Industry & Technology News: June 2010

Paper Mate Launches Pen of PHA BiopolymerA high-visibility success for the newest commercial biopolymer is the debut of the Paper Mate Biodegradable pens and pencils from Newell Rubbermaid Inc., Atlanta.

Paper Mate Launches Pen of PHA Biopolymer

� A high-visibility success for the newest commercial biopolymer is the debut of the Paper Mate Biodegradable pens and pencils from Newell Rubbermaid Inc., Atlanta. These products have 60% biodegradable content, consisting of injection molded barrels, nosecones, and clips of Mirel PHA bioplastic, made from microbial fermentation of corn sugar. Mirel is a product of Telles, Lowell, Mass., the joint venture of Metabolix, Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. The Mirel parts are molded by Newell Rubbermaid in four- and eight-cavity molds using hot runners from Husky Injection Molding Systems, Ltd., Bolton, Ont. The resin is Mirel P1003, an improved injection grade launched last year with better stiffness and melt flow. Successful molding was aided by Moldflow analysis. Autodesk, Waltham, Mass., analyzed Mirel at its Moldflow Plastics Lab to get property data necessary to run the flow analysis. At the end of last year, Telles brought on stream its first commercial PHA plant, located in Clinton, Iowa, with a design capacity of 110 million lb/yr.
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New Auxiliaries Maker Has a Familiar Name

� A veteran of the auxiliary equipment business, Donald Rainville, is making a comeback. He has launched a company focused on supplying auxiliaries to medical molders. His new firm, Advanced Auxiliary Equipment (AAE), Cobbs Creek, Va., offers FlexMed hopper loaders, aimed primarily at injection molders. Seven models for small-, medium, and large presses are of polished stainless steel inside and out. They comply with ISO standards for sanitary fittings. AAE also offers material-handling drums and SureFeed additive feeders with HDPE hoppers for quick cleanout and material/color changes. More new products, including resin dryers and blenders for small machines, are in development.

Rainville was president of Universal Dynamics, Woodbridge, Va., for more than 20 years, until January 2007. He will continue as a consultant for Novatec Inc., Baltimore, where he focuses on larger-scale extrusion systems for PET and PLA.
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Eastman Starts Up Tritan Plant, Considers PET Exit

There's big news from Kingsport, Tenn., where Eastman Chemical Co., held opening ceremonies last month for its new Tritan copolyester production facility. The firm also announced that it is reviewing "strategic options, including a possible divestiture, for its PET business." That business is around $1 billion/yr, roughly equal in size to Eastman's Specialty Plastics business, which includes copolyesters and cellulosics. Specialties are on track to surpass the PET segment in revenues next year, according to Mark Costa, executive v.p. for Specialty Polymers, Coatings, Adhesives and CMO. He says Specialties would have no problems standing on its own without PET, since the assets and infrastructure of the two businesses are separate. PET is produced in Columbia, S.C.

� The current star of Eastman's Specialties unit is Tritan copolyester. The new 66-million-lb plant started up in early December. Eastman has feedstock capacity-including the unique TMCD monomer-to support a second plant of equal size, possibly as early as next year. Smaller capacity that was used to launch Tritan in 2007 is also available. Tritan has made rapid inroads in housewares and infant care products, largely as a BPA-free replacement for polycarbonate. Its latest success is in 3- and 5-gal bulk water bottles from Greif Packaging, Delaware, Ohio. Extrusion blow molded in round and handled versions (photo), they supplement Greif's PC bottles and may ultimately replace them.

Other growth targets for Tritan include medical devices such as connectors and luer locks, owing to Tritan's heat and radiation resistance for sterilization (though not yet sufficient for autoclaving). Another target, says Dr. Dante Rutstrom, v.p. and general manager for Specialty Plastics, is graphic arts films for touch panels, thanks to Tritan's toughness and superior resistance to yellowing after UV printing. Signs are a growing market, owing to Tritan's toughness and easier thermoformability than PC. And Tritan/ABS blends (made by PolyOne, Cleveland) are promising for medical equipment housings, owing to their chemical resistance to harsh cleaners.

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