Thermoforming Material Myths

by Todd McDonald on June 7, 2016

For 14 years, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman used scientific methods to test (and often debunk) thousands of rumors and myths on the show Myth Busters. One of our favorites was when they demonstrated that dropping a penny off the side of the Empire State Building could not kill someone. In fact, when they shot a penny at over 700 mph at a gel “skull”, the penny couldn’t even penetrate the gel, and that speed was over three times what a penny would reach falling from the top of the Empire State Building. There are other commons myths of course – such as that lightening never strikes the same place twice, that ostriches hide their heads in the sand or that George Washington had wooden teeth. But, what about in the world of plastics and thermoforming?

You may be surprised that there is a common myth that exists around something as simple as styrene based plastics, especially since styrene became the latest chemical to require a label warning under California’s Proposition 65, which requires companies to notify consumers and citizens when a certain amount of potentially harmful chemicals are present in a product.

The misconception, or “myth”, is that because styrene has been added to the Prop 65 list, this also includes the polystyrene used in HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene) – a cost effective, impact resistant and versatile material commonly used in the food and medical industries because of its unique qualities of strength, hygiene, visual appearance and ability to retain heat. However, this is actually untrue. In fact, when California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s (OEHHA) announced the addition of styrene to the Prop 65 list, they also made a point to clearly state that this ruling does NOT cover polystyrene.

Similarly, when Ethylene Glycol was added to the OEHHA list, some mistakenly believed that this included the glycol in PETG (Glycol-modified Polyethylene Terephthalate). While the names may be similar, the glycol used in PETG (an environmentally friendly material suitable for contact with food and medical/pharmaceutical products) is quite different, and is NOT included on the OEHHA list of hazardous materials.

AT TEQ, we not only have expertise in working with HIPS and PETG, but also with over 25 other materials, including Fibrepak®, a unique smooth surfaced pulp packaging material. Plus, we have developed our own proprietary materials such as TEQethyleneTM and TEQconnexTM to address unique needs of the medical packaging market. Why? Because, we think it is vitally important to not only clear up any misconceptions about these materials, but also to keep a “material neutral” approach and evaluate and consider the characteristics (from sustainability to clarity to formability) of multiple materials when deciding which is best for your project.

What about you? What are some common myths or misconceptions in your business or industry?

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