PT Blog

A combination of higher global crude oil prices, a firming up of prices of key feedstocks, higher export volumes in some cases, and a rebound in demand in some other cases, are key drivers in projections for flat to at least slightly higher prices ahead for PE, PP, PS, PVC, and PET.

Here is a look at how things were being viewed as we approach mid-February by purchasing consultants from Resin Technology, Inc. (RTi), Fort Worth, Texas; senior editors from Houston-based PetroChemWire (PCW); and CEO Michael Greenberg of the Plastics Exchange in Chicago.

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Polyether furanoate (PEF) is viewed as a strong candidate among biopolyesters for packaging, by some bioplastics researchers. PEF contains the hydrocarbon, furan, which can be extracted from maize, wood and certain types of grain. Experiments have shown that PEF is superior to standard PET in protecting against oxygen, carbon dioxide and water, resulting in greater product shelf life.

The success of PEF findings by some researchers prompted researchers at Sweden’s Lund University to find other renewable materials that could potentially be used for plastic production. Chemical engineering doctoral student Ping Wang has produced a plastic based on indole, a heavier hydrocarbon molecule than furan, that is present in human feces and smells accordingly. The compound is also found in lower concentrations in certain flowering plants and has a more agreeable aroma. According to the researchers, this effect is due to our sense of smell decoding the aroma differently depending on the amount and combination.

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A collaboration to develop biodegradable water bottles has been announced by Nestle (U.S. headquarters in Arlington, Va.) and Danimer Scientific, Bainbridge, Ga., which will be based on the latter’s Nodax PHA. Last year, a University of Georgia study confirmed that Nodax is an effective biodegradable alternative to petrochemical plastics. PepsiCo, an existing partner of Danimer, may also gain access to the resins developed under this collaboration.

Said Danimer’s CEO Stephen Croskrey: “Researchers have shown that PHA biodegrades in a wide range of environments, including industrial and home compost, soil, fresh and sea water. As a material that is reliably biodegradable across both aerobic and anaerobic conditions, our Nodax PHA is an ideal fit to drive the creations of eco-friendly packaging for Nestle’s products. Nodax PHA is suitable feedstock for industrial compost, home compost, and anaerobic digester facilities as well as reuse through recycling. We look forward to supporting Nestle in the years to come.”

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“Finding new uses for lignin can improve the economics of the entire biorefining process,” said Amit Naskar from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the project lead of ORNL scientists that have created a recipe for a renewable 3D printing feedstock that could spur a profitable novel use for lignin—the material left over from the processing of biomass. Lignin gives plants rigidity and also makes biomass resistant to being broken down into useful products.

The researchers’ formulation combines a melt-stable hardwood lignin with a low-melting nylon, and carbon fiber to create a composite with reportedly just the right characteristics for extrusion and weld strength between layers during the printing process, as well as excellent mechanical properties. This work tends to be tricky as lignin chars easily. Unlike workhorse composites like ABS, lignin can only be heated to a certain temperature for softening and extrusion from a 3D-printing nozzle. Prolonged exposure to heat dramatically increases its viscosity, making it difficult to extrude.

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Tucson-based startup, SafKan, the latest Protolabs, Maple Plain, Minn., Cool Idea! Award winner, is introducing 3D-printed headphones with a unique twist—they can professionally clean a patient’s ear in 35 seconds. SafKan has developed the first automated ear cleaning device for clinical use called OtoSet.

Co-founded by brothers Sahil and Aadil Diwan, OtoSet went through several iterations, made possible by the team at Protolabs. With help from Protolabs’ Cool Idea! Award, which included in-kind machining and industrial-grade 3D printing services, SafKan was able to successfully meet various customization requirements during OtoSet’s pivotal trial stage. SafKan relied on the grant to remove the financial burden from clinical trials to quickly place working prototypes in the hands of physicians.

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