NEW YORK (July 5, 12:45 p.m. ET) — Bio-based resin manufacturer DaniMer Scientific LLC has begun production of what it says are the first hot melt adhesives made from renewable resources. The company says commercial level volumes of plant-based adhesives will be available in October.
“The renewable hot melt adhesives are the first in the world,” said President S. Blake Lindsey at the Bioplastek 2011 conference in New York June 27-29. “There are folks that have been in development of renewable hot melt adhesives, but none that have taken it to market as a commercial product.”
He said DaniMer and its sister company Meredian Inc. are retrofitting an existing plant in Bainbridge, Ga. — where both companies are located — for a pilot plant that will produce 30 million pounds per year of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) bio-based resins.
That PHA pilot plant will be up and running by the first of next year, Lindsey said. He added that Meridian plans to start construction of a 200 million pound-per-year PHA plant at the Bainbridge site in the fourth quarter of 2012, with that plant up and running a year after that.
Lindsey said Meredian's PHA resins have a target price of $1 per pound, compared to current PHA resins that cost about $2.50.
“That is very unusual for PHA,” said Lindsey in an interview. “But we believe we can achieve that because we focused on production efficiencies because we wanted a cost-effective biopolymer that would not be a premium price.”
He said the company was targeting five areas for its PHA resins: flexible films, coatings, fiber applications, traditional injection molded and thermoformed packaging and as a replacement for polystyrene foam.
“We can combine the microorganisms in different ways to develop different products,” Lindsey said.
“These resins can overcome the physical and mechanical limitations of other bio-based resins and will have a broader range of physical and mechanical properties without costly downstream manipulation or process changes.”
He projects that Meredian will have PHA production capacity of 630 million pounds in 2016.
“Our plan is to build three 200-million pound plants. We are working with our strategic partners. They want resins made from renewable resources that are truly biodegradable and will not be harmful to soil or water — even cold marine water.”
The PHA resins will be made using a technology Meredian acquired from Procter & Gamble Co. in 2007 that uses plant-based fatty acids, not sugars, to create PHA through fermentation.
The renewable hot melt adhesives are currently being made in small quantities in the company's polymer development center with additional quantities produced for DaniMer by a toll compounder.
“We are building a commercial plant in Bainbridge that will be operational by the end of the year,” Lindsey said. “Our initial targeted production capacity for the adhesives plant will be 30 million pounds per year, but we can scale it to be larger easily and quickly.”
Lindsey said the hot melt adhesives are “cost-neutral and may sometimes offer a cost advantage” compared to petroleum-based adhesives. They are designed to work without equipment modification in most existing hot melt applications, including hand-guns and automatic adhesive applicators.
“We did not want to ask potential customers to invest in new equipment to use new materials,” Lindsey said. “There is no equipment modification required.”
The adhesives — renewable, recyclable and re-pulpable — have been in development for two years and are made from proprietary Seluma condensation technology.
He said the first renewable hot melt adhesives are for case and carton sealing applications, but that the company is working on extensions of that product line and that its renewable hot melt adhesives could also be used for flexible packaging and for pressure-sensitive adhesives.
“We never intended to get into this segment, but we had customers approach us because they wanted their packaging to be more sustainable,” Lindsey said.
DaniMer currently makes bio-based resins for extrusion coatings, injection molding, thermoforming, extrusion lamination and film, as well as additives for PLA, and bio-based wax replacement polymers that allow fibers to be recycled, as the coating breaks down under de-inking in hydro-repulping conditions.
“We are not tied to any particular bio-material,” said Lindsey. “What we are trying to do is utilize what nature has given us in renewable material.”