The KOR ONE Hydration Vessel was designed, down to the material choice of Eastman Tritan copolyester, to inspire sustainability.
Goods Looks, Controlled Costs
its important that consumer products look good, out of the box and
years later. What’s true of small appliances is also true of majors.
consumers fell in love with stainless steel and it became the
definitive finish on major appliances in the high-end kitchen. In the
laundry room, consumers felt freer to experiment with bright colors.
Now, plastics that incorporate the look of metal and offer
unprecedented moldability are offering new design opportunities in
major appliances throughout the home.
new Geon-brand metallic special effect rigid vinyl molding compounds
give product designers the use of bold colors and metallic accents.
Also important to the appliance OEM is the potential for cost savings,
which can come from eliminating painting, plating, or other processes
that might have been used to achieve a metallic look. More cost can be
saved by reducing returns resulting from surface flaws. The surface
color is that of the material itself, so an appliance won’t be sent
back for an imperfect paint job or post-coating damage.
appliance OEMs have known about metallic-pigment polymers for some
time, molding challenges limited their use. A tendency to show weld
lines made them unsuitable for premium appliance applications. PolyOne
points to its color matching expertise and knowledge of part design,
tool configuration, and process optimization, which enable it to
configure parts with hidden weld lines. “Our hands-on approach to
helping customers—whether that is through collaboration with the OEM,
tool builder, molder, or all three—results in real, value-creating
solutions for our customers,” says Mike Balasko, senior marketing
manager, Geon Compounds.
The Designer’s Friend
the product development cycle has become an important strategy for cost
reduction, and OEMs are increasingly looking for new digital
technologies that will make product design less iterative and
Protomold (Maple Plain, MN,
U.S.; www.protomold.com) developed a rapid injection molding process
that enables parts production in a matter of days. An online system
allows the design engineer to plug in part properties interactively and
instantly see how changes to the properties impact the end price. The
system accommodates any part molds than can be cut using three-axis CNC
milling, and molds are made from aluminum alloys. This, combined with a
process that’s is extremely standardized and automated, makes the
service extremely economical.
The service is
often used by design engineers in need of quick prototypes, but its
also useful as bridge tooling so manufacturers can have their parts
in-hand for pilot production, even while waiting for final production
tooling to be ready. The service can even be used for full-scale
production for lower-volume parts. In fact, the company says rapid
injection molding can in some cases provide cost advantages in runs of
thousands of parts.
Nature Makes Resin
appliance industry has done a good job over many decades making the
best use of the materials that deliver the finest products to their
customers. Historically slim margins created a culture of economy over
the years, and today it is an industry that knows how to embrace
efficiency in many forms. Plastics helped the appliances industry cut
costs, cut emissions, and reduce resource use for decades. Even as the
wide-ranging category of materials called plastics takes heat for being
unfriendly to the environment, it also deserves credit for helping save
energy, save resources, and cut emissions.
any product that is petroleum-based will be contending with an inherent
undercurrent of negative public perception—not to mention a lack of raw
material pricing dependability. Research has been underway for some
years to come up with materials processed out of renewable resources.
Finally, bio-based plastics are beginning to be supplied with
processing characteristics and material properties that make them
viable alternatives for a growing list of packaging, aesthetic, and
even structural parts.
Polymers has said in years past that it intended to come up with
renewably sourced engineering polymers, and at NPE 2009 it made good on
that promise, announcing the full commercialization of several families
of products. Marsha Craig, global business manager for Engineering
Polymers, said the company wants to offer polymers that are at least
20% renewably sourced and offer performance as good as, or better than,
the performance of the entirely petrochemically based materials they
replace. Customers, she said, will not have to chose between
performance and environmental improvement.
products are already being commercialized using these renewably sourced
polymers. Although none of them are yet in the appliance industry, the
nature of the applications make it clear that these are, indeed,
high-performance materials. Sporting good OEM Salomon is making ski
boots using DuPont Hytrel RS thermoplastic elastomer components. Hytrel
RS contains 20-60% renewably sourced ingredients by weight. The
company’s Zytel 610 nylon resin is being used in even more extreme
conditions—Denso Corporation’s automotive radiator end tank. This is
the first use of the company’s renewably sourced plastic in mechanical
components exposed to such a hot, chemically aggressive environment.
Zytel PA 610 is more than 60% by weight renewably sourced. Another
grade, Zytel PA 1010, is 100% renewably sourced.
addition to engineering resins, DuPont launched renewably sourced
packaging materials: Biomax TPS thermoplastic starch and Biomax PTT
injection moldable resin. Biomax TPS sheet stock contains 80-90%
renewable content for thermoformed items and resins for
injection-molded parts and containers. Biomax PTT contains up to 35%
renewably sourced content for packaging applications where polyesters
The industry would like nothing
better than to educate consumers about the realities of plastics and
their benefits, particularly in terms of packaging materials. Glenn
Wright, Dow Chemical Company (Midland, MI, U.S.; www.dow.com)
commercial vice president for North American Basic Plastics, spoke to
gathered plastics industry professionals earlier this year and
challenged them to work together toward 100% recyclable packaging
“Plastic packaging is viewed by
many consumers as waste, or a problem, or in some cases as
unnecessary,” said Wright. “In reality, packaging should be viewed as a
waste reducer. It contributes to the extended shelf life of many food
products and reduces the amount of product lost to contamination.
Through material science advances, companies like Dow are also creating
opportunities for thinner and lighter-weight packaging, which can
translate into tangible resource savings.”
industry as a whole needs to pool its efforts to demonstrate the
concept of life-cycle thinking when it comes to plastic packaging.
“From first uses to multiple re-use or traditional recycling, and
eventually to the concept of recycle-to-energy—sometimes known as
energy-from-waste,” Wright said. “This last idea is exciting because it
could potentially allow us to make two good uses of plastic packaging,
first to save resources when used in a package and second as a source
of energy that we could harness.”
on industry leaders to find ways to change the industry. For example,
with all rigid packaging materials being recyclable, could the
recycling number on packaging be eliminated to reduce confusion and
increase participation? Could improved product marking help consumers
better understand the packaging materials’ second life value.
will find it difficult to ignore the fact that the plastics industry is
going to great lengths to make its products greener.