Partners with King Steel and Otrajet to develop “energy efficient” production of 100% recyclable products
Taichung, Taiwan – BASF has partnered with Taiwanese shoe-making machinery specialist King Steel Machinery and elastomer manufacturer Otrajet to develop energy-efficient processes that enable the manufacture of 100% recyclable products.
The three companies combined King Steel’s expertise in injection machine design, physical foaming from BASF and special polymer elastic materials from Otrajet to develop what they described as “the world’s first injection system supercritical fluid foam elastomer in the world”.
In an October 17 statement, the partners announced that they would be showcasing NexCell technology at the K 2022 show in Dusseldorf, Germany, October 19-26.
The elastomeric materials made by the technology can be used in a variety of applications, including footwear, automotive parts, toys, sports equipment, and household products.
The technology, the joint statement adds, also provides solutions for carbon neutrality and the circular economy.
According to King Steel’s website, the technology melts polymers in a liquid state and mixes them evenly with nitrogen or carbon dioxide without producing a chemical reaction.
“The finished product retains its original macromolecule state,” which King Steel says makes the product fully recyclable.
Additionally, 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 the gas in the molten material to produce a homogeneous mixture.
When the mixed material is injected into the forming mold, air pockets are created due to temperature and pressure changes, effecting the foaming of the elastomeric materials.
“With the support of King Steel’s NexCell technology, we are confident in bringing to market sustainable material solutions using physical foaming processes to replace traditional non-recyclable materials,” said Kin Wah Chay, General Manager of BASF. Taiwan.
According to Chay, the partners are jointly exploring business opportunities in the footwear, sports and leisure sectors.
“NexCell foam elastomer is 100% recyclable,” said Wayne Chen, associate director of development for Otrajet, noting that the process removes the chemical crosslinking agents that make full recyclability achievable.