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Toys A waste-to-toys

Toys A waste-to-toys effort Luke’s Toy Factory makes safe, sustainable toys from local sources A few years ago, Jim Barber’s children were all off to college or working, so it seemed like a perfect time throw out some of the old toys cluttering up the basement. While going through them, he noticed that most were imported. After doing a little research, he found out that some of them had been recalled for lead paint and other safety hazards. He thought- “There has to be a better way to make toys”. Fast forward to today. His company, Luke’s Toy Factory, is just about to launch its first product- a fire truck made for pre-school children, ages 2-5. The unusual part is that it’s made using Wood Plastic Composites (WPC), and it’s made locally — not shipped half around the globe. He used a Kickstarter Project to build awareness and raise some of the funding for the toy. Kickstarter is crowd-funding platform that in the case of Like’s Toy Factory especially addressed parents who take a genuine interest in where and how their kids’ toys are manufactured. Barber decided that he wanted to make the toys out of WPC, using sawdust, rice holes and wheat straw— waste materials outside the food stream, and combine this with plastic. “The toys then feel and act like wood— durable and attractive, and yet contain 40% less plastic than conventional toys,” Barber explains. By using an injection molding process, they could design toys that would be too expensive to make with traditional methods, and with more realistic details. He enlisted his son, Luke, as the Toy Designer. After Luke designed each toy, they used a 3D printer to make a working model. They were played with and tested in order to fine tune the fit and function. The toys Luke came up with are a line of trucks, designed to be assembled out of 4 to 6 parts into a working toy. “Most toys are either baby toys or aimed at the older kids”, says Luke. “We decided that we wanted to make the toys have a bit of a challenge to keep young children interested, but not so difficult that they are frustrated.” All the trucks share a common chassis with wheels attached, so that you can take off the fire truck body and put on a dump truck, or a flatbed truck. The toys have walls that are 3mm thick. This adds weight and makes them much stronger than most injection molded toys. Real WPC truck Jim says, “I was lucky, in one respect, because I didn’t have any idea of what a big project it would turn out to be. Otherwise, I might have been scared off at the beginning! When I first started looking into WPC, I found that, while Europe had a thriving market for WPC products, most of the interest in the US was in extruded building products. Injection molding of WPC was almost non-existent.” 80% of the toys sold in the US are imported, so there is very little infrastructure left for creating toys locally. Fortunately, Jim was able to join forces with Chris Budnick, of Vanguard Plastics, in Southington, Connecticut, USA. Vanguard helped with tooling, and sourcing of the WPC. They decided to go with Rhetech’s RheVision line of bio fiber reinforced polypropylene. “I was intrigued by the interesting variety of fillers they had Previous 3D-mockup 46 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/14] Vol. 9

Toys tested,” Jim Barber said. “From wood flour to coconut and agave fibers, they were looking for waste products that did not pull resources from the food stream, and I found that attitude exciting”. Rhetech quickly signed on to the project, sending samples to test. “We are starting our initial toy production with the maple reinforced product, at a 30% loading, using virgin polypropylene. Mostly this is because we wanted to start with the product that had the most information available. As a startup, you have to balance the known with the unknown, and as a toy company, you must keep safety at the forefront”, says Jim Barber. “A large part of the appeal of this material is that we can color it in the mold with FDA approved pigments, so there is no surface paint to flake off. Consumers are very aware of heavy metals in paint coatings, as well as additives such as phtalates or Bisphenol A (BPA). At age 2, kids are still putting things in their mouth and chewing on them. Going forward we expect to be able to incorporate recycled resin or maybe even biobased plastic into the fillers, but for now we needed to be as safe as possible”. One advantage Luke’s Toy Factory enjoys is the ability to quickly react to market demand. “We can produce toys and get them to the market while other toys are still on a ship travelling halfway around the world. It’s better for the environment, and better for us. 100 per cent of these toys are made locally, here where we live and where we sell the products.” says Jim Barber. The toys are produced on a Boy model 50E. “We use a standard molding process with these toys. Even with the thick walls that are an integral part of the toys, we are running normal cycle times,” remarked Chris Budnick.”Drying is important, as these materials do have a larger than normal moisture component. Additional venting also needs to be considered in the mold design.” The target audience, children in the 2-5 age group, likes bright colors. The advantage of the maple filler is that it takes color readily, so vibrant reds, blues and greens are easy to produce. “We’ve also run some trucks with natural color. I think this may appeal to an older audience,” Jim Barber added. “My plan is to expand the range of fillers we utilize. By doing this, we can get different colors and textures, which in turn will allow us to make some very interesting toys- trucks with coconut wheels, oak bodies and flax fiber accessories. The possibilities are endless. It will be really fun to be able to say “This toy is made from coconut and sawdust.” Luke added, “The whole idea of sustainable and recycled materials is a journey, and we are just at the beginning.” MT Editor’s note: In the next issue we will feature a special on 3d-prining Meet the innovators from across the biotechnology and chemical industries What is EcochEm? EcoChem is the leading large-scale, independent and scientifically-supported meeting on green and sustainable chemistry and engineering. It welcomes 3000+ international leaders and innovators from across the value chain so that they benefit from networking, learning and business opportunities. Attending companies include: BASF, Air Liquide, AkzoNobel, Braskem, Borealis, DSM, Sigma Aldrich, Dow, DuPont, Evonik, Henkel, INEOS, Solvay, Adidas Group, Umicore, L’Oréal, Nestlé, Nike and IKEA. The meeting place for the entire value chain 3000+ 120+ 150+ ovER 65% 100% REgistER noW and receive 10% discount off the congress pass with this code “ECO14MPBPL” intERnAtionAl visitoRs EXhiBitoRs spEAkERs sEnioR lEvEl DEcision mAkERs vAlUE chAin REpREsEntAtion FREE EXpo pAss what to expect in 2014 FREE ACCESS entry to the expo and Sustainable Technology Seminars when you register at bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/14] Vol. 9 47

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