Groundbreaking Innovations Usher an Exciting Phase in the Plastics Materials Industry

03 September 2004

According to a recent report by Frost & Sullivan, Plastics Materials: Emerging Technology and Trends - adherence to polymer regulations and innovation are key aspects in the growing plastics and composites market.

Economical, performance-focused plastics materials application development is dependent not only on leveraging traditional, well-defined 'cost-performance' parameters, but also on understanding the strategic nuances essential for sustaining long-term growth.

""Adherence to regulatory legislation -- particularly in the areas of continuous improvement in size and weight reduction -- is one of the most compelling propositions that plastics materials suppliers should focus on in their continuous quest for innovation,"" says Technical Insights Sr. Research Analyst Donald Rosato.

Additionally, participants need to understand the importance of product design for enhanced reusability, automated and robotic handling systems that mandate a precise size for finished plastic products, and the need for complete recycling capability.

""Keeping pace with advancements in plastics materials technologies is the key to maintain global cost competitiveness in plastics applications development,"" says Dr. Rosato. ""If the host of innovative plastics materials and the corresponding applications on the horizon is any indication, then the industry is making giant strides in the right direction.""

The development of a new type of plastic composite tape known as PURE (Polymeric construction material with Ultimate properties, Recyclability, and Environmental safety) is another striking innovation. It is a self-reinforced PP composite made of co-extruded tapes, which is claimed to have five times the stiffness of conventional PP fibre and properties superior to fibreglass-reinforced plastics.

""With its lightweight, substantial rigidity, good wear resistance, and greater tensile strength coupled with its fully recyclable nature, PURE has the potential of an environment-friendly material,"" says Dr. Rosato.

The initiative to build an all-polypropylene, fully recyclable car roof using PURE is likely to get more exciting with the implementation of the end-of-life vehicles directive by the European Union. This directive includes a target of recycling nearly 85 percent of every car by 2006 and 95 percent by 2015.

The growing global demand for plastic pallets, which conform to precise sizes, is another compelling development in the light of increasing levels of automation, stricter hygiene standards, and the need for superior design features.

A few participants have developed lightweight pallets using recycled polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP). Besides being cost-competitive, these pallets are often used to ship products to countries that prohibit entry of untreated wooden pallets for fear of insects usually harboured in the wood.

The use of a polycarbonate copolymer film -- that is scratch/chemical resistant and capable of withstanding ten-year weathering tests - to form a paintless Class A decorative finish is a remarkable advancement generating considerable excitement in the global automotive industry.

Corn-derived polylactide plastics is yet another new material that is rapidly gaining acceptance in bedding and upholstery fibres and packaging films, thermoformed part applications, and injection moulded products.

""The market acceptance of a plastics material is dependent on the productivity enhancement brought about by it in manufacturing,"" says Dr. Rosato. ""Hence, plastics material suppliers need to continuously sharpen focus on technical development and offer customized offerings - whether in terms of grades, colours, or special effects.""

Plastics Materials -- Emerging Technology and Trends, part of the Chemicals and Materials Subscription Service, is a compendium of hard-to-find data and information collated from prioritized trade sources. It defines and describes the value of a given technology in different polymer segments such as major plastics material, engineering plastics, thermoplastic elastomers, higher performance plastics, compounded plastics, and plastics additives technology.

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