Efforts to shift from oil-based to biomass-based plastics are increasing as companies look for ways to help protect the environment.
Bioplastics, for example, are being used increasingly in consumer electronics, automotive interiors and other areas to replace oil-based plastics, but conventional heat-resistant polylactide (PLA) moulding compounds have a low heat resistance and a longer injection-moulding cycle time.
Moulding compounds have been developed by mixing PLA with oil-based plastics, but attaining the desired levels of heat resistance and mouldability has required a high ratio of oil-based plastic.
Now, however, engineers at Panasonic Electric Works and Teijin have jointly developed a PLA moulding compound made from 80 per cent plant-based renewable feedstock that they claim provides moulding cycle times of around half that of conventional PLA compounds.
Panasonic Electric Works will begin selling the new material this month for use in the housings of mobile phones and other mobile devices and digital consumer electronics. The company said that it initially plans to produce 1,000 tons of the material annually.
The bioplastic used in the so-called MBA900H material is Teijin’s Biofront, a heat-resistant PLA with a melting point of at least 210°C – significantly higher than that of conventional PLA. The Biofront material also shows better hydrolytic stability and achieves semi-crystallisation in just 20-25 per cent of the time required with a conventional PLA.