Malaysia’s new injection moulding machinery has been hailed as a “game changer” in the plastic industry, as it has the potential to improve a process that has long been plagued by shortages.
Malaysia currently produces about 60 million tonnes of plastic per year, but the industry is struggling to make up the shortfall, with the country’s manufacturing capacity at only 1.2 million tonnes per year.
To help improve production, the government has allocated a total of $100 million to the countrys plastic industry over the next three years.
But it’s not just the injection moulders that are making a difference.
Researchers from the University of Technology, Kuala Lumpur (UTK), and the Centre for Applied Chemistry at the Malaysian Institute of Science and Technology (MIST) have discovered a new moulding system that is designed to reduce the waste that is generated by the process.
The study, titled “Making plastic from waste: a new type of moulding technique”, was published in the journal Science Advances.
“The injection mould process is extremely energy intensive,” said study co-author and UTK professor Dr Heng Tan, who is the director of the Laboratory for Plastic Science at MIST.
“If we don’t reduce the plastic production in the industry, we will be producing more waste and wasting more plastic.”
Instead of using the traditional moulding method of adding a chemical resin to plastic, the researchers used a technique known as a chemical vapour deposition (CVD) to produce moulds from plastics.
“We found that a CVD-based moulding process, which uses a liquid and solid mixture to create a mould, can produce a plastic with a higher yield,” Dr Tan said.
“This is a breakthrough in the field, because it allows us to use plastic for plastic production without having to use a lot of resources.”
Dr Tan explained that the process can be used to create plastic without the need for the use of chemicals.
“A plastic that is a high-quality plastic will be a high quality plastic because of the quality control and the production process.
And it can be produced at a lower cost,” she said.
The researchers are also planning to expand the technology to produce plastics that are made from materials that have a low amount of plastic.
Dr Tan said that it was important to make sure that the new moulded plastics were produced at low cost, because this could be used as a basis for new plastic-making techniques.
“It’s also important to avoid the use and waste of materials and to use them for more efficient production,” she added.
While the study found that the injection-moulding method is a viable and cost-effective method for reducing the production of plastic, it is unclear if the technology will be used widely in the future.
“Our results suggest that the plastic moulding can be applied to new materials that are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than existing materials,” Dr Chan said.
However, he added that it is important to keep in mind that the method is only a means to an end, as the researchers have not yet found a way to make the plastic with high plastic content.
“When we apply this method to a range of plastic materials, we found that it can produce plastic that has a high plastic quality, and we are working on that to make plastic that can be commercially produced,” Dr Lai said.
“It is important that we keep in view that the final product has to be more environmentally-friendly and more sustainable, so we must make sure it’s made with high quality.”
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