BASF in link-up for recyclable, low-carbon foam elastomers
17 Oct 2022
Partners with King Steel, Otrajet to develop ‘energy-saving’ production of 100% recyclable products
Taichung, Taiwan – BASF has partnered with Taiwan’s shoemaking machinery specialist King Steel Machinery and elastomer manufacturer Otrajet in developing energy-saving processes that allow for manufacturing of 100% recyclable products.
The three companies have combined King Steel’s expertise in injection machine design, BASF’s physical foaming, and Otrajet’s special polymer elastic materials to develop what they described as “the world’s first supercritical fluid-foamed elastomer injection system”.
In a 17 Oct statement, the partners said they would introduce NexCell technology during the K 2022 trade fair in Dusseldorf, Germany, 19-26 Oct.
The elastomeric materials manufactured by the technology can be used in various applications, including in footwear, auto parts, toys, sports gear, and household products.
The technology, the joint statement added, also provides solutions for carbon neutrality and circular economy.
According to King Steel’s website, the technology melts polymers into a liquid state and evenly mixes it with nitrogen or carbon dioxide without producing any chemical reaction.
“The finished product maintains its original macromolecule state,” which according to King Steel makes the product fully recyclable.
Furthermore, the process replaces “toxic chemical foaming agents” with carbon dioxide or nitrogen “to create a foaming agent from ordinary air”.
The technology creates a “supercritical fluid” through a specific temperature and pressure.
Then, the fluid homogeneous phase compresses the fluid polymer and adjusts gas in the molten material to produce even mixing.
When the mixed material is injected into the forming mould, air pockets are created due to temperature and pressure changes, achieving the foaming of the elastomeric materials.
"With the support of King Steel's NexCell technology, we are confident in the market development of sustainable material solutions using physical foaming processes to replace traditional non-recyclable materials," said Kin Wah Chay, managing director of BASF Taiwan.
According to Chay, the partners are jointly exploring business opportunities in footwear, sports and leisure industries.
"NexCell foamed elastomer is 100% recyclable," said Wayne Chen, development associate manager of Otrajet, noting that the process cuts out chemical cross-linking agents that makes the full recyclability achievable.