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Undisclosed challenges and considerations that mould tool sellers face

In the ever-evolving landscape of sustainable manufacturing, Luxus stands at the forefront as a pioneer in recycled plastic compounding for nearly six decades. With a commitment to innovation and environmental responsibility, Luxus has become a trusted partner for companies looking to integrate recycled plastics into their manufacturing processes. However, there are critical aspects of the compounding process that often go unnoticed, particularly when it comes to the specifications of mould tools. In this blog post, we uncover the undisclosed challenges and considerations that mould tool sellers may not always share, shedding light on the intricacies of recycled plastic compounding. 

Hot Gates: Size Matters, but Shear Matters More 
One of the key considerations in mould design is the size of hot gates, which can significantly impact waste reduction. Smaller hot gates may seem like an eco-friendly choice, but there's a hidden trade-off: increased shear. Shear, in the context of plastic compounding, refers to the degradation of the polymer during processing. The finer the hot gates, the higher the shear forces, leading to potential issues such as physical imperfections like splashing and silvering marks. 

We understand the delicate balance between waste reduction and material integrity. With 59 years of experience, we can navigate these challenges and develop customized solutions that meet your specific needs. By knowing your requirements, we can specify materials and create grades that optimise performance while minimising the impact of shear forces. 

The Complex Conundrum of Melt Temperature 
Complex mouldings often demand higher melt temperatures, but this comes at a cost – reduced physical properties like impact strength. Some mould tool designers may specify running materials at hotter temperatures without fully considering the consequences. Luxus materials can be tailored to accommodate higher temperatures, but again, this requires collaboration and knowledge sharing. The more we know about your project's intricacies, the better equipped we are to design materials that strike the right balance between complexity and performance. 

Residence Time: A Crucial Factor in Degradation: 
Residence time in the barrel is another critical factor that can contribute to polymer degradation. Extended and high-heat residence times can lead to a mass of degradation issues. At Luxus, we strongly advise against prolonged exposure to high heat unless we are informed and can adjust our material formulations accordingly. Transparent communication about your manufacturing process allows us to optimize our compounds for your specific conditions, ensuring the longevity and quality of the final product. 

Knowledge is Power, Collaboration is Key 
In the world of recycled plastic compounding, knowledge is power, and collaboration is key. We invite manufacturers and mould tool designers to open a dialogue with us. By sharing your requirements, challenges, and specifications, we can work together to develop solutions that not only meet but exceed your expectations. The more we know, the more we can help you achieve your sustainability goals without compromising on quality or performance.  
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Odour Accelerator project: Developing and up-scaling odour-extracting technology for recycled polymers made from post-consumer waste
Of the UK’s 260,000 tonnes of post-consumer polypropylene waste, under 1% is recycled into high quality products (e.g. automotive applications). One of the main reasons for this is the fact that polymers retain odours from their previous applications (e.g. containers for food, sauces, detergents), which deems them unviable for use in the production of high value products.  

The Odour Accelerator project aims to upscale validated prototypes of processing technology to provide a cost-effective method for identifying odour and deodourising recycled polymers, which can then be implemented during the manufacture of higher value products. The technological concept was developed through a previous project funded by Innovate UK, which we are now working to upscale from our Laboratory prototype to our Compounding facility to allow full scale production of deodourised recycled polymer compounds.   

Project Outcomes  
• We’re delighted to say that we have installed a state-of-the-art, modified laboratory-scale extrusion line with vast flexibility of machine configuration for development of the process to be upscaled onto the larger production extrusion lines. 

• The project consortium has also designed and built bespoke processing technology, which has been validated through operational testing and analysis.   
• Laboratory trials for experimentation on the deodourising prototypes and their effectiveness have been carried out with very promising results, showing clear evidence of a reduction in odour causing VOC’s.  

Further scientific analysis of odours removed, and human sensory testing have been used to confirm the effectiveness of the process. 

Odour perception and removal is one of the key challenges in the arena of utilising recycled plastics, so we are committed to playing our part in finding a viable, long-term solution to allow higher applications to use recycled plastic rather than virgin polymer. 

Our sincere thanks to our funding body, Innovate UK and to our project partners, the University of LincolnMatrix Moulding Systems and IPL Global.

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NIRPlas: Creating multilife certifiable NIR detectable polymer
An estimated 370,000 tonnes in the UK and an estimated 4 million tonnes in the EU of plastic is sent to landfill because the plastic type cannot be identified, despite it being suitable for recycling. 

This is because the vast majority of recycling sorting facilities use Near Infra-red (NIR) scanning technology, to identify and separate plastic from household waste into its different polymers. Any plastics which contain carbon black pigment (e.g. black, brown, dark green, dark blue colours) are not identifiable as the carbon black absorbs the infra-red waves and inhibits them from reflecting back to the sensor. 

As such, we wanted to develop a solution to this major challenge in the handling of plastics against the background of the UK’s environmental aspirations. We had already proven the concept of developing NIR detectable pigment systems but now we are seeking to take this project to the next level.  

Project Objectives 
• The concept of NIR detectable pigment systems has been proven in previous work, which has produced black and dark coloured plastics that can be identifiable to NIR scanning technology and subsequently recycled. 

• The NIRPlas project concept is to gain new scientific understanding of the inter-relationship between a plastic’s first life and its subsequent lives (e.g. after multiple loops of recycling, product manufacturing, recycling again) in terms of its visual changes and integrity of the plastic, when NIR detectable pigment systems are used. 

• The NIRPlas project is also aiming to develop a novel, continuous NIR and visual inspection system so that the manufacture of NIR detectable polymer compounds can be certifiable, meaning there is added confidence that they can be recycled when being processed through a recycling sorting facility. 

Project Outcomes 
• An exceptional scientific understanding of NIR detectable plastics has been achieved. Across multiple plastic types, no significant differences in integrity have been identified for plastics being processed through a life cycle of up to 4 times, when compared with traditional pigmented plastics. 

• The design and construction stages of the continuous NIR and visual inspection system have been completed with excellent results. Operational testing has been successfully conducted and ongoing modifications are planned. The prototype was fitted on to Luxus’ main production line in May 2021 for full-scale operational trails. 

Our sincere thanks to our funding body, Innovate UK and to our project partners, Colourtone MasterbatchThe Technology Research Centre and Berry Global.  

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Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to expedite bespoke solutions
We are delighted to announce our new artificial intelligence and machine learning system has now been developed, utilising many years’ of stored historical formulation data. The system is currently being utilised/undergoing refinement to assist with formulations and future developments using real world data.

There is wide variation in incoming recycled plastics (due to variation in first life product polymers being recycled at a specific time), meaning meeting customer specifications can be challenging as every batch of material requires a unique formulation. 

Our unique formulations are derived experimentally, to meet the plastic’s physical specifications (e.g. impact strength) and colour. This is determined through the know-how of our highly experienced laboratory technicians but can still be significantly time consuming. 

Project Objective 
As such, we wanted to develop a sophisticated artificial intelligence system that will accurately formulate polymer blends to the required physical colour specifications of a repeatable consistent plastic compound grade, using the most efficient and lowest cost option of the ever-changing incoming recycled plastics. 

What are the positive outcomes of this project? 
• A reduction in resources required for trial-and error iterations 
• A reduction in waste materials, through a greater degree of accuracy 
• An increase in the proportion of lower grade recycled plastics utilised 

Our sincere thanks to our funding body, WRAP and our project partners, The Technology Research Centre.  

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Terry Burton Retires!
Following the celebration of Terry Burton's 40 years’ service with Luxus last year, we bid a fond farewell to Terry, who retired from Luxus this month (for a well-deserved rest).
He joined Luxus in 1979, that same year Blondie’s single ‘Heart of Glass’ topped the charts and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was published, it was also the year that he met his future wife.
Having joined Luxus as an Extrusion Operator, he progressed to Technical Manager, a crucial role that required him to lead the polymer development team, working at the forefront of sustainable thermoplastics innovation.
In 1979, things were very different, Terry explains: “As an Extrusion Operator it was my job to ensure the smooth running of a small strand line extruder. I was responsible for the entire process from extruding the polymer to checking it for quality control purposes - it was very ‘hands-on’ then.
“The work culture was great however, as everyone knew each other by name and there was a real family-like atmosphere, since there were just 20 staff. But things can’t stay the same, Luxus currently employs 160 staff at the plant on the Fairfield Industrial Estate here in Louth, but we still share those same company values.”
In those early days, R&D was as critical to the company’s success as it is today. In 1982, and ahead of the market, Luxus developed its first technical ‘hub’ for materials development, testing and analysis, and Terry gained a Lab Technician role.
Terry continued: “I oversaw all polymer preparation and testing, which meant keeping test batches running throughout the night. As the business grew we quickly needed to recruit staff to help manage the night shift and to enable us to expand into weekends, it was the beginning of our dedicated technical team.”
Then, by the early 1990s, the technical operation became critical, as Luxus needed to satisfy nationally-recognised quality standards, since it was now being audited by major automakers as it was one of the first UK compounders to engineer polypropylene for under bonnet parts.
After managing the lab for eight years, Terry was promoted to General Manager, where he was responsible for both the factory and the technical team for over a decade. Then later in 2008, these functions were split due to company growth. Developing new products was now a priority and since Terry had always been passionate about making things, he was promoted to Technical Manager.
The lab ensured product consistency and performance of all prime and recycled feedstocks, by undertaking stringent testing and quality control procedures. In recent years, investment in new specialist machinery including FTIR spectroscopy meant that the business had outgrown its facilities. In 2012, Luxus responded by investing in a new purpose built Technical Centre, this unique facility allowed its technicians to deliver exceptional, repeatable quality across every batch of polymer it produced, for environmentally-critical applications.
“I have one of the best roles in the business, with new products always comes fresh challenges, as we are increasingly using interesting and novel additives to support demands for enhanced scratch resistance and light-weighting to help stretch the boundaries in sustainable plastics technology.
“While rapid change in the auto industry is also helping to drive our materials development like never before. Increasingly electrification, connectivity, autonomous driving and car sharing are all going to impact on what we demand from high performance materials in the future.”
Luxus Managing Director, Peter Atterby, comments: “Throughout his 40 year career Terry has been essential to our success, enabling us to transform from a burgeoning recycler to a £25m turnover technical innovator. As we continue to meet challenges, he is now sharing his expertise with a new generation of apprentices to develop materials that our customers will demand tomorrow.”
At his celebratory lunch, Terry was presented with a 40 year old vintage Port. The gift was chosen as Terry is better known by his colleagues as ‘Top Shelf Terry’ as he has a taste for quality spirits.

We bid a fond farewell to Terry as a manager in October 2020, as he strides confidently into his well-earned retirement. On leaving the building, Terry was disappointed he could not offer lots of hugs to his fellow colleagues, due to strict social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we threw a delightful hamper at him to help make up for it! 
If you’re interested in a career with Luxus find us on facebook @Luxus.Limited for the latest vacancies.

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Luxus Gains EuCertPlast Accreditation For Good Practice
4th June 2019

Technical knowledge based plastics compounder and recycler Luxus has received accreditation from EuCertPlast, the European wide scheme that provides a common standard for post-consumer plastics recycling.

EuCertPlast certification works to the European standard EN 15343: 2007 and accesses both the practice and quality of output from audited recyclers. The scheme aims to encourage environmentally friendly plastics recycling process by standardising it.

Prior to its implementation, the plastics market was very fragmented with each individual European collector association following their own rules, so there was no common standard for recyclers to follow.

This certification not only seeks to increase the transparency of the European plastics industry by integrating these varying auditing schemes into one common standard, but it also aims to determine the best recycling and trading practices too.

The overall goals of the scheme include: - an increase in recycling rates; the development of new innovative applications for recyclates; increased transparency and the fulfilment of REACH requirements for recyclers.

Simon Thompson, quality manager, Luxus, explains: “This scheme recognises recyclers such as ourselves for operating to the highest standards and implementing best practices. But it also gives our customers the confidence that when specifying recycled materials they are fully traceable and of the highest quality.

“So we fully support EuCertPlast and the operating standards it requires, since it helps drive up the quality of recyclates, increasing market demand and enabling the creation of new more sustainable applications.”

The standards and requirements that are examined for EuCertPlast certification are also on the check list when applying for the well-known Blue Angel Eco-Label that awards environmentally friendly products and services.

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Odour Contaminated Plastics Get 'Second Life' Thanks To Innovate UK Grant
13th May 2019

Technical knowledge based plastics compounder Luxus has as part of a consortium won an £840,462 Innovate UK grant to develop a novel process to remove retained odour from post-consumer recycled plastics.
The aim of this new 30 month research and development project known as Odour Control, is to employ unique process technologies to deliver high value ‘second life’ applications for odour contaminated plastics, that would otherwise only be adopted for limited low value markets.
Luxus will lead the project in collaboration with its partners the University of Lincoln to provide a ‘test house’ to identify and quantify odour species, Matrix Moulding Systems will help develop the processing system design and injection moulding company, One 51 will produce the finished parts.
Recycled plastics have a ‘scent memory’ from contact with heavily perfumed detergents or food that creates quality issues inhibiting further use. Although some progress has been made to recycle easier post-production waste streams, the recycling of post-consumer polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) still presents a major challenge.
Currently, under 1% of the UK’s 260,000 tonnes of post-consumer polypropylene waste is effectively recycled into high quality products, the rest is used in lower value applications or worse still, left for landfill.
Luxus project manager, Chris Kerridge, comments: “We are pleased that Innovate UK has recognised the importance of developing a process that will allow for the cost efficient reprocessing of polymer that was previously uneconomic to recover due to retained odour.
“We aim to address this challenge by removing retained odour so the waste polymer can be reprocessed for use in high value products in the civil engineering, automotive, horticulture and detergent packaging industries, enabling manufacturers to satisfy sustainability goals.”
This project aims to create a prototype of the process, so Luxus technicians can gain an improved understanding of its ability to cope with the variability in the type and levels of odour compounds that occur in post-consumer polymer, to help underpin its future full scale commercial application.
Once proven this process will provide an economic retrofit solution that requires minimal process equipment modifications, so Luxus and the UK’s many technical plastics compounders who license the technology will benefit from improved competitiveness.
The cost effective exploitation of this waste stream presents therefore, a major opportunity to the recycling industry – the ability to divert 25,000 tonnes of waste polymer each year. This recycled material would replace virgin polymer, with an estimated net saving of 1 tonne of CO2 per tonne of polymer recovered.
Chris Kerridge, continues: “With Defra’s new Resources and Waste Strategy for England, there is also a major shift in focus now towards resources rather than wastes. The aim is to help manufacturers progress to a circular economy that keeps resources in use for longer, so the need for innovative solutions for the processing of odour contaminated plastics has never been greater.”

For further information please contact Sasha Stewart at Straight Talk PR – email: 
Luxus Ltd  (@Luxusltd)
UK leading independent technical plastics recycling and compounding company Luxus has been developing highly specified thermoplastics compounds based on prime and recycled feedstocks for over 50 years. Luxus is a key supplier to the major names in the global auto industry and it was the first and still is the only UK business to achieve approval for its recycled grades in car interior trims.
Luxus also offers specialist ‘closed loop’ and ‘open loop’ recycling services to manage ‘end of life’ post industrial and consumer waste for the retail transit packaging, construction and local authority wheel bin markets.

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