Your story “The season for soy-based resin” (Sept. 13, Page 1) highlighted the potential use of soy-based resins as an environmentally friendly, low-cost alternative in traditional automotive and some commercial applications. GI Plastek has been working for three years with Bayer Polymers and end users, including John Deere, to develop and perfect the molding process for these soy-based materials.
In the case of a John Deere harvester combine access door, we were able to deliver an extremely strong new composite door weighing 25 percent less than steel. We also were able to adapt our ProTek in-mold coating system to the new composite, to create a Class A surface that didn't require post-painting of the panels.
In working with these soybean-derivative structural foam poly-urethane RIM formulations, GI Plastek has found, in certain applications, they provide physical processing parameters equivalent to conventional formulations. Additionally, they offer matching physical performance advantages in strength and elasticity and, in some cases, do not require secondary reinforcement of the part, such as ribbing or metal braces.
Farmers are excited about [soy-based resin], and with good reason. With an estimated 3 percent of imported petroleum being used to manufacture petrochemicals, including plastic, the key advantage of urethane components made from soy is that they are derived from a renewable resource that also happens to be the second-largest cash crop and No. 1 U.S. export. The potential economic benefits to both American plastics manufacturers and our country's farming industry make this a technology that deserves greater attention.
Because oils and fats from soybeans are chemically similar to petroleum, it is anticipated that bio-based polymers can be used to replace anything currently made from petro-based plastic. Markets include insulation for buildings, appliances, industrial tanks and pipes. The United Soybean Board has identified urethane foams, urethane binders and agricultural film as three market segments offering the best opportunity for soy plastics. A recent USB marketing study con— servatively estimates that soybean demand for products could exceed 7 million bushels annually.
I look forward to Plastics News stories that continue to monitor the progress of this industry.