First High-Barrier PLA-Based Flexible Film for Long Shelf-Life Pouches

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 23. March 2016

Italian film processor combines coating technology with NatureWorks Ingeo films for packaging of processed foods.


Used successfully for several years in fresh food packaging, Ingeo PLA from NatureWorks, Minetonka, Minn., has now been used in the first application for use in shelf-stable food packaging, with the focus on the long shelf-life pouch market.


Italy’s Metalvuoto, an over 45-yr old processor of metalized plastic films for food packaging and for the consumer electronics market, combined its Oxaqua, high-barrier PET film coating technology with Ingeo PLA to produce dual-function films that enable simplified flexible packaging structures—such as flat, stand-up, or squared-bottomed pouches.


Branded Ingeo Propylester, the new Metalvuoto film allows using a two-layer pouch with performance matching that of three-layer pouches. Says the company’s executive director Gianni Costanzo, “Until now, the flexible packaging industry has grown up around the use of multi-material laminates because no one material was able to provide multiple functionality. For example, brand owners often use an aluminum layer for barrier, a PET layer for external aesthetics, and an internal PE layer for heat-sealability. Now, we have used our Oxaqua coating technology with an Ingeo base film to replace two layers of different materials with one layer that simultaneously provides excellent barrier and heat sealability.”


Ingeo Propylester film has significantly better oxygen barrier than metalized BOPP, according to Metalvuoto.  (Barrier performance is compared in the figure shown here against a range of materials normally considered for use in flexible packaging markets.)

Moreover, because the new films provides good seal strength, it eliminates the need for an additional sealant layer and enables a structural package simplification.


According to Constanzo, the company expects strong interest from the market in two-layer structures in which the Ingeo and Oxaqua biocoating technology are combined with paper to provide a fully biobased performance package at a cost that is competitive with three-layer structures.


The new film is well suited for food packaging in both horizontal and vertical form-fill-seal applications, and has demonstrated good processability. In testing on pouch-making machines, 30 to 40 units per minute were produced, depending on the type of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper pouch—flat, stand-up, or square-bottomed.


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BASF and Avantium JV Aims at “Green” PEF Barrier Resin

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 22. March 2016

The new joint venture will further development and licensing of Avantium production processes of precursor FDCA and PEF.


The goal to produce a 100% biobased alternative to PET has been in the works by The Netherlands’ Avantium since late 2010. That was when the company commenced its pilot project for the production of furanics—a class of chemical building blocks used to produce innovative “green” fuels, chemicals, and renewable materials. The company’s furanics are branded as YXY, and by end of 2011, Avantium had started up a furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) monomer pilot unit as well as a small YXY polyethylene furanoate (PEF) pilot plant (read more here).


Since then, Avantium has been pushing for commercial-scale production of PEF through approaches such as licensing and partnering arrangements with Coca-Cola and Alpla, in the belief that once commercial scale is achieved, PEF would compare quite favorably with reigning bottle king PET. PEF reportedly has oxygen barrier that is 10 times that of PET, along with double the water vapor and four times the CO2 barrier.


Its glass-transition temperature of 190.4 F is 53.6 F higher than PET, with a tensile modulus that is 1.6 times greater. The thinking is that even though PEF has about a 5% higher density than PET, it could make lighter bottles by thin-walling and/or eliminating barrier layers.


Enter BASF, which last week announced that it is forming a joint venture with Avantium for the production and marketing of the “green FDCA building block, as well as marketing of PEF.” The new venture will use Avantium’s YXY process for the production of FDCA. The partners intend to further develop the process and to construct a reference plant for the production of FDCA with annual capacity of about 110-million lb/yr at BASF’s Verbund site in Antwerp, Belgium.


The ultimate aim is to build up world-leading positions in FDCA and PEF, and subsequently license the technology for industrial-scale application. Because of its excellent barrier properties, high mechanical strength, and recyclability, PEF is viewed as highly suitable for the production of certain food and beverage packaging, including films and bottles. “Partnering with the number one chemical company in the world, provide use with access to the capabilities that are required to bring this technology to industrialization, said Tom van Aken, Avantium’s CEO. 

Avantium PEF bioplastic

Elium Liquid Thermoplastic Acrylic Used in Prototype Sailboat

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 17. March 2016

The hull and bridge of a prototype sailboat made of Arkema’s recyclable thermoplastic composite material called a ‘first’.


Barely two years ago, a novel liquid thermoplastic resin was brought on the market by France’s Arkema (U.S. office in King of Prussia, Penn.). At JEC World 2016 in Paris last week, a recyclable thermoplastic composite based on Arkema’s Elium liquid thermoplastic acrylic was featured in the hull and bridge of the brand new Mini 6.50 Arkema 3 “Innovation” prototype sailboat.

This boat was presented as a genuine technological feat in boat building; the result of a joint venture set up between Arkema and Lalou Multi – TPE run by famed skipper Lalou Roucayrol and specializing in ocean racing. Elium is processed in the same way as the thermoset resins traditionally used in boat building and features comparable mechanical properties to epoxy resins. It is 30-50% lighter than steel and just as tough. It lends itself to complex designs and shapes and can be perfectly combined with fiberglass or carbon fiber.


Moreover, its thermoplastic nature makes Elium resin post-formable and recyclable, so that end-of-life parts made from this resin can be ground and reused to manufacture new parts. Said Danier Lebouvier, Arkema’s technical coordinator of this project, “This is an answer to a major issue of the treatment of end-of-life composites (a topic that is dear to the heart of skipper Lalou Roucayrol). Arkema is the first company to be marketing a resin of this type, and mini 6.50 Arkema 3 ‘Innovation’ will be the first boat built with this type of resin to be sailing the oceans.”


According to Fabienne Roucayrol, project manager at Lalou Multi, the objective of the construction of the new boat was that it would be a showcase for Arkema’s materials, as well as for building on Lalou Multi’s know-how in their processing, particularly with regard to the new Elium resin. After 18 months of R&D and countless processing tests, they achieved the right formulation in December 2015 for the hull and bridge, which are made entirely from the recyclable composite acrylic resin.


At the start of its market introduction, Elium applications were aimed at composites with fiberglass using the resin transfer molding (RTM) technique, according to Lebouvier. In the case of the prototype boat, the infusion and carbon fiber technique were used. “This was a more challenging situation in which we had no experience, in particular to manufacture large components. So we had to find the right conditions and fine-tune the product. We were able to do this, despite the tight timetable, thanks to very close collaboration between the Lalou Multi team, architect Romaric Neyhousser, and Arkema’s research teams.”


The Mini 6.50 Arkema 3 “Innovation” functions as a lab of sorts for Arkema’s products. The cockpit window and the hood were made from Altuglas ShieldUp, a nanostructured acrylic sheet that is transparent like glass but lighter and able to withstand the most extreme conditions. Globally well-known adhesives from Bostik, acquired by Arkema last year, were used for the structural assembly of the boat. In particular, the bulkheads and the bridge were glued to the hull with methacrylate and MS Polymers adhesives, and the foamed structures were assembled using a polyurethane adhesive.


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Cow Gas to Plastics

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 16. March 2016

NatureWorks invests in commercial-scale development of methane-to-lactic acid fermentation.


PLA has made some pretty major strides in commercial applications, ranging from packaging and food serviceware to filaments for additive manufacturing. Now, NatureWorks, Minnetonka, Minn., has just launched its $1-million, 8,300-ft2 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 lactic acid, the building block of the company’s Ingeo biopolymer PLA. Six new scientist are being hired to staff the new facility.


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 opening of the new lab represents a major step toward commercial reality. As company CEO Bill Suehr put it, “A commercially viable methane-to-lactic acid conversion technology would be revolutionary. It diversifies NatureWorks away from the current reliance on agricultural feedstocks, and with methane as feedstock, it could structurally lower the cost of producing Ingeo. It is exciting to envision a future where greenhouse gas is transformed into Ingeo-based compostable food serviceware, personal care items such as wipes, diapers, durable products such as computer cases and toys, film for wrapping fresh produce, filament for 3D printers, deli packaging, and more.”


Based on its research collaboration with Calysta, NatureWorks hopes to subsequently develop a 25,000-ft2 pilot plant in Minnesota by 2018 and hire an additional 15 employees. The company is aiming, within the next six years, to potentially construct a $50-million demonstration project. Company officials feel that it is conceivable that within the next decade, NatureWorks will bring online the first global-scale methane-to-lactic acid fermentation facility.


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Instron Celebrates 70th Anniversary

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 15. March 2016

Starting with a material testing prototype in an MIT lab, Instron has made its mark with innovations in testing instruments for evaluating mechanical properties of plastics and components.


March 15, 2016 will mark the 70-yr anniversary of Instron, Norwood, Mass., a manufacturer of testing instruments that evaluate mechanical properties of materials and components. The company believes the milestone is a testament to the its products, support and service.


Seven decades on it continues to serve the market with new technologies. These include its latest generation of HDT testers, featuring touch-screen operation, faster testing, as well as enhanced safety and energy conservation; and, its new series of automatic tensile and flexural modulus testers with both a smaller footprint and lower cost.


Instron’s history began in 1946 with Harold Hindman and George Burr, who were working together at MIT to investigate suitable substitutes for silk that could be used in the manufacture of parachutes. Once they discovered that there was no testing machine available accurate enough to meet their requirements, the partners designed a materials testing instrument. The swift success of the prototype led to the formation of Instron Corp.


The company has been at the forefront of the industry, earning recognition as one of the first companies to use video strain measurement and as the first in its industry to offer automatic transducers and reverse stress loading, among many other accomplishments.


In October 2005, Instron was acquired by ITW as the first company in its Test and Measurement platform. “ITW arrived at a crucial time in Instron’s 70-year history. As we made the transition from a largely family-owned business. ITW’s philosophy guided us to maintain the high standards envisioned by the original owners and at the same time taught us to run a more responsive organization to best serve our customers. I see our management’s role as custodians to our innovative culture,” stated Yahya Charagozlou, group president for ITW Test and Measurement.


Throughout the 70 years, Instron has opened offices across the Americas, Europe, and Asia Pacific. With an expansive network of nearly 1700 employees globally, Instron employees collectively speak more than 40 languages—enhancing the company’s communication capabilities with global customers.

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