Learn the Latest on Materials & Applications for Auto Thermoplastics Composites

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 9. May 2016

Ford, BASF, Borealis, PlastiComp, Asahi Kasei, Arkema, Covestro, Sigmatex, and the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada will present on traditional and ‘hybrid’ carbon-, glass- and natural-fiber reinforced composites, including systems based on polyolefins, PC, liquid reactive resins, bioplastics, and more.


Want to keep abreast on the latest developments in automotive lightweighting enabled by thermoplastics composites? Do so by

registering for our second presentation of “Thermoplastics Composites for Automotive” (TCC Auto2016) conference on June 15-16 at the Suburban Collection Showcase in Novi, Mich. TCC Auto2016 is presented by Plastics Technology magazine and CompositesWorld, sister publications within Gardner Business Media, and will be concurrent with the Ameriomold 2016 show and conference, presented by Gardner’s MoldingMaking Technology magazine.


Our first unique conference, TCC Auto2014, was a standing-room only event, with over 250 attendees. At next month’s event, over a day and a half, we’ll present 22 speakers on topics in Applications & Materials and Machinery & Processes. Expect TCC Auto2016 to provide cutting-edge information on lightweighting, cost reduction through automation, and new approaches to automotive production for injection molders and composites fabricators.


Materials & Applications will present nine speakers on the first day, starting with a keynote address Driving Innovations and Trends for Next Generation Automotive Composites by Cynthia Flanigan, Ford Motor Co. Here is a brief look at the other eight presentations in this category that are featured on the first day:


New Automotive Lightweighting Applications Using Carbon- and- Glass-Fiber Reinforced Thermoplastics, Mark Minnichelli, BASF. As automotive OEMs continue to drive forward to meet new CAFE requirements, the value of removing mass from vehicles continues to increase. New innovative thermoplastic materials and processes involving use of carbon fiber and glass fiber are being developed in order to remove mass from vehicle components while maintain needed performance requirements. Several new automotive applications involving these new materials will be shared.


Fibremod Carbon: An Economical, Lightweight Solution for the Automotive Industry, Sanjay Patel & Tobias Allmendinger, Borealis Group. Borealis, a leading provider of innovative solutions in the field of polyoefins, has developed “revolutionary” carbon-fiber reinforced PP grades based on its proprietary Fibremod technology. This leading-edge technology portfolio already has a proven track record in achieving weight reduction in many automotive applications with the Fibremod series of long- and short-glass PP compounds for the automotive and appliance industries, launched in 2013. This added Fibremod Carbon innovation is expected to help the automotive industry to reap the benefits of carbon-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics such as outstanding density-to-weight ratio, allowing for significant weight reduction and increased functionalization and modularization of components. The excellent economic efficiency of the Fibremod Carbon portfolio will also promote the more widespread use of this potentially revolutionary material in the mass production of automobiles.


Lower Carbon Fiber’s Cost to Entry Barrier with Long-Fiber Hybrids, Eric Wollan, PlastiComp, Inc. Lightweight carbon-fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites are of increasing interest to the automotive community for their ability to reduce vehicle mass along with associated fuel consumption and emissions. The high price point of carbon fiber presents a barrier to its widespread adoption in the cost-sensitive automotive industry without innovative implementation options. Compounder of long-fiber thermoplastic compounds PlastiComp has developed hybrid long-fiber reinforced thermoplastics composites that combine long glass fiber and long carbon fiber together in a single composite pellet for processing via injection molding. This approach reduces the volume of carbon fiber necessary to obtain higher mechanical performance materials and allows cost-effective long-fiber hybrids to bridge the price gap between all-glass fiber and all-carbon fiber composites.


With most automotive components that can benefit from conversion to long glass fiber composites already accomplished, the industry is in need of more robust thermoplastic material solutions to continue switching more components from metal to structural plastics. Long-fiber hybrids are the ideal segue technology to begin the process of adopting lighter weight carbon fiber as a substitute for metals in components that require performance beyond long glass fiber capabilities. Wollan will present comparative mechanical property data and cost information to explain the performance and economic advantages hybrid long glass and carbon fiber thermoplastics composites offer to the automotive industry.


Bi-Modal Long-Fiber Technology Provides New Enhancements for Structural Composites, J.P. Wiese, Asahi Kasei Plastics. Various automotive components have utilized long-glass PP products for applications that require a balance of structural strength and excellent impact performance. Thermylene I, the latest innovation from Asahi Kasei Plastics, is a bi-modal long-fiber thermoplastic (LFT) that continues the trend of the replacement of costly high-performance engineered compounds for additional weight and cost advantages over traditional LFTs. Weise will present new developmental data pertaining to the development of glass-reinforced compounds, covering dimensional stability, weight, and a balance of properties.


Liquid Reactive Thermoplastic Resins for Automotive Applications, Dana Swan, Arkema. As automotive makers strive to meet tighter government standards (CAFE standards 36.6 mpg by 2017 and EU CO2 emission levels 95 g/km by 2020), the explosion of composite materials is increasing. Lightweighting of automobiles with thermoplastics composites brings the advantages of high technical performance, part consolidation, and recyclability of the scrap and final parts. However, technical limitations around processing of traditional thermoplastics has hindered adoption of thermoplastic composites in the industry. Recent developments of a range of liquid reactive thermoplastic resins, marketed under the Elium trade name, has alleviated some of these challenges, Recent research and development in the processing of the resins for automotive applications will be described, Processing methodology include infusion, RTM and HP-RTM.


Developments in Continuous Fiber-Reinforced Thermoplastic Composites Using Polycarbonate, Paul Platte, Covestro. With increasing demand for lightweighting solutions, thermoplastic composites based on PC resins are a growing alternative to metal or other plastics composite options that target vehicle interior and exterior applications. A new class of thin, lightweight continuous fiber PC composites is under development and will advance composite solutions for the automotive and transportation markets.  Continuous fiber PP composites offer designers and engineers high stiffness, impact strength, dimensional stability and class-A surface quality for first-surface and semi-structural applications.


Target automotive applications of door panels, body panels and seat backs have potential for over 40 percent weight reduction compared with aluminum. For commercial buses or heavy trucks where durability and lightweighting are valued, applications such as interior and exterior panels are also envisioned. Additionally, these new continuous fiber PC composites have potential to offer high yield rates and lower coating expense for a manufacturing cost advantage. Designing with thermoplastic composites brings unique challenges not typically seen with traditional metals or unfilled polymers. Designers must have a good understanding of the dimensional and aesthetic capabilities afforded by the continuous fiber PC composite structure.


To consider composites in any semi-structural application, design engineers must be able to accurately predict the part’s performance under static or dynamic structural loads. Manufacturing engineers must be able to anticipate limitations in part design, tooling and forming that may arise which impact the economical production of complex, three-dimensional, high-surface-quality components. Platte will discuss innovations in continuous fiber PC composites, and highlight the progress toward solutions that address the design and manufacturing considerations for application development.


A Healthy Diet for Automotive Materials: Lightweighting Through Green Thermoplastic Composites, Karen Stoeffler, National Research Council (NRC) Canada. Despite the drastic decrease of oil prices, automotive manufacturers are still under pressure to develop new technologies allowing for the reduction of emissions. Lighter materials, electrification, alternative fuels and vehicle autonomy are some of those technologies. In this presentation, NRC’s Stoeffler will show you how to design lighter and greener thermoplastic composites meeting automotive cost and performance requirements. The topics will include: Thermoplastic compounds based on renewable resources (biobased plastics or natural fibers) for injection molding applications; structural thermoplastic composites integrating higher aspect ratio natural reinforcements by D-LFT; and, how to formulate these materials and how to process them successfully to reach your requirements in terms of mechanical and thermal performance. Specific topics such as VOC control will also be addressed.


SigmaRF Carbon Thermoplastic Material in Medium-to-High Volume Automotive Applications, Brian Gardner, Sigmatex. The ease of processing a co-mingled carbon thermoplastic material known as SigmRF has been demonstrated in a Sigmatex-led UK Centric Automotive Lightweighting Excellence (LX) Program. Prototype door skins have been produced demonstrating SigmaRF’s capability for medium-to-high volume automotive applications and its tangible benefits of reduced weight, ease of processing, high- volume automotive TAKT time and enhanced mechanical performance over conventional aluminum. The presentation will give an overview of the LX program, the OEMs involved and the role of SignaRF in achieving the objectives. 


Recycling of Plastic Auto Parts Gains Attention Even As It Remains In its Relative Infancy

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 3. May 2016

SPI launches automotive recycling report; separation process key to German start-up’s patented recycling technology.


There is a buzz about automotive plastics recycling these days, and I’ll bet that in the not-so-distant future we will hear about some of the advances being made. Last week I blogged about MBA Polymers starting up what appears to be the first production of PC/ABS pellets derived from shredded WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment).


But the company’s claim-to-fame is its now five-year-old Workshop, U.K. plant, which is reportedly the world’s largest (annual production capacity of up to 176 million lb) and most advanced facility for recovering plastics and rubber from automotive shredder residue. Its proprietary processes reportedly use less than 20% of the energy needed to produce virgin resins.


In a bit of serendipity, other news on this front emerged last week:


 • SPI released its new report, Automotive Recycling: Devalued is now Revalued, which highlights innovative use of recycled content and achievements in zero waste in manufacturing, as well as promoting increased recycling of plastic automotive parts. At the same time, SPI noted the while automotive recycling is leading other industries—with 95% of automobiles recycled at the end of their practical life, the recycling of plastic materials in automobiles, is in its infancy.


SPI sees abundant opportunities for recycled plastic in cars. Each year in the U.S., about 12-15 million vehicles are scrapped with more and more plastic components and parts comprising an ever increasing amount of those vehicles. “There is an opportunity for recycled plastics in the automotive sector, and we are hoping to merge key learnings from all members of the supply chain together to learn how we can best promote and grow plastics recycling in the automotive industry,” said Kim Holmes, SPI’s senior director of recycling and diversion.


To help close the loop in automotive plastics, SPI has two projects underway. First, is the Zero Net Waste (ZNW) recognition program, which assists the plastics industry in managing waste in manufacturing by offering specific tools to evaluate waste reduction opportunities and maximize landfill diversion.


Second, in a separate recovery effort, SPI members have begun a collaborative research project to explore the viability of collecting and recycling auto plastics from end-of-life vehicles and build a basic recovery model for whole parts before shredding. The review will help determine the feasibility of recovery today pared against material performance and demand for recycled PP and TPO. If successful, the project will serve as a launching point to explore the opportunity to recover additional plastics, both through whole-parts recovery and eventually auto shredder residue (ASR).


• The engineering and technical center PulverMetallurgische Kompetenz-Centrum Thale (PMC), located in the German federal state Saxony-Anhalt and globally respected for its expertise in powder metallurgy, is expanding its work to encompass the recycling of automotive plastic waste into high-quality material.  Each month, Volkswagen which is among PMC’s development partners, has been bringing two to three containers of plastic waste to the PMC, according to Thomas Kock, PMC’s managing director. He adds that there is great industrial demand for production processes that save energy and material, especially in the automotive and aviation industries. Pointing out that automotive plastic waste is costly and adversely affects the environment, Kock notes:  “from our experimental factory, visions take shape and set off out into the world.”


Today, at PMC’s “experimental factory”, you can find sacks filled with granulate derived from shredded and ground plastic automotive waste. Kock says, the technology involved is ground-breaking, noting that this granulate can be used again without a decrease in quality, compared to most plastics which are thermally recycled or recycled in an inferior way which causes a drop in the material’s quality.


A team led by inventor Jorg Beckmann developed new processing procedures at the PMC with which it is reportedly possible for the first time to add prepared plastic wastes to fresh mixtures that are almost 100% new. Last year, this patented invention was awarded the Hugo Junkers Prize for Research and Innovation from Saxony-Anhalt. Chemical lab assistant Nicole Mahnke and chemical engineer Jurgen Deinert are key to this project, and are now part of  the recently founded start-up company Seco Thale GmbH, which is one of PMC’s tenants.  “Our tests are now going beyond the standard for laboratories,” says Deinert, noting that the internally developed processing line in the experimental factory acts as a technical center for further optimizing processes and end products.


It turns out that the heart of this invention is the separating process. Whether it be dashboards, surrounds or ventilator blades—different plastics are always processed. So far, PP, PUR and PVC have been separated from each other by means of the new technology.


The granules are of different color—black, white, blue, depending on the initial product or they are colored before they are made into new injection molded parts, according to Mahnke. In addition to the patented separation technology, new testing and measuring systems have advanced this research by confirming the high quality of the resultant recycled automotive plastics. 


SECO Thale Plastics Recycling

First PC/ABS Production from Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic Underway

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 26. April 2016

My colleagues alerted me last week to the news that what appears to be the world’s first production of post-consumer PC/ABS pellets from shredded waste electrical and electronics equipment (WEEE) is now underway. I took one look and saw it was durable goods recycling and technology company MBA Polymers and company founder Mike Biddle immediately came to mind as twice I’ve been fortunate to hear him speak within the last three years at SPE’s Global Plastics Environmental Conference (GPEC).


Biddle launched MBA Polymers in 1994 in Richmond, Calif. with a vision of being the first company to automate plastics recycling from very complex waste containing materials such as metals, glass, and various plastics, and on a large scale. He and his team of chemical, mechanical, electrical and mining engineers developed a separation process—for which there is a mix of different patents--of an energy-efficient, cost-effective way of extracting plastics from complex waste streams. MBA’s proprietary processes are said to use less than 20% of the energy needed to product standard virgin resins. The company is now recognized as the world’s leading multi-national pioneer in recovering plastics from complex waste streams like computers, electronic appliances, automobiles, and household wastes.


In mid-2013, the company closed its pilot-scale facility in Richmond and moved its R&D and headquarters to its 126,000-sq.ft. facility in Workshop, England. At the 2014 GPEC event I attended, Biddle said the move was made because Europe does more recycling and offers more R&D opportunities, at least in the near term. While the U.K. plant is reportedly the world’s largest and most advanced facility for recovering plastics and rubber from automotive shredder residue, MBA’s plants in Austria and China have been focused on WEEE since 2006.


It is MBA’s Kematen, Austria facility that just began to produce post-consumer PC/ABS from WEEE, for which excellent mechanical properties are claimed, with production expected to steadily build up through the year. It will be distributed under the tradename EvoSource. and aimed at automotive, electrical and consumer electronics applications. In electronics, for example, designers will be able to specify EvoSource PC/ABS to increase the use of post-consumer recycled plastics in order to achieve the higher ratings required by the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment tool (EPEAT).


Said MBA Polymers CEO Richard McCombs, “The decision to develop PC/ABS products reflects our determination to meet the growing demand from customers for post-consumer recycled plastic as well as extending our commitment to sustainable growth. Every 1% increase in the usage of our waste benefits our return on investment enormously. MBA is unique in being able to extract the degree of value that we are achieving today from WEEE.”


As for Mike Biddle, he remains a non-executive director of MBA Polymers. Last year, he started up San Francisco Bay area Material Solutions, an organization that aims to help other “clean-tech entrepreneurs” shorten their path to developing their businesses. The company also consults with a wide variety of companies, organizations and communities around the world to capture material benefits from putting “circular economy” principles to work—including turning waste into resources and designing more favored new products with sustainable supply chains.


Search for more recycled resins in PT’s materials database.



The Future of Biopolymers Looks Bright

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 20. April 2016

NatureWorks’s 2016 conference showed that innovation in biopolymer technology will continue to thrive.


Despite some pundits who opined that low oil prices would stop growth in biopolymers in its tracks, it appears that this has not come to fruition.


In fact, biopolymers are already playing a broader role in the industry: as base materials, as blends/alloys, as specialty additives, and as 3D printing filaments. This just one of the many things I learned by attending the 5th edition of Innovation Takes Root (ITR) in Orlando, Fla., a three-day event sponsored by manufacturer of Ingeo PLA NatureWorlks LLC, Minnetonka, Minn.  


Global Ingeo PLA channel partners from the entire bioplastic value chain came together to learn more about the innovations emerging in a host of markets—from 3D printing to flexible and rigid packaging to durable goods. PLA is a bioplastic made up of long molecular chains of the polymer polylactide derived from naturally-occurring plant sugars, at least so far.


But change and innovation are underway for PLA, and its feedstocks, and biopolymers in general. Take for instance two key announcements that were made right around the time of this conference:


• NatureWorks opened a $1-million, 8,300-sq.ft. laboratory at its world headquarters. The new lab represents the latest milestone in a multi-year program to commercialize a fermentation process for transforming methane—a potent greenhouse gas, into the PLA building block lactic acid. The methane-to-lactic acid research began in 2013 as a joint effort between NatureWorks and Calysta Energy, Menlo Park, Calif., to develop a fermentation biocatalyst.


In 2014, laboratory-scale fermentation of lactic acid from methane utilizing a new biocatalyst was proven, and the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $2.5 million to the project. The lab’s opening represents a major step toward commercial reality.


The aim is to have a pilot plant in place within a three-to-six year time frame. Commercial success of this technology would diversify NatureWorks away from reliance on agricultural feedstocks, and with methane as feedstock, it could structurally lower the cost of producing Ingeo. The company envisions a future where greenhouse gas is transformed into Ingeo-based products ranging from compostable food serviceware, to film for wrapping fresh produce and deli packaging, to durable products such as computer cases and filaments for 3D printers.


Metabolix, Cambridge, Mass., has signed a memorandum of understanding with Korea’s CJ Cheiljedang Corp. (CJ) for a strategic commercial manufacturing arrangement for specialty PHAs, including its newly launched amorphous PHA (a-PHA)—for use as performance additives in PLA and PVC. Which brings its vision for large-scale PHA production that much closer.


Under the agreement, CJ will fund, construct and operate a 20-million/lb PHA production unit at its Fort Dodge, Iowa facility, based on Metabolix’s PHA technology. The facility is operated by CJ’s division CJ BIO, a world leader in microbial fermentation based R&D and manufacturing for a range of amino acids, including lysine, as well as nucleotides. Production startup is anticipated within the next 18-24 months. In turn, Metabolix will buy the specialty PHAs produced at the facility, and market and sell the material to its commercial customers. The team also expects to define a framework for longer-term expansion of the collaboration for larger-scale PHA production and related commercial activities.


The conference was concluded with a terrific presentation by NatureWorks’ president & CEO Marc Verbruggen (pictured below). Among the key takeways:


• Achieving sufficient economy of scale has been a critical factor.


• Diversifying product mix and markets has been key. By 2015, Ingeo PLA markets included food service wear, films, fibers, rigid packaging, durable goods, and performance chemicals.


• During oil drop-off, Ingeo sales increased in five of the company’s six businesses.


• A key goal is to develop a one-step process of turning “greenhouse gas” into PLA, which would significantly reduce feedstock costs.


• New multifunctional barrier structures allow the rethinking of flexible multilayer structures—with some packaging moving from fossil-based three-film structures to 100% biobased two-film structures.


• New advanced PLA injection molding compounds and alloys will be positioned as a functional alternative to ABS in durable applications.


Search for more of NatureWorks Ingeo PLA and Metabolix’s PHA biopolymers on PT’s materials database.

World’s First Aseptic Carton Bottle for Enriched Dairy Products

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 11. April 2016

Nova Chemicals and Tetra Pak collaboration has led to recent commercialization of novel package.


This week at the 2016 TAPPI PLACE conference in Ft. Worth, Texas, Nova Chemicals and Tetra Pak co-presented a paper on their successful collaboration to develop what appears to be the first aseptic carton bottle for ambient white milk.


Moreover, the oxygen barrier properties of Nova’s Surpass HPs667-AB HDPE made it possible for Tetra Pak to expand beyond ambient white milk to enriched dairy alternatives, including flavored and toddler and baby milk in its new Tetra Evero Aseptic package.


“The first generation of the Tetra Evero Aseptic package focuses on ambient white milk, but the ambition was to extend to a range of liquids that could be stored at room temperature throughout the supply chain and in retail outlets. To develop this, Tetra Pak searched for a new polyethylene with the exceptional oxygen barrier properties that this package required. Using Nova Chemical’s HPs667-AB resin, we are able to expand into some of the best performing categories in the global dairy market, such as flavored and vitamin fortified milk,” said Tunc Turkmen, product director for Tetra Evero Aseptic.


Produced with Nova’s Advanced Sclairtech dual-reactor process and single-site catalyst, HPs667-AB is a bimodal homopolymer, 6-melt index, 0.967 g/cc HDPE for cast film and extrusion coating. The material reportedly offers excellent barrier and stiffness performance, which helps converters and brand owners improve the sustainability of packaged goods in a wide variety of applications, including cereal, crackers, dairy and other liquids.


Experts from Nova Chemical’s Center for Performance Applications and Center for Applied Research in Calgary, Alberta, worked closely with the Tetra Pak team to qualify the HPs667-AB resin to meet the Tetra Evero Aseptic performance requirements. In addition, the Nova team helped Tetra Pak ensure that the barrier properties were retained throughout a complex, unique production process and the use of pigmented resins.


Search for nearly 100,000 grades of polymers on the Universal Selector by clicking here


Tetra Pak Evero Aseptic Package

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