Pandemic Doesn't Slow Pace Of New Material Development

Plastic Manufacturing machine.Even amid a global pandemic, plastics materials firms found ways to develop new products to meet their customers' needs.

Several of those new products are featured in this week's issue as part of our Plastics Showcase 2021 series. NPE may not be on the calendar, but R&D departments throughout the industry remain active. (As a comic book fan, I need to point out that Showcase was the name of the DC Comics title that helped reinvigorate the comics market in the late 1950s and early 1960s by introducing new versions of the Flash, Green Lantern and the Atom and by cover-featuring Aquaman for the first time. The Creeper — one of my favorite obscure characters — also got his start in Showcase. This has been this week's installment of Moments in Nerd Life…)

Improved recycling and sustainability are the focus of new materials made by BASF, Sabic, Techmer PM and Milliken & Co. BASF has launched new grades of sustainable nylon. "We have had a lot of interest from office furniture OEMs … where there is a strong desire for recycled content," spokeswoman Susan Jackson said.

Sabic will soon be launching its first bio-based LNP Thermocomp-brand compound. The new material offers customers a more sustainable option vs. competitive materials. Product management leader Darpan Parik said "a lot of our customers are asking how they can make it to 100 percent sustainability."

A new black colorant from Techmer was developed to improve recycled rates of black plastics. Typical carbon black pigments absorb the near-infrared (NIR) light used by recyclers to sort material streams. Techmer officials said this process leads to tons of mixed plastics not being properly sorted.

Milliken is offering processors additives that can help improve recycling and meet other sustainability goals. DeltaMax-brand additives can be used to increase the processability of recycled polypropylene resins while maintaining or increasing toughness, officials said.

Meanwhile at Avient and Chroma Color, improvements have been made to existing materials. For Avient, an Artisan-brand pre-colored ABS has a metallic effect that can help electronics manufacturers eliminate secondary painting. Chroma recently was issued a patent for ChromaTransparent, a color concentrate carrier system designed to color clear resins such as PET without affecting their clarity.

In some cases, materials execs said the slower pace of business at the start of the pandemic in early 2020 — before demand came roaring back — gave their own R&D departments as well as their customers more time to take a look at new materials.

That might be finding a silver lining in an extremely dark cloud, but that extra development could end up benefiting both recycling and sustainability — two very worthwhile long-term industry goals.


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