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Green Matter: PMMA/PLA alloy’s sum is greater than its parts

"We are leading with performance." That's the promise from Matthew Crans, Market Development Manager for polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) Resins at Altuglas about his company's new PMM/PLA alloy.

"We are leading with performance." That's the promise from Matthew Crans, Market Development Manager for polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) Resins at Altuglas about his company's new PMM/PLA alloy.

Altuglas, which maintains an approximately 20% share of global PMMA demand, is a business unit of Arkema. Brans described the PMMA/PLA alloy at the European Bioplastics Conference staged in Berlin earlier this year. "We are using our experience to develop sustainable acrylic formulations that offer alternatives to non-renewable high performance resins," Crans said.Plexiglas Rnew

According to Crans, alloys made of Altuglas' polymethylmethacrylate and PLA (Ingeo, from NatureWorks) show an outstanding balance between ease of processing, toughness and thermal properties, while maintaining optical transparency. Next to reducing the carbon footprint, designing acrylic formulations that incorporate bio-based materials makes it possible to enhance the thermal properties and the weatherability of biobased polymers for durable applications. 

"The question was," Crans said, "could we take this to the next level? Could, through formulation, acrylic biopolymers be made to perform as well as high-performance engineering resins?" Amazingly, it turned out that they could. And that Altuglas could compound and market them.

PMMAs equal to copolyesters and polycarbonate
With the development of high-performance Altuglas Rnew impact modified biopolymer alloys (marketed under the name Plexiglas Rnew in the U.S.), "using biopolymers, we have bridged the gap, designing formulations that are no longer in the PMMA range, but that equal copolyesters or polycarbonate as regards impact performance, next to offering significant increases in chemical resistance and improved melt flow for easier processing, depending on how we tweak the formulation," Crans explained.

PMMA and PLA are completely miscible, guaranteeing excellent transparency and providing a viable alternative for brands looking for a transparent bio-based material for durable applications.

The alloys all contain anywhere from 25-50% renewable content, depending on the balance of processing and performance properties needed, and can be fully tailored to meet customer requirements. The aging performance of the Altuglas Rnew alloys is more like PMMA than PLA.

The Plexiglas/Altuglas Rnew family of biobased resins was presented at NPE, where Altuglas International and NatureWorks jointly displayed examples of molded and thermoformed products made with their collaborative technologies for the durable goods market. Building on the enthusiastic response to the new resins, both companies recently announced that they have signed a global co-marketing agreement to deliver a range of newly formulated bio-based, high-performance alloys based on PMMA and NatureWorks' PLA brand, Ingeo. The new materials will be compounded and marketed by Altuglas International as Plexiglas/Altuglas Rnew biopolymer alloys.

"What makes this agreement so exciting is that two renowned, pioneering organizations are joining forces to combine some of the best in technology and market knowledge to foster new, high performing, yet sustainable, bio-based products," said Christophe Villain, Altuglas International president.

Marc Verbruggen, NatureWorks president and chief executive officer said, "By combining our respective reputations and strengths in biopolymers and acrylics, NatureWorks and Altuglas International will co-market clear materials that offer a complete package of innovative product performance. This is exactly what Ingeo was designed to offer."

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