ORLANDO, FLA. (April 3, 7:30 a.m. ET) — Altuglas International Resin has developed a bio-based acrylic compound made partially from polylactic acid that has lower processing temperatures, greater melt flow properties and better impact resistance that its traditional transparent thermoplastic poly methyl methacrylate (PMMA).
Sample products made from the new Plexiglas Rnew bio-based compounds that use Ingeo PLA from NatureWorks LLC are on display at the NatureWorks booth (57048) at NPE2012 and at an Altuglas special event on April 3 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in room 210 D&E of the North Hall.
“There is a step change in impact performance, there is a significant increase in chemical resistance, and there is a dramatic improvement in melt flow for easier processing in both extrusion and in injection molding,” said Bob Barsotti, research scientist for the Arkema Group, the parent corporation of Altuglas, in advance of the NPE show. “You can process it faster and at lower temperatures.”
“We can move Plexglas Rnew into applications that we couldn't get into with traditional acrylic/plexiglas and we can also compete with engineered resins with this material,” Barsotti said. “I can see applications in consumer, medical, optical products, building and construction and automotive.”
Carmen Rodriguez, business manager of resin products for Bristol, Pa.-based Altuglas, added that the compatibility of Ingeo PLA and PMMA opens up additional doors.
“There will be a wide range of formulation latitudes and a wide range of applications because the formulation will be easier to tweak because of the compatibility of the two materials,” said Rodriguez in an interview prior to NPE.
In particular, she sees a host of application possibilities in both small and large appliances, retail applications such as clear transparent racks used to display shoes or wine bottles, a variety of display signs and clear candy bowls.
“It can be a clear material for anything from small to large appliances. It can be an alternate materials for signs, and it can have some automotive applications” depending on what properties are needed, Rodriguez said.
What's more, it is not restricted to clear, transparent applications, as color can be added to the compound.
How much Ingeo will be each type of Plexiglas Rnew compound will depend on the application.
“Right now, we're looking at incorporating a range of 25 to 60 bio-based Ingeo renewable content” depending on the formulation, said Barsotti.
In terms of applications, “we are actively pushing point-of-display, retail signage and outdoor signage among injection molders,” said Rodriguez.
“Just recently, we extruded sheet materials into display items,” she said. “We also fabricated items to demonstrate that we can make clear cuts without burning or melting the sheet materials.”
In addition, she said Altuglas has also thermoformed Plexiglas Rnew into products like an acrylic truck to show injection molders how well the resin fills molds, how all the details are captured in the product and how it releases from the mold without any problem.
“Right now, we are working to understand which products will be most robust in terms of applications,” Rodriguez said. “But our hope is that we will be offering a portion of these products by the end of the year.”
Frank Diodato, the Harvard, Mass.-based business manager of durables for NatureWorks, said its customers seem “most interested in applications for disposables and packaging.”
“There has been a lot of attention on what's in the packaging, but our customers have needed for the product to be clear,” he said. “Now, we have an option for them. I can see a number of things developing in housewares, the dispenser market and the big bucket of consumer durables. It has very broad-based appeal.”
NatureWorks and Altuglas have been developing potential applications for Plexiglas Rnew for approximately two years, and working on specific potential programs for the last 8-10 months, Rodriguez said.
One of the things that excites both companies is how the addition of Ingeo improves the properties of conventional PMMA and potentially decreases costs for processors.
“What makes this so exciting is that the new resins will provide a viable alternative for brands looking for a transparent bio-based materials for durable applications, while the consumer will benefit from purchasing goods with a lower carbon footprint,” said Antonis Papadourakis, regional group president for the Americas for Altuglas.
“You can reduce production costs because of lower temperatures for processing,” said Rodriguez. “You are also elevating the impact resistance of PMMA to a level it never had before. This elevates the impact resistance of PMMA to the level of materials such as TPO, ABS/PC and some copolyesters.
“Plexiglas Rnew offers impact resistance far superior to any acrylic resin in the marketplace today and has an impact resistance comparable to that of polycarbonates or copolyesters,” said Rodriguez.
Critically, the Plexiglas Rnew compounds offer those improved benefits without compromising the optics, scratch resistance, color acceptance or surface aesthetic of the Plexiglas or Altuglas brand, she said. “It allows us to do a lot more with our brand because it allows us to deliver better performance.”
Altuglas has worked with Ingeo resin before, developing impact modifier to improve the strength of the PLA bio-resin. The two companies are exploring the possibility of further collaboration.