CHICAGO — GLS Corp. of Cary, Ill., is touting its superclear Versaflex thermoplastic elastomer alloys as a replacement for silicone. But at Plastics USA 98, those materials and other GLS products were drawing attention for their potential to replace another material — PVC.
``We've got everything you need for a toy — we've got the material approvals and we can make the material as soft as you need it to be,'' said TPE commercial services manager Lisa Charno.
At the Chicago show, held Oct. 6-8, officials at two global toy companies asked GLS officials about the possibility of using the GLS materials in children's toys that currently use PVC, according to Charno.
She declined to identify the toy makers, but said each has global processing capability.
Officials from both Hasbro Inc. and Little Tikes Co. attended the show, according to conference personnel.
PVC has come under pressure recently for its use of phthalates, which are used as softeners in PVC toys. Major U.S. toy makers Mattel Inc. and Little Tikes each recently took steps to phase out phthalates in chewable toys for children under 3 years. The European nations of Austria and Denmark already have adopted such phthalate bans and Sweden is considering a similar ban.
Versaflex and other GLS TPEs probably would require toy makers to alter their molds slightly, to compensate for decreased flow, Charno said. Vast price differences also could be a deterrent in a PVC-to-TPE switch, as injection molding PVC sells for less than 30 cents a pound and the average industry price of styrenic-based TPEs is in the range of $1.25-$1.40 per pound.
The new Versaflex materials, which were commercialized late last year, are aimed at providing clarity in pacifiers, baby-bottle nipples and cosmetic parts.
The superclear grades can be injection molded or extruded and are available in overmolding and lightweight grades.
The toy inquiries GLS fielded at Plastics USA are intriguing, even if they have not gone beyond the talking stage.
``If you look at the volume of the PVC toy market, it's gigantic,'' Charno said.
Toy dreams aside, Charno acknowledges GLS' expertise lies in its ability to produce customized materials, sometimes in quantities of less than 1,000 pounds.
``We have more custom capability than other TPE makers,'' she said. ``A lot of our customers say things like: `We like this material, but we need it harder and more heat-resistant and in green, blue, pink and red.'''
GLS' next big application could take the shape of a TPE material that can be overmolded onto nylon, thus opening up the markets for both hand and power tools. The company already makes grades that adhere to polycarbonate, ABS and polypropylene.
GLS is in the process of relocating its TPE division from Cary to nearby McHenry, Ill. The new building will boost capacity 50 percent with the installation of three new twin-screw extruders.