Fuji Xerox has been actively promoting research and development on how to replace the plastic parts in copy machines and printers with more environmentally friendly materials. One example is the introduction of biomass plastics.
By using biomass plastics, the amount of carbon gases emitted during disposal can be offset by the amount of carbons absorbed. This is because the plants used to produce biomass plastics absorb carbon gases in the atmosphere through photosynthesis while growing in the field. This means that absorbed carbon gases are theoretically used to produce plastic materials. The idea is known as the "carbon neutral" concept (see Fig. 1).
Fig. 1: The "Carbon Neutral" Concept
Nonetheless, compared to oil-based plastics, biomass plastics are:
Given these challenges with respect to durability and safety, biomass plastics have not been adopted in high-durability electrical products, including copy machines.
The biomass plastic developed by Fuji Xerox consists of 30 percent or more polylactic acid (PLA) by weight. PLA is a plastic material derived from corn used for animal feed. Despite this relatively high inclusion level compared to other plastics, we have achieved the same strength and flame resistance found in conventional plastics. This plastic has obtained the "BiomassPla logo" of the Japan BioPlastics Association (JBPA) and is already being used in some of Fuji Xerox products.
We are also continuously advancing the development of biomass plastics that contain a higher ratio of plant-based materials, and have successfully developed plastics consisting of 50 percent or more plant-based materials by weight.
While current biomass plastics consisting of 30 percent or more plant-based materials by weight are alloys of PLA and polycarbonate (oil-based plastic), our newly developed biomass plastic only uses PLA as its basic plastic constituent. Moreover, the ratio of oil-based constituents is reduced to less than 10 percent by minimizing the use of oil-based materials in new additives that improve the physical properties.
When the amount of PLA is increased to achieve a higher ratio of plant-based materials, both flame resistance and flexibility generally deteriorate, with hydrolysis becoming more likely to occur due to moisture and other factors.
The new biomass plastics therefore offer enhanced flame resistance thanks to improved flame retardants, and use materials having low moisture absorbency to reduce the occurrence of PLA hydrolysis. In addition, new additives are added to enhance both flexibility and shock resistance (see Fig. 2 and Fig. 3).
Our newly developed new biomass plastic has received the "BiomassPla50 logo" given to plastic products consisting of 50 percent or more plant-based materials.
Fig. 2: Comparison of Flexibility Before and After Adding the New Additives
Before adding the new additives
After adding the new additives
Fig. 3: Surface Impact Test
The result after dropping a 500 g iron ball from a certain height