From plastic-eating mushrooms to edible packaging, these are some ways in which science is assisting the efforts to create a better planet.

FREMONT, CA: The global impact of COVID-19 has been extraordinary, exposing companies worldwide to various obstacles. Lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus, market uncertainty, lower investment, and operational constraints have postponed global projects and inescapable effects on the worldwide economy.

In 2020, the global market for plastic products experienced a loss of 1.2 percent as a result of the worldwide slowdown or cessation of numerous industrial operations. Notably, the automobile, building, and construction industries reduced their demand for plastics significantly. The automobile industry, one of the largest purchasers of plastics after the packaging and construction industries, witnessed an 18 percent decline in usage (or 900,000 tons).

Despite difficulties, the plastics business is on the mend, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.4 percent between 2021 and 2028. This expansion is anticipated to be bolstered by a resurgence in plastic use among the hardest-hit industries, namely construction and automotive. Plastics will replace metals in the production of vehicle components due to the trend toward the lightweight, which aims to increase fuel economy and decrease carbon emissions.

Regulations regarding the depletion of natural resources, the recyclability of conventional materials, such as metal and wood, and legislation to improve energy efficiency are anticipated to increase demand for plastic in the construction industry for a variety of applications, including insulation, pipes, cables, flooring, windows, and storage tanks. Plastics have 85 percent less gravity than metals, and when employed in the automotive and construction industries, they provide weight savings of around 80 percent and cost savings of 30 percent to 50 percent for individual components.

In conclusion, the sector has never had a greater need to optimize productivity, minimize energy usage, and cut expenses.

Only 80 to 90 percent of the injection molding machine's capacity time is utilized for productive purposes. Due to planned downtime, technical difficulties, and the setup procedure, valuable manufacturing time is lost. Although machine maintenance and mold modifications can reduce downtime, cycle time optimization provides the greatest value.

Cycle time plays an important role in the injection molding process, impacting the quality of the manufactured parts and the company's financial bottom line. Eliminating seconds from a cycle time can improve the number of parts manufactured in the same amount of time or less.

Industrial gases are crucial in various plastics manufacturing process steps, such as blowing agents for foam injection molding (FIM) and as a pressure medium for gas injection molding (GIM).

Manufacturers who previously used foam injection technologies had to choose between physical and chemical foaming methods. A foaming agent is combined with plastic granules by chemical operations. This method is simple and can be implemented on standard injection molding equipment. However, unlike physical foaming methods, chemical procedures only permit low foaming pressures, making them inappropriate for thin-walled polymers. In addition to being expensive, chemical blowing agents produce undesired byproducts that leave residues on the mold. Typically, the blowing agent is poured directly into the molten polymer using physical blowing procedures. This necessitates further adjustments to the injection molding machine and a specialized screw to ensure uniform mixing of the polymer melt. Also required is high-pressure gas dosing equipment for regulated gas injection. This increases installation costs and restricts adaptability.