Add injection molding to the list of uses for a new corn-based, biodegradable material being developed by Cargill Dow LLC.
The firm's NatureWorks packaging material has been used in Europe and Asia for extruded film and thermoforming applications such as cups and blister packaging. The material also can be used for injection stretch blow molding for bottles.
The Minnetonka, Minn., company was surprised recently when Sony Corp. decided to use the natural resin for a portable radio/cassette player to be sold in Japan, said Jim Hobbs, commercial director of packaging with Cargill Dow.
Hobbs, interviewed Nov. 5 at Pack Expo International in Chicago, said the material will be used for the body casing and some internal parts on the Walkman-style radios launching this fall.
``It was an application we hadn't expected,'' Hobbs said.
The Asian and European markets have been quick to accept the material, made with polylactic acid processed from corn starch.
The company, a joint venture between Cargill Inc. and Dow Chemical Co., opened a plant last year in Blair, Neb., to produce the resin from the PLA base. Use of the material for injection molding could help boost acceptance in North America, where the audience is more skeptical, Hobbs said.
Another Japanese firm, Fujitsu Ltd., is using the material for a laptop computer that it plans to launch in 2004, Hobbs said.
The company expects several North American customers to start rolling out the material commercially in the United States by the first quarter of next year, Hobbs said. Several companies are testing products made from NatureWorks.