From customized requirements to marketable products

During our morning ablutions of dental hygiene or shaving, on our way to work, at the workplace and perhaps when exercising later – we are constantly surrounded by products that are made entirely or partly of plastic materials: toothbrushes and razors, high-quality pots of cream or make-up, reusable cups, numerous office materials, ergonomic bicycle handles, mats, even our pets’ favorite toys.

Actega provides the SOFT EST.® TPE portfolio with a wide range of functions for a variety of consumer goods applications. The ProvaMed® TPE portfolio provides suitable material solutions for applications in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors. Actega thus specializes in customized developments with a wide range of functional possibilities. In order to meet these requirements, Actega has invested heavily in its in-house technical center and application laboratory, which includes the tie-bar-less Engel Victory 120 tech for injection molding. In addition, Actega as a whole invests around nine percent of its turnover in research and development every year. This gives rise to a large development team with experienced plastics technicians, excellently equipped laboratories, and extensive R&D capacities for the development of new, future-oriented products from the initial requirements profile to the marketable product. The details of project work are described below.

A look into the laboratory area shows the practical implementation. This department comprises Research and Development, Analytics, Quality Control, and Technical Service. The first step usually involves the customer drafting an extensive requirement catalog. A team of experts is on hand to provide advice right from the start. On this basis, the raw materials that may come into question are examined very closely and it can be checked whether or which products in the range meet the customer’s requirement criteria. If it turns out that no relevant material can be identified, the next step would be a new development. Initial material ideas with different raw material components – tailored to the requirement profile – are conceived and these are then produced on a laboratory extruder. Subsequently, extensive tests are carried out on the granulates and test rods produced from the material approaches (including ageing, sterilizability, solvent adhesion). Thanks to a comprehensive machine park in our own in-house technical center and the corresponding application technology, additional test rods and specimens can be manufactured once satisfactory material compositions have been found, thereby testing the processing properties of the compounds. This enables new development products to be tested and parametrized in advance and the development steps accelerated and optimized, as it is possible to establish immediately on site whether the materials developed display satisfactory processing and correspond with customer requirements.

Material properties can also be precisely adjusted to the needs of the respective application in the form of additives during the manufacturing process. Stabilizing agents, for example, extend the service life of the plastic and protect it from harmful influences. Special antioxidants prevent the polymer chains from disintegrating and embrittling through reactions with atmospheric oxygen, or discoloration of the material. Adding colorants – dyes, pigments or effect pigments – enables the otherwise transparent polymers to be dyed.

After further testing in the laboratory and associated departments, samples can be produced for customers to test on their equipment. Once everything is running to everyone’s satisfaction, commercial production can take place in the quantity required by the customer.

Before this, however, the Quality Control department carries out basic checks during the development process and especially during production (cut, homogeneity, flow behavior, etc.). Analytics involves a more detailed approach to the material, testing both raw materials and finished products. This also involves substances which may not be included in accordance with the customer’s test catalog or from a legal standpoint, or substances which could possibly have an influence on flavor, to name just two examples. 

And finally, the Technical Service department is available to customers right on site, offering advice, technical know-how and support when setting up the plants, and ensuring that the compounds are processed.

This is how, for example, the toothbrushes referred to above – polypropylene (PP) or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in the hard component, ProvaMed® TPE as a soft-touch element for a secure grip – or interdental brushes are produced. These ProvaMed® TPE are offered in the Shore hardness ranges A-20 to A-80, natural-colored and translucent. They are characterized by their particular softness, individual colorability, pleasant feel, as well as their cleanliness and food-safe properties.

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