Shrimp Shells Play Key Role In New Bioplastic

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 19. June 2014

Researchers from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute have developed a fully-degradable bioplastic isolated from shrimp shells which they report can be molded into products such as cell phones, food containers and toys which boast many of the key properties as those made by their traditional plastic counterparts.


Director of platform development Bob Cunningham sees potential application for the new bioplastic for large-scale manufacturing of consumer products. The group is actively in the process of seeking potential partners, ranging from raw material suppliers and compounders to molders and end-users. Initially, the ideal partner would appear to be a compounder or resin supplier with bioplastics experience.


The new bioplastic is partly made of chitosan, a form of chitin, said to be Earth’s second most abundant organic material. A tough polysaccharide, chitin is responsible for the hardy shells of shrimp and other crustaceans, armor-like insect cuticles, and flexible butterfly wings. Led by postdoctoral fellow Javier Fernandez, and founding director Don Ingber, the Wyss team developed a new way to process the material so that it can be fabricated into large 3D objects and complex shapes using traditional casting or injection molding techniques. In addition, the chitosan bioplastic breaks down when returned to the environment within about two weeks, and it releases rich nutrients that support plant growth.


Depending on the chitosan fabrication method used, you either get a chitosan material that is brittle and opaque—thus, unusable, or tough and transparent, according to Fernandez. After fully characterizing in detail how factors like temperature and concentration affect the mechanical properties of chitosan on a molecular level, the two researchers honed-in on a method that produced a pliable liquid crystal material that was just right for use in large-scale injection molding or casting manufacturing.


Also significant is that they came up with a way to combat the problem of shrinkage whereby the chitosan polymer fails to maintain its original shape after injection molding. Adding wood flour did the trick! “You can make virtually mold any 3D form with impressive precision from this type of chitosan”, says Fernandez, who first molded a series of chess pieces as a demonstration. This bioplastic can also be modified for use in water and also can be easily dyed by changing the acidity of the chitosan solution. And the dyes can be collected again and reused when the material is recycled. 



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

Ferro To Exit Specialty Plastics And Polymer Additives Businesses

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 18. June 2014

It was just a year ago that A.Schulman made an unsuccessful bid to acquire all of Ferro Corp., but the acquisition of the latter’s specialty plastics business by A. Schulman will be a done deal by early third quarter. Moreover, Ferro has hired KeyBanc Capital Markets to help find a buyer for its polymer additives business.


Ferro chairman, president and CEO Peter Thomas says, the company will aim to strengthen its performance materials product lines which include performance coatings, performance colors and glass, and pigments, powders and oxides. The latter group includes complex inorganic color pigments for plastics. “Our strategic vision is to become the premier global functional coatings and color solutions company, building on our core competencies in glass and color technologies.”


What A. Schulman is gaining is an expanded product portfolio, technical solutions, and global resources. Included are custom engineered compounds, colorants and liquid coatings that are used in such markets as packaging, construction, and transportation. They are made in four U.S. plants and one in Spain. Not included in the sale are Ferro’s liquid colorants and dispersions business in Edison, N.J., and its specialty plastics operations in Venezuala. This acquisition will be the tenth made by A. Schulman within the last four years, along with three joint ventures formed. The company is aiming to strengthen its U.S. operations and expand its global reach in engineered plastics, masterbatches and custom performance colorants.




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

Styron To Exit Domestic Commodity PC Resin Business

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 6. June 2014

How will Styron’s decision to exit the commodity PC resin business in North America by year’s end affect supply availability, if at all?  One industry source, who prefers to remain anonymous, expects that it will actually result in a more balanced supply/demand situation.


The domestic PC resin market has been oversupplied for over a year (also the case globally), and at certain times, as was the case through some of 2013, there have been some competitively-priced exports flooding the market. This expert sees the remaining two North American PC producers—Bayer Materials Science and SABIC Innovative Plastics bumping up their plant operating rates to easily meet demand, as the Styron capacity has been a “distant third” and also notes that exports have been lower this year.


Styron will stop selling PC resin grades, such as those used in sheet, optical media and bulk extrusion in fourth quarter when the company terminates its PC contract manufacturing agreement with Dow Chemical, from which the company was spun off in 2011 and acquired by private equity firm Bain Capital. Dow is expected to dismantle the Freeport, Texas, PC plant which has a capacity of about 230 million lbs/yr.


According to a company source, Styron is “introducing a new sourcing strategy in North America to ensure a continuing supply of higher-quality PC for its downstream businesses”. Included are internal sources in Stade, Germany and its SSPC joint venture in Japan, as well as via supply contracts with other PC producers. Styron plans to continue supplying PC commodity markets as well as specialty markets in Europe and Asia.


The new focus for Styron is on the marketing of its higher-margin PC compounds and blends for medical devices--such as Emerge PC/PET grades, as well as, for lighting, electrical, consumer electronics and automotive, all of which are toll-produced by PolyOne Corp.

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

Borealis Pushes PP Envelope In Strategic Automotive Development Projects

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 3. June 2014

A new range of PP materials have been developed by Borealis specifically to meet the specifications defined by the Renault-Nissan Alliance product portfolio strategy with the aim to apply them globally on all new cars. The move exemplifies the trend of using a focused PP product portfolio on common global OEM platforms—such as the “Common Module Family” (CMF), the engineering architecture that covers Renault-Nissan Alliance vehicles for the global compact and large car segments--to bring the cost-performance ratio to the next level.


CMF is not a conventional “platform sharing” scheme, according to a spokesman for the Alliance. Rathers, it’s a modular architecture system that dissects the vehicle into five fundamental zones—knows as the “4+1 Big Modules.” These big modules include four basic body units (engine compartment, cockpit, front underbody and rear underbody), plus a fifth unit comprising the vehicle’s electrical and electronic architecture. Designers, engineers and product developers can “mix and match” these big modules flexibly to create an unusually large variety of vehicles—from urban subcompacts to compacts, mid-size sedans, crossovers and SUVs.  CMF’s three primary categories are : CMF-A, small fuel-efficient cars; CMF-B, mid-sized cars; and, CMF-C/D, larger vehicles, including many Renault, Dacia, Nissan and Datsun brands.


By 2020, when CMF is fully deployed in plants worldwide, 70% of all of the Alliance’s vehicles with fall within the CMF scope. The Alliance says, CMF means more choices, higher quality and better value for its customers. Moreover, sharing the technical architecture among a wide variety of models enables the Alliance to dramatically simplify engineering and manufacturing processes. The approach is expected to cut engineering costs by up to 40% and purchasing costs by as much as 30%. The savings allow product planners to add high-value items for customers (such as lane departure warning, around-view monitor and automatic parking in the case of the first CMF vehicles now rolling off assembly lines, like the Nissan Roque (USA) and Nissan Qashqai (UK).


In fact, the first and latest vehicle using the CMF-C/D segment modular platform is the Quashqai, for which Borealis supplied two PP specialty materials: EG066AI for door panels and MG160AI for interior trims. Key benefits cited for these high-fluidity PP grades include: easy processing resulting in increased production efficiency; high-scratch resistance; and, excellent surface aesthetics.


Borealis’ global OEM manager Frank Lagoutte says, these materials deliver maximum value and performance and will be used on other vehicles from the CMF platform in the coming months such as the Nissan X-Trail (produced in multiple plants worldwide). He notes that Borealis and Borouge, its joint venture with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, are striving to provide weight and cost savings to the Alliance with new generations of materials for dashboard, bumper and other structural parts, such as its Fibremod family of fiber-reinforced PP used in structural applications such as front-end modules, air-intake manifolds and tailgate structures.


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


Solvay And e-Xstream Join To Speed Up Metal-To-Plastic Substitution For Car Makers

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 28. May 2014

The recently-announced partnership between Solvay Engineering Plastics and e-Xstream aims to “open source” MMI Technyl Design—an advanced simulation service that offers automotive OEMs and other industry players a tool to meet the challenges of light-weighting.  It is said to create value throughout the design process by accurately predicting the performance of injection-molded parts, which when replacing metals, ultimately contributes to weight reduction and part production costs.


MMI (Multi-Scale Modeling, Mechanical Calculation, Injection Molding Simulation) Technyl (Solvay’s brand of nylon-based engineering plastics) is powered by e-Xstream’s Digimat software. Further clarifying this advanced material modelling platform developed and supported by e-Xstream,  a Solvay source says, that “open sourcing” means that the Digimat software sold to automotive OEMs will ship with a full set of encrypted material data already included and ready to use, so it is the data that is “open source”.  The platform allies Solvay’s extremely comprehensive encrypted database exceeding 7600 files with e-Xstream’s Digimat software which allows for a wide range of calculations when integrated with injection molding process modeling.


Historically, Digimat customers have had to make a separate request to Solvay to get this material database to use with the software. Access to the data was controlled and typically required  a confidential disclosure agreement. According to the Solvay source, the MMI Technyl Design platform enables part designers to significantly improve the accuracy of their design simulation. This means either than a nylon can be used to replace metal with greater confidence or that existing designs in nylon can be optimized. Examples of new applications include engine support mounts or torque restrictors. For redesign of an existing part, reductions in material usage of 10-20% are typically possible.


Digimat is optimized to work with the following injection molding software: 3DTimon, Moldex3D, Moldflow, REM3D, and SigmaSoft. Solvay Engineering Plastics uses Moldflow and REM3D. 


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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