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In Duesseldorf, where I live, a so called “dwell ban“ was recently imposed on some city areas at weekends to counter the spread of the Corona virus. People are required by city ordinance to keep moving. No stopping to enjoy the magnificent view, no relaxing on one of the many benches ... No, if you idle, it can be expensive for you. What is currently true for the microcosm of the Rhineland also applies, figuratively speaking, to the players in our industry. Standstill can be expensive. Fortunately, in this issue of TPE Magazine we again have many reasons to report on progress and new developments.
We look with Bob Eller at opportunities for thermoplastic elastomers in future smart car interiors. Judit Puskas reports on the successful development of a new flexible piezoelectric biocompatible TPE. Matthias Hübner reports on new colour masterbatches, which are not only colourful, but also prove to be extremely effective process aids.
The TPE Forum industry association can report on a whole series of progresses. One of the latest achievements of the association, which was launched in 2016, is the preparation of the new VDI Guideline 2020 on the rheological characterisation of TPE. The guideline will soon be available as a “green print”. The new standard will contribute significantly to facilitating the coordination and communication between processors and material suppliers. In this issue we introduce the new speakers of the TPE Forum, Ines Kühnert and Stefan Zepnik.
Speaking of the TPE Forum. The German Rubber Society has announced the rescheduling of the DKT/IRC 2021 from July 2021 to June 2022. Still, there will be the opportunity to hear selected lectures, see scientific posters and discuss results with other participants at the virtual DKG Elastomer Symposium from 28 June to 1 July 2021. Don’t miss it! The virtual Elastomer Symposium will among many other exciting features include selected presentations from the TPE Forum which was initially planned as part of the conference.
Some of the most exciting and promising advances in TPEs are in the field of additive manufacturing. That’s why we will again present you an AM special in this issue.
As in other industries, TPEs have penetrated auto interiors via drop-in replacement in existing applications (instrument panel skins, body/glazing seals, door trim, etc). Looking forward, non-TPE developments in the form of devices for sending and receiving electronic signals accompanied by a shift to electric vehicles (EVs) and (eventually) autonomous vehicles (AVs) will drive TPE usage and profitability in auto interiors well beyond drop-in replacement.
Dispersive and distributive mixing processes are major elements in the manufacture of thermoplastic masterbatches and compounds. Continuously working twin-screw extruders and kneader systems are mainly used for compounding. A crucial restriction of these mixing devices is the limited dwell time of the components to be mixed. Caparol Industrial Solutions GmbH is a company that has specialised in the manufacture of primarily liquid and paste-form pigment and additive concentrates. Discontinuously working mixing and dispersion machines, such as roller mills, bead mills or dissolvers are used in particular in the production of these concentrates.
This is where the compounds and masterbatches of the NEFA MB product group come into play. The combination of discontinuous mixers and twin-screw extruders can manufacture very highly filled, specialist products on the basis of special thermoplastic elastomers.
In the area of colour masterbatches, NEFA MB concentrates stand out because of their very high pigment fill levels. The manufacturing process employed makes the use of dispersion agents completely unnecessary. This can be an advantage for TPE tints in particular, since dispersion agents may lead to film formation on the component surface in some cases. Because of the colour intensity of the NEFA MB masterbatches, even TPEs with a strong colour of their own due to fillers, for example, can be tinted brilliantly with comparatively low quantities of masterbatches.
Piezoelectric effects in polymers are generally small but can be increased when they are compounded with ferroelectric materials. Due to their flexibility and the possibility to prepare films, polymer composites represent an advantage over ceramics and other widely used piezoelectric materials. We have created a soft, highly piezoelectric material by compression molding by which a bentcore liquid crystal was confined in a biocompatible thermoplastic elastomer, Sibstar. The bent-core liquid crystal in a polar smectic X-phase is characterized for having superior piezoelectricity but no mechanical stability of its own, thus requiring a carrier material. The piezoelectric response of the composite films was evaluated by interferometry experiments and the piezoelectric coupling constant was found to be d33 ~ 1 nm/V. This piezoelectric effect is larger than that of the commercially available piezoelectric ceramics and is comparable with cellular electrets and electrospun fiber mats containing ferroelectric nanoparticles. Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) results showed that the confined liquid crystal becomes aligned in the polymer during the pressure release. The large piezoelectric effect is likely due to the vitrified macroscopic polarization created during this process. The results may pave the way for practical applications such as actuator technologies in biomedical devices.
In no other country has the importance of private transportation recently increased as significantly as in China. This is one of the key findings of the Continental Mobility Study 2020, in which representative groups of people in France, the USA, Japan, China and Germany were surveyed about their mobility habits in cooperation with social research institute infas. Against the background of the coronavirus pandemic, 46 % of respondents in China said that they use their cars more often than before. In Germany, this figure is half as high at 23 %.
As reported by the Center of Automotive Management (CAM), China remains the largest electromobility sales market. In 2020, electric vehicle (BEV/PHEV) registrations increased by 14.6 % to 1.246 million passenger cars (including LCV). In addition, there were a further 121,000 buses and commercial vehicles with electric drives (commercial vehicles).
The Automotive Award of SPE Central Europe is further expanding its impact in the European automotive industry. SPE announced that Kuraray joined the group of sponsors and will for the first time sponsor a category award at the 20th edition of the SPE Automotive Award in 2021. In addition the renowed sustainability expert Prof. Hans-Josef Endres has joined the advisory board.
IAL Consultants has recently published the seventh edition of its report entitled “Global Overview of the Thermoplastic Polyurethane Market.” This new study examines the national, regional, and global markets for thermoplastic polyurethanes for 2020 and builds upon the research from previous editions of the publication. It explores the market trends driving TPU production and subsequent demand, provides an indication of raw material consumption, and also presents future growth opportunities in the TPU market.
Five-year market forecasts to 2025 are also included.
The double-digit dip in the import-export markets for the entire period January-September 2020 and the complex economic context due to the world health crisis prompt the trade association Amaplast to predict a rather negative year-end result for the Italian plastics and rubber processing machinery, equipment, and moulds industry.
According to the Plastics and Rubber Machinery Association within the German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau – VDMA), at the beginning of 2020, the German plastics and rubber machinery industry – like almost all sectors of the economy – was hit hard by the effects of the Corona pandemic. However, the downward trend in sales and incoming orders already flattened out in mid 2020, and incoming orders even rose again from September onwards. Cumulatively, from January to October 2020 they are only 3 % below the incoming orders in the same period of 2019.
At its virtual plenary session on 1 December 2020, the TPE-Forum elected Dr. Ines Kühnert, Institute of Polymer Materials of the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden e. V. (IPF Dresden), and Dr. Stefan Zepnik, Mocom Compounds GmbH & Co. KG, as new speakers. The two renowed experts succeed Jürgen Hättig, Covestro, and Dr. Günter Scholz, BASF, who have successfully led and represented the association of key players in the TPE industry since its beginnings in 2016.
Provalin is a sealing material for glass jars which has been developed and patented by Actega DS. It is a TPE which does not require any plasticizers and therefore displays extremely low-migration characteristics. Long-term tests have shown that Provalin is safe and complies with the new EU and FDA regulations. Today, Provalin sealings are used around the world for safe sealing of food containers. A recent example: The world's largest producer of chili sauces – the Chinese company Laoganma – is using Provalin in its seals and has opted to change its entire range over to Provalin sealing compounds.
In the following article three Provalin pioneers talk about their experiences with Provalin: Actega DS, developer of the material, Pano, producer of the first PVC-free seals and Feinkost Dittmann, the first company to place glass jars with Provalin on the market.
Polymers are currently not included in the registration requirements under Regulation (EU) No. 1907/2006 – Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). However, in terms of Article 138(2) of REACH, a possible further review is foreseen to extend the registration requirements to polymers. If the risk posed by certain polymers can be proven, and practical and cost-efficient ways of selecting polymers requiring registration (PRR) can be established, registration requirements under REACH will be extended to polymers. Feica, the Association of the European Adhesive & Sealant Industry, recently published the perspective of the adhesives and sealants industry in a position paper.
The results of the European Bioplastics’ (EUBP) annual market data update, presented on 2 December 2020 at the 15th EUBP Conference, confirm the continued dynamic growth of the global bioplastics industry. Bioplastics represent about 1 % of the more than 368 million t of plastic produced annually. But as demand is rising, and with more sophisticated applications and products emerging, the market for bioplastics is continuously growing and diversifying. Global bioplastics production capacity is set to increase from around 2.11 million t in 2020 to approximately 2.87 million t in 2025. Innovative biopolymers, such as bio-based PP (polypropylene) and especially PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoates) continue to drive this growth.
According to research by scientists from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath, some biodegradable plastics could in the future be made using sugar and carbon dioxide, replacing unsustainable plastics made from crude oil.
Medical products such as blood bags and tubing are often made from soft PVC, a plastic that contains phthalate plasticisers, which are suspected to be harmful to human health. These substances are not chemically bound to the polymer, which means they can leach into the blood bags and thus come into contact with human cells. A new method developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films IST prevents these harmful substances from migrating into the surrounding media.
With the Arburg Summit: Medical 2020 on 19 November 2020, Arburg hosted the first virtual summit meeting for medical technology. Thanks to the digital format of this event, twice as many guests were able to attend as at the comparable, physical meeting in the previous year. More than 400 participants from over 40 countries were there to learn about current developments, innovative applications and visions, and to exchange ideas with many medical technology experts. The twelve lectures focusing on "Solutions", "Innovations" and "Visions" were accompanied by a panel discussion. The event was enhanced by interactive breakout sessions with expert discussions and live presentations of exhibits in the Customer Center in Lossburg, Germany.