Natureplast, a French company offering support, research and distribution services in the field of bioplastics, has now developed PLA grades with a high thermal resistance and optimized production outputs, compared to current similar products available on the market. PLA (polylactic acid) is one of the most commonly produced and used bioplastics. The new grades are easily processable on all standard equipment and are approved for sensitive applications such as food-contact packaging, cosmetics containers and textile fibers.
Although highly valued as a renewably sourced plastic that has the additional advantage of compostability at the end of life (certified according to EN 13432:2000), widespread application of PLA has been hampered by a number of technical drawbacks—specifically its mechanical (low impact resistance) and thermal (heat resistant up to 55°C) properties.
While earlier developed heat-resistant PLA grades offering thermal stability up to 120°C are currently available on the market, these improved thermal properties come at a price. Injection molding cycle times are significantly higher compared to a nonmodified PLA, leading to lower productivity.
Biopolynov, Natureplast 's research subsidiary, has successfully developed and is now introducing two new PLA grades—PLHT 201 and PLHT 202—that rise to these multiple challenges by offering both improved mechanical and thermal properties as compared to standard PLA, and improved productivity as compared to existing heat-resistant PLA grades, all at a competitive price. Trials showed gains in cycle times varying from 30% up to over 200%, depending on the parts injected.
According to Natureplast, the properties of PL HT 202 are comparable, or even superior (in terms of thermal and impact resistance) to those of a conventional technical material, such as ABS. The company claims that the new PL HT grades can also be used to replace traditional high-impact PS, as they offer an over 40% higher impact strength.
As a result of these improved properties, applications in areas such as the automotive industry and electronic consumer goods are now opening up that had up until now not been possible.
Since 2006, Natureplast has been the only company in Europe that can supply bioplastics from all around the world from a hundred different producers. Its subsidiary Biopolynov, founded in 2010 is still the only R&D European center dedicated to these new materials.