Rubber and plastic parts for robots are strong, lightweight, durable, and cost-effective. That’s not all.
When you were a kid, did you play with Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots? Part toy and part game, this childhood classic features two boxers – both robots – that are mechanically manipulated by the players. The Red Rocker and the Blue Bomber have been hitting each other since the 1960s, but today’s version of this simulated boxing match features less metal and more plastic. Plastics are generally lighter and cheaper than metals, but is plastic really tough enough for robots – even toy ones? Is rubber right for robots, too?
Does your office still use computer printers and copy machines? Thirty-nine years ago, Business Week magazine foresaw a paperless office. Although some predictions in The Office of the Future have come true, others have not. Today, I’m able to “call up documents from my files on my screen,” as George E. Parke of the Xerox Research Center correctly conjectured. Yet there’s still a place for paper at work.
According to The Economist, global consumption of office paper doubled in the last two decades of the twentieth century. Since 2001, however, paper usage has fallen. What explains the change? Is it because office workers are more environmentally conscious, or at least more conscious of paper waste? Perhaps. Today, as industry embraces a new form of “printing”, will the consumption of plastic feedstocks used in additive manufacturing lead to a dramatic increase in waste, followed by an eventual decline?
Red Solo Cups Keep the Party Going
Several years ago, American country star Toby Keith sang “Red Solo Cup, I fill you up. Let’s have a party”, a reference to the disposable red plastic cups used at many outdoor celebrations. Those red solo cups usually end up in landfills, however, and are slow to biodegrade because they’re made of polystyrene, an inexpensive thermoplastic that’s also used in many packaging materials. If consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious, will our consumption of red solo cups fall like printer paper?
If the Better Future Factory (BFF) is successful, there’s no need to echo Willie Nelson and sing “Turn out the lights, the party’s over” just yet. Founded by five industrial design engineering graduates from Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands, BFF aims to connect local streams of plastic wastes to the growing market for 3D printers and plastic feedstocks. Today, many 3D printers – especially the desktop models used at home – consume so-called “virgin plastics” instead of recycled materials.
The Perpetual Plastic Project
In a recent article in The Guardian, a national daily newspaper from Great Britain, BFF described its Perpetual Plastic Project, an interactive recycling system that lets consumers operate machines that turn plastic waste into 3D printer filaments. The global market for these feedstocks is growing, and is expected to reach $669-million (USD) this year. Plastics such as polystyrene aren’t the only materials used in 3D printing, but many consumer applications use polymers instead of metals or ceramics.
For fans of additive manufacturing, the Perpetual Plastic Project is both entertaining and educational. First, plastic scrap such as red solo cups are cleaned and dried. Then they’re shredded and filtered. Next, the recycled plastic is extruded and spooled into filaments. Finally, the Perpetual Plastic Project provides help with product design and, of course, additive manufacturing. Visitors to these recycling “events” get to keep what they make, but you’ll have to travel to Europe, Asia, or Africa to participate.
Industrial Plastic Solutions?
On its website, the Better Future Factory (BFF) recognizes that 3D printing has the “potential” to spark “a new industrial revolution.” These days, that claim isn’t as dramatic as predictions of a paperless office were back in 1975. The Perpetual Plastic Project may be enough for some consumers, but is there an industrial-scale solution for manufacturers? Recycling those red solo cups from your next office party may not provide enough plastic – or the right kind – for your company’s next 3D printed prototype.
Here at Elasto Proxy, we’re excited by the promise of additive manufacturing, yet also aware of your environmental concerns. In the last year, we’ve leveraged the power of 3D printing to support mold making, prototyping, and low-volume production of auto parts for an electric vehicle. Our growing, global company has also introduced a line of green rubber products for a wide range of industries, including building and construction, automotive, and mass transit.
How Can We Help You?
Do you have questions about recycled elastomers or biodegradable plastics? Would you like to learn more about our experience with 3D printing, or how green rubber products can support your product designs – and your bottom line? By listening to all of your application requirements and analyzing all of your needs, our solutions providers can help.
Tractors help put food on our tables and bring innovations to industry. Wheat, corn, soybeans, and potatoes feed hungry humans. Oats, alfalfa, and other grains are also eaten by livestock. Today, crops such as corn are used in everything from ethanol to processed foods to bioplastics and fillers for rubber. Polymers and elastomers also have a great many uses, including the rubber and plastic parts used on tractors and other mobile specialty vehicles.
Recently, a supplier shared with us the image that accompanies this blog entry. As you can see, there are callouts for plenty of parts. For years, Elasto Proxy has supplied door seals, window rubber, and interior trim for roll-over protection structures (ROPS). Our custom fabrication specialists have also supplied rubber floor mats and thermal and acoustic insulation for engine bays and tractor cabs. Let’s take a look at some other rubber and plastic tractor parts Elasto Proxy can provide.
Under the Hood
Most farm tractors that are built in North America have liquid-cooled engines. Typically fueled by diesel or gasoline, these power plants use an engine-driven pump to circulate coolant through passages in the engine block and cylinder heads. Engine cooling tubes and engine cooling hoses are important parts of this system, and are made of rubber and plastic materials that resist water, antifreeze, and corrosion inhibitors. These coolant tubes and hoses must also resist extreme service temperatures.
Coolant hoses for tractor engines are often made of elastomers such as silicone, EPDM, or neoprene. Runs of hose are either straight or branched, and may be reinforced with wire or fabric. For radiator hose, the SAE 20R4 D1 standard describes construction characteristics. Rubber and plastic parts for engine cooling systems may also include auxiliary cooling assemblies for tractor transmissions. High temperatures can cause transmission fluid to break down and increased component wear to occur.
In addition to under-the-hood cooling systems, rubber parts are also used to support engine lubrication. With smaller tractor engines, oil tubes are often made of cost-effective, oil-resistant rubber such as neoprene or nitrile. On engines of all sizes, the oil cap may be made of a thermoplastic such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Tractors also use hood to cowl seals made of weather-resistant rubber such as EPDM. These gaskets are fabricated from weather stripping and provide a reliable seal.
In the Cab and Around the Tractor
Tractor cabs or cabins also provide protection from weather-related conditions. Operators, instruments, and interior components such as seats, armrests, and steering wheels can avoid rain, wind, and strong sunlight. Modern tractor interiors support operator comfort, and often feature satellite radio, heat, and air conditioning. AC tube and hose assemblies are made of polymers that resist specific refrigerants. Butyl rubber is a common choice for the hose inner tube, and may be reinforced with braided steel wire.
Air conditioning hose needs to meet application requirements for maximum working pressure (psi) and working temperature range. Compliance with the SAE J2064 Type B, Class I standard indicates a hose’s suitability for off-road use. Farm tractors and agricultural equipment such as combines also need hydraulic hose assemblies, hydraulic tube assemblies, and structural tube rails. These rubber and plastic parts must resist hydraulic fluid, and meet various general, dimensional, and performance specifications.
For the operator, the tractor cabin contains the controls for several hydraulic systems. In addition to steering and braking, hydraulics are used to raise and lower loaders, mowers, cutters, and seeders. Each implement may use rubber or plastic parts. With the flip of a switch, the tractor’s operator can also activate windshield wipers with rubber blades. Rubber door and window seals, edge trim, and floor mats all provide examples of how elastomers are used in agricultural machinery.
How Can We Help You?
Elasto Proxy doesn’t build tractors, but we do specialize in the custom-fabrication of rubber and plastic parts that help keep them running smoothly. Our experienced solutions providers are ready to help you select the right compounds, design seals and insulation with all of your requirements in mind, and strengthen your supply chain. How can we help you?
Green manufacturing isn’t just about saving the planet. It’s about sustaining long-term profitability. For product designers and technical buyers, deciding whether to use green rubber products means striking a balance between business economics and environmental responsibility. Consumers say they want to “go green”, but are they willing to pay more for green parts? If green rubber products are cost-effective, will these eco-friendly components meet all of your application requirements?
These are just some of the questions that manufacturers are asking, not only of their own marketing and engineering departments, but of their supply chain partners. Answering these questions involves careful analysis, of course, but it starts with understanding what green manufacturing is about. On the one hand, there are the manufactured products used in green technologies such as solar panels. On the other, there are efforts by manufacturers to reduce, re-use, and recycle – regardless of markets served.
What Makes Rubber Green?
As a supplier of sealing and insulation solutions to both the green power industry and a variety of other markets, Elasto Proxy has asked itself what makes rubber products “green”. After extensive research and discussion, our 25-year old company defines “green rubber” with regard to product characteristics and/or production methods. Our definition may not be the same as another supplier’s, but we’ve considered our explanation carefully so that we can state it accurately and share it with you.
Some green rubber products are made of recycled elastomers, even if the original materials contained petroleum products. Other green rubber is biodegradable, and typically made of plant-based materials. Still other rubber parts deserve the “green” label because they have longer life cycles. These high-quality rubber components may or may not come from sustainable sources, but remember that rubber can be “green” if it’s made in a facility that uses wind or solar power, or that has reduced emissions.
Green Power and Beyond
As an experienced supplier to the green power industry, Elasto Proxy designs and custom-fabricates windmill door seals, sound insulation for power generators, rubber profiles for windmill blades and nacelles, lens cover gaskets, and protective profiles for the glass on solar panels. Now, as we prepare to share samples of green rubber products, our solutions providers will present these options to all of the industries we serve.
For example, the building and construction industry needs door and window seals, weatherstripping, trim, and floor matting for green homes. The automotive industry can use green materials in hatch seals, window and door seals, and thermal and acoustic insulation. Alternatively, car makers can strengthen the designs of environmentally-friendly electric vehicles with green rubber seals, mats, and gaskets. Green rubber products also can be used in mass transit applications such as trains, buses, and subways.
Join the Conversation
What makes a rubber product “green”? Is it the materials of construction, the way that it’s made – or a combination of both? Now that Elasto Proxy has shared its definition of “green rubber products” with you, we’d like to hear what you think – and understand your business needs and application requirements for green materials.
Production Coordinator at Elasto Proxy
Subway, bus, and railcar designers prefer lightweight rubber materials, but some combustion reactions can produce dangerous toxins. Reducing a vehicle’s weight can help cut fuel consumption, but material selection shouldn’t come at the expense of passenger safety. Technical buyers and part designers in the marine and aerospace industries share these concerns. Boats, ships, helicopters, and airplanes also need fireproof rubber parts such as seals, mats, gaskets, hose, flooring, and insulation.
Rubber Parts and the Right Partner
Fireproof rubber isn’t something that most passengers notice, but it’s all around them. Specialty elastomers are used in door and window seals, floor coverings and ceiling liners, and interior vehicle components such as wall panels, seat pads, and mattress frames. Fireproof rubber is also used in the cellular foams for armrests, acoustic insulation for passenger cars, and thermal insulation for engine bays. Outside the vehicle, rubbers parts such as end caps and roof housings must resist fire, too.
For designers and buyers in the mass transit, marine, and aerospace industries then, choosing the right rubber is critical. Standard, off-the-shelf profiles are available, but custom-fabrication may be required. By partnering with a supplier who listens to your needs and analyzes your safety requirements, you can strengthen your supply chain. Yet it’s also important to pick a partner who understands how fireproof rubber products are specified, and what different fire safety standards mean.
Flammability, Toxic Gases, Heat Release, and Smoke Development
The UL 94 flame rating from Underwriters Laboratories (UL) classifies rubber materials according to how they burn when vertical or horizontal, and in different thicknesses. For example, UL 94-HB is a horizontal burn test for specimens thicker than 76 mm. UL VTM-0 is a vertical burn test, but for materials that are too thin for flame tests such as UL V-0. For technical buyers then, choosing UL listed gasket materials may require an analysis of application requirements for material thickness and part orientation.
In the mass transit industry, meeting the Bombardier SMP 800-C standard for toxic gas sampling and analytical procedures is also critical. Using a calibrated chamber for smoke generation testing, this test measures the concentration of various gases (such as carbon monoxide) in both flaming combustion and non-flaming thermal decomposition modes. Fire, smoke, and toxicity (FST) tests for buses, subways, and railcars may also include ASTM E1354, which measures heat release and smoke development.
Tests, Standards, and Industry Requirements
UL 94, Bombardier SMP 800-C, and ASTM E1354 are important, but they’re not the only standards for fireproof materials. Depending on your industry, location, and customer, other tests and standards may apply. For example, aerospace engineers may need to source materials that meet ABD 0031, the Airbus standard for fire testing, flammability, smoke, and toxicity. Boeing also maintains its own fire testing standards: BSS 7238 for smoke density, and BSS 7239 for toxicity.
For marine buyers, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) provides a nine-part fire testing standard with a special focus on normal flammability, smoke density, and smoke toxicity. NFPA 130:2010 from the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) is designed for fixed guideway transit and passenger rail systems, but incorporates ASTM standards as well as Bombardier SMP 800-C, BSS 7238, and BSS 7239.
For both the automotive and mass transit industries, FMVSS 302 from the U.S. National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) specifies burn resistance requirements for materials used in occupant compartments. Technically equivalent to ISO 3795 and ASTM D5132-04, FMVSS 302 applies to buses, trucks, passenger cars, and multi-purpose passenger vehicles. The purpose of FMVSS 302 is to reduce deaths and injuries caused by vehicle fires, especially those originating in a vehicle’s interior.
How Can We Help You?
As a growing global company with partners in a wide variety of industries, Elasto Proxy can help you to source fireproof rubber products for mass transit, marine, and aerospace applications. Ask how we’ve helped retrofit railcars with neoprene door seals, and can supply custom composite insulation and self-extinguishing firestocks. Our solutions providers can also source specialty silicones, fireproof foams and extrusions, and hard-to-find fire-rated bulb trims.
How strong are solar panels? Would you stand on one and jump up and down? Would you park your car atop a solar array, or drive across photovoltaic cells at a high rate of speed? The exposed surfaces on PV panels are made of glass, but not annealed glass – the type that’s used in wine glasses, beer bottles, and some windows. Instead, solar panels use tougher, tempered glass. But just how strong is it? And could roads made of solar panels survive demanding environments like a Canadian winter?
Walk, Park, and Drive
According to Scott and Julie Brusaw, the founders of Solar Roadways, solar panels can be built so strong that you can walk, park, and drive on them. Backed by multiple phases of funding from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the couple’s company is finishing a prototype parking lot and planning for production. At Indiegogo, a crowdfunding website, Solar Roadways has already raised 196% of its $1-million goal. The technology is popular, but what about practical?
Originally, Solar Roadways planned to design panels that could support 80,000 lbs., the legal limit for tractor trailers in many jurisdictions. After learning that oil companies can move refinery equipment up to 230,000 lbs. across frozen roads, the solar startup aimed for a maximum of 250,000 lbs. instead. As the FAQ section of the company’s website explains, both 3D finite element method analysis and load testing at civil engineering labs has demonstrated that these PV panels are up to the task.
Enough Electricity to Supply the Entire World
Solar roads may be tough enough to withstand heavy weights and hard winters, but can they produce enough electricity to be cost-effective? For that matter, would panels even “pay for themselves”, as the Indiegogo page claims? As Solar Roadways admits, its panel prices are not yet available. Until prototype costs are captured and a production cost analysis is completed, critics (and even some supporters) will ask questions as tough as the panels themselves.
To its credit, Solar Roadways appreciates that “engineers love numbers” – and updates a web page called The Numbers daily. Among the assumptions is that there are 31,250.86 square miles of roads, parking lots, driveways, playgrounds, bike paths, and sidewalks in the 48 contiguous U.S. states. Given its product’s capabilities, and based on test results, Solar Roadways claims that covering these surfaces with its PV panels “could produce just about enough electricity to supply the entire world.”
Costs, Benefits – and Rats
Road builders need to consider all of their costs – and all of the benefits – before starting projects. In addition to generating electricity, Solar Roadways are designed to serve as reservoirs for storing and treating stormwater, and as corridors for power and data cables. It’s not just a matter of tearing up old asphalt and replacing the roadbed with solar panels then. There are subterranean structures to be built, and effects on flood control, public water supplies, and electrical distribution to consider.
Then there are rats – unwelcome inhabitants in many underground structures. As I learned during a recent trip to China, rats in rail tunnels will eat the door seals on passenger cars to access tastier food supplies within. These doors seals are made of rubber, as are many seals for industrial applications. For the designers of solar roadways then, it’s important to look beyond the PV glass – especially in cities. Material selection also matters for any sealing that’s used between interlocking solar panels.
Hard Winters and Underground Cables
Here in Quebec, where Elasto Proxy is headquartered, overhead wires are especially vulnerable during winter months. During the Ice Storm of 2001, for example, thousands of lines were downed and then repaired at considerable cost. Using solar roads to put power lines underground could prevent such power outages, and appeal to those who would rather not see the wires.
A Canadian winter isn’t the time to build solar roads, however, but when’s the best time to see if Solar Roadways will really work?
Did you know that some plastic parts can be as strong as metal ones? For years, the automotive and aerospace industries have been replacing metal products with plastic components. Driven by demands to reduce weight and improve fuel economy, manufacturers are adopting engineered plastics that can achieve the same tight tolerances – and with fewer secondary operations.
With the proper design and compound selection, plastic parts can provide much more than high tensile strength and corrosion resistance. Because plastic injection molding allows for undercuts, threads, and ports, product designers can create complex shapes to finish-level specifications. Specialty polymers can also provide thermal or electrical conductivity, or shielding against electromagnetic interference (EMI).
In some industries, demand for increased resistance to chemicals and heat are powering a metal-to-plastic conversion. In other industries, such as medical equipment and healthcare, cost reduction and compliance with regulatory standards are key factors. It’s not just that plastic parts cost less to produce, assemble, and ship. Engineered polymers offer numerous advantages.
Supply Chain Strength
When a leading manufacturer of hospital beds wanted to reduce costs, the company replaced metal parts with plastic ones and strengthened the entire supply chain. Elasto Proxy sourced solutions that saved the manufacturer money while ensuring on-time deliveries. Today, we supply injection-molded plastic parts made from as many as 18 different molds for each hospital bed.
These components are not especially complex, but the savings on tooling is significant. Elasto Proxy’s logistical capabilities and commitment to quality help, too. Instead of paying for a year’s worth of plastic parts all at one time, the hospital bed manufacturer can order quantities several times a year. To ensure part quality, we inspect the components carefully and verify that they meet all requirements.
Molded Plastic Parts for Hospital Beds
The pedal pads on the hospital beds are made of strong but lightweight ABS plastic. Thanks to Pantone coloring matching, the pedal pad that unlocks the hospital bed is colored green for “go”. To help patients distinguish pedal functions, the part that helps brings the bed to a stop is colored red. Both of these cost-effective, foot-driven components are designed to withstand numerous cycles.
Elasto Proxy also supplies the hospital bed manufacturer with Delrin® rollers that can support patients weighing up to 300 lbs. An engineered thermoplastic, polyoxymethylene (POM) provides high stiffness, low friction, and excellent dimensional stability. With Pantone color matching, these economical plastic rollers are colored gray to match the expensive metal that’s used on the hospital beds.
In addition to pedal pads and bed rollers, Elasto Proxy supplies the hospital bed manufacturer with plastic parts that slide over metal edges, and bed-mounted holders for patients and medical staff to use. By replacing metal parts with engineered polymers, the manufacturer is reducing costs, ensuring quality, and meeting the needs of its customers.
Visit the IHS GlobalSpec Virtual Event and Join the Conversation
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Reshoring isn’t just about Made-in-the-USA manufacturing. Here in Canada, where Elasto Proxy is headquartered, we’re also seeing a resurgence in industrial production. As The Globe and Mail reported recently, Canadian exports have reached their highest levels since the 2008 recession. To be sure, these gains would not be possible without strong international demand. Yet the fact remains that Canada, like the United States, is also enjoying a manufacturing renaissance.
Follow the Leaders
Is your small-to-medium enterprise (SME) thinking about reshoring? Then consider the example of a larger company, General Electric (GE). When GE Appliances announced in 2012 that it would invest $1-billion to build a new factory in Louisville, Kentucky, company chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt called the decision “as risky an investment as we have ever made.” Why would a Harvard Business School MBA take this chance, especially in the wake of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression?
General Electric wasn’t looking backwards. Instead, this international conglomerate was looking 5 years ahead. The U.S.-based manufacturer doesn’t have a crystal ball, but GE dared to make predictions about the future of the world’s two largest economies. Capturing current supply chain costs was important, including those of a water heater plant in China. Yet GE also considered the cost of increases in the value of the Chinese Yuan, projected cost increases in global transportation, and the role of process control.
Push and Pull
The appliance manufacturer also considered China’s demographics, especially its growing middle class. As domestic consumption rises, Chinese manufacturers can make more money by serving the domestic market than by exporting low-cost goods. It’s not just a matter of profit margins either. China’s demands for energy and materials are enormous, and the world’s second largest economy wants to devote more resources towards producing goods, such as automobiles, that will meet its own demands.
GE’s analysis explains the manufacturer’s decision with regard to China, but why build a new factory in the United States? Why not build a plant in Mexico instead, where wages are lower and access to U.S. consumers is still strong? Those who long for a return to low-skilled, hourly-wage factory jobs would do well to take note. As GE explained, its goals for the new Louisville, Kentucky plant mean creating “highly-skilled salaried jobs in fields like engineering, industrial design, and manufacturing.”
Is The Glass Half-Empty or Half-Full?
Today, some observers worry that China’s economic growth is slowing – and that the rest of the world will suffer because of changes to this major economy. China’s astronomical growth rates can’t continue indefinitely, however. At the same time, advances in technology and communications will enable more and more of China’s people to achieve Western-style standards of living. Instead of making millions of running shoes for consumers in other nations, China will build 3D printers to support its own industry.
So how do you tell your best customer that you can’t make the same products for them anymore? How will China address this issue not just with the U.S., but with other trading partners – including Canada? Supposedly, there is a Mandarin curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” The origins of this saying are unclear (and perhaps untrue), but SMEs who operate globally can live in exciting times if they understand the reasons for reshoring and take advantage of new opportunities.
Join the Conversation
If you’d like to learn more about reshoring, I encourage you to visit The Reshoring Initiative on the Web, and to study the efforts of its founder, Harry Mosher. I hope you’ll comment on this blog entry, too, by looking for a link to it on all of Elasto Proxy’s social media channels: LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.
I hope you’ll subscribe to our free e-newsletters as well. They’re a great source of information delivered right to your email inbox, and provide links to blog entries like this one.
What do Brazil, the Great Plains, the North Sea, and northern China have in common? They’re parts of the world where the winds blow strong and the potential for wind energy is incredible. Once criticized for its complexity and cost, wind power projects now generate nearly 300 gigawatts (GW) of electricity worldwide. That’s nearly triple the electricity-producing potential of Brazil alone.
Water, Wind, and Renewable Energy
What does wind power mean for Brazil, a land of plentiful rivers and dams – and home to the world’s seventh largest economy? Although hydropower will remain Brazil’s main source of electricity, experts remember the drought-driven energy crisis of 2001. Today, Brazil’s High Wilderness Wind Complex – the largest collection of wind turbines in Latin America – is nearing completion.
“Wind is the perfect complement for the hydro base that we have in Brazil,” explains Mathias Becker, president of Renova Energia, the São Paulo wind energy company that’s building High Wilderness in Brazil’s semi-arid northeast. “When it rains, we don’t have wind. When the wind blows, there is no rain.” For Becker, whose initial investment of $5000 is now a $1.5-billion business, the future is bright indeed.
Brazil’s energy demands are growing so fast that energy production must increase by 50% over the next decade just to keep pace. Russia, India, and China are also expanding their power generation capabilities to avoid an energy crunch. Today, more than 25% of the world’s wind power capacity is in China, an economic powerhouse that produced over 75,000 megawatts (MW) of wind energy last year.
Electricity and Economic Growth
Will wind farms help Brazil to avoid blackouts like the one much of the nation experienced in 2001? Will windmills provide 10% of the nation’s generating capacity by 2021, an ambitious goal but one that would provide almost enough power for São Paulo, South America’s largest city? For other wind-driven parts of the world, can wind turbines support not just consumer demand but economic growth?
In the United States, wind power is now nearly 50% of all new electricity-generating capacity. Here in Canada, where Elasto Proxy is headquartered, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) predicts that wind farms will add another 1,500 megawatts (MW) to the grid by year’s end. Europe leads the way in offshore wind farms, with the London Array producing enough electricity for a half-million homes.
If your business supports green power projects like wind farms, now is the time to strengthen your supply chain to service existing installations and meet growing demand. Whether you make solar panels, hydroelectric turbines, windmills, or wind turbines, your company needs to know that it can count on high-quality, on-time deliveries of rubber and plastic products such as sealing and insulation.
Wind Energy Technology Goes On-Line
Recently, Elasto Proxy connected with wind power partners at IHS GlobalSpec’s Wind Energy Technology event. Visitors to our virtual tradeshow booth learned how we supply high-quality rubber profiles for windmill blades and nacelles. With over 20 years’ wind energy experience, Elasto Proxy also designs and fabricates door seals, hatch and lightning gaskets, acoustic insulation panels, and anti-vibration mats.
Chennai, India generates hundreds of tons of plastic waste every day. Plastic bags like the ones used at take-out counters in local restaurants are used briefly and then discarded. Eventually, this plastic waste finds its way to landfills, where it can remain for hundreds of years.
“We have spoiled the entire world with plastic,” says T.S. Shankar, Director of Biotech Bags. His Chennai company has yet to turn a profit, but Shankar prides himself on making bags from what CNN calls “the world’s first 100% biodegradable plastic.”
Biodegradable Plastic Bags
Biotech Bags cost more, but clients such as Kentucky Fried Chicken in Mumbai are willing to pay the higher price. The environmentally-conscious owner of Sangeetha Restaurants also wants customers to understand how Shankar’s technology works, and prints a brief description of it on the bags themselves.
As customers can learn while enjoying a quick meal, Biotech Bags contains an enzyme that acts as a catalyst when the material comes into contact with soil. Within six months, the plastic bag degrades completely and, according to CNN, leaves no “toxic” residues behind.
Compostable Bioplastic Bags
Shankar’s technology is impressive, but other entrepreneurs are replacing petroleum-based plastics altogether. BioBag is a U.S. and Canadian company that makes shopping bags, commercial liners, and packaging films from plants and vegetable oils instead of polyethylene (HDPE, LDPE, and LLDPE).
Because micro-organisms that live in the soil consume plant-based materials, BioBag products are both biodegradeable and compostable. The company’s claims comply with California law as well as ASTM D6400, a standard specification for the labeling of plastics designed for aerobic composting in municipal and industrial landfills.
Government Regulation and Job Creation
California isn’t the only place that regulates “green marketing”, and cities like Los Angeles aren’t the only municipalities that restrict or even ban plastic bags. Here in Quebec, shoppers in the town of Deux Montagnes (Two Mountains), must ask for papier or bring their own recyclable bags. In other Canadian communities, plastic bags are available for a small fee.
According the Plastic Bag Ban Report, U.S. communities from coast-to-coast are following suite. In recent months, cities like Santa Fe, NM and villages like Great Barrington, MA have banned thin-film, single-use plastic bags. At the same time, Cereplast – another California company that makes bioplastic bags – may need to boost production to meet international demand from India and Italy.
Petroleum-Based Plastics and Carbon Nanotubes
In Australia, researchers at the University of Adelaide have developed a nanotechnology process that could trump the efforts of companies like Cereplast, BioBag, and Biotech Bags altogether. Using what Dr. Dusan Losic calls “nanotechnological recycling,” professors at the School of Chemical Engineering have found a way to convert non-biodegradeable plastic bags into carbon nanotubes.
Hundreds of times stronger than steel, carbon nanotubes are comparatively lightweight materials with unique electrical, mechanical, and thermal transport properties. Today, applications include electronics, energy storage, wind turbines, and sensors. By recycling polyethylene plastic bags into nanomaterials, applications could also include filtration and biomedical products.
Plastic Bags and the Environment
So are plastic bags ever “good” for the environment? The petroleum-based products from Biotech Bags may not pollute the soil, but do the compostable bioplastics from BioBag and Cereplast truly enrich it? If these biodegradable, compostable plastics wind up in landfills alongside other, harmful materials, how much is gained?
As manufactured products, all plastic bags require energy – and some of these energy sources may cause pollution. At the same time, manufactured products come from workplaces where employees earn paychecks and spend money that supports other industries and the people who work there.
Could recycling plastic bags into carbon nanotubes help the environment – and perhaps the economy – most of all? Or does our a continued reliance on disposable products inevitably lead to more pollution, especially in fast-growing parts of the developing world? I look forward to your comments.