DESIGNING BIOPLASTICS PRODUCTS Rolf Koster Delft University, Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Delft, Netherlands r.p.koster@tudelft.

nl Remy Jongboom Biopearls, Zetten, Netherlands Emre Tufekcioglu School of Industrial Arts, Anadolu University, Eskisehir, Turkey
Abstract The ongoing need to keep reducing trial-and error in product design applies to plastics products, and perhaps even more to bioplastics. The bioplastics market, however small, is rapidly growing. Much of this growth can be attributed to packaging, films, and bags. Applications in injection moulded products have been less numerous until now. Injection moulding typically offers design opportunities for mass production, mass customization, and efficient material usage. The benefits of new opportunities offered by material improvements, new materials, and new technologies will only be expressed in actual products if all benefits are understood and used as needed, and all existing and new challenges are met. Bioplastics offer partly unknown opportunities and challenges which may necessitate revision of the current design guidelines for injection moulded bioplastics products as well as adjustments to current practices of plastics injection moulding. Advantages and disadvantages of bioplastics are not always fully clear, partly because product behaviour cannot yet fully be predicted, and even more because life cycle issues are very complex and often do not allow final conclusions. Another factor remaining essential in designing injection moulded plastics products is to optimize unavoidable weak spots in products, such as flow weld lines. The reduced mechanical perfomance depends considerably on the combination of geometry characteristics and moulding parameters. These factors were addressed as part of a research activity involving experimental work as well as developing appropriate design support. Specimens from products moulded from two bioplastics were found to have better impact strength than for a polystyrene, in product regions both without and with flow weld lines. Certain non-trivial injection moulding settings, which reduce the impact strength in neat product regions, were found beneficial for weld line properties. Such results are important for iterative product design optimization for mechanical performance and manufacturability.

Introduction Material developments for bioplastics as well as certain bioplastics applications are rapidly progressing and are expected to keep progressing in the near future. Few product-related expertise in bioplastics is generally accessible at the moment. It is desirable to have a more or less complete picture of design opportunities and challenges, which will evolve with all the bioplastics-related developments. The present paper explores the current situation.

Designing injection moulded plastics products Plastics are a good example of a broad class of materials which have offered new design opportunities and challenges compared to more traditional materials. The developments are still progressing rapidly and include bioplastics-related developments which will be discussed in the next section. Plastics are usually appreciated because of their unparallelled versatility for shaping products [Plastics Engineering, 2001] and wide range of colour and visual effects options, serving both aesthetices and various other functionalities. Plastics have become successful in many applications, both for replacements and for new designs. Common benefits in replacement applications include: increased product differentiation, lower over-all costs, weight reduction, noise reduction, reduced number of parts by integration of product functions, simplification or even elimination of product assembly operations, and more [Carrabine, 2002], [Beall, 2002]. New designs may be successful if specific opportunities offered by plastics have been used creatively. For example, two or more materials may be combined in a single part by multicomponent injection moulding in a way that could not be achieved by conventional assembly of separate parts. Hard-soft combinations, for example, usually consist of a thermoplastic and a thermoplastic rubber. The increased demand for thermoplastic rubbers has driven material improvements. The materials involved have sufficient adhesion nowadays, such that the material components in a part no longer need to mutually enclose one another [Boer, 2006]. This is an illustration of product design guidelines evolving with material and technology developments. Whereas the large number of design opportunities offered by plastics enables a great design freedom, dealing with them and keeping up with the latest developments is a challenge. Other challenges for product development with plastics are the complex material behaviour, both during manufacturing and in the final product, and the complex interdependence of factors [Kennedy, 2004]. Thinking in plastics by designers and applicators includes considerations of product realization and requires different manufacturing and assembly philosophies [WJT Associates, 2005], and hence different views on product architecture. Preliminary design stages require a rather high level of detail if design and development are to proceed effectively and efficiently [Mascarenhas et al., 2004]. An interdisciplinary team approach is necessary when dealing with plastics, starting from early design and development stages [WJT Associates, 2005]. Present status of bioplastics On a molecular scale, bioplastics are somewhat similar to oil-based plastics, i.e., they consist of molecules with long chains, called macromolecules. Similar to oil-based plastics, most bioplastics only become practically useful after addition of one or more types of additives [Jongboom & Dartée, 2006]. A major difference with oil-based plastics is that most bioplastics are produced from annually renewable resources, most of them agricultural feedstocks at present. The first step towards bioplastics is always to obtain suitable and sufficient biomass from the applicable resources. After this first step there are currently three different routes to arrive at bio-based macromolecules [Yu et al., 2006], [Jongboom & Dartée, 2006]: ● extraction of naturally occurring macromolecular materials from resources; ● synthesis of macromolecules from naturally occurring materials in resources; ● microbial activity generating macromolecules from naturally occurring materials in resources.

. by NatureWorks. and miscellaneous packaging products. 2005]. having properties similar to the engineering plastic polybutyleneterephtalate. a high molecular mass energy storage product of certain bacteria and algae [Moore & Saunders. Composite materials of PLA with inorganic fillers or nanoclay have been studied too [Uruyama et al. 2000]. 2003].. [Paul et al. The best known synthesized bioplastic from natural materials is polylactic acid (PLA). For tissue engineering. is being developed by Dupont. The efficiency of the process needs inprovement [Ball. 2004]. In spite of the uncertainty about future developments. and reduced cost [Türesin et al. Starch appears most promising among these materials. several forecasts exist about the expected growth of bioplastics.. and cellulose. 2004]. giving a softer feel than most synthetic fibres [Vink el al. bags. corn syrup. [Jongboom & Dartée. Worldwide bio-based plastics consumption has increased from 40 000 tonnes in 2000 to 270 000 tonnes in 2005 and is predicted to be 800 000 tonnes in 2010 [European Bioplastics. 2006]. An example is a method to derive molecular building blocks for polyester or polystyrene directly from an ingredient of fructose. [Gaspar et al. 2002]. reduced stiffness. known as Ingeo™. extracted from corn. PLA is also available in the form of fibres.. Enhanced performance materials are expected from more sophisticated synthesis and blending techniques [Freedonia. a bio-based rubber-like material was developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology [Thomson. Applications in injection moulded products. sugar cane and other sources [Hakkarainen et al. 2001].. The above examples are a few selections from many new developments which are expected to be going on. [Savenkova et al. 2006]. Sorona. enabling new design opportunities in addition to the existing ones. Sorona is also being applied as a molecular building block for a thermoplastic rubber.Examples of naturally occurring macromolecular materials are starch. and rice [Curvelo et al. 2006]. and honey. based on lactic acid derived from starch or sugar. potato. 1999]. wheat. 2006]. enabling declining material prices which currently are. This material can be applied as a filler material and in textiles. protein. Copolymerizing PHB with hydroxyvalerate enables miscellaneous compounds with different degrees of reduced brittleness.. which can be. strength and stiffness. Another example is a glass-filled material consisting for 37% of renewable corn sugar-derived material. The most common PHA is polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). which is a sugar found in fruit. 2006]. on the average. Certain additives in PLA enable different degrees of reduced brittleness and reduced stiffness.. Most of the current bioplastics market consists of films. Adjustments to its material composition enables a range of material properties from hard thermoplastic to rubber-like [Snell et al. . although the balance of properties still needs improvement. This partly bio-based plastic. 2000]. Hytrel [Plastics Engineering.. 2003]. Market growth is expected to be accompanied by higher production efficiencies. potato. 1997]. New developments of bio-based plastics are ongoing and are at different stages of applicability. The best known macromolecular materials generated by microbial activity are polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). Common sources for starch are crops. Another example is poly-3-hydroxybutyrate-co-4hydroxybutyrate copolymer. in turn. have been less numerous until now. 70% to 80% higher than the commodity plastics they usually replace [Toensmeier. 2000]. Some of such materials have improved thermal stability.. suitable for material-efficient products made in large production volumes.

● perception of bioplastics products by consumers. comparable to commodity plastics at the lower end. [Jongboom & Dartée. 2006]. printability without pre-treatment. many aromas and flavours. It may be desirable that products by themselves. There are other important factors. 2006]. Manufacturability with starch-based plastics. to synthetic polyester-like or rubber-like properties. Communication by products is an issue well known by many designers and will not be discussed further. A wide range of mechanical properties is offered by PLAs (optionally blended with other biodegradable polyesters) and PHAs. and adhesives to replacement heart valves [Snell et al. i. or to a better world in another respect.. the final product will be brittle [Chen et al. The range of material properties by different compositions of poly-3hydroxybutyrate-co-4-hydroxybutyrate copolymer enables applications from low-cost moulded goods. deadfold twist retention.. which will be discussed in the next section. convey to the user that they contribute to a more sustainable world.. and thermoformed packaging products [Jongboom & Dartée. Other possible properties include breathability (water vapour transmission) and water solubility. without colourants etc. i. These factors will not be discussed in this paper. better than several polyesters and nylons [Kurian. fibers. even though physical and mechanical properties may be different.. coatings. Some typical characteristics of PLA include: similar or higher stiffness than polyesters attainable.. has been improved considerably over the past years but is still challenging [Chen et al. A wide range of material properties and property combinations is offered by the currently available bioplastics. It should be noted that most bioplastics as supplied in their basic form. The perception by consumers is obviously essential. and good flammability resistance [Jongboom & Dartée.. The remaining discussion in this section will concern objective factors and uncertainties. such as business activities. do not clearly look. This obviously requires that such products do actually contribute to sustainability. 2006]. 2006]. requiring water as a plasticizer. and several gases. Successful examples of starch-based products include films for food packaging and garbage. 2005].. and activities by institutes for research and education. Bioplastics can generally be converted into products by existing principles of plastics processing.Design considerations for bioplastics applications Similar to the oil-based plastics enabling a great design freedom as well as posing major challenges to be overcome. ● price. good permeation resistance to grease. The delicate balance between manufacturability and mechanical product properties depends on water absorption capacity in a complicated manner: if it is not optimum. government regulations. [Curvelo et al. it has been found for PLAs and PHAs that . feel or sound different than plastics in general. Particularly for injection moulding.e. one or both of which may be obtained by using starchbased materials.e. 2000]. 2001]. the same is likely to be true for bioplastics. 2006]. based on the current state of knowledge. Perhaps the best known property is biodegradability. without fully relying on additional information. Opportunities as well as challenges will partly depend on: ● properties enabled by material characteristics. Life cycle and environmental considerations will be briefly discussed in the next section. Exceptional stretch recovery characteristics are reported for Sorona. ● conversion of materials to products.

and end-of-life options. It is almost certainly better than biodegradation under anaerobic conditions in landfill [Gerngross & Slater. 2003]. may in some cases be higher than for obtaining oil-based plastics [Gerngross & Slater. although final conclusions are often difficult . It is feasible. 2005].. All of these factors combined may result in carbon dioxide emission which.adjusted moulding conditions and specific moulds are required for obtaining quality products [Plastics Engineering. [Bucci et al. Although successful bioplastics products are being manufactured. The technoeconomic feasibility of PHB production has been compared for two situations: it was uncompetitive in case of corn-based processes as carried out in the US. In most known situations. as well as usage of agricultural facilities. 2006]. particularly PHB: the energy demand is determined by such factors as fertilizer production. Integration. Composting processes. corn wet milling. however. The over-all cycle for PLAs is much less energy-intensive: about 60% of the over-all energy needed to obtain oilbased nylons. such as in a sugar mill.e. area to volume ratios [Jongboom & Dartée. most bioplastics can be returned to the environment by decomposition into natural organic materials. Energy recovery by incineration.. The state of knowledge on these complex issues is expanding. An option for such biodegradation is under so-called anaerobic conditions as in landfill. Life cycle considerations such as over-all consumption of energy and resources. similar to the ones applied for plant trash. are an attractive alternative for bioplastics in landfills [Avella et al. which would make relatively small plasticizing units on moulding equipment desirable. Composting may or may not be the best ecological solution. 2003]. Material recycling is another end-of-life option for plastics as well as bioplastics. 2003]. but beneficial in case of sugar mill-based processes as carried out in Brazil. Technological advances and simplifications may likely enable an improved energy balance [Gross & Kalra.. 2003]. is generally preferable over separate processes for obtaining bioplastics.. Life cycle issues A challenge for bioplastics is to verify and minimize the over-all amounts of energy and raw materials. These conditions cause emissions of carbon dioxide and methane: the latter is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide [Gerngross & Slater. 2006].. 2004]. few publications are known to the authors which address issues related to converting bioplastics into products. 2006]. over-all emissions. products. 2006]. which is also viable for several oil-based plastics. fermentation. A further challenge is that some bioplastics melts easily degrade as a result of hydrolysis. 2003]. [Zhang et al. however. using controlled gasification conditions. farming. is basically possible for all bioplastics too [Reske et al. For all biodegradation processes it must be kept in mind that the rate of the process is not a material property only. and developments. i. structures. are subjects of study as well as discussions. The figures would improve if renewable energy sources were used. plastics inherently compare infavourably to metals in particular. overall. and injection moulders are gradually becoming familiar with PLAs [Plastics Engineering. Regarding end-of-life issues for products. 2005] and yield matter which is suitable to replace oil-derived fertilizers [Gross & Kalra. The majority of publications concern material preparation. and polymer purification. 2000]. depending on the nature of the materials. properties. regarding recyclability [Biron. 2006]. to recover methane. needed to obtain processable materials [Gerngross & Slater. and the collection system for used products. but also depends on product geometries. The conversion of biomass to bioplastics requires energy which may be rather high for PHAs.

The same is thought to be true for biodegradability and sustainability. material stability during product life. particularly regarding conversion of materials into products. Perceived needs and approach Essential success factors for bioplastics products include processability. 2007]. Such clips offer an easy-to-learn way to prevent cracking. In conjunction with the design support activity an experimental research activity has been initiated. a design support activity is thought desirable related to application of bioplastics and other new materials. The applicability-related conclusions from the results obtained to date are summarized in the next section. although the latter is such a complex issue that no final conclusions can be drawn at present. more product-related work is thought necessary. This is claimed to give the truss extra strength. Such additional work is certainly needed for product manufacturing by the many injection moulding principles. The clip is an injection moulded product featuring a snap fit and an integral hinge. enabling a myriad of future design opportunities. depending on the situation [Gross & Kalra. 2003]. The benefits of materials will only be fully expressed in products if potential weak spots can be properly addressed in product design. is fully compostable within 12 weeks and may be therefore included in the plant trash (Deleco). for oil-based plastics. a PHB. The BioClip. .to draw. and further processability research is needed. 2003]. using a polystyrene. which are most complex for oil-based plastics and may be at least as complex for bioplastics. Well-known examples of weak spots in injection moulded plastics products are flow weld lines at locations where two melt flow fronts meet during moulding. Therefore some of the results may still be less than optimum. predictability and achievement of desired product properties based on material properties and processing parameters. Tufekcioglu & Vlasveld. aimed at obtaining productoriented results. particularly in the larger of the two injection moulding machines used. Since designers need to deal with a large set of factors and often try to generate a more or less complete picture of product requirements. Such design support has been addressed elsewhere [Koster. Both the PHB and the PLA were found sensitive to degradation during plasticizing. One of the lessons to be learnt from designing with the existing oil-based plastics is that most material substitutions require an experienced designer or dedicated experts to help translate material properties into product performance [Manisalco. is among the considerations in early design stages. An example of an appropriate bioplastics application is the BioClip® by Deleco (figure 1). made of a modified PLA (by Biopearls). In addition to the largely materials-related research for bioplastics. Changes in infrastructures may be required for ultimately achieving optimum over-all solutions. and controlled product biodegradation when desired after the end of product life. Preliminary experimental results Several geometries with different shape characteristics were injection moulded. bending and damaging of crop trusses during growth. providing better fruit quality and higher production. and a modified PLA. The autors’ impression is that material properties and improvements for bioplastics have been and are being addressed extensively. which. Detailed description of the experiments as well as the results will be published in the near future.

The best weld lines were obtained with injection moulding parameter settings which would be non-trivial for normal injection moulding practice. the flow weld line. however. This also applied to the weakest spot. which. was not yet thoroughly tested. Mr. provided PHB material free of charge and assisted us in injection moulding optimization. The aim is to develop a systematic approach for dealing with novelties and challenges and for establishing missing information and expertise associated with new materials such as bioplastics in product design. Ben Norder and Mr. . The following persons at Delft University gave inspiring support: Prof Dr Han Brezet. This indicates an optimization issue which has not been fully resolved yet. The Delft Industrial Design Engineering students Lobke van Erve. Closing remarks The initial results available until now are intended to contribute to application-related knowledge as needed for product development. as well as to contribute to product-related research results with practical value. Bregtje van Dijken. even for oil-based plastics. although the relative difference with polystyrene was less for this case. The ongoing additional work will continue to be guided by application-related needs.An interesting result is that with PHB a better mechanical impact resistance than with polystyrene was found. It is an interesting result. Martijn Baller and Johan Land performed excellent test programmes. considering the drive towards minimization of material usage. Acknowledgments Dr Urs Hänggi at Biomer. The mechanical impact resistance was generally better for the modified PLA than for the PHB. Prof Dr Imre Horvath. and almost as good as for an impact modified polystyrene. Germany. Gerard de Vos at the Delft Faculty of Applied Sciences generously supported experimental work. and Prof Dr Stephen Picken. The associated product design support activity will be useful for guidance and inspiration.

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Eskisehir. Delft University. University College Ghent. NL School of Industrial Arts. Biopearls . Anadolu University.EAD 2007 Izmir TR Designing Bioplastics Products Rolf Koster . Promolding.Anadolu Üniversitesi TR Collaborative Partners Faculties of Industrial Design Engineering and Applied Sciences. TR Faculty of Applied Engineering Sciences.Delft University NL Remy Jongboom .Biopearls NL Emre Tüfekçioğlu . H&P Moulding. BE Industries (NL): Pézy. Timmerije.

Petrosky) ... evidence that limits of design have been exceeded” (Success Through Failure. things that fail ....Collaboration with Partners From (mind to) materials to products For plastics and new materials Focus on integrating product design and realization Collaboration with Partners Why this collaboration ? (1) “things that succeed teach us little ....

Collaboration with Partners Why this collaboration ? (2) “fail early. fail often (Petrosky) in “academic” environment learn why. reduce trial-and-error. stretch design limits benefit for industrial application Designing Bioplastics Products Introduction Product Development Bioplastics Learn from Nature Discussion Designing Bioplastics Products .

Introduction Product development: critical look at design practice designing with plastics Bioplastics: not just a new plastic need “new world” → what next? Designing Bioplastics Products Introduction Product Development Bioplastics Learn from Nature Discussion Designing Bioplastics Products .

Product Development What do users / customers really need or wish ? plenty of uncertainties will change over time user need product function product Product Development Fulfill user / customer needs: consider “all” options decision making deal with uncertainties and subjective factors (product-user interactions) .

Product Development To achieve product functions: consider “all” options team up with miscellaneous experts stay up-to-date dedicated testing Product Development Lessons learnt from designing with plastics (1) prerequisite: thinking in plastics complex material behavior and interdepencies of variables noticeable time dependence .

dedicated testing very common (feasibility / optimization) often not publicly “admitted” could also be termed “trial and error” . a challenge to deal with Product Development Product development with plastics .Product Development Lessons learnt from designing with plastics (2) rather high level of detail in early product design stages unparallelled versatility in shaping → many opportunities.

. weaker.. → functions → parts → subassemblies → assemblies → product use → waste ⎜ .Product Development Most engineers: (unconsciously) deal with plastics as a special type of metal (softer.) . etc...

sheet metal → injection molded plastic 30 parts → 1 part → 40% weight reduction → 90% (!) cost reduction printer carrier (Océ / Pézy) Product Development Designing with plastics: open and active attitude towards new manufacturing philosophies views on product architecture holistic view on product life cycles .

Designing Bioplastics Products Introduction Product Development Bioplastics Learn from Nature Discussion Designing Bioplastics Products Bioplastics not just a new type of plastic perhaps best known for biodegradability (not all bioplastics!) However each material is (bio)degradable. be it in different time scales .

Bioplastics Bio ? Refers to resources Resources: annually renewable less dependence on specific resources in limited regions of the world .

effectiveness avoid competition with food resources .Bioplastics Challenges for proper usage of resources (1) several (industrial) steps from resource to material product manufacturing. particularly injection molding (equipment & molds) Bioplastics Challenges for proper usage of resources (2) integration with food production for cost .

Bioplastics Biodegradability is a product property is not always desirable Question: why should end of product life cause waste of resources ? .

or new destination for materials holistic view on material flows Designing Bioplastics Products Introduction Product Development Bioplastics Learn from Nature Discussion Designing Bioplastics Products .Bioplastics After end of product life preserve valuable resources.

Learn from Nature Holistic view on material flows balance between production and break-down bio-inspiration .

999 . M. 437. et al.. 2005) synthesized rubber-like protein polymer: extreme resilience ! Colors Without Additives (European Nanoforum.1002. March 2006) pitch size: a few hundred nanometers .5 s for humans) (Elvin C.500 million movements in one lifetime ! (equivalent to one large movement every 3. Nature.

Designing Bioplastics Products Introduction Product Development Bioplastics Learn from Nature Discussion Designing Bioplastics Products Discussion Design practice what works fine today may be outdated tomorrow Designer in development team more detailed discussions with other professionals .

Discussion Product development teams more cross .training & inspiration of all professionals truely collaborative: expertise no longer a “personal” property open innovation principles Designing Bioplastics Products .

Discussion Complexities open innovation & collaborative product development bioplastics. life cycle issues interesting challenges for designers ! EAD 2007 Izmir TR Designing Bioplastics Products .