Ants made of bioplastic – project & production

Ants from bioplastic

What is the ant project about?

Julia Bugram’s ant project is an art project that takes place in public space. Ants made of bioplastic are glued together with kids on school paths, squares, and the like in order to explore public space. The ants are made of bioplastic so that when they are washed off, they do not pollute the environment. This prevents microplastics from ending up in the environment.

What are the steps from idea to implementation?

In terms of plastics technology, three things are needed. First, an injection molding machine or micro injection molding machine, since the ants are very small and fine. The machine also needs a so-called ” mold”. This is the mold into which the bioplastic is injected and the ants are formed. And last but not least, you need the appropriate bioplastic material.

What are the steps in the production process?

In the injection molding machine, the bioplastic is heated and conveyed by a screw towards the injection molding tool (injection mold). The liquid bioplastic is then injected into the mold, molded and subsequently cooled directly in the mold. In the final production step, the finished ant is then ejected. In this case, it is a multiple mold in which several ants can be produced in a single step.

What are the requirements for bioplastics?

Due to the requirements in the production of the ants of bioplastic, the bioplastic material consists of a mix of different natural/plant raw materials. The ants must be neither too soft nor too hard. The fine antennae must be cast accordingly, but must also not break off too easily.

What is the difference in processing to oil-based plastic?

In principle, everything that can be made from oil-based plastic can be made from natural plastic/bioplastic. In processing, the difference lies in small details. Here, the main issues are the shrinkage behavior of the material, i.e. the reduction in volume due to cooling, and the processing temperature, since bioplastics behave somewhat differently than conventional plastics. This means that the manufacturing process has to be adapted accordingly.

What is bioplastic made of?

Bioplastics consist of plant-based raw materials instead of mineral oil. In most cases, it is sugar or starch, which are processed accordingly so that they can be used like plastic.

Can I make bioplastics myself – are there experiments?

Just as it happens in the real production with lactic acid, you can not replicate it, but in a similar way with the basic ingredients of milk and vinegar. How exactly this works, we explain to you in detail in this article on our website.

What are the advantages of products made from bioplastics?

As we can see from this ant project, you can make anything from bioplastic that you can make from conventional plastic. The big advantage of using bioplastic is that plants, which regrow and bind CO2, are used as raw material. Therefore, the CO2 bound in the plastic comes from the atmosphere and not from fossil sources that are harmful to the climate.
At the end of the product life cycle, products made from bioplastics are compostable and they do not break down into microplastics. With all these benefits, why aren’t all products made from bioplastic?

The only disadvantage of bioplastic is its higher price. That’s why not all oil based plastic products are replaced by bioplastic yet.

Why is the ant project so exciting?

The ant project is also a way for us to try out special challenges and material compositions. We already used recycled bioplastic with the ant here, too. Using recycled bioplastic is also the way to go. We will also test in the next step to add algae to the bioplastic for the ants.

Why does NaKu make ants from bioplastic?

NaKu makes special projects from bioplastics for customers in general. This is the third pillar of NaKu. We produce children’s toys, special packaging for natural cosmetics and much more. As a standard, NaKu produces foils and bags made of bioplastics as well as bottles and cans made of bioplastics.

Why does NaKu pass on its bioplastics knowledge to schools, universities, etc.?

We love working with educational institutions, as this is a very fruitful and creative collaboration. We are also very happy to do start-up projects where we can help with our bioplastics expertise. With the Schönbrunn Horticultural School, for example, we developed a special bioplastic planting bag for a reforestation project in Kenya. Such projects show that a great deal can be made possible with bioplastics, it just has to be done.

How is an injection mold made?

A milling cutter is used to mill the injection mold out of a metal block. In the case of the ants, a particularly fine milling tool was necessary here. The milling process itself is computer-controlled and runs on a 3D milling machine. First, the injection mold is drawn on the computer, and then a corresponding software converts it accordingly for the milling process.

How does the milling cutter work?

To get a better idea of the size of the milling cutter for the ants, we have compared it with a human hair. You can see this comparison best in the video.

How fine is the milling cutter for the injection mold of the ants?

To get a better idea of the size of the milling cutter for the ants, we have compared it with a human hair. You can see this comparison best in the video.

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