The history of metals is thought to have begun with the use of copper about 11,000 years ago. Gold, silver, iron, lead, and even some brass began to be used before the first known appearance of bronze in the 5th millennium BCE
Artifacts made of smelted iron have been found dating from about 3000 BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia. In those times, iron was a ceremonial metal; it was far too expensive to be used in everyday life. Metals are commonly very stiff, tough and strong. However, they are also generally quite heavy. Also, the cost to heat metal to production temperatures is extremely high, over 5 times that of Performance Plastic materials. When metals corrode they get smaller, and many can decompose to yield rust.
In comparison, plastics only were first made in the early 1900’s. The world’s first known fully synthetic plastic was bakelite (now days considered Phenolic), and was invented in New York in 1907 by Leo Baekeland who coined the term ‘plastics’. Since this date, thousands of chemists and material scientists have synthesized dozens of plastic base materials. Plastic materials are currently available in over 80 types, and each of these are molded or processed at slightly different temperatures. The wide range of performance plastic materials will allow you to choose the perfect material for your next application.
Some of The Advantages of New Performance Plastic Materials
New Higher Temperature Performance Plastic Materials
New Performance Plastic materials like Victrex 450g PEEK and Sabic Ultem 1000 have much higher use temperatures over previous performance plastic materials. The Ultem 1000 unfilled has a continual use temperature above 400 degrees F, while the newer Victrex 450g PEEK materials work well at 480 degrees F on a continuous basis. In addition to the higher temperatures, they are still food grade materials.
Most plastic materials can typically be molded in a temperature range of 400 to 600 degree F. While steel starts to melt at 2,500 degrees F. This is five times the temperature, meaning it takes 5 times the energy to convert steel instead of plastic. Lower temperatures equates to lower costs of production.
New Lower Weight Materials
The average plastic weighs just 20% of the average metal product. Many plastics have exceptional weight to strength ratios, meaning that for the weight of the product they are very strong. This low weight means much less raw materials and less impact on the environment if using plastics over metals. This results in lower cost to manufacture parts from plastics over metal.
For instance, new UV grades of HDPE or High Density Polyethylene are very light, with a density of just .96, so light it floats in water. And yet, this new UV grade of HDPE is a workhorse in the plastic market, and is used to replace wood and metals in outdoor furniture.
New Detectable Materials For Food Contact Approved
Most Performance Plastic materials were engineered to be food contact compliant, and in most cases FDA approved for food contact. With the increase in food recalls, finding the proper materials to ensure that our foods are safe is imperative. Materials like Acetal Copolymer, Acetal Homopolymer, Nylon, Ultem 1000 and Victrex 450g PEEK are all FDA approved for direct food contact.
Which Performance Plastic Will Work The Best
Here are some new performance plastic material grades that include additives to make these materials detectable during food processing. These newly released detectable products include Tecaform AH UD (copolymer acetal base), Tecapeek UD Blue (PEEK based) and Hydex 4101 UD Blue PBT – Polyester base). Each of these new performance plastic materials comes in Blue color to be detected by color sensors during food processing. The “UD” portion allows these materials to be detected by X-Ray and Metal Detection scanners in food processing production lines. Using these new detectable performance plastic materials in food processing plants can help to eliminate food contamination issues and massive food recalls.
Recent Rising Costs Of Transportation
Changes in transportation rules and regulations since 2018 have made shipping raw materials significantly more expensive. Weight, size restrictions and surcharges for longer packages have more than doubled in the last year.
This has made one of the most expensive components of materials reaching the marketplace is transportation costs, and over the last several years the costs of moving materials across the country has skyrocketed. Metals are heavy, and this weight makes many items very expensive to transport.
Each step in the production of a finished good generally involves shipping to the next step. Raw material converted into base material, then base material converted into usable shape. Later this shape is turned into a component or part. Each time there is a conversion, there normally is shipping to the next processor. Metal weight can limit the amount of metal that can be moved at one time, where plastics can ship up to five times more product per truckload.
With performance plastics, often the conversion in small factories that can be located near final assembly of components limits the amount of shipping of plastic parts. Also, due to the light weight of plastics, trucks can hold up to five times the amount of plastic over metals for shipping. Many plastic parts are made very close to where they will be consumed, cutting logistics fees. This five times the weight also translates to five times higher cost to ship metals. This reduction of transportation costs moves more profit to the bottom line.
New Performance Plastic Materials Eliminate Need For Lubrication
Often, on large metal parts or assemblies, grease ports are added to make lubricating the metal parts easy. Metal on metal parts will wear out very quickly, and therefore require regular service and lubrication.
Newly released performance plastic materials have made lubrication obsolete. One such material is a new compounded Nylon material, called Nylatech PVM has FDA approved oil additives. This new Cast Nylon material runs well for extended periods without external lubrication. This material runs quieter and smoother than previously used metal parts due to a much lower coefficient of friction, and requires no regular maintenance.
Another new grade of Performance Plastic material that is rated as ‘self-lubricating’, and have excellent wear resistance is Lub-X UHMW, which now makes curves in bottling plants move smoother, quieter and require no lubrication. These long wearing and high strength materials outperform most other substrate for low cost, high performance, low weight and self lubrication.
Each of these plastic advantages yield cost savings and long product life. Along with these new areas of advantage, Performance Plastics are 100% recyclable, and can be reprocessed into high strength parts again and again. The plastic recycling industry is still in its infancy, and as it becomes more adept at recycling and reusing valuable plastic materials, our planet and our pocket books will benefit.
During the last year, the number and size of food recalls has been staggering. With several major food processors, specifically in the poultry market, recalling massive amounts of product due to contamination, perhaps a change in material is in order, simply changing to a Metal or X-ray detectable plastic material may end recalls for contamination. The cost to change to a metal detectable plastic or x-ray detectable plastic is extremely small in comparison to the cost of these recalls.
What is a detectable Plastic
There are numerous quality high performance plastic materials that are available in Blue, X-ray and Metal detectable versions. These materials are designed with food safety in mind. These materials can assist the food industry and the food processing supply chain in keeping our foods safe. Identifying contaminates in the processing of foods can be made significantly easier with these detectable materials. Food safety should be the priority within the food processing industry. By changing to metal detectable plastic and X-ray detectable plastics, this can become a reality.
Metal Detectable Plastic and X-Ray Detectable Plastics
Here is a recent Press Release detailing the recalls and a rather straight forward and easy solution using detectable plastic.
(Newswire.net — October 10, 2016) Anaheim, CA – Can ‘Blue’ fix food recalls? –The year 2016 has seen some staggering food recalls by large food processors. Massive recalls of chicken specifically seem to have happened multiple times. The part that is the most amazing is that the root cause of many of these kinds of recalls is preventable. The specific recalls listed below are all for possible plastic contamination in the food product.
These large food processors should be aware of some simple steps that can totally eliminate these kinds of contaminates from getting into their food products.
Penny Wise, Pound Foolish
Keeping Food Processing Safe
While using FDA approved plastic materials for conveyor parts and moving components is a standard practice in most food processing plants, many processors use the cheapest available approved materials. This means that many producers are using a natural (white) HDPE, Acetal or other white approved plastic material. While it is safe to use these plastics, occasionally one of these parts gets jammed, breaks or wears to the point where parts can crack and pieces can get into the food processing line.
It Is Plain To See
The first easy step would be to use the same quality FDA approved material, but to buy the Blue metal detectable plastic version of the same approved material. This minor color change in the material makes any contaminates very easy to see with the naked eye. Since there are no food products in these bright blue colors, as long as there are employees looking at the food line, these broken pieces are easy to detect.
I Can See You
Speaking of detect, the big step up for detection of contaminates is to use a FDA approved plastic that is detectable by the X-ray or metal detection equipment already installed in these food processing lines. While these ‘metal detectable plastics’ cost more, they certainly cost less than one recent 4.5 million pound poultry recall.
The goal here is not to point the finger or call any company a ‘bad processor’, but rather to encourage these great food processors to use the ‘best practice’ types of materials to eliminate these monster food recalls.
In September 2016, Tyson Foods recalled 130,000 pounds of chicken nuggets for foreign materials in the product.
“According to Tyson Foods, the plastic material ranged in size from 21mm in length and 6.5mm in diameter and may have come from a round, hard plastic rod used to connect a plastic transfer belt. The firm said the products pass through a metal detector, but the plastic is not detectable to this technology,” the USDA recall announcement said.
Have You Considered Detectable Blue?
Blue Metal Detectable Plastics From Ensinger
Perhaps they could consider using a metal detectable plastic that is detectable by a standard metal detector. Industrial Plastic Supply has supplied this FDA approved Metal Detectable UHMW rod since early 2010. Currently, there are several FDA approved materials that are available in Blue; UHMW, Acetal, Nylon, Polyester and now PEEK. Some of these materials are also available in a ‘triple detection’ version, where it is detectable because of the vivid Blue color, and it is also Metal detectable and X-Ray detectable. One of these new versions is the Ultra-Detectable Polyester rod made by Ensinger® Plastics called Hydex® 4101 UD Blue (FDA Grade Polyester).
–In April and May of 2016, Pilgrim’s Pride had a recall totaling 5,550,904 pounds (yes 5.5 million pounds) of poultry do to possible foreign matter contamination.
The cost is staggering. To recall this quantity of food takes a small army of people to identify the possibly contaminated batches of food. Then notification is spread to all the possible distribution and wholesalers. The USDA is normally notified as one more step to notify the public.
Simple method to protect the safety of our food chain using detectable plastic materials
What is the cost to change to a more metal detectable plastic?
This depends on the type of plastic, and the detection method.
Let’s assume that the currently used material is an FDA approved grade of 1″ diameter Natural Acetal rod (a popular performance plastic used in food processing). And let’s assume this material would sell for approximately $2.00 – $2.50 per linear foot.
Changing to a Bright Blue FDA approved grade of Acetal Rod would cost about $3.50 – $4.00 per foot.
Upgrading to a Metal and X-ray detectable plastic that is FDA grade and Blue Acetal plastic rod would cost in the range of $8.25 – $9.00 per foot.
A recall of 100,000 pounds of poultry is, of course, significantly more expensive than upgrading the plastic materials in the food processing plant. Consider the upgrade an inexpensive insurance policy against these kinds of monster recalls, with a simple change to metal detectable plastic materials.
Metal Detectable Plastic and X-Ray Detectable Plastics Actually Saves Money
Contact us for more information on these Metal Detectable Plastic and X-Ray detectable plastic products. Blue Sheet and Rod are available in Acetal, Delrin®, Nylon, PBT – Polyester, and more. The special ‘triple detectable’ grades are currently produced in Acetal (Tecaform® UD Blue) and PBT – Polyester (Hydex® 4101 UD Blue). More materials are in final stages of development. Contact us for your special requirements.
Is HDPE Sheet and Acetal Homopolymer Sheet the same?
Here is another popular question asked by our clients. Is HDPE the same as Acetal Copolymer / Delrin Acetal Homopolymer?
No, they are two totally different materials. Although the natural color of both is a milky white to opaque white, and they do look a bit similar, they are not. (HDPE is milky white to almost translucent depending on thickness, and the Acetal materials are a more opaque white to slightly milky – once again depending on thickness . See picture below of .500″ thick samples of HDPE and Acetal sheets)
HDPE and Acetal – Some Differences
The HDPE sheet and rod is a softer material, and is commonly known for its FDA certification and used in numerous food applications, such as: one gallon milk jugs, cutting boards, colored water glasses/cups, and many, many more. While it can be machined, because it is a bit softer and lighter, the tolerances it can be machined to are not very tight. It is not bondable, so it makes a great non-stick surface for sticky foods and adhesives.
The Acetal Copolymer and the premium Delrin® Acetal Homopolymer also have FDA certification, and are used heavily in the food processing industry. This material is a more mechanical material and is used in bearing and wear applications, cams, feeder screws, etc. This material is can be machined to tight tolerances, and will wear for long periods without lubrication. Due to its exceptional wear properties, it is not bondable, thus requiring mechanical fastening or threads to assemble. It has a very low water absorption, and you will find it in your toilet tank as the white moving parts in the filler mechanism. It is an extremely popular material for machinists, as it works much like soft brass.
While HDPE Sheet and Acetal Sheet look similar, they perform quite a bit differently.
While both materials are FDA approved, are machinable and can be used to make rigid wear resistant parts, they are two different resins and have drastically different physical properties. Another major difference is in the weight of these items, HDPE sheet and rod material weighs about 35% less than the Acetal sheet and rod material. Please check the data sheets for more information to assist in proper material selection.Acetal Data Sheet and HDPE Sheet Data
Acetal is commonly known as: Delrin Homopolymer Acetal, Tecaform AH,Ensital, Unital, Pomalux, Ultraform and many more.
HDPE is also known as: Ultraethylux,Densetec, Polystone G, Fortiflex, Versadur, Hostalen, and many more.
Delrin® Homopolymer Acetal compared with Acetal Copolymer
Many of our clients assume that Delrin® rod and Acetal rod are the same thing. This is not true.
Yes, all Dupont Delrin® rod is Homopolymer Acetal rod, but not all Acetal rod is Delrin® rod.
Delrin® is the trade name for Homopolymer Acetal made by Dupont. Dupont™ Delrin ® is a popular acetal homopolymer brand name and the most commonly used acetal homopolymer.
This is the most recognized of all trade names for Acetal materials, but not the only available Acetal material. The Copolymer Acetal resin is produced by a wide variety of large plastic manufacturers, BASF is probably one of the largest and most well known. Some main resin names are: BASF Ultraform® H4320, Kepital® F10-02, Hostaform® M25 and many others.
While Delrin® Homopolymer Acetal is a wonderful material, in a larger cross sections Homopolymer can exhibit center line porosity, or ‘soft centers’. This can sometimes be seen with the naked eye, and is a darker white in a normally milky white natural colored material. This center line porosity can cause problems in some applications. This porosity can cause leakage of fluid if under pressure, or soft center’s of homopolymer rod and sheet.
This should not stop you from considering Delrin® Homopolymer Acetal though. Many other properties of the homopolymer resins are superior to the copolymer resins. These properties are:
Tensile Strength Yield
9,600 – 11,000
9,000 – 10,200
Izod Impact – Notched
Hardness – Rockwell
Deflection Temp @ 264psi
Deflection Temp @ 66 psi
Water Absorption @ 24 hrs
Co. Thermal Expansion
Some key properties for homopolymer acetal are: higher tensile strength, increased Izod impact, higher deflection temperatures and it is slightly harder. The co-efficient of thermal expansion is a bit higher, and needs to be considered when designing a new part. Extruded Delrin® brand homopolymer resin material also comes in several resin variations, including: Delrin® 150 and Delrin® 507, contact us for details. Dupont™ Delrin® is a popular acetal homopolymer brand name and the most commonly used acetal homopolymer.
Many of our clients prefer the homopolymer rod and sheet for small machined parts. This is due to the increase in a few key properties, and of course brand recognition. Some of our major brand names for quality Copolymer Acetal (POM-C) sheet and Rod include: Tecaform AH®, Sustarin C®, ZL 900® and Pomalux®.
Both resins meet the standard ASTM-D-6778, and the cancelled specs, L-P-395 and ASTM-D-4181. Contact us for certification and specifications you may require.
The Acetal family of plastic resins are excellent for wear resistance, great mechanical strength, and superior machining properties. It is available in a huge range of sizes and shapes. Click here for more details on Acetal – Homopolymer Aceteal Rod, and sometimes referred to as plastic dowel. We also have the capacity to supply colored Acetal Copolymer or Delrin® Homopolymer Acetal rod; click here from more details on the colored Acetal material.
Similar materials to Acetal Copolymer – Homopolymer Acetal are Nylon Rod, PET Rod and Noryl® Rod. Most materials are available as round rod, square rod, bar, strip, sheet and plate.