Market News Metal additives for growing engineered plastics market
Greater attention is being paid worldwide to the plastic materials used to create our packaging; handle our food and drinks; and improve part performance and function.
As food handling becomes more and more sophisticated to meet public demand for cleanliness, the additives that go into plastics in these applications must perform at an increasingly higher level.
Brad Richards, Product Manager for Ametek SMP Eighty Four, explains further: “Bringing our specially tailored stainless steel powders into the mix as detectable additives for plastics offers numerous advantages. Food and beverage contamination are reduced as plastic pieces that can’t be seen or felt within an item are now easily identifiable on X-ray machines or via magnetic detection. This substantially increases quality for manufacturers by providing critical capability to reduce contaminants and adhere to exacting industry regulations around food and beverage quality, safety, and handling.”
These regulations include strict legislation in the U.K., Europe, and the U.S. The U.S. FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and European council regulation EU 10/2011, for example, both require the implementation of controls that prevent plastic contamination of food products. This has led to a host of improved detection technologies with X-ray systems, but also to improvements in the magnetic and X-ray detectability of plastics themselves when compared to food and beverage products. A common application resulting from this legislation is the use of water-atomized stainless steel additives for plastics, as manufactured by Ametek SMP and described by Richards above, to substantially increase X-ray contrast and allow for easy plastic detection.
Metal additives offer numerous advantages for other engineered plastic parts and polymer compounders as well. These include vibration dampening, which results in a composite material with elasticity, density, and vibration attenuation properties that can all be modified across a broad range. Other combinations of our metal additives can also increase electrical conductivity of the overall material, creating an increase in anti-static or even conductive properties in high loadings.
Richards explains further: “Incorporation of our metal additives also gives an edge to those customers making more technical engineering plastics. Increases in hardness, abrasion, and erosion resistant properties make them highly versatile and suitable for a wide range of applications. We can increase thermal and electrical conductivity and easily modify the density of the material. We can also make plastic parts capable of being heated by induction, which is a unique and sought-after property as it allows for rapid and uniform heating of individual components.”
Ametek SMP produces metal powders from 300 and 400 series stainless steels in a range of fine (~30 µm) and coarse (~100 µm) sizes as additives and fillers for polymer compounds. Custom alloys and sizes can be tailored to a customer’s exact specifications for varying production needs. Four different grades of Ametek SMP’s stainless steel powders have become prevalent: 316L, 304L, 430L, and 410L alloys. All have been specifically engineered in precise size ranges to blend best with polymer additives.