When you’re in the cleaning technology business, branding yourself as a "green" company seems like a logical move. That’s the approach taken by Kärcher (Winnenden, Germany), the maker of high-pressure cleaning systems and related products for industrial and home use. It has firmly embedded the principles of sustainability and environmental guardianship within its mission statement. Further walking the walk, the company is using Technyl 4earth PA6.6 engineering plastics from Solvay Performance Polyamides (Lyon, France) to mold the spray lances in its line of high-pressure cleaners.
|Kärcher (Winnenden, Germany) is using Technyl|
4earth PA6.6 engineering plastics from Solvay Performance Polyamides (Lyon, France) to mold the spray lances in its line of high-pressure cleaners.
Solvay’s patented process transforms recyclate from automotive airbag cushions into prime-quality polyamide. The Technyl 4earth material offers properties comparable to those of equivalent virgin PA6.6 while significantly reducing the environmental impact by reducing CO2 emissions, water consumption and the use of non-renewable energy, according to Solvay.
“There is a lot of waste in the airbag production process,” Bertrand Lousteau, PhD, Engineering Plastics Business Unit Director, Performance Polyamides, told PlasticsToday from the Solvay stand at Fakuma last week. “The bag is stamped out and the rest of the material becomes scrap.” Because material specifications are demanding for this application, there is great confidence in the quality of the recyclate. “So, the waste material is recovered and treated by Solvay in a proprietary process to remove the silicone, and the polyamide fibers are then compounded into a new material, which has virtually the same mechanical properties as virgin resin,” said Lousteau.
Kärcher concurs on the material’s performance profile. The company selected a 30% glass-fiber-reinforced Technyl 4earth compound for the cleaning system component. The material “behaves exactly as comparable virgin PA6.6, both in terms of physical in-use properties and processability, without compromising the superior quality and safety of our equipment,” said Daniel Carmine Manocchio, Manager, Material Technology Group at Kärcher's Central Research and Development. Thus far, the company has manufactured more than one million high-pressure spray lances with the recycled material. “After switching the first production plant completely from virgin Technyl to Technyl 4earth, we are now evaluating its further use throughout our extensive portfolio,” said Manocchio.
The Technyl 4earth platform was introduced at K2016, and a demonstrator facility was launched in Gorzow, Poland, which produces 2 kilo-tons of material and is currently operating at full capacity. Solvay Performance Polyamides will invest in a much larger facility within the next three years. The capacity will be 5 or 20 kilo-tons, “depending on how much raw material we can secure from the airbag side,” said Lousteau. “Negotiations with potential partners are key,” he added. “Some have supplier access, some can also be an outlet for our products. We are building an ecosystem and partnerships that will enable us to build a large plant and achieve economies of scale,” said Lousteau.
As of today, he added, the existing plant is making money. “Of course, you can always say it depends on market conditions and the price of PA6.6 in the marketplace, and that is true.” Nevertheless, it bodes well for ramping up production with a technology that has matured and where capital investments will be comparatively less onerous.
Technyl 4earth is available in various grades with up to 50% glass content. Solvay’s proprietary recycling technology ensures both consistent material quality and security of supply to meet fast-growing demand for more sustainable high-performance applications ranging from automotive components and electrical appliances to consumer and industrial goods, said the company.