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Clariant expands pre-approved line of additives, masterbatches for medical

Fitzgibbons said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is getting more and more detailed in its regulation of anything within the supply chain of a medical or pharmaceutical product, examining things like particle size, asking for vendor names, and drilling into all the things used to make the product. "Clariant wants to ensure to their customers that we will make the same product over and over and over, giving you a global palette," Fitzgibbons said.

At the show, Clariant expanded the Mevopur range to address:

  • Low surface friction: An additive to lower friction between parts that must rotate or slide, improving the functionality of metered dose devices, as well as reducing the insertion resistance for catheters or eliminating oils in syringe components.
  • MedX antimicrobial agents: additive packages using antimicrobial agents from Sanitized AG in polypropylene, polyethylene, and polycarbonate. MedX is a silver-based antimicrobial, and Clariant says that by incorporating it into the polymer in its Mevopur line, the company has removed the need for device manufactures to undertake a secondary antimicrobial coating operation, which has its own cost and validation processes.
  • Permanent antistatics: Used to reduce electrical charges on the surface for smoother deliver of powdered drugs.

In addition, the company introduced what it called productivity-enhancing additives:

  • Next generation nucleants and process aids: the Mevopur nucleants for injection molded medical devices can reportedly reduce cycle time by up to 12% depending on the polymer. By boosting crystallization, the materials become more rigid and have higher heat-distortion temperatures.
  • Laser-marking additive: the indelible ink-free marking can help reduce concerns about solvent residues and offer a permanent mark made in a non-contact fashion.
  • Enhanced sterilization production: a range of stabilizers to protect PP and cyclic olefin copolymer (COC) from yellowing and helping them maintain physical properties during gamma and e-beam sterilization.

At the end of the day, Fitzgibbons said Clariant is watching out for its clients' bottom lines, noting that it can cost "tens of thousands of dollars for customers to revalidate," a device if a supplier changes their formula.

Oxo-biodegradable plastics in the spotlight

Environmental Products Inc. (EPI) has launched a new line of products to meet a growing demand for oxo-biodegradable plastics, a company spokesperson told PlasticsToday.

OxoGreen is EPI's brand of oxo-biodegradable plastic products incorporated with the company's own brand of additive known as Totally Degradable Plastic Additives (TDPA). An EPI spokesperson said oxo-biodegradable plastics offer an effective alternative to other forms of plastics that degrade over time.

"Bio-based plastics are expensive, cannot be recycled in existing recycling stream, are difficult to process and are generally thicker and heavier than conventional plastics," the spokesperson said. "With these limitations, oxo-biodegradable plastics remain the better and more cost effective solution to the issue of plastic waste management."

OxoGreen plastics are primarily polyethylene and polypropylene, in which a small percentage of the company's additive is added to make these products into what EPI calls controlled life plastics.

This year in Canada, OxoGreen will produce 100% degradable garbage bags, and whenever possible, these bags will also be made from 100% recycled materials.

Some OxoGreen products, such as garbage bags, are currently available in North America, the spokesperson said. Other products such as protective packaging, food contact bags, non-woven product, etc. will be added during the year to provide a comprehensive list of degradable/biodegradable products for consumers, business and institutions both in North America and globally.

U.A.E. law requires oxo-biodegradable additive use

Oxo-biodegradable additives recently made headlines when the United Arab Emirates brought forward its policy to ban all disposable plastic products except those made from oxo-biodegradable plastic.

The new law, which will go into effect in 2013, covers not just plastic bags, but all packaging and disposable articles made from plastic polymers derived from fossil-fuels. These include flexible shopping bags and semi-rigid plastic packaging for food, magazines, consumer-durables, garbage bags, bin-liners for household use, shrink wrap, pallet wrap and cling film - among other items.

With its controlled lifespan and its ability to biodegrade completely either on land or water, oxo-biodegradable plastic has proved popular across the Middle East and particularly in the U.A.E., the press release stated.

From now on, all plastic products will need an ECAS Registration Certificate issued by ESMA (Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology). These products must be made with pro-degradant additives from suppliers, which have been audited by ESMA and they have to comply with U.A.E. standards.

"EPI applauds the U.A.E. for their initiative in recognizing the detrimental implications of plastic pollution on the environment," the spokesperson stated. "Movements like this have certainly created huge opportunities for EPI's TDPA additives and OxoGreen plastic products."

Hospitals are using more disposable devices to cut costs

Hospitals are using more disposable devices to cut costs

One of the upshots of the trend toward cost reduction in medical plastics is greater use of disposable products.

"It seems counter intuitive that it saves money to dispose of products after a single use," one medical expert told Plastics Today in an interview at MD&M West (Anaheim, CA) last month. "But if you consider the costs of sterilization and inventory management, there definitely can be a savings involved."

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A new clean room at Mack Molding focuses on orthopedic disposables.
Costs of sterilization are increasing as a result of new efforts to rid hospitals of germs that can cause infections. Many suppliers are introducing materials that have better chemical resistance or heat stability to withstand sterilization processes. The new materials are more costly, and that can help tip the economic balance toward disposables.

"It can cost up to $50 to $100 per device for steam sterilization," says Josh Blackmore, global healthcare manager, RTP (Winona, MN). "The hospitals are increasingly adding up those costs."

The trend is very apparent in orthopedic instrumentation.

"Patients benefit from a lower risk of infection and hospitals avoid the time and costs of cleaning and resterilization," says Chris Wartinger, business development manager at Mack Medical (Arlington, VT).

Mack just added a Class 100,000 clean room that will produce disposable and other medical parts for orthopedic customers. One example of the trend to disposables is plastic parts that simulate bones for trialing during knee replacement surgeries, Jeff Somple, president of Mack's Northern Operations, told Plastics Today in an interview.

Disposable tubing

In another example, the lay-flat tubing process is now being widely employed to produce disposable sheaths used as barriers for colonoscopes, endoscopes, speculums, probes and many other devices that provide protection from moisture, blood, or bacteria prevalent within the body. Reason? They are less costly than extensive cleaning or reprocessing of devices.

Extrusion of lay flat tubing has been around for several years in packaging applications, typically using polyethylene in applications with greater than 1.5 inches in lay-flat width. Some medical applications require  more durable materials, and also a smaller width to fit through a 3mm ID channel for a diagnostic scope.

"Polyzen (Apex, NC) has perfected the extrusion process for small diameter, thin walled lay-flat tubing," says Rubin Shah, director of business development. "Expanding our capabilities beyond more ubiquitous higher thickness tubes has given Polyzen a clear advantage over its competitors. A specialty urethane was formulated for the application.

Packaging partnership to serve recycled plastic resins to restaurant industry

Havi Global Solutions (HGS) has partnered with sustainable plastic resins manufacturer NextLife, to provide FDA-approved post-consumer recycled (PCR) polypropylene and polystyrene resins to the quick-service restaurant (QSR) and food service markets.

The PCR resins, developed by NextLife, allow restaurants to use the FDA-approved recycled resins to produce food-contact packaging materials. The PCR resins include FDA-approved PP, PS, PE blends, which can be tailored to specific QSR chain needs and used to replace virgin resins in the manufacturing of plastic products with food-contact, including plastic cups, lids, cutlery, and serving trays, according to the press release.

Eli Carmeli, SVP operations, packaging services at HGS, told PlasticsToday that the combination of NextLife's technology offerings and HGS's connection in the food service industry made the partnership a good match.

"The customers we have talked with are all very excited," he said. "We are trying to find a way to give customers a competitive advantage, and if you look across the board, packaging folks are trying to find more sustainable options, and reduce their carbon footprint."

Implementing recycled plastic resins at highly trafficked restaurant chains can improve sustainability initiatives, along with the potential to save more than 500,000 barrels of oil annually for every 100 million pounds of recycled resin produced, the company stated.

"As a nation, we have made significant strides in our recycling efforts over the past few decades, but there remains considerable opportunity to improve. Today, about 80% of what Americans throw away can be recycled, yet our recycling rate is only 28%," Ron Whaley, NextLife's CEO, said in a statement. "We have a lot of work to do, and we believe our recycled resins have the opportunity to dramatically reduce the amount of waste generated throughout the U.S."

HGS will inform customers about the availability, production, and safety aspects encompassing the implementation of PCR resins, according to the press release.

TPE resin prices, Feb. 20-24: PE flat, PP down: N.A. resin prices sprint ahead of global markets

(TPE). It is once again late in the month and PE contracts remain unsettled, as producers have not backed away from their second attempt at a $0.06/lb price increase, citing high ethylene costs. Resin supply is currently ample and demand is a bit soft. February polypropylene (PP) contracts jumped $0.165/lb along with polymer grade propylene (PGP) and are poised to move higher again in March, although competitive resin offers from well-stocked domestic resellers and Houston exporters have "kept a lid on the spot resin market", according to TPE CEO Michael Greenberg.

Energy markets resumed their long-term trends, with crude oil and natural gas futures moving in opposite directions. April crude oil futures accelerated recent gains adding another $6.17/bbl to finish at $109.77/bbl, a 9-month high. Natural gas futures have been unable to hold on to their occasional gains, slipping back $0.129/mmBtu to settle at $2.695/mmBtu on Friday. The crude oil : natural gas price ratio blew out to a near-record level of 40.7:1.

Ethylene spot prices were mostly steady, although sizable volumes of material continued to change hands due to several cracker turnarounds. Although prompt supplies still command a small premium, the forward curve has flattened with ethylene for delivery over the next several months trading around $0.65/lb. The market is priced to ease in the 3rd quarter when the majority of crackers have completed this season's scheduled maintenance. Ethane prices jumped about a nickel to $0.54/gal, which equates to $0.227/lb. With ethylene margins above $0.40/lb, producers are encouraged to bring crackers back online quickly and it would not be surprising to see some scheduled turnarounds postponed to later in the year.

Polyethylene (PE) was mostly steady, with generic prime offers generally reflecting at least half of the $0.06/lb price increase still sought for February, while offgrade prices have started to build a discount. Contract negotiations are again coming down to the wire; according to TPE, and while no producers have conceded the increase, overall demand is questionable and might thwart the effort for the second month in a row. Although processors speak of better resin throughput, many are still working down resin inventories procured near the end of 2011. In the meantime, rising U.S. PE prices disabled the high volume spot export sale, limiting January exports to the lowest level in 3 years, which contributed to gains in upstream inventory.

Propylene's market was quiet until the end of the week when a nomination emerged to increase March PGP contracts by $0.15/lb. Existing offers for March PGP at $0.74/lb were scooped and asking prices moved a couple cents higher. "The nomination was quite a shock," Greenberg said, "since monomer has only traded in the low $0.70s/lb during the past several weeks." That said, TPE noted that near-term fundamentals are bullish, with ethane hugely favored over propane as the cracker feedstock of choice. Since ethane generates mostly ethylene and only a limited amount of propylene, PGP supplies are tight. The maintenance season is also underway and a series of crackers and refineries will be offline through May, further tightening supplies. There was a $0.22/lb increase nominated for February PGP, but "only $0.165/lb" took hold. "We will see if gentler nominations are presented for March," Greenberg said.

Polypropylene (PP) spot prices eased a penny amid weak demand and ample spot-resin availability. Processors appear to be well-stocked with resin, having purchased 1.45 billion lb of PP in January, a figure eclipsed just twice in the past three and a half years, according to TPE. Several resellers are still looking to find homes for well-priced railcars procured early in the month while Houston traders also have old inventory to sell. Despite the possibility that PGP monomer and PP resin could see another steep increase in March, PP producer railcar offers continue to flow and on some occasions are offered around the price of spot monomer.

Final thought from Michael Greenberg  

The end of February is practically upon us and price uncertainty is again at hand. Polyethylene contracts have not yet settled, and the $0.06/lb increase is still in play; producers point to spot ethylene costs in the mid-$0.60s, while processors see phenomenal margins already upstream in ethylene production. Polypropylene processors endured a hefty $0.165/lb increase in February, there was talk of a $0.03-$0.05/lb increase slated for March, but the first nomination emerged at $0.15/lb! Resin processors of both commodity grade materials bought heavily ahead of these increases and are doing their best to resist high price purchases. North American resin prices have sprinted ahead of most international markets, limiting the profitable export of excess material given market prices.

Asian resin prices, Feb. 20-24: PP, LDPE, ABS down; HDPE, LLDPE, PS up; PVC flat

Polypropylene (PP) prices in Asia slid last week due to sluggish regional buying trends and a decrease in feedstock propylene values, according to Polymerupdate. On Feb. 23, Asian propylene was assessed at $1330/tonne FOB Korea, down sharply. In the downstream PP markets, PP injection and raffia prices fell to $1370/tonne CFR Far East Asia, a week-on-week slide of about $20/tonne. PP sellers polled by Polymerupdate confirmed that buying pulse had failed to lift despite the price decline. Buyer bids were heard to be notional and were at ranging from $1340 to $1350/tonne CFR. In India, offers for PP injection and raffia from a producer in the Middle East were at $1430/tonne CIF Nhava Sheva with deals consummated at these prices. PP film was at $1450/tonne CIF, with offers from LyondellBasell for PP injection and raffia at $1450/tonne CIF Nhava Sheva. PP film prices were at $1470/tonne CIF basis, with a few deals done at this price.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) film prices in Far East Asia inched higher, rising to $1360/tonne CFR. Offers were at $1380/tonne CFR and higher, although buyer bids continued to languish at $1350/tonne CFR mark and below. In South East Asia, HDPE film prices were assessed at $1385/tonne CFR. An HDPE seller contacted by Polymerupdate noted that March marks the start of cracker turnaround season, which could further impact the market. In India, deals in HDPE film were done at $1430/tonne CIF Nhava Sheva, with the seller purported to be Saudi. Fresh offers from Middle East firm Equate were at $1430/tonne CIF mark, while SABIC is heard to have offered HDPE film at $1460/tonne CIF Nhava Sheva.

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) prices in Asia adjusted downwards. Strength in crude, naphtha, and feedstock ethylene, failed to defend seller efforts to keep LDPE prices stable. LDPE sellers who were unwilling to lower their prices were reported to have been ignored while those who did reduce their rates were able to engage in negotiation dialogues with their clients. LDPE prices dropped to $1350/tonne CFR Far East Asia while CFR South East Asia prices fell to $1370 to $1375/tonne. LDPE film offers from Qapco, Qatar to India were at $1430/tonne CIF Nhava Sheva last week.

Linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) prices marched higher in the Far East, with bullish upstream crude and ethylene values supporting the price rise. CFR Far East Asia LLDPE prices were assessed up at $1270/tonne. Offers for LLDPE film to India from Equate were heard at $1410/tonne CIF Nhava Sheva mark while offers from SABIC were higher at $1450/tonne CIF. These offers surfaced in the markets on Thursday. Earlier, deals into India were heard done at $1400/tonne CIF Nhava Sheva. The seller was Qamar, Saudi Arabia.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) prices were expected to climb in Asia after finishing flat across most parts of Asia last week. CFR China and CFR South East Asia prices were unchanged at $1010/tonne with offers heard at $1050/tonne CFR. PVC buyers polled said that at $1050/tonne CFR, they remained distanced and disinterested. This despite the current strength in prices of crude, naphtha, ethylene and feedstock EDC and VCM values. A Chinese PVC buyer told Polymerdate that his company was not interested in importing PVC given that local prices were competitive and supplies plentiful. Ethylene-based PVC prices were at Yuan 6900 to Yuan 7000/tonne. Deals in India were heard completed at $1030 to $1040/tonne CIF Nhava Sheva for PVC from South Korea. The shipment was for March. A few traders when contacted said that they expected price offers to test the $1050/tonne CIF mark by next week.

Polystyrene (PS) prices firmed in Asia last week, prompted by strength in global energy values, firmer prices of naphtha and high feedstock styrene monomer (SM) prices. On Thursday, SM prices were assessed up at $1445/tonne FOB Korea. General-purpose PS prices were assessed up at $1560/tonne CFR China and $1570/tonne CFR South East Asia, with March offers for GPPS pegged higher. High-impact (PS) prices were assessed at $1770/tonne CFR China and $1780/tonne CFR South East Asia, as the high cost of butadiene kept the upward pressure on spot HIPS prices ticking with sellers indicating March offers at above the $1800/tonne CFR.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) prices declined in Asia last week despite strength in crude, naphtha and feedstock values. Buyer resistance at higher levels prompted sellers of ABS to rethink their target offers according to Polymerupdate. On Feb. 22, CFR China ABS prices dropped to $2150 to $2160/tonne, a week-on-week fall of more than $20/tonne. Buyer bids were heard at lows near the $2100/tonne CFR China. A few deals were completed at $2110 to $2120/tonne CFR China mark, but Polymerupdate noted that there wasn't sufficient evidence to corroborate the same. CFR South East Asia ABS prices fell to $2160 to $2170/tonne.

UK converter launches removable in-mold label

Systems Labelling, a UK-based converter, has developed a completely removable in-mold label that can be taken off during the recycling process or by the consumer after use.

Stephen Lloyd, director of marketing and business development for Systems Labelling, told PlasticsToday the patent-pending R-IML will "revolutionize" the in-mold labeling market by facilitating the production of food-grade rPP.

"The ability to recycle natural/clear or white polypropylene to its original state displaces the use of virgin resin in consumer product packaging for color-sensitive applications," he said. "Clearly, there would be a commercial value to this, not to mention the CO2 savings."

The challenge was to devise a solution that would mold at standard temperatures and dwell times, and be able to perform in moist, wet, frozen and microwaveable environments, he said. The R-IML has no impact on the traditional molding processes, and has passed Pira International migration tests.

PP is the third-most common polymer found in household waste in the UK after HDPE and PET, the company stated. Unlike milk and drinks bottles, PP packaging is used in many different grades and colors, which can make it difficult to recycle.

"Until now there has been little incentive for UK industries to consider the benefits of reducing the dependence on virgin PP in the manufacture of food packaging and, at the same time, divert waste from landfill and boost the UK market value of recycled PP," the company stated in a press release.

Therefore the challenge has been to find a way to remove in-mold labels post-use.

"This solution, if accepted as a standard across the industry, could enable food-grade rPP to be produced on a large scale," Lloyd said. "This is something that would be of international and global benefit."

Lloyd said the company turned its attention to PP after its success in developing a self-adhesive label that is released from HDPE milk bottles, which enabled a higher proportion of recycled polymer used for new bottles.

The R-IML will be available on a global scale under license, he said.

Citadel sold to private equity firm

Citadel Plastics (West Chicago, IL), the owner and operator of Bulk Molding Compounds Inc. (BMCI) and The Matrixx Group Inc. has been acquired by middle-market private equity firm, Huntsman Gay Global Capital. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but Huntsman Gay did state in a release that Citadel's current management team will continue to lead the company and retain an ownership stake in the business.

BMCI is a supplier of thermoset compounds, including bulk molding compounds, that is also based in West Chicago, IL. The Matrixx Group is a specialty thermoplastic compounder based in Evansville, IN. Globally, Citadel employs more than 600 across 14 locations in seven countries. It was previously owned by Wind Point Partners. The two operating companies serve the automotive, health care, electrical, appliance, and construction markets.

Wind Point formed Citadel Plastics in March 2007 in partnership with Mike Fitzpatrick. Prior to joining Citadel Plastics as CEO, Fitzpatrick had a 30-year career with Rohm and Haas Company, most recently serving as President and COO. In a release from the company, Fitzpatrick noted that under Wind Point's ownership, Citadel completed six acquisitions, expanding the group's international footprint and adding new products and technologies. "With our broader product line, we were able to convert many customers from metals to plastics and realize strong revenue growth," Fitzpatrick said.

Huntsman Gay was founded by individuals with ties to the field of Republican presidential candidates in the 2012 election cycle: Jon M. Huntsman, father of former candidate Jon M. Huntsman Jr., and Robert C. Gay, a former managing director of Bain Capital, one-time employer of Mitt Romney, founded Huntsman Gay.

BMCI owner Larry Nunnery who sold the company to Windpoint, retained his position as CEO of BMCI through 2008. Nunnery bought BMCI in 1989 and grew the company from a $7 million/yr, single-plant business to its current $130 million/yr, seven-site portfolio. BMCI has production at two sites each in the U.S. and Mexico and one each in China, Germany, and Brazil. Nunnery's son, Len Nunnery, remains with BMCI, as its VP of global marketing.

Citadel's six plastics-related acquisitions since 2007 include Fiberfil Engineered Plastics Inc. in 2009, and its first acquisition, The Matrixx Group, in 2007.  

Medical Musings: Focus tightens on scaffold plastics

One of the Holy Grails of tissue engineering is development of a safe bioasorbable material that can be engineered to meet specific implant demands.  

Several polymers are bioabsorbable, but lack the ability to be compressed for device delivery and then resiliently expand at the intended biological site. Or they lack sufficient porosity to promote adequate cellular ingrowth and proliferation.

These polymers include aliphatic polyesters and homopolymers and copolymers (random, block, segmented and graft) of monomers such as glycolic acid, glycolide, lactic acid, and, trimethylene carbonate. Polylactic acid is one of the most commonly used bioabsorbable plastics for human implant applications, such as bone anchors.

In an interview at MD&M West with Plastics Today, Deb Langer disclosed that Lubrizol's newly formed LifeScience Polymers Group, which she heads, is investigating urethane-based approaches.

Another company, Biomerix (Fremont, CA) has developed a degradable materials technology based on a crosslinked, reticulated urethane matrix. The formulation has varying degradable copolymer soft segments that can be customized to offer different degradation profiles, ranging from three months up to two years. The urethane material consists of an open-cell, three-dimensional, interconnected network of cells and pores said to encourage tissue growth.

Tailored for specific purposes

"The structure, morphology, and properties of the elastomeric matrices of this invention can be engineered or tailored over a wide range of performance by varying the starting materials and/or the processing conditions for different functional or therapeutic uses," the company states in its patent.

The implantable devices made from the material are deliverable by a catheter, endoscope, arthoscope, laproscope, cystoscope, or syringe, according to Biomerix.

The polymer contains a polycarbonate polyol component, an isocyanate component, a blowing agent, and possibly other materials including: a crosslinking agent, a chain extender, catalysts, cell openers, surfactants, or a viscosity modifier.

In an effort to promote research with the new polymers, Biomerix and KIYATEC (Pendleton, SC) launched 3DKUBE - Biomerix 3D Scaffold Preloads late last year. They are 3D scaffolds and cell culture plasticware preassembled in a single-use disposable format.

The new product will allow 3D cell-culture researchers to "just add cells" via perfusion seeding into the devices. 

Actual seeding of 3D scaffolds with stem cells to create human organs is still many years off, however.

Carbon fiber-composite automation takes center stage

At this year's JEC show, Dieffenbacher (Eppingen, Germany) will focus on progressive line concepts for the production of lightweight car body parts for the automotive industry.

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Automation processes are key to carbon fiber-composite adoption in autos.

From March 27th to 29th, 2012 at booth P32, Dieffenbacher, the technological leader in the field of fiber-reinforced plastics forming, will present the PreformCenter for fully-automated production of 3D preforms made of carbon fibers. The PreformCenter realizes short cycle times in preform production. From feeding the textile prepreg made from carbon fibers, via precision cutting and binder application, to the provision of the dry, dimensionally stable 3D preform, the complete process is fully-automated.

As part of a complete production line employing the high-pressure RTM process, the PreformCenter is configurable for use in both large- and small-batch production. Besides preform production, the HP-RTM line also includes the compression process as well as related finishing steps for the finished lightweight components. Dieffenbacher thereby delivers the HP-RTM line on a turnkey basis.

In addition, Dieffenbacher is presenting their SMC direct line. This direct process for producing thermoset material (D-SMC) reportedly enables less expensive semifinished product production. For the development of this process, Dieffenbacher was awarded the innovation prize of the Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe e.V. in 2011. -[email protected]