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GEHR Kunststoffwerk – new applications for bioplastics

GEHR Kunststoffwerk GmbH & Co. KG, founded in 1932 and owned by the Gehr family ever since, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of semi-finished thermoplastics. The company’s headquarters are in Mannheim.

The company is run by the third generation of the Gehr family, a family who attach great importance to entrepreneurial freedom and to the long-term, solid development of their company. For 26 years, GEHR has maintained an American subsidiary at its production site near Philadelphia and also has sales offices in France, Italy, China, Japan and California.

Semi-finished products for medical applications

GEHR Kunststoffwerk GmbH & Co. KG headquarters © GEHR

GEHR focuses mainly on the production of semi-finished products from thermoplastics for the plastics production industry. In its quest to be one of the most important suppliers of semi-finished products to as many industrial sectors as possible, the company manufactures a wide range of extruded rods, sheets, profiles and tubes. The company's special products are solid rods with a diameter of up to 700 mm. Rods made from polyoxymethylene (POM) have found an unusual application. A producer of high-quality ornaments manufactures precious metal rings combined with black GEHR POM-C, lathed from rods with a diameter of 25 mm. GEHR also produces rods with diameters as small as 3 mm.

Semi-finished products manufactured by GEHR Kunststoffwerk © GEHR

The semi-finished products are used in many industrial sectors. For example, GEHR has been producing tubes for the writing instruments and cosmetics industry for many years. The semi-finished products are also used in the automotive, medical technology, laboratory devices and mechanical engineering industries. GEHR also offers a huge portfolio of materials made with certain specifications, for example UV stability or physiological harmlessness, for particular applications.

Best processor of bioplastics

One recent success for the company was a first place in the Bioplastics Award 2008, namely the Best Bioplastics Processor prize. “The judges were particularly impressed by the innovative performance of GEHR as the first company to manufacture extruded semi-finished products made from bioplastics, which opens up whole new areas of use for the materials,” said Thomas Stintzing, product manager of the ECOGEHR product family. A whole range of bioplastics products is available in the shape of ECOGEHR, thus enabling customers’ varying requirements to be addressed depending on the particular application.

ECOGEHR PLA-L is made from polylactic acid © GEHR

ECOGEHR PLA is based on polylactic acid, a bio-polymer based on renewable raw materials that are ecologically safe and have a positive CO2 balance. Polylactic acid is mainly produced from corn starch and can be disposed of through industrial composting or incineration. "The main focus of the PLA product is the ability to compost it," said Stintzing. "Applications are currently being tested." There are already a number of ideas for the application of ECOGEHR C-L, a mixture of cellulose, natural fibres, lignin and fatty acids. "Due to its composition, the material resembles wood, but is far more homogeneous," reports Thomas Stintzing. "Potential applications could include musical instruments and furniture."

Motion in the bioplastics market

The ECOGEHR WPC materials, which also resemble wood, consist of standard polymers (polypropylene or polyvinyl chloride) and wood fibres. The materials have a high degree of mechanical robustness and are suitable for external use. “WPCs are currently mainly used as wooden planks for terraces as they are very weather-resistant,” said the biologist.

Another member of the ECOGEHR product family is ECOGEHR PA (polyamide). ECOGEHR PA 6.10 consists of up to 60 percent sebacic acid. PA 11 is made from 100 percent renewable resources. The two biopolymers are based on castor oil. “ECOGEHR PA might become very popular in technical applications because it is thermally stable at very high temperatures (100°C), something that is very unusual for bioplastics,” explains Thomas Stintzing. “However, a lot is happening in the bioplastics market. It is highly possible that bioplastics will soon be developed that are even more interesting for the application in technical semi-finished products,” said the biologist.

Website address: https://www.biooekonomie-bw.de/en/articles/news/gehr-kunststoffwerk-new-applications-for-bioplastics