The use of bio-based polymers is growing in many industrial sectors and the increasing demand is forcing these materials to match the performance of the most commonly used thermoplastic polymers. Their versatility makes biopolymers a marvellous alternative for introduction into current thermoplastic manufacturing processes and, over time, as a replacement for conventional polymers obtained from non-renewable resources. This will lead to a reduction in the environmental footprint of the plastics industry.
The introduction of biomaterials in manufacturing processes on an industrial scale entails having to adapt their structure to the demands and requirements of companies, additivating the structure of biopolymers is necessary to provide improved properties that guarantee their performance in the manufacture of polymeric components. Manufacturing processes such as 3D printing and industrial sectors such as textiles, where the use of biopolymers is widespread, provide information on the characteristics of the materials. Other processes such as injection moulding, where the use of biopolymers is beginning to increase, can benefit from the incorporation of these materials to manufacture high performance components with an added-value factor.
The replacement of current polymers by thermoplastics obtained from renewable resources and their rapid introduction into industry is key in the fight against climate change. The widespread use of plastics and their huge impact on the environment requires immediate action, which is why the use of biomaterials is of great importance to begin a much needed change for the planet and for people.
The main objective of PLABITEX is to develop new biomaterials with improved properties through the incorporation of additives or other polymers, to introduce this type of material into industry.
The project has several lines of research, both of which focus on the use of PLA (Polylactic Acid) as a thermoplastic matrix.
Firstly, new materials will be developed from the additivation of PLA with various powder additives derived from metal oxides and natural antioxidants, as well as other biopolymers. These additives promise to enhance both the thermal and mechanical properties of PLA, giving it improved characteristics that will enable it to compete with other polymers obtained from non-renewable sources, which are currently much more widely used. Specifically, the PLABITEX project will focus developments on the introduction of these biomaterials in 3D printing and thermoplastic injection processes, with the aim of producing functional components on an industrial scale.
The use of PLA and its introduction to the textile industry will require the Institute to develop bicomponent multifilaments of the CORE/SHETH type by combining various grades of PLA. Using these yarns, the aim is to create fabrics that will be used in the manufacture of surgical gowns to replace current models made from non-woven fabrics. The overall aim is to bring biopolymers closer to a more specific market within the textile-health sector. These fabrics must be able to pass liquid penetration tests, so after weaving, the fabric will be calendered to make it less permeable.
Within the framework of the project and according to the current needs of the industry, we can identify the following specific objectives:
- Functionalising biopolymers using particles and other biopolymers.
- Improving thermal and mechanical properties by functionalisation with metal oxides.
- Increasing the resistance of biopolymers to environmental conditions by using antioxidant additives of natural origin.
- Manufacturing test pieces and prototypes using thermoplastic manufacturing processes, such as 3D printing and injection moulding.
- Introducing biopolymers to industry by improving their characteristics.
- Using biomaterials in textile manufacturing processes in the manufacture of textile structures capable of withstanding liquid penetration tests suitable for use in the manufacture of PPE.
Biomaterials with improved properties are expected to be obtained from the additivation of PLA, increasing its deformation capacity and resistance to both mechanical stress and UV radiation exposure.
Furthermore, the aim is to be able to introduce these improved biopolymers in industrial manufacturing processes, specifically in the injection of thermoplastic components and for prototyping methods such as 3D printing.
Finally, the aim is to introduce the PLA fabrics developed in the manufacture of surgical gowns, passing the relevant water column liquid penetration tests required for the certification of this type of medical device.
This project is funded by the Conselleria d’Economia Sostenible, Sectors Productius, Comerç i Treball de la Generalitat Valenciana, through IVACE.
- Grant number: IMAMCI/2021/1
- More information: NON-ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES PLAN
- Year: 2021
- Status: In progress
- Entity: IVACE