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PP foam Image: ExxonMobil

Foamable PP an Affordable, Easy-Processing Solution for Automotive, Packaging

The material targets high-volume applications such as meat trays and microwaveable bowls, along with auto headliners, ducts, and floor liners.

ExxonMobil has introduced a new foamable polypropylene (PP) grade as an easily and affordably processed sustainable solution for high volume applications, including food and beverage packaging, industrial packaging, building products, and automotive parts. Achieve Advanced PP6302E1 is a high melt strength (HMS) grade that improves product stiffness by up to 30 percent, compared to standard HMS PP foam, for significant cost reduction opportunities.

“Historically, foam applications have been dominated by amorphous polymers such as polystyrene (PS), polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Foamed PP is a relatively recent advancement having been introduced only about 20 years ago, but it never gained much commercial traction,” said Olivier Lorge, Global Market Development Manager, Polypropylene, Vistamaxx and Adhesions Business, at ExxonMobil. “Customers can now challenge reality and rethink what’s possible for lightweight foamed PP parts in high volume applications because of the value-in-use delivered by our new Achieve Advanced PP6302E1. The commercial potential of foamable PP can now be pursued and fully realized.”

Achieve Advanced PP6302E1 is said to be a viable alternative to PS foam (with accompanying VOC and monomer concerns), and paper- and paperboard-based grease-resistant packaging such as fast food wrappers that may be coated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are being increasingly regulated. PFAS will be phased out voluntarily over a three-year period starting January 2021.

The new PP grade can reportedly eliminate trade-offs and set new standards for sustainable foamed PP parts by delivering value-in-use in a number of ways. For example, it is processable on existing PS foam lines with various blowing agents, reduces material use while delivering product integrity, and is recyclable in those communities where appropriate collection and recycling facilities exist.

“Converters, brand owners and OEMs can unlock opportunities in a range of applications that benefit from lightweighting and insulation while leveraging PP properties,” said Lorge.

In food and beverage packaging, such as meat trays, microwaveable bowls/meals/trays, clamshells, and cups, Achieve Advanced PP6302E1 delivers stiffness and affordability. It also offers insulation properties and durable grease and moisture resistance even in high temperature applications like in the microwave and dishwasher. The packaging retains product content temperature during transit and comfort-touch surfaces are possible.

“As regulation and sustainability goals and preferences change, the food packaging industry is experiencing a shift from PS to PP, and it is a trend that is expected to continue,” said Lorge “Plus, heat resistance for microwave-ability continues to be a key differentiating factor that makes PP a more attractive choice than PS.”

In industrial packaging (such as boxes, dividers, and sheets), Achieve Advanced PP6302E1 offers toughness, temperature stability, moisture and chemical resistance, and lightweight installation. The stiff and durable packaging can be re-used and is well-suited to replacing corrugated sheet to protect valuable products.

In building products (such as insulation and concrete joints), Achieve Advanced PP6302E1 provides durability and flexibility for ease of installation. The products are thermally stable over a broad temperature range and moisture resistant for dimensional stability. Sound and thermal insulation properties create a more energy efficient and comfortable environment.

In automotive parts (such as headliners, ducts, floor liners), Achieve Advanced PP6302E1 delivers the stiffness that allows vehicle manufacturers to maintain performance properties while reducing weight and increasing fuel efficiency. The foam structure can also provide benefits such as heat insulation and sound dissipation for a more comfortable ride.

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