footprint reduction in its single-serve packaging. This has been verified by ISO 14044:2006 Life Cycle Assessment—which analyzed environmental impact across all production stages—from raw material through distribution by Montreal-based engineering firm WSP Parson Brinckenhoff.


According to the company, “upstream” environmental factors were key to the new design’s creation. As part of that approach, Mars Drinks reexamined the entire Freshpack production process and identified the raw material extraction of aluminum as the most significant contributor to the carbon footprint of the raw materials in the original pack design.


The removal of aluminum resulted in a 40% emissions reduction from raw material extraction in the new-generation Freshpack packaging. This, according to the company, while maintaining its predecessor’s benefits, including proprietary brewing technology to preserve freshness and eliminate flavor cross-over from one drink to the next.


Meanwhile, the company also continues its Recycle Your Freshpacks program, offering its North American customers and easy way to divert 100% of Freshpacks from landfills. (Mars invested in a Texas-based wind farm that reportedly generates the equivalent amount of energy required to power all its U.S. operations, including Mars Drinks West Chester campus.)


Said Samantha Veide, Mars Drinks’ global director, corporate sustainable solutions, “Customers have told us their number one sustainability issue when it comes to workplace drinks solutions is solving the packaging challenge. That’s why we placed such a priority on rethinking our Freshpack design.”  As guided by its parent company’s sustainability commitments, Mars Drinks is focusing its 2016-2020 sustainability initiatives in three areas: sustainable agriculture, sustainable operations, and sustainable solutions.


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