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By now I’m really tired of writing about the Corona pandemic, tired of lockdowns and restrictions and the rescheduling of rescheduled events. At first it seemed to me as if Corona had brought the world to a standstill. But looking closer, I realized that our industry is alive and kicking.
It is, for example, heartening to see how conferences, instead of being cancelled completely, go virtual, merely reducing the in-person components. Only last week, DKG has announced the rescheduling of DKT IRC 2021 from July 2021 to 27 – 30 June 2022 (p. 6). Still, there will be the opportunity to hear selected lectures, see scientific posters and discuss results with other participants at the virtual DKG Elastomer Symposium from 28 June to 1 July 2021. And Arburg’s virtual summit on medical technology in November 2020 brought together more than 400 industry experts – twice as many as would have attended in-person (p. 38). Chinaplas 2021 definitely is to be held 13 – 16 April 2021 (p. 42) and looking further ahead, at Messe Düsseldorf the first meeting of the exhibitors’ advisory board marked the kick-off to the next “K” in Düsseldorf, Germany, to be held from 19 – 26 October 2022 (p. 29).
At the beginning of 2020, almost all sectors of the economy were hit hard by the effects of the Corona pandemic. Some have already been able to compensate for the losses, others are still struggling, as recent market reports show: statistics of VDMA on the German plastics and rubber machinery industry (p. 15), CAM’s latest Electromobility Report (p. 12), some key findings from AVK’s report on the European GRP market (p. 16), and results of the European Bioplastics’ (EUBP) annual market data update (p. 20).
2020 may not be compared to any other year before. The technical reports in this issue, however, are all about comparing. On page 30 scientists from Loughborough University compare two highly efficient methods for sulfur curing of rubber. Crystallization and abrasion resistance of biomimetic synthetic rubber and natural rubber are compared on page 26. They constitute some of the results of the collaborative research project “Biomimetic Synthetic Rubber – BISYKA” of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.
The Center of Automotive Management (CAM) at the University of Applied Sciences for Business (Fachhochschule der Wirtschaft – FHDW) in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, regularly analyses the electromobility markets and the sales trends of automotive manufacturers. The focus is on the core markets China, the USA and the European Union. Taking into account key factors such as charging infrastructures, regulations, model ranges and the electromobility strategies of the OEMs, various market ramp-up scenarios for 2025/2030 are being projected. Some key findings from CAM's latest "Electromobility Report" are presented below.
The Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries (ANRPC) has released its “Natural Rubber Trends & Statistics” for October and November 2020 in a combined issue. According to the report, the world production of natural rubber (NR) fell by 8.5 %, year-over-year, to 10.098 million t during January – October 2020. Anticipating a 10.8 %, year-over-year, drop during November – December 2020, the production during the full year 2020 is expected at 12.597 million t, down 9.0 % from the previous year.
According to the Plastics and Rubber Machinery Association within the German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau – VDMA), at the beginning of 2020, the German plastics and rubber machinery industry – like almost all sectors of the economy – was hit hard by the effects of the Corona pandemic. However, the downward trend in sales and incoming orders already flattened out in mid 2020, and incoming orders even rose again from September onwards. Cumulatively, from January to October 2020 they are only 3 % below the incoming orders in the same period of 2019.
The AVK – Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe has published its annual market report for glass fibre reinforced plastics (GRP). In 2020, the European GRP market experienced the sharpest slump since the economic and financial crisis of 2008/2009 due to the corona pandemic. Production volume has fallen by 12.7 % to 996,000 t. The greatest losses are in the transport sector. Germany remains the largest manufacturer of GRP with 207,000 t. This article is a summary of the full market report, which can be downloaded free of charge from the AVK website.
The results of the European Bioplastics’ (EUBP) annual market data update, presented on 2 December 2020 at the 15th EUBP Conference, confirm the continued dynamic growth of the global bioplastics industry. Bioplastics represent about 1 % of the more than 368 million t of plastic produced annually. But as demand is rising, and with more sophisticated applications and products emerging, the market for bioplastics is continuously growing and diversifying. Global bioplastics production capacity is set to increase from around 2.11 million t in 2020 to approximately 2.87 million t in 2025. Innovative biopolymers, such as bio-based PP (polypropylene) and especially PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoates) continue to drive this growth.
The nova-Institute has released the new market and technology report “Chemical Recycling – Status, Trends, and Challenges – Technologies, Sustainability, Policy and Key Players”. The market study is addressed to the chemical and plastic industry, brands, technology scouts, investors, and policy makers and provides comprehensive information around chemical recycling on 190 pages. More than 70 companies and research institutes, which developed and offer chemical recycling technologies, are presented in the report. Each company is listed with its technologies and status, investment and cooperation partners. Additionally, the report provides an overview of waste policy in the European Union. And finally, ten companies and research institutes were interviewed to receive first-hand information around the topic of chemical recycling.
Medical products such as blood bags and tubing are often made from soft PVC, a plastic that contains phthalate plasticisers, which are suspected to be harmful to human health. These substances are not chemically bound to the polymer, which means they can leach into the blood bags and thus come into contact with human cells. A new method developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films IST prevents these harmful substances from migrating into the surrounding media.
On 22 October 2020, the first meeting of the exhibitors’ advisory board marked the kick-off to the next “K” in Düsseldorf, Germany, to be held from 19 – 26 October 2022. The exhibitors’ advisory board supports Messe Düsseldorf in the preparations for K 2022 and provides consulting on basic conceptual and organisational issues.
According to research by scientists from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath, some biodegradable plastics could in the future be made using sugar and carbon dioxide, replacing unsustainable plastics made from crude oil.
It was the year 1870 and the textile industry in the western German city of Aachen was booming. A visionary young machine maker by the name of Johann Fecken took the brave decision to found his own engineering company. Financial assistance in this endeavour came from his father-in-law, who bore the family name Kirfel. Fecken-Kirfel was born. The company initially produced machines for textiles production and wool spinning. Over the years, the product portfolio grew and became more diverse. The business began producing machine tools, followed by machines for processing leather, then splitting and cutting machines for the plastic, rubber and cork industries. It was here that Fecken-Kirfel found the specialisation for which it is known around the world today as a technological pioneer.
With the Arburg Summit: Medical 2020 on 19 November 2020, Arburg hosted the first virtual summit meeting for medical technology. Thanks to the digital format of this event, twice as many guests were able to attend as at the comparable, physical meeting in the previous year. More than 400 participants from over 40 countries were there to learn about current developments, innovative applications and visions, and to exchange ideas with many medical technology experts. The twelve lectures focusing on "Solutions", "Innovations" and "Visions" were accompanied by a panel discussion. The event was enhanced by interactive breakout sessions with expert discussions and live presentations of exhibits in the Customer Center in Lossburg, Germany.
On 22 September 2020, the ZEBRA (Zero wastE Blade ReseArch) consortium was launched. Led by IRT Jules Verne, it brings together leading players and technical centres around an ambitious project addressing the design and production of the first 100 % recyclable wind turbine blade. Alongside Canoe, Engie, LM Wind Power, Owens Corning and Suez, Arkema is contributing to the development of environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions for wind power with its high performance materials.
A soft material that is 1,000 times softer than a rubber tire, but holds its shape and is as tough as metal would be extremely useful in many applications, including medical implants, stretchable electronics or lifelike “soft robots” capable of adapting to unpredictable environments. University of Virginia School of Engineering assistant professor Liheng Cai believes his lab has found a way to design a new synthetic rubber with that combination of properties.
Adsale Exhibition Services Ltd. is inviting to Chinaplas 2021, Asia’s No. 1 plastics and rubber trade fair, to be held 13 – 16 April 2021 at the Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Center in Shenzhen, China. According to the organisers, in today’s unprecedented turbulent times, the global manufacturing industry is undergoing profound and complex changes, facing uncertainties and challenges, while opening up new opportunities under the “new normal.” Chinaplas 2021, themed “New Era – New Potential – Innovation for Sustainability”, has the aim not only to stimulate development in the industries, but also to keep the momentum going in the exploration of business opportunities in the new era.
Results of the collaborative research project “Biomimetic Synthetic Rubber – BISYKA” of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft will be presented. The main goal of this project was to develop a biomimetic synthetic rubber with mechanical properties similar to those of natural rubber. The project has focused in particular on synthetic polyisoprene rubber materials with improved strain-induced crystallization (SIC). This property is currently unique to natural rubber and confers favorable properties on the natural rubber based compounds commonly used to manufacture truck tires. The laboratory method used for quantifying the degree of strain induced crystallization in various synthetic rubbers investigated in the project is described and relevant SIC parameters are compared with those of natural rubber. The results of comparative laboratory abrasion tests on an optimized biomimetic synthetic rubber and natural rubber will also be presented. Finally, we report the results of the first tests on tires with treads made from BISYKA rubber and natural rubber based compounds. The test results clearly show that similar performance parameters can be achieved by replacing the natural rubber in tire tread compounds with the biomimetic synthetic rubber developed in this Fraunhofer research project.
Using chemicals to cure or vulcanize raw rubber is a common practice in the rubber industry and is an indispensable part of rubber compounding and processing. Organic chemical accelerators in combination with primary and secondary activators are integral part of sulfur cure systems in most industrial rubber formulations. This study compares two highly efficient methods developed for the sulfur vulcanization of natural rubber and ethylene-propylene-diene rubber. One method, measures the exact amount of a sulfenamide accelerator needed to react sulfur with rubbers to form chemical crosslinks and then, adds zinc oxide as an activator to improve the efficiency of the curing process. Another method treats the surface of zinc oxide with a sulfenamide accelerator in an organic solvent to provide a convenient single material component to use as additive with elemental sulfur. In both cases, no secondary accelerator and no secondary activator were used in the vulcanization process and only the optimum amount of the chemical curatives was used for the curing of the rubbers. Both methods offer substantial benefits over the more traditional sulfur cure systems by reducing the amount and the number of the chemical curatives required in the vulcanization of the rubbers. The results suggest that the sulfur cure systems currently used to vulcanize industrial rubber compounds can be improved and be made more cost-effective and safer.