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Rubber Scrap Turns Into High Quality Plastic

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by - 11/17/2015 5607 Views

Downcycling Rubber Scrap

Let’s Tango! A breakthrough has been achieved & thanks to the researchers at Fraunhofer Umsicht in Oberhausen who were able to develop a new kind of environmentally friendly material mix called “elastomeric powder modified thermoplastics” EPMT in short, by the process of downcycling.  Downcycling is a procedure wherein the waste materials undergo a total transformation - things we would throw away - into another product of lesser quality, e.g. transforming a post-consumer plastic bottle into a new lower grade product, or rubber residues to floor coverings or safety crash pads. 

This process uses  rubber scrap as a modifier for plastics, at ratios of 60-80 percent. Products such as lawn mower wheels and splashguards are being tested at potential customer facilities. The research focuses on technical rubber products, such as profiles, sealing rings and rubber mats. The objective of the research work was to systematically analyze elastomers in powder and granulate form to optimize the recycling of rubber residues, because the elastomers in powder and granulate form can be used as functional additives, i.e., they provide plastics compounds with the desired properties such as haptics, hardness or elasticity.

By adding elastomeric powder, Fraunhofer UMSICHT has now developed high quality plastics compounds, called elastomeric powder modified thermoplastics (EPMT). The materials are already undergoing application tests at industry customers.The new plastics compounds are processed into granulates in the compounder system, together with thermoplastics and additives. These in return can be processed on thermoplastic processing equipment.

Fraunhofer said the recycling of elastomers increases the added value and opens up new market perspectives. Production waste, e.g. from rubber processors can be recycled. At present, 60-80 percent of elastomeric powder by mass can be worked into the thermoplastic matrixes. EPMT can be used cost-effectively, are easily processed in injection molding or extrusion machines, and are recyclable. (Source: http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20121114/NEWS/311149971)

It's believed that most of the 20 plus million tons of rubber that is processed every year globally goes into manufacturing vehicle tires and that once rubber products reach the end of their useful lives, for the most part they end up being incinerated. Even when the rubber scrap & waste are reclaimed and re-used to make new products, the lack of techniques for producing high-quality materials means that the recyclables are downcycled to secondary products such as arena or playground floor coverings or padded doormats. Looking for new ways to optimize the recycling of rubber scrap, researchers now have developed a material called EPMT that has the desired material properties and characteristics for use in the manufacture of high quality products such as wheel and splashguard covers, handles, knobs and steerable casters.

Holger Wack, Damian Hintemann and Nina Kloster from the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen, Germany, have until today developed three basic elastomer powder modified thermoplastics (EPMT) recipes and have formed a new company named RUHR Compounds in order to market EPMT. The company is also offering custom services which examine where EPMT could be used to replace existing materials in customer product ranges and then come up with special recipes to match specific requirements.

Machines currently used by the researchers are capable of producing up to 350 kg (770 pounds) of EPMT per hour and individual material properties like elasticity, breaking strain and hardness are easily modifiable according to the need of the customer.

"In the first step, the rubber scrap & waste – that can be meter-long rubber pieces are granulated to three-millimeter large particles," explained Dr. Wack. "The particles are cooled with liquid nitrogen and then ground into elastomeric powders. This is then conducted to the melt-mix process with thermoplastics and additives. Here we use, for example, polypropylene as a thermoplastic material."

The new compounds can contain up to 80 percent residual rubber and the researchers claim that EPMT can be easily processed in injection molding and extrusion machines. EPMT used in the manufacture of new products can itself, be recycled again when those products reach the end of their useful life.

For almost ten years, the well-known sports goods manufacturer Nike has been collecting used sneakers under its "Re-use a Shoe" program and recycling the soles as filler material for arenas and running tracks under the "Nike Grind" label. The company is now working with the Fraunhofer researchers to place new EPMT-based products on the market, with the first promotional items already available from Tim Green Gifts. (Source: http://www.gizmag.com/scrap-rubber-epmt-plastic/24992/)

Category : Rubber

Tags : Scrap Rubber Residues, Rubber Scrap, High Quality Plastic from Rubber Scrap, Rubber Scrap Turns into Plastic

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About Georgy Abraham

As the bright morning of 28th May dawned in the year 1972, in the fulfillment of time according to the plan & will of Almighty Godbrought me forth into this world and I was brought up & educated in Orissa. My parents provided me with the best of education in an English medium school with high standa .... more info


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