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Agricultural plastic film designed to resist puncture by stones and stubble

DSM Engineering Plastics (Sittard) : 04 May, 2004  (Application Story)
Agriplast meets large production challenges with Eco-Brom multi-layer films co-extruded with DSM Akulon XP polyamide 6.
Italian company Agriplast, based oin Vittoria, turned to DSM Engineering Plastics for a solution to a multi-faceted challenge. The company needed an agricultural plastic film that was strong enough to resist puncture by stones and stubble, wide enough for the most intensive mechanized farming, and impermeable to methyl bromide or alternate soil sterilization and fumigation gases.

Working with Agriplast, DSM formulated Akulon XP36-E polyamide 6 for agricultural film. Akulon XP36-E provides both gas barrier and mechanical strength for large-diameter blown film bubbles. Eco-Brom marks the first commercial use of Akulon XP agricultural film.

Agriplast uses the formulation in its Eco-Brom film, a three-layer multi-layer sandwich of linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) top and bottom, and Akulon XP36-E in the centre. The film, only 30um thick (less than half the thickness of a typical human hair), is extruded through a circular die 8-10m in diameter, then blown in a column 20m high. The material is slit into continuous film in various widths suitable for crop rows.

Akulon XP adds substantial production efficiencies for the Eco-Brom multi-layer extrusion line. In blown film, formulations in the Akulon XP family provides better web (bubble) stability than conventional resins alone. In addition, with Akulon XP36-E, Agriplast was able to use thinner LLDPE layers, thanks to the tear resistance conferred by Akulon XP.

Generally, formulations using the Akulon XP family optimise multi-layer cast and blown film processing thanks to tuned rheological and coefficient of expansion properties. In trials at DSM of generic films, the Akulon formulations increased production speeds by as much as 100%, compared to conventional multi-layer extrusions, thanks primarily to Akulon’s higher strength.
The methyl bromide permeability of Eco-Brom film is less than 0.2 gr/m2/hour, meeting the French Normative NFT 54-195. This gas permeability is about 300 times lower than that of a polyethylene film alone, allowing farmers to reduce methyl bromide or alternate gases by up to 50%. The result is better fumigation combined with greater protection of the environment than that offered by alternative films—without increasing costs.

Eco-Brom film is available in neutral and black. The black version is sufficiently weather- and UV-resistant to serve as mulch during a complete growing season, while the neutral film is designed for removal after assimilation of the gases.

DSM’s Akulon XP resin family was originally developed for food packaging and meets US FDA standards for food contact. Akulon XP is used typically to provide an oxygen barrier, ideal for such oxidation-sensitive foods as meats, cheeses, sausages and fish.
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