Saturday 23 March 2013

Materials - Polycaprolactone

Plastimake sell PCL pellets

So whats this material that is being used by everyday people to mold and prototype parts. From brackets that hold your lights on your bike to bowls and cups.

Plastimake, InstaMorph Shapelock and Friendly plastic are all manufacturers of  Polycaprolactone (PCL). This is a degradable thermoplastic plastic which is derived from the chemical synthesis of crude oil. The glass transition state is low, 60deg will melt the 3mm pellets which means all you have to do is turn on the kettle and boil your water then submerge and wait for the pellets to melt. But there is a catch, this plastic also crystallizes quickly as well. Which means it starts to become rigid and hard. Also Lignin and Starch can be mixed with PCL.

Do not melt PCL to its decomposition temperature (200deg) as it will emit 

  • Carbon monoxide ( poisonous to humans)

A lot of the previously mentioned companies that produce and sell PCL state that it is "Biodegradable". Plastimake states that it  "will start to deteriorate after approximately 10 years"
 Yet what does it actually break down into? Does it just break down into smaller and smaller bits, or does it actually biologically break down to be consumed by plant or animal life without hazardous affects. As it is a thermoplastic derived from crude oil I can't quite grasp the buzzword "Biodegradable" that all these companies use.

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