That smells nice: GRAFE adds fragrance to plastics
That smells nice: GRAFE adds fragrance to plastics
Interview with Stefanie Theuerkauf, Sales Manager D-A-CH region and Lars Schulze, Head of Color Design Center and Team Leader Material Science, GRAFE Advanced Polymers GmbH
Exclusively for K-MAG
Source: GRAFE Advanced Polymers GmbH
It's instantly recognizable, even with your eyes closed: that unmistakable "new car smell". Granted, it's not necessarily a scent everyone loves, prompting many to reach for alternative air fresheners. But what if you could avoid unpleasant odors right at the factory source - and not just when it comes to cars, but other products as well?
GRAFE has found a way to infuse fragrance into plastics. The company's high quality masterbatches are easy to use and can be applied to a variety of products. In this K-MAG interview, Lars Schulze and Stefanie Theuerkauf talk about the requirements that must be considered in implementation and reveal the conceivable areas of application.
Lars Schulze; Source: GRAFE Advanced Polymers GmbH
Mr. Schulze, why is your company researching ways to infuse fragrance into plastics?
Lars Schulze: Fragrance in plastics applications often becomes a hot topic during the Christmas season. Examples include plastic products smelling like cinnamon or oranges. These are mostly temporary effects, which is why two years ago, we decided to address the issue and make scents last longer. We considered the prospects of this type of project and where an implementation might be successful. For the past year and a half, we have been developing fragrances in process technology and are now ready to find project partners.
Which products are candidates for fragrance infusions?
Schulze: There are virtually endless applications in this setting. We can envision fragrances in areas aimed at substituting other raw materials. For example, the automotive industry might want to use the technology to cover up any bad smells from leather or to eliminate shoe odors. You could also infuse a plastic Christmas tree with a pleasant pine scent or use scented plastics in retail to bring attention to specific products. Another exciting application is the integration of fragrance into functional components including switches or trim components.
What special requirements must the end product meet to include fragrances?
Schulze: Our fragrances are available as masterbatches just like our colors. It means customers can dose them normally and add them to the injection molding or extrusion machine for processing. However, I should point out that some polymers and fragrances are not compatible with each other. Initially, we focused on introducing scents to polyolefins and established that thermoplastic elastomers such as TPU are likewise well suited for this process. Having said that, one must always ensure the fragrance does not act as a solvent for the respective material.
Are you already using the masterbatches in applications?
Schulze: With some project partners, we already brought the first projects to fruition and offer them on the market. We are nearing commercialization with several partners, while being in exciting discussions with others. The different stages are due to the compatibility of the fragrances with the corresponding plastics. Customers cannot simply "pick out" one of our fragrances. Our technical center must first analyze whether the respective fragrance is compatible with the corresponding polymer and assess its longevity and expiration.
What feedback are you getting from your project partners?
Stefanie Theuerkauf: All our partners are very satisfied at the moment and give us positive feedback. Of course, one must always consider any feedback from a product-specific perspective since there are individual differences in perception. This means we couldn’t point to one specific scent that is especially popular. That said, we get positive feedback from our customers and are delighted to provide high-quality products.
What role will plastics play in the future?
Theuerkauf: Plastics have become an essential part of our lives and it is difficult to imagine a world without plastic. We hope we have moved beyond the "demonization" of plastic and that society appreciates the benefits of plastics. After all, if we have an honest and objective conversation about plastics, we will come to realize that the material has improved our quality of life quite substantially. Obviously, sustainability should be pervasive and always be promoted in this setting. Yet all told, we can no longer live without plastic. It is an industry of the future, and we are far from having explored all its possibilities: we still see untapped potential in plastics – a factor that makes this industry so interesting and exciting.
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