Materials Matter Says Latest Survey on How Auto Engineers Plan to Meet CAFE Standards

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 5. August 2015


Results of the recently released WardsAuto survey, now in its fifth year and sponsored by DuPont Automotive, show that lightweighting and engine efficiency once again top the list of strategies the auto industry is using to meet 2025 CAFÉ (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, and materials are key.

However, the results also strongly indicate that all technologies are getting more emphasis as the mid-term review deadline looms.


The mid-term review by the EPA and NHTSA in 2016-2017 is designed to determine technology readiness and ability to implement at acceptable cost, with a final decision due April 2018. The light-duty vehicle CAFÉ and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions rate standards require, on an average industry fleet-wide basis, 163 g/miles of CO2 in model year 2025, which would be equivalent to 54.5 mpg (4.3 L/100km) if this level were achieved solely through improvements in fuel efficiency.


Transmission technologies, new to this year’s survey, and electrification form the second tier of strategies, according to the nearly 900 respondents in the automotive design and engineering community. Says Jeff Sternberg, DuPont Automotive technology director, “Lightweighting is a universal approach because it can be applied to every system and every component and it amplifies the impact of the other strategies. Electrification, which saw one of the largest increases in mention this year, is fast becoming another universal strategy. Light electrification, such as start/stop, regenerative braking systems and transmission and engine controls, is expanding across the light vehicle fleet.”


With the mid-term review around the corner, 86% of the respondents say they expect the standards to strengthen or remain the same. At the same time, 87% say low gas prices in combination with low sales of fuel-efficient, low-emission vehicles will impact programs to meet CAFÉ regulations. Notes Sternberg, “The responses might suggest that the industry is backing off technologies that lower emission and improve fuel economy…but, it’s important to remember the global automotive industry has to navigate emissions regulations throughout the world, so we still need to run full-steam ahead. That said, the current market dynamic is certain to spark some likely debate during the mid-term reviews.”


Meanwhile, materials matter! This year once again, survey respondents point to aluminum and multi-material solutions as the materials that can best help them meet CAFÉ standards. Engineering plastics and advanced high-strength steel comprise the second tier. Respondents continue to express “moderate confidence” that today’s material are sufficient to meet the future standards.


Says Sternberg, “We’re pretty bullish on the impact that material can have on lightweighting and new solutions continue to be introduced. But materials alone are not enough when it comes to reducing vehicle weight in the 10-15% range. Those big opportunities require fundamental changes in design, manufacturing and assembly as well. These more ‘disruptive technology’ developments are taking longer, but the work is moving forward. High-volume adoption by 2025 may be optimistic for some of them, as we are just a little more than two vehicle model cycles away, but I’m confident we will see an impact.”


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


Sheet Extruder Bixby & Bioplastics Firm Green Dot Bolster R&D Partnership

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 31. July 2015

Extruded sheet made with corn cob biocomposite.


It may be safe to say by now that we can expect to see more and more ‘collaborations’ between plastics processors of a wide range of consumer goods and suppliers of bioplastics as they look for more sustainable options for their products. Just last month (Processor’s Edge, PT June 2015), we reported on manufacturer of laboratory disposable products Labcon North America and its collaboration with Braskem North America to switch to the latter’s sugarcane ethanol-based HDPE for its packaging, with plans in the future to use the latter’s ‘Green’ PP for the actual components.


This month, we’ve have the announcement from thermoplastic sheet extruder and laminator Bixby International, Newburyport, Mass., about its R&D cooperation with bioplastics company Green Dot Holdings, Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. Bixby offers one of the industry’s broadest polymer and substrate selections and prides itself in being able to address the most challenging plastic mono- and multi-layer film and sheet applications.


Green Dot has a full line of biobased and compostable materials sold under the Terratek brand name. One example, on which we have reported, is Terratek GDH-B1 starch-based elastomer which has been used for products like cellphone cases and toys. It is also offered as an impact modifier for PLA—at 10-20% levels, it boosts PLA’s notched Izod by 100-130%, and at 30% addition, it boosts impact strength by 450%. Also cited is an exponential jump in tensile properties, particularly elongation at break.


Meanwhile, it turns out Bixby has been working with Green Dot for a couple of years. The story goes that the latter reached out to Bixby in late 2012, according to Green Dot’s CEO Mark Remmert, for one overwhelming reason: to work with Mark Gagnon, Bixby’s v.p. of R&D/product development.


Remmert praised Gagnon, noting, “Not only is he a recognized leader in plastic technology and plastics processing, but he is also that rare blend of knowledge, experience, energy, passion, and honesty. Marc never tires of explaining processes and investing his time in understanding customer needs and struggles. He is a great guy to work with.” He adds that Bixby’s product development capabilities are exceptional noting that they can go from idea, to concept, to prototype, very quickly. “The product development staff has the experience, equipment, and material know-how, to help customers turn their imagination into reality…and do it quickly.”


Several months after the two companies connected, they ran their first development prototypes for making elastomeric-coated textiles. Since then, the programs developed by the companies have focused on renewable/biodegradable products in textiles, wood-filled plastic composites, foamed extrusions, extrusion-coated natural fibers/fabrics, natural-fiber-reinforced sheet, and elastomeric film and sheet. The companies see their development cooperation as going a long way in helping generate options that have a positive impact on Green Dot’s customers, as well as the environment.


Affirming this, Gagnon notes that Bixby has been enthusiastic about its work with Green Dot because of their unique bioplastic resin technologies. “Their polymers have allowed us to explore and compete against conventional plastics with both elastomeric and rigid extruded applications whereas their biodegradability brings enhanced value to the applications of our end-users. The most exciting fact is that we have not had to sacrifice on performance—either in physical properties or processing—in order to deliver the additional benefits of a true biopolymer.”


For more about Bixby's capabilities, click to this article.


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



Victrex Acquires Kleiss Gears to Bolster PEEK Gears Business

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 27. July 2015



Victrex, West Conshohocken, Penn., has enhanced its ability to provide complete ‘integrated’ service through its acquisition of PEEK polymer gears specialist Kleiss Gears, Grantsburg, Wisc. In moving downstream in this manner, the company is aiming to accelerate the adoption of its Victrex PEEK gear proposition to meet the needs of the automotive industry.  Asked if this means the company will now be competing with its customers in PEEK gears, sources at Victrex gave us the following response.


First that Victrex’s focus is on building PEEK market growth and as such is striving to continuously improve the products and services it offers existing and new customers. The strategic decision to acquire Kleiss Gears is consistent with their goal to provide and improved service specifically on PEEK-based gears, bringing the much needed capability around engineering design, tooling, and durability testing.


“The market for PEEK gears is still much in its infancy and in order to facilitate market growth, Victrex has identified that an integrated capability is needed to provide the right robust gear solution in order to meet the high demands of the Tier1/OEM customers,” says one Victrex source.


According to Victrex, the aim is to use this integrated capability to shorten the development cycle for their customers. This starts from understanding the needs and challenges of its customers, leading to a design review of the typically metal gear system when NVH, wear and energy benefits can be clearly gained by moving to PEEK design.


The Kleiss manufacturing capability is built around polymer gear application technology only.  Victrex says its intention is to build further the global market for PEEK gears and help pioneer the replacement of metal gears in demanding environments, which in turn should increase the market opportunities for all of its customers—directly and indirectly.


Added Rod Kleiss, president of Kleiss Gears, “We have been partnering with Victrex for many years and are convinced that our customers and end-users will benefit from a more integrated approach, enabling them to develop and launch gears that solve their key challenges with greatly reduced development cycles.”


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


Ingeo Biopolymer Tops 'Smallest Carbon Footprint' List Among Commonly Used Plastics

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 24. July 2015


With many consumer product brands increasingly looking to reduce their carbon footprint, several different types of plastics recently have had  reassessments of their eco-profile—energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). In step with this market trend, there has been an update to the profile of Ingeo biopolymer from NatureWorks, Minnetonka, Minn. Called “Life Cycle Inventory and Impact Assessment Data for 2014 Ingeo Polylactide Production”, the article was also just recently peer reviewed and approved for publication in the June 2015 issue of Industrial Biotechnology by an independent panel of experts.


The eco-profile of a polymer gives information such as the total energy and raw materials consumed, and the total emissions to air, water, and soil from the cradle to the finished polymer pellet. A life cycle inventory (LCI) is an essential input to any full LCA conducted on consumer products made from that polymer.


“Our most recent eco-profile in 2010 was calculated using the methodology, the modeling software, and core database in place at the time. The same approach was used by such industry organizations as Plastic Europe since the beginning of the 1990s to calculate the eco-profiles for the fossil-based polymers. However, LCA tools and databases have progressed in the past four years, and we decided it was time to recalculate the eco-profile based on those advancements,” says NatureWorks environmental affairs manager Erwin Vink.


Overall, the publication of the new Ingeo life-cycle assessment (LCA) shows that GHGs and energy usage during its manufacture is lower than all commonly used plastics, including PP, PET, GPPS and ABS. The article documents the energy and GHG inputs and outputs of the Ingeo production systems, the revised 2014 Ingeo eco-profile, and the calculation and evaluation of a comprehensive set of environmental indicators. It also addresses topics such as land use, land-use change, and water use.


To help brand owners and researchers in the direct use of this life-cycle assessment data, NatureWorks now has available an online calculator--Environmental Benefits Calculator--providing them with a  tool for comparing the net GHG emissions and the nonrenewable energy use of products made with different plastics. The calculator provides an intuitive interface from which manufacturers and brands can input data details and receive instantaneous feedback on the environmental impact of the materials they are using.  


This revised eco-profile (the cradle-to-polymer life cycle inventory data), which is based on the latest version of Thinkstep’s GaBi LCA software and database, follows the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards and reinforces the fact that the production of Ingeo polymer emits fewer GHGs and consumes less non-renewable energy compared to other commonly used plastics.



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




Sounds Weird, But...Plastic Roads May Actually 'Surface'

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 20. July 2015




Our infrastructure problem is not going away any time soon. So, any fresh ideas, no matter how weird they may sound are surely worth taking a look. Here’s an example from The Netherlands where the first ‘plastic road’ could become a reality within the near future.


Particularly in recent years, Dutch  engineers and designers have become increasingly recognized for their innovative and eco-friendly ideas—ranging from self-healing concrete to the first solar bike path.  Just within the last month, Dutch construction company VolkerWessels has announced that it is teaming up with the City of Rotterdam to produce a prototype for a prefabricated road consisting of 100% recycle material. If all goes as imagined, this will result in a sustainable alternative to conventional road structures which will be virtually maintenance-free, lightweight, will take a fraction of the construction time, and have a three-fold expected lifespan.


PlasticRoad  according to the ambitious company, features numerous advantages both in terms of construction and maintenance. First, plastic is much more sustainable and opens the door for a number of new innovations such as power generation, quieter road surfaces, heated roads and modular construction. Moreover, the design features a ‘hollow’ space that can be used for cables, pipes and rainwater.


The company’s says its PlasticRoad concept is in line with developments such as Cradle to Cradle and The Ocean Cleanup: the initiative to free the seas of ‘plastic soup’. Recycled plastic is made into prefabricated road parts that can be installed in one piece. The prefabricated production and the lightweight design also make the road’s construction a much simpler task. Roads can be built in weeks instead of months as the road sections fit together like tiles. It is also much easier to control the quality of the roads such as stiffness and water drainage versus traditional asphalt.


Also, because of its hollow structure, the road can simply be installed on a surface of sand or other poor soil, without the need for costly foundations. VolkerWessels also say, that it is possible to integrate other elements in the prefabrication phase including traffic loop sensors, measuring equipment, and connections for light poles.

The next step is to build it and test it in Rotterdam’s street lab to make sure it is safe in wet and slippery conditions and so on. The company is interested in hearing from potential partners.

Contacts include:

Anne Koudstaal, +316-50226418, and Simon Jorritsma,+316-52533297,


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




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