In our last issue we examined three big themes that will serve as the foundation of many new technology developments at NPE 2012, April 1-5 at the Orlando Convention Center: sustainability, energy efficiency, and automation. In this issue we delve into three more themes that form the “Big Picture” processors should tune in to as they walk the halls of the giant exhibit. Like the issues that were discussed in January, these three themes will form the foundation for growth and development of the North American processing market in the years ahead:
Perhaps a cousin to sustainability—or a means to achieve it—lightweighting (or thinwalling) is a means to reduce the amount of material in a part without impacting performance. Whatever the process—injection molding, blow molding, extrusion, thermoforming—the push is on to make more with less. Lightweighting is not only a green issue, it’s an economic one as well, particularly in the face of overseas competitors pushing lower-cost goods.
The mantra is, “Do it in the mold.” It might be decorating or labeling or assembly. By doing more and more to the parts during processing, instead of post-mold secondary operations, molders can receive important cost benefits while also improving the quality and functionality of the part. In-mold operations add complexity to the process and are not for the faint of heart, but as our market shifts toward higher-end, higher-margin products and away from commodities, in-mold operations are worth looking at closely.
What’s the hot market of the day? Will it be cold tomorrow? Does anyone really know? Nowadays, more and more processors are insulating themselves from market tumult and questions like these by staking positions in more than one industry. It’s not for everyone, but if that’s your goal, there’s a right way to get there.