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Flawless toys from plastic

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Zur Forderung Der Angewandten Forschung E.V. : 12 March, 2003  (New Product)
To the chagrin of many parents, their children's shelves will soon be buckling under the weight of new toys once again. Apart from the issue of educational value comes the question of whether to look on the underside of that plastic elephant. Is there a Conformit
If so, rest assured that the object of your child's playful appetite at least meets European quality standards and is not of some dubious origin. Most of us are familiar with the well-known warning 'Contains small parts that may pose a choking hazard for children under three years of age'. What rarely comes to light however, is exactly what toy manufacturers must take into account when manufacturing a product. Is the durability and design of the plastic elephant sufficient to prevent a child from biting off its trunk and swallowing it? If it does happen, how do different plastic materials react to digestive tract juices? How fast are harmful plasticizers or stabilizers released from the plastic or does the paint wear off?

This leads toy manufacturers to consider another issue. What processes could be implemented that would enable them to replace PVC with an alternative plastic, thereby bringing tedious debates to rest? The technical processes and materials are so complex that the Baden-Württemburg ministry of economics has initiated a joint project bringing together six leading German manufacturers with the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT to address the issues. 'Some of our partners have already switched to non-PVC products or nontoxic plasticizers,' says ICT project manager Marc Knoblauch-Xander. 'We try to design the processes such that the new materials can be injection-molded, because producing large quantities in less time with good quality is the goal.'

Example: the hot, thick mass of liquid plastic is injected into a cooled mold, remaining enclosed until the toy displays a sufficiently thick, solid wall. 'It's not enough for the elephant to merely stand on its own feet after being ejected from the mold,' says Knoblauch-Xander from experience. 'The accumulated heat forces its way out and can liquefy the solid outer skin again. At high production speeds, it can help to dip compact or thick-walled pieces in cold water after they have been formed.' The surface must be sufficiently active to allow paint to properly adhere. If necessary, it may be pretreated and activated with processes such as corona discharge. In the end, the toy should look no different than originally planned when it's placed under the Christmas tree.
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