Material and technology developments that affect the masterbatch industry

AMI's Masterbatch conference took place in Barcelona, Spain from 24-26 June 2008. Andrew Reynolds of AMI began by describing the effects of changes in the overall polymer markets on the masterbatch industry: growth for the past 5 years has been at 6%/year but has now slowed to 4%/year, a trend expected to continue to 2012. NAFTA and Japan have the highest current per capita plastics consumption followed by Europe, with room for growth in other geographic regions. Understanding the mood and preference of customers will give companies a market edge. Alok Masterbatches reviewed the local situation in India: there is a huge middle class of 300-350 million with disposable income. As social improvement continues this is expected to reach 600 million in 2025. The masterbatch industry is growing at 20% p.a. Kraft Foods described the requirements of packaging including product protection, marketing and branding, consumer safety, distribution and product information. Infestation is more of an issue with some designs than others. Tests include aroma protection. Plastic flow packs have many advantages over the traditional foil and paper packaging for chocolate. The toy market has a big emphasis on colour. Lego has 1100 injection moulding machines and masterbatch is widely used. The requirements include global availability, safety, good physical properties, low costs, high consistent quality and a large processing window. The company uses 55 colours and 30 types of material. Nubiola has a range of ultramarine pigments with food contact approval and low migration, suitable for use with all types of polymer and non-warping or shrinking. Techmer discussed the routes to continuous business improvement by raising standards and adding value. Providing the customer with high quality, consistent product and good technical support are part of the package. It works with clients to accelerate new product development using techniques such as advanced colour matching systems. BASF has extensive experience in additives such as UV stabilizers and food contact approved materials. Ciba has been looking at additive combinations and their effect on warpage, particularly pigments and nucleating agents. The company has also been working with formulators to keep up with the changing European food contact legislation and avoid costly mistakes. Surface treatment of additives can improve dispersion and speed up production – Huntsman has worked on this for its titanium dioxide pigment range. It enables single-feeding even at loading of 70-80%. Clariant has researched the coloration and stabilization of TPEs, where the largest market applications are sports and leisure, conveyor belts and shoes. The issues with processing TPEs include shear sensitivity, stickiness, colour fade and flow. These can all be resolved with good formulation. DuPont also has methods of improving flow with fluoropolymer processing aids. Pomini produces continuous mixers for masterbatch production and has studied the ‘mechanochemistry’ of the process for different applications. Leiztritz has large volume, high torque twin screw extruders for mixing masterbatch. Gala GmbH and Automatik Plastics Machinery have some of the latest pelletising equipment ETHIC is the compounders division of the European Plastics Converters and works to represent the industry, for example in the complex issues of European legislation. Masterbatch 2008 was very successful, attracting 200 delegates from the industry, including all the leading masterbatch players. The conference looked in detail at the raw material and technology developments that are affecting today’s masterbatch industry and the implications for the future direction of the industry. The next event is scheduled for June 2009.
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