Florence, Ky.—Edward Gay, process engineering manager at KraussMaffei Corp. (KMC), monitored a nylon compounding process going through a strand pelletizer at the machine builder's North American headquarters.
Gay was conducting material development trials of a proprietary formulation that contains nylon and natural hemp fibers grown by BrightMa Farms Inc., a Charleston, S.C., agri-tech company. He was able to increase the filler content from 20 percent to 40 percent to improve critical material properties like rigidity while maintaining an incredibly low moisture content.
"We're light years ahead of where the customer has been in previous trials at other extrusion development locations," Gay said during a plant tour given to Plastics News.
In a meeting room above the test lab, BrightMa CEO Harold Singletary was smiling. He has been searching for the right material to produce an injection molded sustainable automotive part for a Volvo truck.
At KraussMaffei, Singletary had success with three formulations and seems to have found a partner to recognize his vision for what he describes as "growing a sustainable future one seed at a time."
"I was looking for one formulation. This is much more than I anticipated," Singletary said, calling Gay his Tony Stark—a fictional Marvel Comics industrialist and inventor who becomes Iron Man.
"Ed pushed the envelope. He showed we have room to expand the research and the capability to provide more natural fibers into this plastic resin. It was an amazing milestone week," he said.