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DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — Polylactic acid is broadening out from disposable applications and into durable products, thanks to Corbion Purac technology, global marketing director François de Bie said at K 2013.
Gorinchem, Netherlands-based Corbian Purac was able to develop the technology in conjunction with its relatively recent 75,000-metric-ton PLA precursor plant in Thailand.
"Up until now, PLA was generally used for disposable packaging," such as for potatoes, said de Bie. "And until we opened the facility in Thailand, high-performance PLA was only available in laboratories and universities."
At K, Corbion Purac is showing the results of several successful partnerships involving durable applications, including a bioplastic touch-screen computer, manufactured by Supla and Kuender using lactides from Corbion Purac.
Corbion claims the housing is the first of its kind to be made using bioplastics and that the PLA blends provide improved impact resistance, excellent high-gloss finish and stable, precise processing.
Other durable PLA items on show this year include automotive parts from Röchling Automotive, made using a material called Plantura.
Plantura is based on PLA and filled with a natural fiber. Röchling has developed an air-filter box and interior trim parts using the material, which provides improved hydrolysis and thermal resistance up to 140° C, as well as scratch and UV resistance.
Also, visitors to the Corbion Purac stand are drinking from disposable PLA coffee cups, developed with packaging specialist Huhtamäki. "Normally disposable coffee cups just collapse as soon as you put hot water into them, because they just can't stand the heat," said de Bie. "But we've developed a way of doing it so the cup withstands the temperature and has a good, sturdy base."
The material is also much more environmentally friendly than the more commonly used PS. The disposable PLA cups will all be recycled after the show, he said.
These applications show that PLA can now compete with commonly used materials, such as PS in cups and ABS in electronics and mineral-filled PP or polyamide in automotive applications.
At K, Corbion Purac also announced a deal with Innovia to develop PLA film that is both transparent and resistant to higher temperatures. The films can withstand temperatures of 140-150° C, and are used to make heat-shrink seal packaging and labels, especially when low shrinkages are required, said de Bie.