Plastics News correspondent Roger Renstrom reported these items from the Intertech Corp.-sponsored Functional Fillers Forum for Thermoplastics and Thermosets, held Dec. 8-10 in Coronado, Calif.
Nanocor developing polymer-grade clays
Amcol International Corp.'s Nanocor Inc. subsidiary is modifying natural clays to improve the mechanical performance of engineering plastics and barriers for packaging materials.
Nanocor has begun ``the world's first production of polymer-grade montmorillonite clays,'' Karl Kamena, Nanocor manager of sales and marketing, said in an interview. An existing pilot plant makes treated clays for sampling in 220-pound quantities.
The unit's development work involves preparation of novel chemically modified clays for applications in thermoplastics such as ethylene vinyl alcohol, PET and polypropylene, and thermoset epoxies, polyurethanes and unsaturated polyesters.
Also, Nanocor has licensed pioneering Toyota Central Research Laboratory technology that was commercialized initially in 1992. Nylon 6 is polymerized in the presence of exfoliated nanometer sheets of clay. The resulting nano-composite of nylon, or another polymer where applicable, can find use in film and rigid plastic packaging, adhesives, coatings and structural plastics.
Nanocor invested about $8 million in an Aberdeen, Miss., plant. This facility, operational since Nov. 1, can produce as much as 20 million pounds per year of purified polymer-grade montmorillonite clays. The second phase will process the material into chemically modified nano-sized clays that are compatible with polymers. Now under construction, the second plant should begin operation in April.
Nanocor employs 45, including 24 at a research and development facility in Arlington Heights, Ill., and about 15 in Aberdeen. Amcol, formerly American Colloid Co., is based in Arlington Heights.
MicroFree powders to have domestic debut
DuPont Co. has begun the first domestic production of two anti-microbial inorganic powders for use in fibers, plastics and coatings.
``We have some purchases slated for January for plastics and fiber'' end uses, said Robin Kump, product manager of specialty powders in Deepwater, N.J., for DuPont's specialty chemicals business unit.
In June, the Environmental Protection Agency registered DuPont's MicroFree-brand powders under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide Rodenticide Act. DuPont's registration effort took two years and cost about $1 million. Previously, the EPA registered two Japanese anti-microbial inorganic products.
MicroFree powders can protect a plastic or fiber product from discoloration, microbial attack and microbe-caused smells.
The powder's active ingredient of silver, zinc or copper or a combination of these is coated on a core particle of zinc oxide or tin dioxide. An outer dispersion coating aids mixing of the inorganic powder with organic carriers.
EPA oversight of product claims will ``get stiffer and harder'' to ensure the products are used in appropriate applications as the antimicrobial products penetrate more end uses, Kump said.
North Wood explores wood-filled plastics
North Wood Plastics Inc. is pursuing the market for wood-filled plastics in housewares, automotive, construction and pallets.
``We saw the market was receptive to wood-filled plastic compounds for a much wider variety of applications than those commercially available,'' Brent English said in an interview. He is technical director and vice president of sales.
In May, North Wood installed an Italian-made ICMA San Giorgio 92-millimeter co-rotating twin screw extruder with a 36-1 length-to-diameter ratio and three vents. The first order was shipped July 2.
``The wood-filled plastics market in the United States exceeds 30 million pounds per year in automotive and 125 million pounds per year in construction,'' English said.
Currently, North Wood is sampling five manufacturers of plastic pallets, and others for automotive sheet applications and low-pressure injection molding processes.
North Wood, formed in January, employs four at its 8,000-square-foot facility in Sheboygan, Wis.
Ensci promotes use of thin-film additives
Some computer and electronic housing manufacturers believe now is the right time to look at filler additives that offer advantages over carbon-based products, stainless-steel and nickel-coated fibers, Thomas Clough, president of Ensci Inc., said in a presentation.
Clough said conductive and magnetic thin-film additives offer ``colorability and control of the change in coating polymer resistivity as a function of concentration.''
The additives can help with electrostatic dissipation or painting powder systems, electromagnetic-interference shielding, laser marking or lightweight fillers for sheet molding compounds.
Ensci of Pismo Beach, Calif., employs about 10, operates mainly through corporate consulting relationships and has several products in commercial demonstrations.
Clough, the majority shareholder, formed Ensci in 1987, initially pursuing oxide-semiconductor technology that he acquired from former employer Atlantic Richfield Co.