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Europe: BASF expands foam solutions with ecovio EA

BASF expands its high performance foam products with the innovative, certified compostable particle foam ecovio EA.

The product is predominantly biobased and, like all of the grades under the ecovio brand, it supports the biological cycle through its certified compostability.

The patented particle foam can be used to transport packaging for high-value or delicate goods where a high level of impact resistance and robustness is vital.

The product properties are similar to those of expanded polystyrene with energy absorption and resilience even when subjected to multiple impact loads.

The high biobased content and the certified compostability make ecovio EA particularly attractive wherever a fossil packaging solution no longer meets customers’ requirements for a biobased and biodegradable transport solution.

Expandable ecovio EA granules

The ecovio EA is an expandable, closed-cell foam material that is biobased and certified compostable.

It consists of the biodegradable BASF polymer ecoflex and polylactic acid or PLA, which is derived from corn or other sugar-generating plants like manioc.

To produce ecovio EA, expandable granules are charged with the blowing agent pentane in a process.

This step enables trouble-free pre-expansion of the material on conventional EPS pre-expanders and subsequent molding.

The raw granules have a density of about 700g/l.

The ecovio EA is available in the market with a particle size of 1.05 mm, as a grade with a diameter of 0.8 mm is under development.

The particle foam is available in brown and is delivered to customers in an octabin.

The product can be stored there in appropriate storage facilities for at least six months without any quality impairment.

Drop-in solution for manufacturing and processing

Processors can form ecovio EA into an almost limitless range of shapes in two steps.

The granules are firstly pre-expanded with the addition of steam to produce closed-cell beads with an adjustable minimum bulk density of 25g/l.

A short prefoaming time contributes to low energy consumption in this production step.

Next, the expanded granules can finally be processed into all kinds of different molded parts. Processing can also easily take place on existing EPS or expanded polypropylene production (EPP) machines.

The very similar processing characteristics mean that there is no need for any conversion of the machines and existing production processes do not need to be substantially modified.

The processing process also strongly resembles the processing of EPS, although in general it is necessary to adapt the process parameters.

This is reflected in a shorter steaming time while the cycle time in the forming step remains the same overall.

In addition, it is necessary to adapt the mold geometries due to the shrinkage of about 1.5%. To ensure a very high quality of molded part and dimensional stability it is advisable – similar to EPP processing – to carry out component conditioning in a heating oven after the shaping.

Packaging for safe transport of goods

In a direct comparison with EPS, ecovio EA has lower rigidity and when it comes to its energy absorbing capacity it comes between EPS and EPP.

The ecovio EA has a minimum thermal conductivity of 34 mW/(mK) for thermal insulation applications in the transport sector.

For example, ecovio EA helps to maintain the cold chain at all times for temperature-sensitive goods such as packaged vegetables, fruit, meat, frozen goods or even medicines.

This effectively prevents the goods from being ruined.

Due to the inherent properties of the raw materials, ecovio EA can also be stored at temperatures of up to 100°C over a period of several hours and is therefore also suitable for hot-melt adhesive applications.

In addition, ecovio EA also displays good resistance in solvents such as acetone.

As a certified compostable product, it also does not contain any flame retardants.

In the future, BASF will also offer ecovio EA with approval for use with food, thereby extending the range of applications to all of the areas in which foam is in direct contact with processed food.

The ecovio EA will also be outstandingly suitable as a (reusable) transport container for processed fruit/vegetables, fish and meat.

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