With the acquisition of a 50% share of start-up company Smart Mold, PP compounder and plastics distributor Sirmax has ‘welcomed’ the spin-off of the University of Padua into the Group, as Sirmax President and CEO Massimo Pavin phrased it.
Smart Mold was founded in 2018 by three faculty members from the Department of Industrial Engineering, who sought to utilize their extensive experience in the plastics sector to deliver solutions that decrease plastic consumption and use circular raw materials. The company’s activities are two-pronged, although both are directed at achieving the aim of advancing sustainability in plastics.
In the first place, Smart Mold has developed and patented a plastic injection mould surface treatment, which reduces injection pressure to facilitate mould-filling, when processing recycled materials. The Smart-Mold patent opens up many application opportunities for post-consumer plastics, which are usually limited due to their higher, more variable levels of viscosity. This translates to a lower impact on the environment and a more environmentally respectful approach.
Its second business activity is to reduce plastic consumption through the use of raw materials with a higher added value. Starting from the engineering design process, the company studies the product application and assesses the mechanical characteristics required, applying advanced software to simulate the product's mechanical behaviour. Smart Mold can then suggest design solutions that reduce the product's weight and its plastic consumption.
“Thanks to our mould surface treatments, we can "elevate" recycled plastic, while our engineering activity means we can significantly reduce the thickness and weight of many structural components, decreasing both plastic consumption and moulding costs," said Giovanni Lucchetta, Smart Mold founder, partner and Professor of Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Padua Sirmax can take advantage of this expertise to provide materials that are optimized for a specific application.
The combination of injection mould surface treatment and optimised material properties allows the thickness of many structural components to be significantly reduced, reducing both the weight and the amount of virgin plastic that is needed. The companies will collaborate on the development of ‘hybrid solutions that deliver the same performance as their virgin counterparts but utilize a high percentage of recycled materials – something which is in high market demand’, said Pavin.
“We will be able to offer stronger, more environmentally- conscious materials and replace high-impact materials with better-performing ones."
Sirmax has been collaborating with the Department of Industrial Engineering of the University of Padua for many years, taking part in research projects, financing doctoral scholarships and donating scientific laboratory equipment.
The Smart Mold stake is part of Sirmax's 2019-2021 three-year development plan, which will see investments of 80 million Euros and has a particular focus on the circular economy.
This focus has already led to the acquisition of SER Srl, an Italian company active in the production and processing of post-consumer plastics, and of Microtec, also based in Italy, a bioplastics company specialising in the manufacturing of packaging film and single-use tableware.
Sirmax is currently constructing a second SER plant, which will open the end of 2020 and focus on the production of post-consumer plastics, in the USA.