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The EPS(Expandable Polystyrene) Application

Author: Date:2010-11-30 10:14:04

Expandable polystyrene (EPS) is produced in a suspension process by adding a blowing agent, usually pentane, which causes resin to foam during moulding. The process may be performed as a single step or a two step process.

 

EPS is a closed cell, lightweight, resilient, foamed plastic composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms.  EPS has a compressive strength between 10-60 psi for most construction applications.  Within that range EPS can be molded to meet specific application requirements.   Applied in foundations, walls and roofs, EPS has a successful history of efficient use in industrial, commercial, cold storage and residential buildings.  EPS is a very unique material, having excellent insulating qualities. It is lightweight, strong and resilient, non-corrosive, and dimensionally stable.  Where energy efficiency and cost effectiveness have long been primary design considerations, architects have made EPS the dominant thermal insulation.

 

The two step process passes the blowing agent though the polystyrene beads during, or after, polymerisation. The resultant beads are then subjected to steam heating to above their glass transition temperature resulting in the beads expanding (by 40 to 80 times) and produce the cellular form. The resulting product is then moulded.

 

The one step process employs direct thermal extrusion of the material after blowing and is mostly used for sheet and film manufacture.

 

Expandable polystyrene (EPS) is a rigid cellular form of polystyrene with good thermal insulation and shock absorbing properties, high compressive strength, very low weight and resistance to moisture. These properties of EPS bring many benefits, in particular to the construction and packaging industries.

 

Building and construction applications are the largest outlet for EPS accounting for around two-thirds of demand. Large quantities are used to make insulation foam for closed cavity walls, roofs and floor insulation. EPS foam also finds uses in road construction, bridges, drainage, flotation and sound insulation.

 

The other main application of EPS is in packaging. Food items such as eggs, meat, fish and poultry can be packed with EPS which is also used to make vending cups and containers for carry-out meals. The good shock absorbency of EPS makes is suitable for the packaging of delicate electronic goods. 

 

Other uses for EPS include providing protection in crash helmets and as decoration in design work.

 

The EPS market has seen strong growth globally, driven by the construction sector where it is one of the top choices for insulation. According to US-based consultants CMAI, global demand grew at an average of 5.5%/year in the 2000-2006 period.

 

In western Europe, the new building insulation requirements are boosting demand, offsetting the decline in packaging applications. The European Union plans to extend the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD) to include renovated buildings from 2009, including the majority of small buildings. The EU is also expected to specify minimum energy performance in buildings.

 

The European insulation market for EPS is expected to see more than 20% growth by 2010, according to the manufacturer Nova Innovene. The total EPS market in Europe is estimated to be 1.21m tonnes with construction applications including building insulation accounting for 70% of demand.

 

The European EPS market is balanced to tight following some plant closures. However, there are a number of projects underway. BASF will expand capacity by 130,000 tonnes/year at Ludwigshafen, Germany, by end of 2008. Sunpor Kunststoff is building a 100,000 tonnes/year EPS plant in St Poelten, Austria, due on stream in 2009. Smaller expansions are planned in Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic.

 

China is the largest market for EPS accounting for one-third of global demand. The booming Chinese economy has boosted demand for EPS in the packaging of a variety of items such as consumer electronics, personal computers and household items. At the same time, the growing construction and building industry has ensured that demand for block flame retardant EPS, which is used in insulation panels for buildings and bridges, remains buoyant.

 

However, extensive new EPS capacity has been added in northeast Asia, especially China. As a result, the Chinese market is oversupplied with reports that most facilities operate at around 50-70% of capacity. Hence, northeast Asian producers are targeting the export markets of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

 


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