How New Technology in Injection Molding is Advancing the Use of Alternative Resins

Plastic is everywhere. Often configured through injection molding processes, it is used in packaging, construction, consumer products, textiles, electronics, and automobiles, to list just a few instances. However, decades of plastic production without a robust recycling strategy have resulted in discarded plastic products clogging the environment.

Utility vs. Environment

The global community relies on plastic and plastic injection molded products to provide innumerable services across almost every sector and industry. The malleable material also adapts to virtually any shape and provides strength, flexibility, and unmatched durability. These product assets are just some of the reasons why the use of plastic isn’t diminishing but instead is expected to grow1.

As demand continues, however, plastic waste must also be addressed, the volume of which is already astounding:

  • In 20162, more than 242 million metric tons of plastic waste were generated by the global community, which represented a full 12% of all municipal waste.
  • As of this year, the world is consuming twice as much plastic4 as it did 20 years ago. And of that volume, only 9% is actually recycled.

So why is so little plastic recycled? The short answer is that the chemistry that goes into making plastic products and parts differs based on the type of plastic being used5. These various types of plastic have to be sorted to be properly recycled. For recycling purposes, resin types are numbered from one to seven6 and are indicated within the triangle on most plastic products. The sorting of the various plastics based on their foundational resin makes recycling plastics an elaborate and challenging proposition.

Resin code identification has been used for decades to help consumers identify and sort plastic accordingly. However, more recently, municipal recycling centers have been accepting commingled (1-7) plastics and utilizing expensive sorting equipment to sort the plastic. This works well unless the package is made with two different resin types, like laundry detergent, shampoo or other similar bottle:

  • Polypropylene resin (PP), for example, can be injected at a relatively low pressure to create an injection molded plastic product and is used to make the cap for these types of packages
  • Polyethylene resin (PE), on the other hand, is chemically inert and has a large strength-to-density ratio which works well to create the blow molded bottles
  • Until now, neither of these materials would be used in the others place:
    • Bottles which hold various materials require the strength and chemically inert PE
    • High pressure is needed to inject PE and in many cases the injection molding machine may be pressure limited when trying to process PE for caps

iMFLUX Injection Molding Technology Platform

Challenge Accepted

iMFLUX’s innovative injection molding technology brings precisely the right opportunity to facilitate the recycling of plastic products while also opening new avenues for plastics industry growth. The technology allows for the creation of a mono-material, easy to sort bottle/cap package.

Because the innovative injection molding technology operates at a low constant pressure, PE can be utilized to make injection molded parts that were not previously created with PE. The resulting package becomes easier for the consumer and recycling center to handle.

The platform provides several unmatched benefits to injection molded parts and product producers:

  • It installs directly into existing molding machinery, so there’s virtually no downtime, and enhanced molding capabilities are available immediately.
  • Its low-constant-pressure assures a high-quality shot every time.
    • The closed-loop, low-pressure injection process ensures that the material flows evenly through the mold and packs each cavity as it fills.
    • A melt pressure sensor within the system monitors for pressure changes caused by gates, gaps, etc., and the automated software moderates the pressure to accommodate those changes.
  • Most importantly, from a sustainability perspective:
    • The system monitors relative viscosity and moderates temperature and pressure to accommodate variances when using alternate materials.
    • The platform enables the use of resins where they were previously assumed not to work.
    • The injection molding machine will operate at lower pressure, temperature, clamp tonnage and more to provide a significant energy savings on each machine it operates.

Benefits Presented

Plastic injection molded products are ubiquitous in most industries7, including aerospace, electronics, construction, automotive, packaging, and furniture.

Every enterprise that produces injection molded products will appreciate the opportunity to generate more products using alternative materials without adding excess capital investments. Organizations that consume injection molding stock will appreciate the opportunity to save money on parts without losing quality or consumer confidence.

Just as plastic products and waste are everywhere, the iMFLUX injection molding platform offers benefits to all industry sectors by providing a business-positive, community-appropriate response to this global environmental issue. Contact iMFLUX directly to connect your injection molding production enterprise to this ground-breaking platform and process.

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