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Articles from 2012 In November

Medical Musings: Practice Greenhealth offers DEHP-free award

Practice Greenhealth dates to 1998, when the American Hospital Association and the US Environmental Protection Agency joined forces to curtail pollution in healthcare facilities. The goals of the group, then called  Hospital for a Healthy Environment (H2E), were virtual elimination of mercury waste, reduction of the healthcare sector's total waste volume, chemical waste minimization, and a variety of educational and information sharing activities focused on pollution prevention and toxics minimization.

In September 2001, H2E became a partnership that also included Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), and the American Nurses Association (ANA).

Current Practice Greenhealth members include hospitals and healthcare systems, healthcare providers, manufacturers and service providers, architectural, engineering and design firms, group purchasing organizations, and affiliated non-profit organizations. One of its offshoots is the Healthier Hospitals Initiative.  

The awards are interesting, and help promote beneficial practices such as recycling. When I meet with friends in the Society of Plastics Engineers they tend to disparage Practice Greenhealth and the HHI because of their connection  to Health Care Without Harm, an advocacy group that targeted medical incineration and now has PVC in its cross hairs.

Plastics professionals I know say that Healthcare Without Harm, and by extension, the HHI and Practice Greenhealth, "are like Greenpeace", a group that at time used guerilla tactics to fight PVC. There are criticisms that the officials making the attacks on PVC at specific hospitals lack technical knowledge about plastics.

Although I am not a supporter of using DEHP materials in IV sets, particularly for infants, I agree that hospital opponents of PVC seem to lack technical understanding of what they are doing and have difficulty articulating the substitutes and the safety of the substitutes.

At times, the drive to push out PVC unilaterally seems more emotional than scientific, something like the recent decision to ban plastic bags in Brookline, MA. Opponents to the Brookline bag ban refused to consider pro-plastic arguments (e.g. they use less energy than paper based on life-cycle studies).

That's unfortunate because the overall goals to make hospitals healthier are laudable.

In my opinion, one of the Practice Greenhealth awards lends itself to the circus type of atmosphere around PVC-it's a DEHP-free award, which "is given to the hospital or system that demonstrates the most success with replacing DEHP-containing medical devices with safer alternatives, particularly with vulnerable patient populations."

The award is sponsored by Hospira, which has skin in the anti-PVC game--it sells a non-DEHP I.V. syringe adapter. The alternative material is not identified on the Web page. I also found that to be the case in Kaiser Permanente case studies on DEHP replacement on the Practice Greenhealth Web site. In one case KP switched from Baxter Interlink IV administration sets to Baxter's Clearlink product line. There's no indication on the Practice Greenhealth Web site or on the Baxter web site what materials are used in the replacement products.

Adding to my concern, one of the case studies indicates that the purchasing department used a reverse auction to source the alternates. Reverse auctions are electronic systems in which vendors bid against each other in real time in a frenzy to get the business.

The winner of the DEHP-free award last year was Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center-Richmond in Midlothian, VA. I could find no mention on the Practice Greenhealth Web site or on the hospital's Web site of what they did to win the award. They just won the award.

What are the alternatives to DEHP materials? How safe are they? Has Practice Greenhealth done any third-party testing to determine their acceptability? Or are we going to find out 20 years later that they have health issues?

I think the underlying missions of groups like Practice Greenhealth are solid. But I think there needs to be a better technical filter when dealing with plastics.

Alexandria Industries adds additional injection molding capabilities

"Customers really drove our decision," Steve Schabel, director of sales and marketing integration told PlasticsToday. "When their needs for innovative solutions for their manufactured products grow, we respond. In this case, we acquired plastic injection equipment assets that allow us to expand our capabilities and keep pace with our customers' needs."

Based in Alexandria, MN, Alexandria Industries will also integrate TIG/MIG welding and full assembly services into its recently acquired, 30,000-sq-ft plastic injection and foam molding facility in Wheaton, MN. The company acquired this facility in September 2012 as a way of becoming a "one-stop" supplier.

"Where possible, customers want to be able to go to one supplier or manufacturing partner to get everything," he said. "Single sourcing has product quality and business process benefits. The acquisition helps us be that single-stop provider of services that solve our customers' entire problem, not just a piece of it."

In addition, this expansion has allowed the company to hire additional employees. Schabel said most of the new employees will work at the Wheaton facility, with the possibility of doubling its workforce there in 2013.

In addition to plastic injection and foam molding, the company offers aluminum extrusion, precision machining, fabrication and bending, TIG/MIG welding and metal finishing services.

The company added plastic injection and foam molding capabilities to its portfolio of offerings in 2007, through the formation of a strategic alliance with Wheaton Plastics.

When asked how the company will continue to grow in the future, Schabel said it comes down to its people.

"Purchasing capital is a component of growth, but our core growth strategy continues to be based on hiring value-driven, customer-focused, talented people and putting them in positions to use their skills to make an impact," he said. "When that happens, our capabilities grow, our innovations launch and our customers succeed."

Turn your forklift into a crane

The Forkrane has the same X, Y and Z axis motion control found in overhead cranes, but XYMotion says its faster and more precise. The system comes with a wireless remote control that can be operated with a single hand. The standard unit has a 1200-lb load capacity, but XYMotion says the Forkane can be easily customized for heavier loads. The company says the technology can be used in any location inside or 
outside your plant and is battery operated with a built-in charger for all-day use.

XYMotion backs the Forkrane MT1200 with a two-year manufacturer's warranty. The standard model is available for $15,975 and comes with a 30-day money back trial period.

WP Manufacturing, also in Longmont (and toured by IMM), originally designed the Forkrane. WP President Steve McClean said the technology suits a shop of his size. "This technology is great for molders, like us, who need crane functionality but don't have the budget to spend $100,000 on an overhead factory crane," McLean said.

SIPA develops BPA-free five-gallon water bottles

Polycarbonate (PC) used to be king when it came to the five-gallon water cooler market.

But over the past few years, concerns about one of PC's building blocks, BPA, have resulted in a public debate about the potential health risks from PC bottles of all sizes, which includes the popular five-gallon water bottles. BPA is now effectively banned in baby bottles in North America and in Europe and time will tell if bans will extend to other bottles.

With the U.S. market for five-gallon water cooler bottles up for grabs, PET processing technology supplier SIPA has developed a PET version that features an integral handle - also in PET.

Martina Bottarel, manager of communications for SIPA, told PlasticsToday the company had a specialized focus on the development of the five-gallon PET containers to serve as an alternative to PC.

"Many producers of five-gallon water bottles are now looking for BPA-free alternatives to PC, even though there is no legal requirement yet for them to do so," she said. "PET is one of these possible alternatives, and in fact some five-gallon bottles made in PET have been on the market for several years now."

However, she said the challenge was to produce the lightest possible container while still ensuring optimum mechanical performance. SIPA set out, not only to develop a lighter container, but one with an embedded handle for better functionality.

The starting point was a 690-g container with a polypropylene handle that is already on the market in the U.S.

Still, the company didn't want to stop there, working to produce a bottle that is made entirely of PET.

The new version features a PET handle in place of polypropylene, so when the time comes for recycling, there is no need to separate the two parts, which can simplify the procedure and cut costs, she said. SIPA developed a preform with a lightweight neck and base and added material in the area of the body where the handle is attached during the blowmolding process.

The new design is suitable for production on a SIPA SFL 2/2 two-cavity linear stretch-blowmolding system. Trials have shown that output rates of 250 bottles per hour and per cavity are possible, which is around three times as much as achieved with PC bottles.

Bottarel believes the PET handle is a real differentiator, since handles are typically made with PP.

"The handle material with 100% PET is an important development, because it eliminates the need to separate the base and handle once the bottle reaches the end-of-life phase," she said. "The weight of the container is also lower, it is 665-g for the PET container and only 53-g for the PET handle. It is significantly lower than the average bottle weight offered by other companies."

Bottarel said the market for five-gallon bottles is about 80/20 (PC/PET) since PC was the chosen material for many years.

"This leaves enormous opportunities for conversion to PET in the near future, especially if the legislation accelerates the BPA ban for such container types," she said.

PU foams for woundcare introduced at Compamed

PU foams for woundcare introduced at Compamed

One of the interesting products introduced at Compamed 2012 held last week in Düsseldorf, Germany was aliphatic polyurethane foam for wound management from Bayer MaterialScience.

Based on Baymedix FP reactive foam technology, the material is said to have a high absorption rate coupled

New foam has high absorbtion rate. (BMS)
with fluid retention capability. It is also described by a BMS official as a very smooth and conformable foam that is non-yellowing, maintaining its white color over time.

The foams can be coated with a two-component adhesive made from Baymedix, a solvent-free material also based on aliphatic polyurethane chemistry. The new material is designed to replace silicone adhesive.

Filtrona Porous Technologies (Colonial Heights, VA), also showed new polyurethane-based foams for wound care applications.  Specific innovations include molded and thermoformable medical-grade foams.

The focus at BASF's booth was on the antimicrobial HyGentic product portfolio as well as engineering plastics for medical technology applications. HyGentic SBC, a new product, is a transparent injection-moldable styrene butadiene block copolymer granulate material that contains antimicrobial silver ions. Target applications include inhalers or ventilation filters.

"Medical devices produced with HyGentic products can be disinfected by conventional procedures," said Edgar Eichholz, business development manager--medical device materials at BASF.

BASF has a medical devices team at its research and development center in Tarrytown, NY.

Bal Seal Engineering  (Foothill Ranch, CA) showed custom- PTFE fluoropolyme and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene seals designed to protect high-speed rotary drive units for catheters used in vascular navigation, atherectomy, angioplasty and ablation procedures. The seals protect against the ingress of saline, blood and other fluids that can lead to motor failure. The company also formulates advanced polymers for high-speed sealing.

Compamed 2012 drew 645 exhibitors from 34 nations and 16,000 visitors.

Engel underlines high penetration in auto sector

Ten of the top 15 automotive suppliers in the world trust injection molding technology from Engel according to the Austrian machine builder. The Engel analysis was based on the latest list of the Top 100 Automotive Suppliers for 2011 in the trade magazine Automobil Produktion. Each year, the editorial team of the business magazine for the sector ranks the biggest automotive supplier groups by turnover. Since the list covers the whole supplier market and not just plastics processing businesses, Engel says market penetration for relevant companies is close to 100 percent.


Engel says it is showing automobile developers the way ahead with innovative technologies.

"Two main factors are responsible for such a strong market position", says Jochen Wallmüller, Sales Manager (Key Accounts) at Engel Austria. "Firstly, we have pooled our automotive expertise into a special business unit linked to specific key account management, and secondly we have consistently oriented our products, technologies and system solutions around the latest trends in the sector."

Since the pressure on costs is high in the automotive industry, the cost-effectiveness of products and processes is one of the most important criteria in any decision to invest. The versatility of Engel is reportedly instrumental in maximizing efficiency potential: not only does Engel supply injection molding machines, process technologies and molds from a single source, it also delivers fully integrated Engel viper linear machines, Engel easix multi-axis robots and special solutions, sometimes based on semi-integrated multi-axis robots from other reputable manufacturers.

Engel says it thus combines efficiency and cost-effectiveness with a flair for innovation, thereby enabling customers around the globe to produce with maximum quality at minimal unit cost.

Engel also works with partner firms in many cases to develop pace-setting new products for the automotive industry and its supply sector. The company has pioneered products for the lightweight construction area as well as the use of capacitive sensors (so-called 'smart plastics').

In recent years, Engel has succeeded in expanding its market share significantly right around the world. Injection molding machines in high clamping force classes - mainly deployed for applications in the automotive industry - account for a large proportion of that share.-[email protected]

GE Aviation acquires Morris Technologies and Rapid Quality Manufacturing

According to a release from GE Aviation, the acquisition allows GE Aviation to expand its engineering and manufacturing capabilities to meet its growing jet engine production rates over the next five years. In addition to acquiring these manufacturing processes, GE Aviation will open two new production plants in the U.S. next year.
“Morris Technologies and Rapid Quality Manufacturing are parts of our investment in emerging manufacturing technologies,” said Colleen Athans, vp and general manager of the Supply Chain Division at GE Aviation, in a prepared statement. “Our ability to develop state-of-the-art manufacturing processes for emerging materials and complex design geometry is critical to our future. We are so fortunate to have Morris Technologies and Rapid Quality Manufacturing just minutes from our headquarters. We know them well.”
Founded by Cincinnati natives Greg Morris, Wendell Morris, and Bill Noack in 1994, Morris Technologies (Sharonville, OH) and Rapid Quality Manufacturing (West Chester, OH) have supplied parts to GE Aviation for several years, as well as to GE Power Systems and GE’s Global Research Center. The companies have made everything from lightweight parts for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the U.S. military to hip replacement prototypes for the medical field, said GE Aviation’s release.
Morris Technologies and Rapid Quality Manufacturing have already been contracted by GE Aviation to produce components for the best-selling LEAP jet engine being developed by DFM International, a 50/50 joint company of GE and Snecma (SAFRAN) of France. The LEAP engine, which is scheduled to enter service in the middle of this decade on three different narrow-body aircraft, has already received more than 4000 engine orders before the first full engine had even gone to test.
Morris Technologies provides additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping services to the aerospace, energy, oil and gas, and medical industries through a variety of additive manufacturing processes including SLA and DMLS.
PlasticsToday has written a number of articles on Morris Technologies over the past decade, and the success of that company’s additive manufacturing business.

Fighting bag bans, encouraging recycling—just another day at CPIA

Montreal, Quebec—When Carol Hochu took office as the president and CEO of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, she knew she would have her hands full.

"We represent an industry that is largely responsible for the quality of modern life for all Canadians," she told PlasticsToday at Expoplast (November 14-15; Palais des congrès de Montréal; organized by PlasticsToday parent, UBM Canon). "Still, the industry faces several challenges and oppositions."

CPIA is Canada's version of the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI). Just like SPI, the organization works to grow the plastics industry to help it reach its full potential, by providing one unified voice.

Hochu said the organization has several strategic priorities such as outreach, encouraging second life of plastics, exploring new opportunities and meeting industry challenges.

The organization relies heavily on marketing, public relations and the usage of social media to get its message out, and part of that message is delivering "good" news.

In addition to its own marketing efforts, Hochu said CPIA works closely with the American Chemistry Council (ACC). She said they are highly impressed with ACC's ongoing Plastics Make it Possible campaign.

"Working together provides one voice for the plastics industry in North America," she said. "We work together to defend against product attacks."

One initiative all plastics associations have in common is fighting the plastic bag bans that are taken place all across the world.

Toronto plastic bag ban sacked

If you go to the CPIA website, right in the middle of the homepage is a link directing users to information about the Toronto bag ban that was scheduled to take place on Jan. 1, 2013.

While the city had previously passed a mandatory five-cent fee for plastic bags, in June, the councilors voted to end the tax and place a full ban on single-use plastic bags.

At Expoplast, Hochu did not hide her frustration about the potential ban.

"There's a myth about the plastic bags that is unwarranted and uncalled for," she said. "Why the focus on bags?It makes no sense." 

To fight the bag bans, CPIA launched its All About Bags website that is designed as a resource tool for the debate about bags. The site states, "plastic shopping bags are not considered a litter problem in Canada. In Canada, plastic shopping bags are a miniscule component of the municipal litter stream."

Litter audit data from major Canadian municipalities show that plastic shopping bags are less than 1% of litter. In fact, the City of Toronto 2006 Litter Audit shows that plastic shopping bags were only 0.13% of the entire litter stream.

CPIA also helps promote the Reverse the Bag Ban coalition, which is mix of environmentalists, manufacturers, recyclers, accountability advocates, trade associations and business associations. The coalition said it is concerned about the "impact on more 5000 jobs in the Toronto and the harmful impacts on the environment if the plastic bag ban is allowed to take effect this coming Jan. 1, 2013."

The coalition released the results of a Toronto city-wide poll of more than 5000 people that stated about 65% of Torontonians opposed banning plastic shopping bags.

Now, after much debate the Toronto councilors decided not to proceed with a ban on single-use plastic bags on Nov. 28. according to CBC News.

In recent weeks leading up to this decision, the city faced legal challenges from the Ontario Convenience Stores Association and the Canadian Plastic Bag Association in regards to the proposed bag ban.

City councilors received confidential legal advice from a solicitor before voting 38-7 Wednesday not to proceed with the ban, CBC reported.

Still, this announcement is not a done deal. The council will revisit this issue in June 2013.

"One of the many problems of these bans is taking away consumer choice," Hochu said. "Another item to consider, if this ban goes through, what is stopping bans from extending to other plastic products?"

Second life

Another important initiative to CPIA is increasing the amount of plastic and the different types of plastic waste being diverted from landfill through the use of various waste management options, such as reuse, recycle and energy recovery.

"This is really one of the keys to the future of plastics," Hochu said. "It's not only good for the environment, it just makes good business sense."

CPIA has published several releases regarding increased recycling rates and new opportunities.

For instance, a recent report showed that when households are provided with an adequate supply of see-through bags, participation is 72% greater and the amount of plastic bags and overwrap and foam polystyrene packaging captured is nearly doubled.

Another report surveyed more 500 companies who handle recycled plastics in North America, including reclaimers, exporters, brokers, MRFs and other handlers of used plastics. The report claims that Canadian recycling efforts have increased the amount of post-consumer plastic packaging being recycled across the country, including an additional 15% of plastic packaging recycled in 2010 compared to 2009. 

Hochu said she's happy with the progress, but she knows they have a long way to go.

"There's been great improvement and in the future we're going to continue to work with agencies to increase the awareness of recycling," she said. "But we need to do better with recycling and energy recovery to have a more sustainable future."

Green Matter: A dash of isosorbide makes all the difference

In the quest to replace fossil-based feedstocks for cost-effective equivalents derived from renewable resources, isosorbide has emerged as a promising player. A sustainable and non-toxic diol for polymers, isosorbide is a biobased chemical made from starch that can be used in a wide range of applications, including BPA-free polycarbonate and biobased copolyesters.

Although isosorbide, as a derivative of sorbitol, is not a new product, it is one that for a long time was considered too complicated to purify for chemical industrial use. A company that has directed major R&D efforts to develop technology for using isosorbide in the polymer industry is Roquette Frères (France), a global leader in the starch manufacturing industry. Backed by funding from the French government, the company has spent 5 years investigating, among other things, the use of isosorbide as a renewable diol for various polymers and biopolymers, and, in the form of isosorbide diester, as a green plasticizer.

"Isosorbide brings added value and sustainability to co-polyesters and to polycarbonate. And it's a drop-in solution for DINP; it's a 100% phthalate-free plasticizer and REACH-approved for industrial volumes," said Cristophe Rupp-Dahlem, Programs Director at Roquette, at the recent European Bioplastics Conference in Berlin. He continued: "Today, isosorbide is a platform for Roquette building blocks."

BPA-free polycarbonate
Calling isosorbide polycarbonate "a sustainably engineered plastic" with "excellent optical properties, multi-axial, high temperature, chemical and UV resistance" in which bisphenol A is replaced by isosorbide, Rupp-Dahlem described how Roquette had collaborated with Mitsubishi Chemical on the development of Durabio, a durable biobased isosorbide Durabio polycarbonatepolycarbonate that combines the benefits of PC and PMMA. Mitsubishi Chemical upgraded its existing polycarbonate facilities at its Kurosaki Plant and started producing Durabio there in August. An annual production of 20,000 tonnes is projected for 2015.

Clearer, more heat-resistant PET
The developments around another polymer, polyethylene isosorbide terephthalate, are also extremely promising. PEIT has excellent clarity and a higher heat resistance than both PET and PETG, which considerably enhances its application functionality. "Isosorbide-based copolyesters are a new family of polyesters," said  Rupp-Dahlem. "And they are already commercially available. For example, earlier this year, SK Chemicals launched ECOZEN, a new range of copolyester resin."

As this was news to me, it was time to find out more.

SK Chemicals is a Korean green chemistry and life science company that had already been producing polyethylene terephtalate glycol-modified, or PETG, under the brand name SKYGREEN. Chemical distributing company IMCD, the distributor of ECOZEN in the Benelux kindly forwarded my questions to Geoff Thomas, a technical advisor at SK Chemicals.  

ECOZEN ("reaches the zenith of eco-friendliness") contains 4 monomers - Ethylene Glycol (EG), Pure Terephthalic Acid (PTA), Cyclohexane Dimethanol (CHDM) and the new corn-based bio-monomer, the content of which can be varied depending on the properties required. According to Thomas, the total bio-content of the material can be further expanded if required by using a bio-source for some of the other monomers. He explained that the main reason to add the bio-monomer -  which he avoided naming - is to increase the temperature resistance of PETG, but it also increases most of the other properties such as impact strength, etc.

"PETG has been limited in its end-use applications by its relatively low temperature-resistance of about 60C. With the current grades of ECOZEN, this temperature resistance can be increased to over 100C, which opens many new applications such as those that require sterilization by boiling water. In addition, because of worldwide concerns about the use of materials containing Bisphenol A in food-contact applications, ECOZEN provides an ideal drop-in solution because it contains no BPA. ECOZEN grades are currently in development which will offer even higher temperature resistance for use in applications, such as medical devices, that require steam-sterilization," said Thomas.

He added: " ECOZEN products have been commercially available worldwide since March 2012."

High time to blog about them, then, and with a little luck, I'll be kept up to date on their newest developments from now on. Something to look forward to!

Medical plastic recycling projects expand

Results from pioneering plastic recycling projects at the Stanford University Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic are being developed into "lessons learned" and best practices guides designed to boost plastics recycling at hospitals around the United States.

"We estimate that up to 6,600 tons of solid waste are generated by hospitals daily and that 20 to 25% of

Some OR waste can be recycled. (HPRC)
that may be plastics," Peylina Chu, an engineer and sustainability specialist with the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC) said in an interview with Plastics Today. And up to  85% of the plastic generated is nonhazardous.

"We're finding in the project at Stanford that they are actually saving money by recycling high-end plastic waste that did not come into contact with patients and is not contaminated. We have been able to confirm that there is a lot of plastic that can be safely recycled from hospitals."

Many hospitals now recycle plastic water bottles, food service plastics and even blue sterilization wrap, but the pilot studies raise the bar significantly.

The Stanford study, which is now about three-quarters' complete, will include data from plastic waste collected in surgical services, interventional services including catheterization and angiography labs, pre and post-anesthesia care settings and pharmacy. The study is fully funded and fully implemented by Stanford University Medical Center with technical support provided by HPRC.

Chu said that examples of material being collected for re-use are woven polypropylene blue sterilization wrap, saline bottles (polyolefin or bottle-grade polyester), miscellaneous packaging materials, thermoformed polystyrene trays, and some Tyvek high-density polyethylene fibers.

No data is available yet on the amount of savings from the Stanford medical plastics recycling project nor on the volume of plastics collected, but Chu said that the ability to save money is very dependent on the capabilities of recyclers in various regions of the country.

"One of our goals is to provide more education to recyclers about the recyclability of noncontaminated hospital waste," she said in the interview.

Another goal is to develop best practice plastics recycling rates so that hospitals know what to shoot for.

The recycler in the Stanford Medical project is Greenwaste, which says its material recovery plant in San Jose, CA is capable of sorting and recovering 98% of recyclable materials and 75% of trash for a total facility diversion rate of 88% for household and commercial waste.

Stanford recycles all of its medical waste as a single stream.    Greenwaste processes single and multiple stream waste side-by-side in its facility. Clean materials from both lines are merged to maximize efficiency and materials' recovery.

The first major pilot study conducted by HPRC looked at plastic waste collected by Waste Management at the Cleveland Clinic and processed by EPI Recycling Solutions in Erie, PA. As a result of that study, the HPRC issued design guidelines aimed at making plastic packaging easier to recycle. One example was to avoid use of rubber seals on polypropylene saline bottles.

Chu said that many HPRI members have incorporated the guidelines into their operations.

The Stanford Hospitals and Kaiser Permanente (Oakland, CA) are members of the HPRC's Healthcare Facility Advisory Board. Industry members include Baxter, BD, Cardinal Health, Covidien, DuPont,  Eastman, EPI, Hospira, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly-Clark, Phillips, SABIC and Waste Management. A DuPont packaging engineer co-led the HPRC role in the Stanford recycling project.

Chu said the HPRC is close to announcing the participants in its third plastics recycling pilot project.