dispatches from K Show 2013

NatureWorks biopolymer can take the heat

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photograph provided by NatureWorks LLC
Photograph provided by NatureWorks LLC

Related tags: Plastic

NatureWorks has launched a biopolymer grade designed for sheet extrusion in food packaging for higher heat performance.

It is one of three Ingeo grades, designed for injection molding and extrusion applications, which were made commercially available at K Show in Dusseldorf.

The firm claims the grades allow formulations comparable to engineering thermoplastics at cost-effectiveness not previously achievable with high-biobased content polymers.

NatureWorks said in food packaging, the most common process is sheet extrusion followed by thermoforming, which is what Ingeo 2500HP, is aimed at.

Ingeo 2500HP is suited for sheet extrusion because it’s designed with a high viscosity to give the melt flow characteristics needed to perform in existing sheet extrusion assets, said Steve Davies, director of corporate communications and public affairs.

Until these grades were commercially available, manufacturers producing products with a high biobased content were sometimes faced with slower production rates in order to get high heat performance in their finished product or package,” ​he told FoodProductionDaily.com. 

“With these new grades, we expect faster cycle times to reduce overall part costs and the high bio-content (Ingeo content) to offer a buffer against pricing volatility seen with petro based polymers.”

Packaging improvements

Davies said because the grades offer quicker crystallization rate, the molding temperature window is wider.

“Working with our manufacturing customers, we are evaluating that window now with a variety of nucleating agents, impact modifiers, and processing parameters.”

The other grades, high flow Ingeo 3260HP and the medium flow Ingeo 3100HP, provide broader molding temperature windows, leading to more robust process parameters for injection molding.

They offer faster cycle times and production rates, a 15˚​ C improvement in heat deformation temperature and a three-to-four fold increase in bulk crystallization rate.

Feedstock source and end of life

Ingeo biopolymer is made from food feedstock but the firm is investigating cellulosic raw materials, agricultural wastes and non-food plants as potential future sources.

NatureWorks said its second plant in Southeast Asia, which is expected online in around three years, will produce Ingeo from sugar cane. 

It has also launched an R&D collaboration, which could last up to five years, to transform methane into the lactic acid building block for the biopolymer.

When asked about the end of life properties, Davies said it depends on the type of product or package and the local infrastructure that exists for recovery in the market.

“For products such as food service ware that is often discarded contaminated with food/organics residuals, compost is the right option. 

“For many packaging applications and products however, conventional plastics recycling is the appropriate treatment, and we are working with the recycling industries to make that a reality.”

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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