“Our goal is to stand out, present original products, bring new ideas to design and do our part towards creating a sustainable future for polymers. The image of an intellectually curious child running towards the future on a lawn that is green fully respecting ethics and environment. This is our vision.” These are the words of Eligio Martini, President of the Maip Group
Intellectual curiosity is the lever driving Eligio Martini, President of the Maip Group, towards ongoing research on a global scale into innovative polymers. Research has expanded the company’s portfolio to the impressive number of 15,000 different formulas, ranging from basic compounds to the revolutionary super flexible transparent methacrylate in the most exclusive colours, the incredible PaperPolymer, carbon nanotubes and edible materials. «This is the only way to regain competiveness in the face of cheaper markets – Martini from Plastix World explains –. The plastics market is, in fact, a mature one, and the future, especially in Europe, will force industrial players to arm themselves with the tools they need to survive. Innovation therefore becomes, venturing beyond every common place, the only path to pursue in order to grow».
What does being innovative mean?
Innovation must be a thread common to all the parts of the plastic pipeline, starting with university research and ending with manufacturers of the end product. This is the only way enterprises can outdo competitors who focus primarily on price.
And, in this industry, what realities create or could create innovation?
This is a very complex answer. I am just going to underline that innovation always requires investment, sometimes significant. I believe that these costs should be divided throughout the entire pipeline, including the final user, making it thus participant to a cultural change. Certainly if the client – a large car maker or the consumers themselves – stops because of the cost of the product is a few cents too high, or if the only “research” they are dedicated to is finding a talc-filled PP or a cheaper toy, the commercial outlet needed for technological evolution is simply missing.
In this context, what mission does a company like yours set itself?
I believe that beside the “i” of innovation, we have to add other things, such as creative intelligence, intuition and, obviously, ideas. The goal is to provide a link, to joint study and information for partners who are more receptive to innovation, experimentation and design, providing them with concrete and competitive solutions, including on an economic level. This means being able to identify new applications, but also to understand what materials to study to develop innovative products. There are many topics to explore, but I would say that it is not easy to decide which direction to take. For example, more than twenty years ago, during a trip to Japan, I discovered nanocomposites and I formed a close partnership with the producer. These materials generated a lot of talk, but today they appear to have almost disappeared, despite the unquestionable advantages, the extent of which are not yet known – and, behind the crest of the wave instead of “nano” all we are seeing is prefixes like “bio” and “eco”.
So, are you focusing on environmentally sustainable polymers?
Certainly we are, with more than 30 custom formulas, especially in the B(i)os range which includes polymers deriving from bacteria, but not only. We play with biocomposites or hybrid polymers, where plastic meets many different natural products. We play with colour, in harmony with mould finishes that range from metallic to marbled, from lacquered to fluorescent effect and changing colours with multiple nuances, through to photo-luminescent and controlled wavelength materials. But this is not all: we study materials with particular properties, such as hot and cold thermochromics, photochromics, but also controlled density products, from expanse that is light as a feather to heavier than iron.
Current design trends also focus on multiple sensorial features. What do you suggest?
Our line Inchanto includes about 90 different special effects, divided into the Metallica line (metallic effects), Vision (innovative optical-sensorial polymers) and Esthetica (virtual effects). I believe the most surprising effect is M(i)nt, which can reflect heat instead of absorbing it, even when it is dark in colour. People will no longer risk to burn themselves getting into a car that has been left in the sun in August!
Harmon(i)a is proving to be highly successful, a material that can disseminate and disperse LED light uniformly, almost without reducing light emission, avoiding the typical hot spot effect generated by this type of light sources. The advent of diffusing polymers on the market is an absolute novelty for the lighting sector, which is experiencing sweeping regulation and technological changes. On the one hand, in fact, we have the EUP Directive which, in the name of energy savings, has done away with traditional incandescent bulbs and with it the concept of opalescence from the filament light source, and on the other LEDs have become established as a new way of lighting our daily lives, capable of guaranteeing not only control over light intensity, but also colour temperature. The Group’s compounding division has developed a series of formulas with different transmittance values to suit needs. This material ensures lower energy requirement with the same light source.
Another very interesting line of lighting is H(i)lite. This is a revolutionary super-reflecting polymer, particularly suited to applications for which light dispersion needs to be contained in the context of greater energy efficiency. They in fact can replace traditional post-production coating or metallic treatments which are costly and pollute, guaranteeing however total reflectance values to the order of 92 percent.
In addition to the extraordinary product range, what other competitive advantages do you offer?
We decided to be proactive towards our clients with innovative materials, solutions and technology, guaranteeing the correct selection of polymer in the proper ratio between performance and price. In addition, we try to provide the highest level of technical support in the engineering stage of plastic parts, in the mould manufacturing stage and also in addressing any processing problems. Naturally, for comprehensive integration in the production pipeline, and to ensure the highest quality in terms of products and services, we have focused on training our collaborators. Therefore, in summary: price, quality and technical competence. It is easy to say, difficult to do.