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Is there a new perspective for plastics in periods of pandemics?
If you had asked me this question a few weeks ago, I would have answered it with a loud “yes” without hesitation. Only a few months ago, plastics were generally associated by the general public only with drinking straws stuck in the noses of turtles and similar horror images. Since the outbreak of the global COVID 19 pandemic, however, they have become a coveted life-saving jack-of-all-trades and an indispensable component of respirators, protective clothing or protection masks.
In the meantime, however, the euphoria has cooled down and photos of “corona garbage” floating in the sea, especially disposable masks, are being published in the daily press*. It would be most unfortunate if the tremendously positive impetus that plastics have recently received were to fizzle out quickly and undifferentiated plastic bashing would once again become widespread in the public debate.
From my perspective thermoplastic elastomers are among the secret heroes in the fight against the virus. Because of their special properties such as softness and skin-friendliness, they are often the material of choice in the production of reusable and comfortable face masks. In our special starting on page 83, we present fantastic examples of how TPEs are helping to make protective masks and medical supplies such as test strips safe and sustainable, creating entirely new opportunities for compounders and processors. Once again, TPEs are proving to be (almost) all-rounders that are just as brilliant in complex overmoulding applications as they are in additive processes and can be easily recycled at the end of the product life cycle.
Our article on TPE opportunities, in the area of latest automotive trends such as autonomous driving and 5G, starts on page 96. We also take a look at the current EU plastics strategy (p. 92) and present a new “green” component for the TPU production. And why thermoplastic polyurethanes can be a compelling choice as an active layer in dielectric elastomers is explained on page 100.
Enjoy reading & Stay safe
*Example: More masks than jellyfish’: coronavirus waste ends up in ocean, The Guardian, 08 June 2020; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/08/more-masks-than-jellyfish-coronavirus-waste-ends-up-in-ocean
Due to the current Covid-19 situation, the organising committee of the TPE conference, which was to take place in Nuremberg, decided to cancel the face-to-face event this year. With the alternative concept “TPE goes online”, a new online format has been conceived, in which the focus is on sharing specialist knowledge as well as networking.
Dr. Rüdiger Baunemann, managing director of PlasticsEurope Deutschland e. V. and Regional Director Central Europe and member of the Leadership Team of PlasticsEurope in Brussels, Belgium, died suddenly and unexpectedly in his home town Leun, Germany, on 17 April 2020 at the age of 58. With his death, the plastics industry loses a leading figure with great creative power, an innovator and pioneer who was committed to ensuring that the plastics industry was given the appropriate importance at both national and European level.
Additive manufacturing is making giant strides in changing the world of the manufacturing industry. What once was limited to prototypes is today more and more often being used for smaller quantities and spare parts, in particular. Thanks to the relatively straightforward and tool-free equipment of the devices, even sophisticated parts can be printed quickly and in the very place where they are needed. The technology provides enormous potential for significant savings of time, work and costs. 3D printing of soft materials is still a challenge, however market opportunities for 3D printed soft parts are immense.
The Center of Automotive Management (CAM) at University of Applied Sciences of Economy (Fachhochschule der Wirtschaft – FHDW) in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, has been analysing the performance of global automotive manufacturers since 2004. Based on annual reports as well as market and innovation indicators, the financial and market-based performance levels of the automotive manufacturers are analysed and released in the regularly published AutomotivePerformance Reports. The following report presents some key statements of CAM’s current industry study “AutomotivePerformance Report 2020”.
In a video conference on 28 April 2020, the German rubber industry association Wirtschaftsverband der deutschen Kautschukindustrie (wdk) has provided an insight into the current situation of the rubber industry. The corona crisis has hit the German rubber industry in a difficult phase. Across the entire product portfolio sales had already fallen by the second half of 2019.
The German Rubber Manufacturers Association (wdk) has published a brochure on recycling under the title “Moving in Circles”. The brochure describes the national recycling management system for rubber and elastomers and quantifies for the first time the corresponding material flows.
Foams produced by moulding are used for example in packaging for electrical appliances, bicycle and motorcycle helmets, armrests in cars and many other applications. In the production process, foamed plastic beads are sintered using steam in order to form components. The choice of materials is therefore limited to those that can be joined within the temperature and pressure range of classic steam moulding processes (between 1 – 8 bar), for example polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP) or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).
Very few policy initiatives in the last few years have received as much public attention as the recently adopted Single-Use Plastics Directive – also known as the single-use plastics ban. This legal act, however, is only one piece of the puzzle with which the European Union is attempting to curb plastic littering and transform the European economy into a circular one. The following article gives an overview on the EU circular economy package and plastics strategy and explains what they mean for bio-based plastics.
Recessionary conditions will affect both the supply and demand sides of the auto sector and disrupt/reconfigure the auto interior supply chain. The composition of auto sales is changing. Some segments (e.g. compact utility vehicles, CUVs) are becoming saturated, EVs and hybrids will show strong gains in market share, especially in North America.
Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) are a promising class of materials for dielectric elastomer applications and have excellent processability and recyclability. These materials encompass a wide range of polymeric families including thermoplastic-based polyolefins (TPO) polystyrenes (TPS), amides (TPA), copolyesters (TPC), and vulcanizates (TPV). They have a broad range of operating temperature and can often replace conventional crosslinked rubber for applications falling in this range. Service or operating temperatures can range from very cold to very warm conditions, making TPEs suitable for the demands of outdoor applications or exposure to frequent fluctuations in temperature. Furthermore, good flexibility and mechanical properties allow for large reversible deformations and creep-resistant behavior.
A new bifunctional polymeric diisocyanate (BPI) has been recently launched on the market that is based on renewable carbon and is characterized by very low viscosity (150 mPa·s at 25 °C). Studies have shown that BPI is of interest not only in solvent free or low solid system but also as a building block for the polyurethane chemistry. The synthesis of thermoplastic urethane (TPU) and polyurethane dispersions (PUD) have been achieved, showing that BPI can improve the flexibility of the final material.