Biopolymers have been evolving consistently for quite a few years now. From initial uses as a film in food packaging, they are gaining exposure in injection molding applications in additional consumer markets. Places where they experience controlled environments like additional food contact items e.g. eating utensils and plates/trays have emerged. In office and home where there are desktop and countertop items like trays and holders. Medical disposables, single use items have seen a rise in their use, as have implantables where the device fulfills its purpose and as the body heals, the item dissolves or combines with the body. In addition, agricultural products where the same function, support and dissolve, are becoming commonplace.
The market is primarily customer driven where firms recognize a need for carbon footprint reduction, or see a marketing advantage in offering the option.
Injection molding with these biopolymers and composites has been a learning process. While processed identically, they can be more “sensitive” than traditional resins and composites. Early on, processing windows were quite narrow, the biopolymers were very hygroscopic, molders needed to learn how to handle shooting these materials. Drying, temperature control, equipment and processing parameters were all more exacting than traditional injection molding grade polymers. In time, material manufacturers and made developments that have opened up some of these processing parameters and equipment demands.
As with all markets, maturation will continue and if your application looks like it could benefit from a biopolymer, certainly investigate it with your molder.
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