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Plastics

 

Redesigning the world with new plastics

Among the most promising plastic materials in the large family of polymers, polycarbonate and engineered plastics (or technopolymers) are establishing themselves definitively in all application and industrial fields. The possibilities of new plastics in terms of performance and applications are growing exponentially. The market is looking for new plastic materials with increasingly specialized and advanced performances, such as to satisfy the requests for economic and environmental effectiveness and sustainability.

Polycarbonate (PC) is an amorphous thermoplastic material with exceptional resilience, heat resistance, transparency, sterilisability, flame retardancy and fade resistance. In addition, it can be easily modeled even in complex shapes or in thin films to be used as coatings. Transport and automotive, medical or construction, electronics and clothing: in each of these markets it is possible to find components made of polycarbonate.

It has been calculated that the increase in demand for polyurethane and engineered plastics over the next five years will be 5% in the medical sector, 6% in the electronics sector and up to 9% in the transport and automotive sectors.

In the biomedical field, the administration of treatments and telemedicine will push the demand for wearable devices made of technopolymers and in hospitals the search for innovative technical solutions in treatment and diagnostics is continuing. In electronics, new plastics are replacing increasingly expensive raw materials and semiconductor plastics are widely used for functional and beautiful to look at devices. But it is in the transport industry that there will be the greatest growth, driven by electric mobility which requires lighter and more technical components but with mechanical strength and safety similar to that of metals.

 

Polycarbonate, technopolymers and engineered plastics

Historically, Covestro has always had a dominant position in the polycarbonate sector and its precursors. Furthermore, collaborations with companies have prompted research and found customized application solutions based on compounds, blends, copolymers and optical grades of highly differentiated polycarbonate. The company choice is to keep the production part with high quality plastics with an advantageous cost / production ratio for companies and consumers. On the other hand, it has decided to invest more and more in the definition of new high-performance technopolymers with a strong vision of sustainability and circular economy.

 

Bio-based polycarbonate or with recycled raw material

More resistant and lighter than glass, polycarbonate saves energy and CO2 emissions and can be declined in multiple formulations to make it suitable for use in food, lighting and construction. Covestro has unique solutions on the market with different degrees of resistance to UV rays, anti-yellowing or with flame retardants. They can be reinforced with glass fiber for use in injection molding, extrusion and blow molding. It is therefore a thermoplastic material that lends itself to extremely technical applications such as medical devices, automotive lights, sports equipment, electronics, eyewear, architectural glazing, LED lighting.

A real novelty is the placing on the market of a polycarbonate based on recycled material for 75% without any loss in quality, with physical and mechanical properties and with the same processing parameters as compared to resins of fossil origin. Today, ISCC Plus certified polycarbonates with low carbon footprint are available for companies thanks to the definition of production guidelines that include the use of renewable energy and the use of bio-based or chemical recycled raw materials.

 

Technopolymers for medical applications

Where it is not possible to use standard polycarbonate it is essential to turn to engineered polycarbonates. One of the test beds of these materials is the medical field. The solution was found in an advanced polycarbonate-based copolycarbonate. Covestro has in its portfolio a unique formulation on the market that responds to all requests for devices intended for health. Compared to other technopolymers, superior properties of high heat resistance, toughness, transparency, light stability and fluidity have been verified for easy processing. Needle-free syringes have been made with this material for the home care of diabetes patients. In this case, in a very thin thickness, high rigidity, resistance to chemical agents and shocks, and the ability to withstand strong thermal excursions have been obtained. The result is a safe and simple product to use even by inexperienced users. In the field of hospital medical equipment, in addition to the well-known properties of polycarbonate in terms of physical / chemical resistance, we are looking for materials that maintain transparency even in the case of sterilization processes with gamma rays or irradiation with accelerated electrons (E-Beam ). Covestro copolycarbonate offers perfect optical characteristics and has been successfully adopted for the construction of components of hospital equipment for the administration of medicines or for dialysis. In addition, the low to medium viscosity of the material makes it suitable for highly scalable and fast production to meet the growing demand in the industry. Polycarbonate in association with polyester (PET or PBT) gives rise to a particularly resistant and versatile material. Stable at low temperatures and chemical agents, it shows exceptional compactness even when subjected to stress and humidity. This blend has been pioneered in the complex field of wearable medical devices which are the new frontier of health and wellbeing. Wearable devices represent a real crash test for materials that must have numerous standards to be met. The devices, intended for monitoring vital signs or for administering medicines, must be light, resistant to shocks as well as sweat and movement, and must also be beautiful to look at and with pleasant surfaces.

 

Full color technopolymers

In contemporary design, color is an integral part of the functionality of a product or component. The experience of the end user has equal, if not greater, importance both in technical fields - different colors can allow to identify at a glance different functions of a piece of engine, of a system - and consumer, in which the color guides the practice of use and the sensory pleasure.

Covestro polycarbonates and PC-based compounds exploit the Color Competence and Design Center (CCDC) system which allows companies to search for the correct nuances for their plastic products and obtain polycarbonates and PC compounds over time that comply with the expected colorimetry. The system is in a network that is able to supply material with the correct color from six different production sites around the world, including that of Filago in Italy.

 

The new polycarbonates for an increasingly sustainable chemistry

The new polycarbonates are an important step in the transformation of plastic chemistry into zero impact chemistry. In the production of plastic materials it is important:

  • design technology of the materials used in view of their recycling at the end of their life
  • use of recovered polycarbonate in new materials
  • replacement of precursors with substances obtained from bio-renewable mass
  • energy for production from green sources.
  • innovative solutions that drive sustainability in all sectors in which polycarbonate is used.

Michelle Jou, president of Covestro's polycarbonate segment, said:

"Offering zero impact polycarbonate is a milestone in pursuing our vision of sustainability. We are committed to supporting our customers in the mobility, electronics, electricity, healthcare and home appliances sectors to meet their challenges through products that deliver excellent performance, cost efficiency and sustainability. We support our customers in accelerating the transition to the circular economy, as well as contributing to the construction of an industrial ecology that favors circularity".

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