SPE Industry Update
May. 7, 2014

Automotive lightweighting — Flash-forward material highlights
By Don Rosato
Automotive lightweighting with alternative plastic materials will remain an important technology trend into the foreseeable 2020-2025 time period. The lightweighting potential of every vehicle component is currently under investigation, and advanced plastics and plastic composites offer significant lightweighting potential. Fiber-reinforced plastic composites are typically 25-35 percent lighter than steel parts of equal strength. Low and ultra-low density sheet molding compound advances are also facilitating weight reductions.More

Effect of organoclay content in solid-state polymerization of poly(ethylene terephthalate)
SPE Plastics Research
Poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) is a semi-crystalline engineering polymer with excellent transparency and good barrier properties that is used in a wide variety of applications, including containers, films, bottles, and fibers. Recent studies have shown that adding organoclay platelets to PET can lower its permeability to oxygen and water vapor and improve its mechanical properties. However, preparing PET nanocomposites by traditional melt mixing at high processing temperatures reduces polymer molecular weight (Mw) by degrading both the polymer and any organic nanoclay modifiers.More

Characterization of glass fiber-reinforced high-density polyethylene
SPE Plastics Research
For thermosetting composites, it has been standard practice to use various coupling agents to strengthen the adhesion between fibers and matrix. However, the known coupling agents for glass fibers typically do not work well with common thermoplastic polymers, so they do not increase the chemical compatibility between the fibers and the matrix. This is a major concern when manufacturing thermoplastic composites. Glass fibers have been used for decades to improve the mechanical, thermal, and insulation properties of polymers, especially within high-density polyethylene (HDPE) for structural and automotive applications.More

PP, PET prices both drop 1 cent
Plastics News
North American prices for polypropylene and PET bottle resin each ticked down another penny per pound in April. The PP drop follows similar 1 cent declines in February and March. The April decline came as a bit of a surprise, although some buyers and market watchers said it was the result of pre-buying from PP users who were concerned about weather affecting the material’s availability earlier in 2014.More

SPI steps up to advance sustainability in packaging
SPE Plastics Engineering
To step-up efforts to promote its pursuing of zero-waste strategies, SPI supported the manufacturing industry's 2014 Sustainability in Packaging conference through sponsorship of the conference "app." The conference, held March 5-7 in Orlando, Florida, focused on the accomplishments and issues faced in developing "sustainable and profitable" packaging. Presentations were made by companies and organizations including Coca-Cola, Safeway, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Waste Management, Zappos, Otterbox and the U.S. Department of Defense.More

Automotive lightweighting — Flash-forward material highlights
By Don Rosato
Automotive lightweighting with alternative plastic materials will remain an important technology trend into the foreseeable 2020-2025 time period. The lightweighting potential of every vehicle component is currently under investigation, and advanced plastics and plastic composites offer significant lightweighting potential. Fiber-reinforced plastic composites are typically 25-35 percent lighter than steel parts of equal strength. Low and ultra-low density sheet molding compound advances are also facilitating weight reductions.More

Novel polymer droplet lens transform smart phones into high-resolution microscopes
AZoNano
Australian scientists have invented a simple and cheap way of making a high-powered lens that can transform a smart phone into a high-resolution microscope. Costing less than a cent, the lenses promise a revolution in science and medicine in developing countries and remote areas. The lens fabrication technique was invented by Dr. Steve Lee from The Australian National University Research School of Engineering, who collaborated with Dr. Tri Phan from Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research to find ways to transform the lentil-sized lens into a medical imaging tool.More

Plastics in construction: A vision of the future
By Adolfo Benedito
Plastics and their technology are youthful. We must remember the short history of plastic materials — which began in the late 19th century and grew throughout the 20th century — in relation to the wide experience of materials traditionally used in construction (metals, granite, ceramic and cellulosic). Initially, plastic materials were not considered as structural elements that were able to bear sustained loads. Undoubtedly, the characteristics of plastics were not the same as the ones of traditional cement or steel used for construction.More

BASF weighs up natural gas investment in US
European Plastics News
Germany-based chemical giant BASF has said that it is currently evaluating an investment in a world-scale methane-to-propylene complex on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The company says that the on-purpose production of propylene, to supply its North American operations, would mean that it could take advantage of low gas prices that have resulted from U.S. shale gas production.More

'Botox for plastics' promises to raise energy efficiency
Sourceable
The new "botox for plastic" developed by scientists at the CSIRO is capable of significantly enhancing the strength and extending the lifespan of plastic materials, thus dramatically improving their ability to clean up the exhaust gas emitted by power plants. Dr. Sam Lau from CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering said the botox technique could lead to the development of plastic membranes capable of processing exhaust gases with far greater efficiency and speed.More

Plastic electronics: Are you ready for a roll-up smartphone?
PC Advisor
Plastics might seem unlikely materials for building electrical circuits but recent breakthroughs have made this possible. Plastics are electrical insulators, and good ones at that, so it might seem that their use in electronic circuits would be somewhat limited. However, in recent years chemists have learned to fine tune the composition of some plastics so they behave as conductors or semi-conductors.More

Study: Greater freedom in resins will fuel 3-D printer growth
Plastics News
Greater freedom in plastic material choices will help fuel growth in 3-D printing markets, according to the lead author of a new Lux Research Inc., report. Anthony Vicari said in a phone interview that use of plastics in 3-D printing has been confined mainly to making prototypes since properties of 3-D printed plastic parts typically fall short of what a manufacturer wants for production.More

High-strength materials from the pressure cooker
Phys.org
At Vienna University of Technology, materials for lightweight construction, protective clothing or sports equipment can be produced at high temperatures and high pressures. It seems counterintuitive: one might expect large, complex organic molecules to be destroyed by heat and high pressure. But at 200 degrees Celsius and 17 bars, Miriam Unterlass and her team at TU Vienna have synthesized organic polymers, which are usually extremely hard to create and require highly toxic additives.More

SPI: Chicago's plastic bag ban could kill manufacturing jobs
Manufacturing.net
The Chicago City Council's decision to ban plastic shopping bags will damage the plastics manufacturing industry's ongoing efforts to create and maintain American manufacturing jobs, according to SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association. The City Council voted on April 30 to ban the use of all plastic shopping bags from retailers including grocery stores and chains with more than three locations or franchise stores of more than 10,000 square feet. The ordinance takes effect August 2015.More

Acquisition brings injection molder, thermoformer together
Plastics News
Both companies are both family owned. They are both lead by their second generations. And they share similar values, including the concept of putting the customer first. But Placon Corp.'s acquisition of Plastic Packaging Corp. of West Springfield, Massachusetts, does bring together two businesses that are certainly different in one key respect.More

TCI Plastics plans $36.5 million investment at port of New Orleans
Area Development Magazine
Jensen Companies plans to develop a new 500,000-square-foot logistics facility by TCI Plastics, a Jensen Companies division, at the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana. TCI will make a $36.5 million capital investment to build the facility at its France Road Wharf hub, with plans to create 160 jobs. The new additional 500,000-square-foot facility will increase the company's ability to package and ship PVC resin and polyethylene, while adding the manufacturing capability of producing plastic film on site to package the products.More

April report on manufacturing showing improved but mixed signals
PlasticsToday
April's report on manufacturing released by the Institute for Supply Management shows a nice increase of 1.2 percentage points to 54.9 percent from March's 53.7 percent, indicating an expansion in manufacturing for the 11th consecutive month. Despite the good news, the report contains some of the same anomalies causing many to scratch their heads with regard to the overall economy. The new orders index held steady at 55.1 percent for both March and April, and the production index dropped slightly by 0.2 percent to 55.7 percent in April from March's 55.9 percent.More

Color-changing polymer maps fingerprints
ScienceNews
Human finger pores ooze salty drops of water about the size of pinpricks, says materials scientist Jong-Man Kim of Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea. He and colleagues created color-changing polymers that snap from blue to red when they touch the tiny droplets. Individual polymer units look like teeny tadpoles, with bulbous heads and skinny tails. When packed tightly together, they form stacked sheets that appear blue. But when water swells the polymers' heads, the crowded sheets twist apart and absorb shorter wavelengths of light, making the sheets look red.More

Pretium Packaging, $241 million plastics firm, is sold
St. Louis Business Journal
Pretium Packaging, one of the largest privately held companies in the St. Louis area with 2013 revenue of $241 million, will be acquired by Genstar Capital, a private equity firm based in San Francisco. The Chesterfield company made the announcement on April 1. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close in June, were not disclosed.More