Manufacturing Process

Solaplast, a division of ALGIX, is a green technology company committed to the production of sustainable plastic composites. Through an uncompromising work ethic, innovation and life cycle thinking, we empower our customers to address the needs of today without compromising the needs of tomorrow. Our process allows us to provide a wide variety of environmental, economic, and humanitarian benefits.

Solaplast has a vertically integrated plastic compounding operation. The process starts with algae biomass harvesting or acquisition and then the processing of raw materials, including: the milling of the algae and classification of powdered additives, extrusion compounding for thermoplastic resins and filament extrusion for 3D filament production. The Solaplast facility provides convenient logistics with rail, interstate and ocean port accessibility.

ALGENT Drying System - crop

The ALGENT Facility is located in Marion Junction, Alabama which harvests and dries algae biomass for downstream compounding and conversion into thermoplastic products. This facility is 10,000 square feet and is centrally located near over 30,000 acres of fish farms producing algae biomass. The facility contains industrial harvesting, dewatering and drying infrastructure for producing algae biomass.

Solaplast Entrance - crop

The Solaplast facility is located in Meridian, Mississippi. The facility houses the industrial milling, compounding, filament extrusion, packaging, and logistics operations. The facility also contains the research and development lab, marketing and sales departments. This facility is 70,000 square feet and sits on over 13 acres of land with rail and interstate access for rapid logistics and shipping of products.

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Solaplast’s flagship is our US-built Entek twin screw extrusion compounder. Our compounder is specially designed for enhanced mixing, dispersion and venting with the ability to precisely blend up to seven ingredients into consistent, high-quality resin pellets. The system can process a very wide array of thermoplastic resins, such as PLA, ABS, PP, PE PS, EVA, PBAT, and PHA. The Entek’s extensive capabilities and world-class design allows us to produce custom polymer resin formulations for a wide variety of end use applications.

Jet mill - Crop

In order to achieve high performance plastic properties in our formulations, Solaplast uses special jet milling technology for micronizing materials such as algae, to produce highly uniform, micron-sized particles for downstream compounding. The jet mill uses high velocity hot air to collide the material into each other causing significant grinding forces, while have low wear and tear on the mill itself.  The system is highly capable of milling virtually any material with high efficiency, through-put rates and precision classification for creating a powder to achieve the desired specifications. The production rate strongly depends on the desired particle size, but for most polymer applications, the system can mill over 3 tons of material per hour.

Lab TSE - Crop

Solaplast has a research and development lab designed for a wide range of polymer, biomass, and product development uses. Our scientists have strong backgrounds in polymer science, chemistry, physics, and engineering, which brings a high level of professionalism and technical merit to our approach for product development, quality assurance and technical assistance. The combination of these scientific disciplines in our team allows us to have the ability to innovate and problem solve in order to optimize our filament production and quality control process.

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Our research and development laboratory has a variety of infrastructure and equipment including: twin screw extrusion, pelletization, injection molding, compression molding, micropulverizer, environmental control chamber, melt flow analysis, tensile/flexural testing, precision moisture analysis, particle size analysis, GC-MS, UV-Vis Spectrophotometry, optical and epi-fluorescence microscopy, electrical testing equipment, laminar flow cabinets, and compositional analysis capabilities.

3D-Fuel Extruders

Solaplast has partnered with ALGIX 3D to leverage our extensive experience and capabilities in the polymer compounding space for the development, manufacturing and distribution of extremely high quality and wide range of 3D printer filament products.

Our process starts with using prime virgin resins, such as PLA, in a single screw extrusion system. Our base resins are pre-dried and the process has been scientifically optimized to maximize the filament strength, consistency in diameter, roundness and color and printability on several models of FDM-style 3D printers.

The team at Solaplast wants your ALGIX 3D experience to be consistently excellent. We achieve this through science, hard work, and a passionate drive to produce value for our customers.

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The extruded filament strand is scanned using a dual axis laser to ensure strict tolerances of diameter and roundness for optimal printability. Our team implements lean six sigma statistical tools to measure and analyze the variations in diameter from two angles on the filament. Our scientifically developed standard operating procedures (SOP’s) to operate our extruders allow us to dial in our tolerances to extremely low variation. Based upon this work, our quality assurance process keeps variation of filament diameter and roundness less than +/- 0.03 millimeters (+/- 30 micron).

Automated Spooler - crop

The filament is then carefully spooled using automated spooling systems at the end of each extrusion line. We recognize the challenges faced by 3D printer users for poor spooling or potential kinking of the filament during a print. We have developed a process for spooling the filament to address these kinking issues. Each filament extrusion line has a dedicated spooling machine and a trained operator skilled in the art of spooling. The spooling operators individually inspect each spool and prepares it for vacuum sealing and commercial packaging. The vacuum sealed spools include desiccant and a humidity indicator strip to ensure an in-spec product with a long shelf life. Our final boxed spools are then ready for quick shipments directly to customers and distribution.

3D Printer Head - crop

Based upon our research into the critical to quality variables for 3D printing, we have developed a process for producing the highest quality filament products. The quality assurance process starts with a random sampling of filament spools for quality analysis. The filament will be subjected to moisture analysis, filament tensile strength, modulus and elongation, diameter and roundness checks, color consistency, high resolution moisture analysis and finally a 3D printed sample to check for printability and filament performance.

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  1. Pingback: Algae 3D Print Filament with Barbara Zeller of Algix 3D

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