Energy Reduction, Material Flexibility, and Sustainability: Why the Future of Plastics Is Green

Plastic products are pervasive in the world. They provide an incalculable volume of services to billions of people every minute of every day. However, plastic waste has become an environmental hazard. While almost all global societies have been eager to adopt plastic products, they have not been as engaged in proper disposition. The situation presents a unique dilemma: How do we manage the immensity of the waste concern while also retaining the irreplaceable value that plastic offers?

One answer: More Recycling. Plastic is recyclable,  it should ― and can — be used to advance a circular economy1, where each item is produced, consumed, reformed, and reused again — and again — and again. iMFLUX is poised to play a big part in the produced and reformed portion of the circular economy.

‘Past’ Does Not Define ‘Future’

Originally, the substance that eventually became “plastic” was so named because it was “pliable and easily shaped.”2.  Early plastics were created using natural materials, such as animal horns, linen, tortoiseshell, and ivory. By the mid-20th century, however, fossil fuels had become the basis of the substance. Today’s material is composed of polymers, long chains of molecules that can rearrange their shape via pressure and temperature without losing their structural properties. There are three primary categories of plastic:

  • Thermoplastics become soft when heated and harden when cooled. Many of today’s most popular products are made of thermoplastics such as polypropylene (PP), polytetrafluorethylene (Teflon), polyethylene (PE), polyamide (PA), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and polystyrene (PS).   
  • Thermosets hold their shape permanently once formed. Familiar thermosets include polyurethane (PU), polyester, epoxy resins, and Bakelite3 (the first synthetic plastic created in 1907).   
  • Elastomers can stretch and then return to their original shape. Neoprene and rubber are elastomers. 

Every global industry has embraced plastic as a fundamental element of its success, from agriculture, medicine, and healthcare to technology and transportation. Plastic products are inexpensive to make, lightweight, durable, and flexible, which account for their continuing popularity despite the growing challenge of waste as an environmental hazard.

Solving the Problem

Scientists and engineers at iMFLUX are addressing the challenge with a novel approach. They’ve developed a process technology that makes it easier and more efficient to reuse recycled polymer materials in injection molding , making plastic waste valuable and enabling the circular economy. They believe sustainable plastics are the wave of the future.

iMFLUX Injection Molding Platform

While several factors have inhibited the use of recycled plastics in general, one in particular is resolvable, at least according to the experts at iMFLUX. 

In conventional injection molding the process is most efficient when it includes the least amount of variation in the materials.  In fact, materials producers go through several extra process steps to minimize the variation that the machine will see. Processing of post consumer resin (PCR) is much more difficult because of the amount of variation from the recycled stream.  What causes that variation?  Think about all the various things that go into a recycle bin, each of those different items is made by a different viscosity of resin.  That is what creates the variation in the recycled resin.  If the recycler was able to stick with one input (like maybe yogurt containers) then they would have a very narrow viscosity recycled resin result but that sort of recycle segregation is not technologically possible.   

The iMFLUX technology resolves the challenge by using a sensor to detect the presence of multiple viscosities in the materials mix of any given shot. It then automatically adjusts the pressure setting to accommodate for the varying viscosity properties. Applying a low-constant-pressure throughout the duration of the fill, pack, and hold stages, ensures that each cavity is entirely and completely filled and packed regardless of the nature of the material used.

Testing Proves Performance

 Plastic processors across industries are experiencing the iMFLUX difference and indicate that the low-constant-pressure injection molding technology innovations are game changers for the plastics industry as a whole.

  • The capacity to flex the material supply based on what is more readily available  opens broader avenues for reliable production.
  • Further, this SMART technology significantly automates the process, reducing labor  while also ensuring higher quality products with less scrap losses caused by errors, gaps, or flashes. 
  • Finally, the technology works on multiple fronts to reduce energy: lower pressure, lower temperature, and lower clamp tonnage required.  These factors coupled with faster cycle times lead to more production with less energy. 

Perhaps most significantly for the environment, the technology installs quickly and easily on virtually any injection molding machine, making its conversion to a SMART injection molding system almost immediate. With the platform installed, every plastic part and product manufacturer can contribute to resolving the plastic waste problem by increasing its use of PCR materials in its production .

Plastic is a sustainable product, and now there’s finally a technology to ensure it stays that way. Call the experts at iMFLUX to discuss how its innovations can change the game at your plastics production shop. Don’t forget to ask about your potential cost reductions too.