How is water-soluble plastic made?

August 07, 2023

Water-soluble plastic bags are revolutionizing the packaging industry. The demand for these packaging bags is escalating with every passing day and for the right reason. As the name suggests, these packaging bags dissolve when they come in contact with water. Various products can be enclosed in these packages. Water-soluble bag manufacturers can differentiate the composition of these water-soluble bags to match the requirements of multiple industries as per their unique requirements. These water-soluble plastic bags can be used in pharmaceuticals, detergents, food, beverages, medical, hospitality, manufacturing, textile, and others. The major reason contributing to the accelerated use and demand of this packaging is due to its environment-friendly characteristics in comparison to traditional plastic packaging and ease of use. 


Steps involved in making water-soluble plastic

There are multiple steps involved in the production of water-soluble plastic. It is necessary to follow all steps with great care and precision to ensure quality results. Here are all the steps that the water-soluble bag manufacturers take to manufacture water-soluble bags:

Raw-material selection: As you already are aware water-soluble plastic is made from biodegradable polymer. This polymer is the basic raw material used in the composition of water-soluble plastic. When it comes to raw materials, water-soluble bag manufacturers can choose among a bunch of materials that they find most suitable. The general choices include polyvinyl alcohol (also known as PVA), polysaccharides (starch), polyvinyl pyrrolidone (PVP), pullulan, and polyethylene oxide (PEO). You might be wondering on what ground the manufacturer chooses the raw material or polymer from production. The raw material selection can be a bit tricky as it can depend upon the type of product you are going to encapsulate in the water-soluble plastic. Although a similar polymer can be used to enclose different types of products some modifications are required to get optimal results. This is why it is necessary to use the best polymer as per the usage of water-soluble plastic/bag/package. Let us unveil what polymer is best for which type of product:

Solid products: Solid products include single-use condiments, fertilizers, and other such products. Solid products need to be enclosed in a plastic that has great barrier properties and mechanical strength. The best polymer to enclose such products is polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and starch/ polysaccharides.

Powdered products: Powdered products include powdered drink mixtures, coffee, tea, and other such products. To enclose such products you need a water-soluble plastic that has both qualities of ready dissolution in water and necessary barrier properties to ensure that the contents are protected from the environmental effects. The ideal raw materials with these qualities are polyvinyl pyrrolidone (PVP) and pullulan (starch fermentation).

Liquid products: The liquid products include shampoos, cleaning agents, liquid detergents, and other such products. Such products need to be enclosed in a plastic that can readily dissolve in water. This is why the ideal polymer to manufacture water-soluble plastic to enclose liquid products is one that has a high dissolution rate and can dissolve as soon as it comes in contact with water. The best raw materials with these qualities include polyethylene oxide (PEO) and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) that is modified to have high water dissolution grade.

Polymer Modification: Once you have selected the polymer to manufacture the water-soluble plastic it is now time to modify it. The modification is done to achieve the desired performance characteristics and specified properties. These special characteristics are prerequisites to make sure the manufactured plastic can be capable of offering the desired application. The modification can be of various types including enhancing mechanical properties, controlling the dissolution rate, improving barrier properties, adjusting processing behavior, ensuring compatibility with enclosed products, ensuring the safety of plastic, and ensuring that there is no severe environmental impact.

Processing of the polymer: After the desired modification is done, the polymer is ready for further processing. The processing is usually done by incorporating various plastic processing techniques such as injection molding, extrusion, casting, film blowing, lamination, compression molding, solvent casting, and coating. Through effective usage of these techniques, the polymer can be processed in the desired shape or form including sheet, packaging, capsule, or film as required for encapsulating the product. The processing also depends on the desired application and required properties for enclosing the product inside it.  During the processing stage, certain additives can also be added to enhance the processability and performance of the water-soluble plastic. The usual additives include fillers, plasticizers, and processing aids.

Shape formation of water-soluble plastic: Once processed, the polymer is ready to be shaped in the desired form of water-soluble plastic. But before shape formation, it is necessary to effectively cool down and solidify the processed polymer. After properly cooling it is also essential to dry the polymer to get rid of any leftover moisture. Afterward, you can shape it however you desire. It can be formed into a pellet, film, bag, sheet, or capsule as per the packaging requirement.

Quality control: The water-soluble plastics are then subject to quality control to make sure that the quality of produced plastic is as per the desired standard. Desired tests are performed on the plastics by water-soluble bag manufacturers to measure their performance just to be sure that they will deliver the results that are expected of them. Remember, not all plastics are tested against a single criterion because water-soluble plastic can have varying manufacturing criteria as per their raw material and intended performance. This is why it is essential to cross-check the performance against the criterion they are manufactured on. The usual tests are conducted to check the performance in terms of mechanical strength, uniformity, water dissolution rate, barrier strength, reliability, and consistency.

Packaging: Once you are sure about the quality, you can start packaging the products in water-soluble plastic. As specified earlier, plastic can be used to encapsulate different types of products (solid, liquid, or powdered) that can serve multiple industries. The packaged products can be stored in desired environmental conditions till they are delivered to the industries you plan to serve.

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