DSM Engineering Plastics

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Akulon XS: A PA6/66 alternative for blown film

24 January 2019
  • Dragana PetrovicTechnical Product Manager

The flexible plastic packaging market is seeing steady growth due to the increased need to preserve food. Flexible multi-layer films provide efficient, versatile and lightweight packaging designs with a low packaging to product ratio to extend the shelf-life of food. This film packaging goes a long way to reducing food waste, which represents nearly 1.3 billion tonnes each year, and is responsible for 8.2% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Polyamide 6 and PA6/66 are used in a variety of applications, including multi-layer films produced via air-cooled blown film technology. Films may be made from a single material or blended with other materials for a combination of properties. PA6/66 are suitable for film applications due to their good balance of properties, including easy processing, flexibility, strength, good optics, and barrier properties. 

Yet, the supply chain for PA6/66 is under extreme, long-term pressure due to a lack of the key raw material 66 salt. Since the global supply of 66 salt is short, it is placing pressure on the pricing and availability of PA6/66.

We expect these supply pressures to last for several years. After seven Force Majeure declarations were made across the US and the EU in the first two months of 2018, it became clear that the current total capacity of 66 salt is insufficient to meet market demands. Suppliers of engineering plastics have been discussing alternative materials with their customers ever since.

Akulon XS is a very good alternative for PA6/66 in blown films. It provides exceptional mechanical strength and durability, with easier processing than PA6 due to its slower crystallization rate. The material is a PA6-based copolymer that works well for blown film production because it produces a stable bubble, fewer wrinkles, and optical and film quality similar to PA6/66. Since the material demonstrates higher mechanical and barrier properties than PA6/66, it provides the opportunity to downgauge the thickness of the PA layer to further reduce weight, cost and waste. It has a high blow-up ratio, and the properties of the film in use are similar to PA6. This makes it easier and more cost-effective to make films with improved properties. And it works with your existing dies, so there is no need to re-tool your set-up.

Comparative example 7-layer air cooled blown film PA/tie/X/tie/PA/tie/X
Sample 1 – inner PA layer PA6/66;
Sample 2 – inner PA layer XS material

DSM boosted its capacity of Akulon XS in 2016 to meet the increasing demand for this material in the use of flexible food packaging. Food waste is an enormous global problem. Film packaging for food helps to preserve the food to greatly extend its shelf life during the transportation, retail and consumer phases of the food value chain. Since lifecycle analyses demonstrate that the carbon footprint of food loss and waste is five times higher than the impact of producing the plastic packaging, the benefits of preventing food waste far outweigh the environmental impacts of the packaging involved. This expansion further highlights our commitment to developing sustainable solutions for industry and society.

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