Polylactic acid (PLA) resin and fiber supplier NatureWorks LLC (Minnetonka, MN) has invested $1 million and 18 months in converting its original pilot plant into an applications lab with material compounding, sheet extrusion, thermoforming, injection molding, and fiber spinning. The facility, which is located in Savage, MN, started in 1994 as a 5000 tonnes/year semi-works operation for the creation of PLA. It will now be used to develop and test compounds on commercial machines, helping push Ingeo PLA into new applications.
After announcing that it’s evaluating a second production site, bioresin producer NatureWorks said it will convert a pilot production site into an applications lab.
In addition to converting equipment, the facility will have an extruder for melt compounding of Ingeo formulations and blends with a throughput of 300 lb/hr. The site will also have equipment to evaluate the material’s physical properties, chemical composition, and molecular weight, including rheology and thermal characteristics. The lab has research relationships with the University of Minnesota, Hennepin Technical College, and Interpoll Laboratory, with a small full-time staff and offices for visiting customers and NatureWorks scientists, engineers, and sales.
On March 12, NatureWorks announced that it was assessing locations for a second manufacturing plant, adding to its existing capacity in Blair, NE. By the middle of this year, NatureWorks said it would install equipment and undertake commissioning that would allow the Blair operation to produce up to its full design capacity of 140,000 tonnes/year. In a release, Marc Verbruggen, NatureWorks president and CEO, said his company would consider sites in Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Americas based on projected growth in these regions and the availability of plant-based feedstock. In terms of timeline, NatureWorks said it was starting its assessment in the first quarter of 2009, recognizing that design and construction of such facilities can take as long as three years after a decision is made. —[email protected]