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(Left) Rich Altice, President and Chief Executive Officer, NatureWorks and Steve Davies, Vice President, Performance Packaging, NatureWorks.
(Left) Rich Altice, President and Chief Executive Officer, NatureWorks and Steve Davies, Vice President, Performance Packaging, NatureWorks.

At CHINAPLAS 2019, advanced materials company NatureWorks has showcased new, innovative applications using Ingeo biomaterials across a spectrum of industries, from coffee capsules to food appliances to 3D printing. 

These applications demonstrate how Ingeo can be tailored to enhance performance attributes critical to application performance from barrier, to heat and impact resistance, to thermoformability, all while embracing the concepts of a circular bioeconomy.

As part of NatureWorks’ commitment to the circular bioeconomy and decoupling materials from fossil feedstocks, the company announced earlier this year that by 2020, 100% of the agricultural feedstocks used for Ingeo biopolymer will be certified as environmentally and socially sustainable.

“New materials innovation is being driven by the tenants of the circular bioeconomy, and as we seek to decouple plastics from fossil feedstocks, we remain committed to feedstock diversification and to critically assessing the sustainability of every feedstock we use,” said Rich Altice, President and CEO, NatureWorks.

New break-away formulation for 3D printing

Manifold and model jet turbine fan printed with Ingeo.As introduced, filaments made with Ingeo PLA have notable 3D printing characteristics such as precise detail, good adhesion to build plates (no heating needed), less warping or curling, and low odor (no strong, greasy, or oily smell while printing). These properties make Ingeo PLA well-suited for 3D printing using many different types of printers and for a broad range of printing applications.

“We started in the consumer printing. Now, we see a lot of interest for new products in the professional market,” said Rich Altice. “Therefore, we developed Ingeo 3D450, 3D850, and 3D870 to meet the demanding printing needs of professional users.”

The company launched Ingeo 3D450, a new break-away formulation for use in dual extrusion 3D printers, in March this year.

The clean, fast mechanical break-away of Ingeo 3D450 support structures results in parts with high finish quality, reducing post-processing time and improving overall productivity. The new grade of Ingeo offers heat and impact resistance performance comparable to ABS but without the chemical fumes associated with ABS.

“With trends towards printing on large format printers and designing complex print geometries, functional break-away support structures are essential,” said Rich Altice. “Combining the printability and low warping tendency of Ingeo with optimized adhesion, 3D450 provides the required adhesion between the supports and the part, yet allows for clean separation.”

According to Rich Altice, applications for Ingeo 3D450 support materials include complex industrial parts such as jigs and fixtures, biomedical devices, patterns for investment metal casting, and architectural and retail models.

Talking about the challenge of developing products for 3D printing, he commented: “The biggest challenge we are facing is that the market is evolving very fast and there is so much interest in Ingeo now. We want to keep innovating and developing new solutions that meet the evolving needs of our customers.”

“In China, Ingeo PLA is an essential material for 3D printing. PLA is a default material for 3D printing not because of its sustainability benefits, but because of its performance. It is not just popular in the consumer market, but also emerging in the professional users and industrial market segments. The prospect for 3D printing is very good,” said Pauline Ning, Marketing Manager Asia Pacific, NatureWorks.

Save energy with refrigerator liners made from new Ingeo system

As introduced by Rich Altice, another highlight at the show was the first-of-its-kind refrigerator liners made from a new Ingeo system, showing how Ingeo’s barrier properties can be leveraged to increase the energy efficiency of refrigerators by 7-13% annually over the life of the appliance.

 “We have pushed the boundaries for how the right materials can help reduce the energy consumption of a refrigerator,” he said.

“A new rigid and durable sheet made of Ingeo can replace high impact polystyrene refrigerator liners. The energy savings over its lifetime are equivalent to 2 years energy free operation compared to the incumbent liners,” he mentioned.

Green packaging to promote circular economy

NatureWorks showcased an array of innovative packaging applications using Ingeo biomaterials.NatureWorks showcased an array of innovative packaging applications using Ingeo biomaterials.Sustainable packaging is an application for Ingeo biomaterials to contribute to the goals of the circular economy from recycling to diverting food waste to compost.

At the show, NatureWorks featured the results of the investments it’s making to support the functionality needed for compostable coffee capsules.

For many years, NatureWorks, compounders, converters and coffee companies have engaged in comprehensive research efforts using Ingeo to solve the many technical challenges.

Steve Davies, Vice President, Performance Packaging, NatureWorks, said these technical challenges include making the capsules that meet temperature, pressure, and filtration requirements yet are still compostable. These technical achievements have opened up new pathways to achieve success in both coffee platforms.

“As the legislative pushback on plastics is going strong, the market is looking for fully compostable coffee capsules. It is a very fast-growing and potential market for us,” he explained.

A new generation of coffee capsules made from Ingeo biopolymer, which are not only compostable, but help to improve the consumer experience in terms of flavor and aroma with better organoleptic properties, was demonstrated at the show.

Commenting on the outstanding integrated oxygen barrier in multilayer capsule structure, Steve Davies said: “The oxygen barrier of Ingeo construction with a compostable barrier layer exceeds that of incumbent PP/EVOH structure even at high relative humidity. In this case, there is no need for secondary packaging.”

In addition, specific to the market in China, NatureWorks also demonstrated examples of adhesive tape and air-filled packaging made from Ingeo for e-commerce packaging and carrier bags used for supermarkets.

Views on bioplastics and plastics ban

Not all bioplastics are biodegradable. The biodegradability of bioplastics is one of many hurdles to overcome when trying to push the market for the materials.

Pauline Ning pointed out: “When we talk about bioplastics, some people always think about one attribute – biodegradability, which is not true. We should look at the different aspects of the materials, such as the performances or other functions that can bring to the users.”

Steve Davies also shared his observation on the acceptance of bioplastics in Asia. “Every year, there are stronger demands for bioplastics in Asia, in particularly in China,” he said.

“A good example at the show is that 3 machinery companies, for the first time this year, are running demonstrations with Ingeo. There is an evidential proof point - In the past, they would run a PET thermoforming demonstration; Now, they are running PET and Ingeo because the market is now looking for compostable solutions,” he explained.

For example, Italy-based machinery maker AMUT has collaborated with NatureWorks for extrusion and thermoforming food contact approved processes. At the fairgrounds, AMUT-COMI ran the ACF model thermoforming machine with Ingeo sheet manufactured by COEXPAN.

Since 2015, NatureWorks has partnered with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to support the foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative, which is a comprehensive strategy for creating a global plastics system based on circular economy principles.

“We are proud of our role in the circular economy,” said Rich Altice. “Plastics bring enormous value and utility to the world. There isn’t just one solution to the challenges that the world is facing around plastics. So we think our role is to bring advanced bio-based materials to the manufacturers to reduce impact on the environment.”

“In our opinion, a plastic ban cannot solve all the problems. We should figure out how to solve the problem with innovative technologies and fundamental redesign of packaging formats,” he concluded.

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