Evonik Shares Results of its Post-it Note Campaign at K 2016

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 24. November 2016

Environmental protection and sustainability led visitors’ comments.


If you had the opportunity at K 2016 to visit the always bustling booth of Evonik, you’d be unlikely to miss an artist that was working to transform a black-and-white skyline into a colorful globe.  The company invited customers and visitors to contribute creative ideas, visions or requests through its Post-it note campaign at the booth and via social media. 


Nearly 2000 sticky notes were submitted keeping the Post-it artist busy. Participants could follow the campaign at the booth or on Twitter. An example of one note was: “Make plastic trash usable—100% of it!”. And, that signaled the campaign’s key results regarding visitors’ key concerns:


  • Environmental protection and sustainability—with 511 notes on the wall about environmentally friendly plastics, recycling, or the conservation of resources.
  • Solutions for lightweight construction (127 notes).
  • Biobased plastics (106 notes).
  • New materials for the automotive industry (85 notes).
  • 3D printing advancement (74 notes).
  • Medical technology advancement (69 notes).


Evonik Corporation, which plans to follow up on many of these ideas and concerns, will share interesting stories on Twitter and Linkedin over the coming weeks. It also mentioned posted groundbreaking ideas, such as self-cleaning surfaces and intelligent adhesives.


Solvay Aims to Fast-Track its Position in Additive Manufacturing

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 23. November 2016


The combination of Sinterline technology and MMI Technyl Design is shaping the future of 3D printed functional automotive parts.


Last month, we reported on several materials-related news items announced by Solvay Engineering Plastics and Solvay Specialty Chemicals at K 2016. Among them was a 3D printed functional plenum chamber of an air intake manifold showcased by Solvay Engineering Polymers and designed for the Polimotor 2 racing car project. It is produced with the company’s Sinterline Technyl nylon 6 powder on an SLS machine.


The company has announced that it is strengthening its Sinterline Technyl nylon 6 offer for additive manufacturing of functional parts with the predictive simulation platform MMI Technyl Design. Having had a proven track record in injection molding technologies, the MMI Technyl Design platform now offers a step towards the design optimization of 3D printed technical parts.



In fact, the first time this predictive simulation tool was applied by Solvay was for the functional 3D printed Sinterline plenum chamber for the Polimotor 2 all-plastic engine project. The aim is to develop an engine weighing 138-148 lb) about 90 lb less than today’s standard production engine, thereby lowering fuel consumption and CO2 emisssions.


Said Matti Hotzberg, designer and leader of the Polimotor projects, “The plenum fabricated with Sinterline Technyl PA6 technology could easily perform without failure under real operating conditions. Integrating the 3D printed part with predictive simulation demonstrated all the additional benefits we could obtain to further reduce weight.”


The MMI Technyl Design tool coupled with a good understanding for the parameters of Sinterline materials and SLS printing processes showed the plenum’s original design could be up to 30% lighter than originally thought possible. Added Sinterline program leader Dominique Giannotta, “The successful validation of part performance modeling for PA6 3D printing will help boost the technology and change the traditional landscape of manufacturing. Enthusiastic feedback from major automotive industry players confirms their interest to accelerate this development in order to offer them a combined service in the near future.”

SABIC Aims to Develop Next-Generation PP

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 22. November 2016


New pilot plant to start up production by the end of first quarter 2017.


In the last couple of years, we have been witnessing an evolution of SABIC’s polyolefins business, which started with major production of vanilla-type PE and PP in Saudi Arabia as well as at three European locations.


But the company has had its sights on developing specialty polyolefins and that has included the recent launch of metallocene-based polyolefin elastomer and plastomer (POE/POP) copolymers, the result of the formation of its 2015 joint venture with Korea’s SK Global Chemical.


The latest investment is toward the development of next-generation PP. It should be noted that while SABIC does not produce polyolefins in the U.S., it did open a specialty PP compounding operation at its Bay St. Louis, Miss., facility in 2012.


The plant produces SABIC PP compounds and Stamax long-glass PP pellets, both primarily for automotive applications. And, as we reported last month during K 2016, SABIC officials confirmed they are evaluating in conjunction with an ExxonMobil affiliate, the building of a petrochemical and derivatives complex, including polyolefins, either in Texas of Louisiana.


Back to the latest move: the new pilot plant for the development of next-generation PP, will be brought on stream in Sittard-Geleen, the Netherlands, by the end of March, 2017.  Using gas-phase polymerization technology, this plant will support the production of “superior materials that meet the needs of the different industries like automotive, pipe, appliances and advanced packaging,” according to SABIC officials.


In particular, the company is aiming to develop grades with improved stiffness/impact and flow properties. A key focus will be impact grades of PP, as well as random copolymers and homopolymers. SABIC also plans to experiment on advanced catalysts at this plant, which will complement pilot plants used by the company at other strategic locations.


This pilot plant is the latest in a series of SABIC investments at the Brightlands Chemelot R&D manufacturing campus in Sittard-Geleen. The company opened a new R&D facility there this past May.


Lina Prada, global PP technology director, says the pilot plant is a further demonstration of SABIC’s commitment to invest in innovation. “When it starts up next year, we will have considerably more capacity to develop new PP materials for commercialization in our current European assets in Geleen and Gelsenkirchen, Germany.”


SABIC is taking a fast-track approach to construction and installation of the pilot plant. It has contracted the work to Zeton, a designer and builder of pilot and demonstration-scale plants with facilities in Enschede, the Netherlands and Burlington, Ont.


Zeton has developed a skid-mounted system that accelerates implementation times and allows full design flexibility. Installation will begin next month after Zeton has built and tested the plant in Enschede before partially disassembling it into around 15 modules for delivery to Geleen.


MIT Makes Strides in Future of PHA-Based Biopolymers

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 17. November 2016

Researchers identify key enzyme that can be tweaked to make it more industrially useful.


Biopolymers like PLA and PHA are here to stay and expected to continue to evolve. The latter, polyhydroxyalkanoates or PHAs, are linear polyesters produced in nature by bacterial fermentation of sugar or lipids. Produced by the bacteria to store carbon and energy, PHA can be combined with a large number of different monomers to produce biodegradable plastics with varying properties.


PHAs generally have had more of an uphill battle in terms of commercial advancement, with companies such as Metabolix, Woburn, Mass., recently exiting the business with its sale to Korea’s food and bioengineering conglomerate CJ CheigJedang. In the last couple of years, Metabolix had shifted its focus to promoting it amorphous PHA (a-PHA) for use as a performance additive for PVC and PLA.


In contrast, MHG, Bainbridge, Ga., became the world’s largest producer of PHA biopolymer with the startup of its first commercial-scale fermenter last year. Initial capacity for Nodax PHA is 30 million/lb/yr, though at full production, the plant is capable of twice that volume. The company’s PHA-based resins, which include hybrids such as PHA/PLA, have been targeted for use in such articles as: bottles for beverage, personal care and household products; food packaging and service items such as cups, lids, containers and utensils; bags for shopping, trash collection and composting; agricultural mulch and fishing lures; healthcare bandages, tubes and syringes.


Now MIT chemists have determined the structure and mechanism of the PHA synthase enzyme, present in nearly all bacteria which use it to produce large polymers that store carbon when food is scarce. The bacterium Cupriavidus necator can store up to 85% of its dry weight as these polymers.


And the key is that the PHA synthase enzyme produces different types of polymers depending on the starting material, usually one or more of the numerous variants of a molecule called hydroxyalkyl-coenzyme A, where the term alkyl refers to a variable chemical group that helps determine the polymers’ properties. Some of these materials form rigid plastics, while others create softer and more flexible plastics or ones that have elastic properties, which are more similar to rubber—all very similar to petroleum-based thermoplastics but with biodegrability.


The MIT team notes that PHA synthase is of great interest to chemists and chemical engineers because it can string together up to 30,000 monomers, in a precisely controlled way. “What nature can do in this case and many others is make huge polymers, bigger than what humans can make…and, they have uniform molecular weight, which makes the properties of these polymers distinct,” says JoAnne Stubbe, the Novartis emeritus professor of chemistry and a professor emeritus of biology, who along with MIT professor of chemistry Catherine Drennan, are the senior authors of the study, published in last month’s Journal of Biological Chemistry.  


It appears that these two, along with other chemists, have aimed to identify the PHA enzyme’s structure for over 20 years, but it had, until now, proven elusive because of the difficulty in crystallizing the protein. Crystallization is a key step to performing X-ray crystallography, which reveals the atomic and molecular structure of the protein.


Crystals at hand, the MIT researchers collected and analyzed the resulting crystallographic data to come up with the structure. The analysis revealed that PHA synthase is made up of two identical subunits, which form what is known as a dimer. Each of them has an active site in which the polymerization occurs—this debunked an earlier proposal that the active site is located at the dimer interface.


Also key in this analysis is that the enzyme has two openings—one, where the starting materials enter, and another that allows the growing polymer chain to exit. Says Stubbe, “The coenzyme A part of the substrate has to come back out because you have to put in another monomer…there are a lot of gymnastics that are going on, which I think makes it fascinating.”


The next step, according to Drennan, is to try to solve structures of the enzyme while it is bound to substrates and products, which ought to result in more information critical to understanding how it works. “This is the beginning of a new era of studying these systems where we now have this framework, and with every experiment we do, we’re going to be learning more.”


While the structural information that resulted from this work will have little impact on the cost of producing PHA polymers, the researchers see potential for the production of new and improved materials with unique properties. 


Tampoprint Shined at K 2016

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 11. November 2016

With its 60 years of experience in machine engineering, Tampoprint belongs among the innovators of the pad-printing industry, according to founder and chairman Wilfried Philipp.


The company went to K 2016 to introduce four new concepts for the pad-printing process, which is projected to increase in demand 4-5%/yr in the coming years.


Said to be the first of its kind is the patent-pending Continuous Circular rotation pad-printing system. This new machine enables the continuous decoration of cylindrical parts, making the printing process significantly more efficient and productive. According to Tampoprint, it is well suited for a range of applications from cosmetic packaging to writing utensils to technical mass-produced articles. Better quality and high precision are claimed and multicolored printing is possible. The unit’s output is up to 15,000 parts/hr.



Another new machine concept launched and demonstrated by the company was Module One, a semi-automated modular design developed for small and medium batch sizes. The central element of Module One is formed on a base frame, which can be assembled flexibly. Module One has eight stations and can be outfitted with up to three machine satellites. Pad printing units are selected from the company’s Series Hermetic and Sealed Ink Cup E. The remaining positions can be independently outfitted; for instance, with intermediate drying, infrared drying and part recognition.



With a maximum three-color print image and a maximum diameter of 125 mm, this system is suitable for a range of applications including toys, electronic housings, and household appliances. Construction and installation are reduced through standardization of all assemblies and ancillary options, according to the company. Significantly shortened setup times are claimed.


The company also showed the new variLEX 8130T pre-press laser system for graphics. It was developed by Tampoprint’s technology partner SPGPrints of Austria, a leading supplier of digital imaging technologies. This system is developed for direct engraving/ imaging black pad-printing plates—essentially replacing the conventional photopolymer plates. In combination with the black pad-printing plates, this system reportedly allows an optimal workflow which eliminates the use of any film-making (the photopolymer plate process), exposing, washing or drying.



The variLEX 8130T is also said to reduce tolerances and possible errors, which increasing quality. This system is capable of engraving high-quality line-counts, making it suitable for all pad-printing applications. SPGPrints says, it developed its laser system to image the needed relief-depth in one shot, resulting in smooth slopes, which in turn ensures an optimal ink release. Engraving time for three plates (100 x 220 mm) is 10 minutes with an engraving depth of 25-45 µm, both depending on imaging parameters and design, with up to 5080 dpi resolution claimed.


Finally, designed to work hand-in-hand with the cliché laser veriLEX 8130T, Tampoprint showcased the new “Do-It-Yourself” Intaglio laser cliché, said to deliver unrivaled pad printing results. The user creates the Intaglio laser cliché, fast and operator free, with the veriLEX 8130T. The user fastens the cliché on the magnetic drum, loads the print image on the PC and engraves. Here’s how it works: point by point the smallest cells are engraved in the Intaglio laser cliché. Each of them very precise, with different depths and widths. The pad printing ink can be precisely printed in different shades. Up to 30,000 prints in a contour sharpness can be achieved.

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