At this year’s Chinaplas—Asia’s largest plastics trade fair—the focus was largely on environmental protection, efficiency and automation. Many Chinese and Asian attendees took the opportunity to showcase cutting edge plastics and plastics-related equipment and processes. DirectIndustry e-magazine talked to four plastics pioneers.
Until recently, many Asian plastics manufacturers—especially in China—operated on a low-tech, high-volume basis. Yet tougher market conditions and calls by the Chinese government for leaner, greener, higher-value production have seen an increasing number of manufacturers beginning investing in R&D, energy-efficient automated systems and the development of genuinely innovative materials.
The Plastics That Naturally Decompose
Of the approximately 400 million tons of plastic produced globally every year, China is responsible for over 60 million tons. Of this, the vast majority is petroleum-based. Yet a growing level of environmental awareness and concern for public health is now driving change.
Taiwanese biodegradable plastics manufacturer Grabio used this year’s Chinaplas to exhibit its fully biodegradable and compostable line of starch plastics. Unlike conventional plastics, Grabio’s products are naturally broken down by micro-organisms into carbon dioxide and water after a few months of exposure. Grabio president Arthur Wang says:
The fact that our plastics naturally decompose saves farmers the cost of having to retrieve them. Rather than petroleum-based components, we use renewable raw materials such as corn starch in production, with bio-based content ranging from 35% to nearly 60%.
The Recycling Revolution
Last year was a challenging one for the Chinese plastics recycling industry, with the price for recycled material dropping sharply as it mirrored that of the crude oil barrel price. Beijing also rolled out several policies aimed at tightening up the handling of waste materials.
Such tough times have compelled many Chinese recyclers to invest in automated, energy efficient technology in order to remain competitive. Chinaplas 2016 gathered together over 150 recycling-focused exhibitors, displaying everything from sorting, shredding and cleaning, to dewatering, drying and pelletizing technology.
Taiwanese recycling equipment manufacturer Zhejiang Boretech presented a new, highly automated production line under the “Bottles In, Fibers Out” concept.
Alan Ou, Zhejiang Boretech’s vice president, says:
Today most PET bottle flakes are used in the textiles industry. By connecting all the recycling processes—including washing, storage, blending, dosing and fiber production—our equipment leaves recyclers with directly usable fibers, which are a far more valuable end product.
With China facing increasingly acute labor shortages and wage pressure, many plastics manufacturers are facing rapidly rising production costs. To help alleviate such problems, some companies displayed energy efficient and intelligent automation technology.
Hong Kong-based Akei Holdings promoted its newly launched product: the AE-900-TS, an all-electric blow molding machine. With all machine movements driven by a Siemens servo motors and Lim-Tec linear actuators, the AE-900-TS is designed to offer an energy efficient, eco-friendly solution for the global blow molding industry. Simon Tam, Akei’s managing director, says:
The noise levels of the AE-900-TS are typically 30% lower compared to hydraulic competitors. Moreover, our fully electric systems typically consume 86% less power than variable hydraulic systems, and 69% less than servo-driven hydraulic systems.
Also on display at Chinaplas 2016 were a selection of newly launched injection molding machines from Taiwanese manufacturer Fu Chun Shin (FCS), including the innovative HB-350R. FCS produces a wide range of machines, boasting clamping forces from 30 through to nearly 4,000 tons.
FCS believes that its HB-350R is a solution to the increasing demand for lightweight automotive parts as well as bigger dual-component parts. According to the company, its new machine removes the need to pre-heat and dry plastic before and after production, and saves space by only having two platens and a horizontal turntable. A German servo system also boosts energy efficiency.
From Taiwan to mainland China and Hong Kong, Chinaplas 2016 demonstrates that East Asia’s plastic pioneers are increasingly pushing the technological boundaries.