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KraussMaffei’s Recycling Technology Turns Waste Plastics from Pollution Sources to New Resources
Source: 装备总公司 Date: 2020-09-09

 

The outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020 has once again reminded humans of the importance of the Earth’s sustainable development. While plastics are making our lives easier, their pollution is increasingly posing a global challenge. The rubber & plastics manufacturing industry is embracing the philosophy of sustainable development as a common ground, with the circular economy gaining growing importance. Pioneering Plastics, with a 182-year history, KraussMaffei has been brave in exploring, seeking and practicing solutions for the circular economy.

Let’s start with a case

Speaking of plastic, most people are familiar with plastic bags and food packaging for daily use. In reality, plastics have long been integrated into multiple aspects of our lives regarding clothing, food, housing, transportation, and use, delivering great convenience to us. Cars, refrigerators, mobile phones, and other common items include plastic products.

We prefer plastics because they are light and durable. However, plastics have become a thorny problem when we enjoy the convenience brought by them. They are the culprit behind the “white pollution,” one environmental problem that is increasingly worsening.

In fact, plastics, if recycled reasonably, can be turned into raw materials for products!

However, the traditional plastic recycling is inefficient. Why? Conventionally, plastics are recycled using a physical method of shredding, collecting, melting, and molding into new products. Adopting the method is difficult to change the properties of plastics, which are underutilized but costly.

Is there a better way to transform the nature of recycled plastics and turn them into new raw materials? For plastic recycling, KraussMaffei developed and released its EdelweissCompounding technology, aiming to provide a closed-loop solution for plastic recycling. Next, we will look at how to use this technical scheme to turn waste plastic barrels into quality A-pillar panels of automobiles.

From plastic barrel to automobile A-pillar panel

1. Waste plastic barrels made of polypropylene are pulverized and fed into a material recirculation unit for re-grinding;

2. In the EdelweissCompounding system, polypropylene sheet composites with enhanced properties are produced by KraussMaffei’s ZE 28 BluePower twin-screw extruder;

3. Pigments and 20% talcum powder are added to the polypropylene sheet composites;

4. After underwater pelletizing and drying, the composites can be turned into polypropylene raw materials for injection moulding, featuring high quality and wider application models;

5. The material feeder transports newly produced polypropylene raw materials to an all-electric PX 320 injection moulding machine to form an A-pillar panel in the cavity, which is covered by a fabric-like over-moulded layer.

In this way, a perfect A-pillar panel was born.

Leading Blazer in the Plastic Recycling Technology

KraussMaffei’s EdelweissCompounding Technology integrates its advanced extrusion and injection moulding technologies to provide a closed-loop solution for plastic recycling. In October 2019, KraussMaffei, at the International Rubber & Plastic Industry Exhibition (“K Show”) in Dusseldorf, Germany, launched the technical scheme for the first time for the global market, and showed the entire production process of recompounding waste plastic barrels into high-end automobile panels. In November 2019, the EdelweissCompounding technology made its debut at the China International Import Expo, marking its rollout in China.

Schematic Diagram of EdelweissCompounding Technology System

The main edge of technical scheme aims to recompound recycled waste plastics into end products with higher quality, benefit and stability. Also, it can improve the cost-effectiveness and make recycled materials more attractive to recycling enterprises and plastic manufacturers, so as to bolster the recycling of plastics. Upon it was unveiled, the technical scheme has garnered widespread attention and praise from customers in China and beyond and won the Ringier Technology Innovation Award 2020 for the Plastics Industry.

Currently, the environment is worsening worryingly, the total amount of waste is increasing across the world, and the available resources are declining. Calls of consumers and environmentalists for optimizing the process of using raw materials and resources are growing louder. The waste plastic recycling package plan, or the circular economy action plan, and rubber & plastic strategy launched by the EU all highlight the importance of the transition from a linear to a circular economy.

China is also actively boosting the development of circular economy, with many cities introducing their garbage classification systems. In January 2020, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment jointly issued the Opinions on Further Strengthening the Control of Plastic Pollution. Since September 1, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Wastes has been formally implemented, clearly stating restrictions on the use of non-degradable disposable plastic products. This is part of the Chinese government’s commitment to achieving the country’s sustainable development and coordinated social and economic development.

Economic players such as enterprises and consumers hold the key to advancing this process. As a 182-year enterprise in the vanguard of the rubber & plastic industry, KraussMaffei has devoted itself to the research of plastic recycling and upgrading for 30-odd years. The company’s business strategy takes into account not only economic and regulatory factors, but also ecological and social challenges facing enterprises and society.

Also, KraussMaffei proactively advocates that the government, communities, enterprises and partners join together to establish a sustainable ecosystem in the entire value chain and give a boost to the development of circular economy in the entire industry. Previously, KraussMaffei signed a cooperation agreement with the Institute of Plastic Technology and Circular Economy under Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universitt Hannover to jointly push forward the R&D, testing, and large-scale production and application of related technologies.

KraussMaffei believes that if the philosophy of circular economy is successfully implemented, it will deliver great benefits to all countries across the world. The protection of resources can not only further bolster the sustainable development of the economy, but also help enterprises to reduce their dependence on unstable raw material markets and their production costs.

Providing More Possibilities for Circular Economy

Recently, KraussMaffei has continued its investments in optimizing and expanding its well-developed processes and built a higher capacity compounding line at the Hannover R&D Center, meeting its own testing needs for recycling and recompounding processes and providing better industrial-scale production and experiment services for its customers in relevant fields.

One corner of the compounding line at KraussMaffei Technology Center, Hannover

The highlight of the upgraded compounding line is the new proprietary cutter-compactor unit that is used to dehumidify, compact and shred fluffy recycled wastes such as various plastic films and fibers to increase their density and improve the performance and efficiency of the next stage.

Compared with the traditional compounding system composed of a single-screw and a twin-screw extruder, the new EdelweissCompounding line consists of two ZE 65 BluePower twin-screw extruders arranged in series for melt processing and compounding of recycled materials. The real novelty brings higher degassing capacities, more efficient odor removal, and more ideal mixing effect.

At the Hannover-based R&D center, KraussMaffei's EdelweissCompounding line is fully integrated into a turnkey module. Undoubtedly, it is particularly attractive for manufacturers to plan to run their compounding lines of recycled materials. Because the module of well-conceived design contains all elements required for recompounding, what manufacturers need to do are easy installation without any complicated preparation, rapid set-up and start-up as well as flexible use. The line only needs to be connected to local power and water supplies to start its production immediately. In the event of relocation, the module can be transported as a whole.

Of course, Chinese plastic recycling and processing manufacturers do not need to arrive in Hannover if they are willing to experience the latest EdelweissCompounding technology. At the newly completed Technology Center of KraussMaffei Jiaxing Factory in Zhejiang province, China, customers can personally experience ZE BluePower Equipment with the EdelweissCompounding technology, further understand its technological advantages, and take in KraussMaffei's concept and solution of circular economy.

At the Technology Center of KraussMaffei Jiaxing Factory

The EdelweissCompounding Equipment at the Extrusion Technology Center of Jiaxing Factory

Also, KraussMaffei is actively developing and applying more advanced technologies to assist customers with reducing plastic waste in production to a minimum. For example, the application of intelligent digital solutions helps to strengthen process and quality control, so that manufacturers can realize digital tracking and record the melting temperature, pressure or screw speed in the extrusion process throughout the entire production cycle, thus improving the utilization and production efficiency of plastics and continuously reducing costs.

The digital application of KraussMaffei equipment provides the best preparation for data recording and analysis.

In October 2019, KraussMaffei also launched its digital trading platform “Polymore” (polymore.com). It is a plastics marketplace based on the concept of circular economy, focusing on the trading of copolymers, masterbatches, recycled materials and post-industrial recycled materials. With an extensive network of European partners, the online platform allows mixture suppliers, recycled materials suppliers and processors to communicate and trade their products easily and securely, thus increasing the efficiency of the flow and application of plastic materials.

According to KraussMaffei, the circular economy can promote the sustainable development of society and the more efficient use of resources, but the enormous economic and ecological potentials it holds have not been fully unleashed. To this end, KraussMaffei will pour more investments into technological R&D and innovation, proactively respond to future opportunities and challenges, and create more possibilities for the circular economy.

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