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A True Pioneer Passes

By: James Callari 29. August 2014

 

I was saddened earlier this week to learn of the passing of Frank Nissel, who revolutionized the sheet extrusion business when he co-founded Welex in 1966, and was elected to The Plastics Hall of Fame in 2000 during NPE.  Frank passed away Thursday, Aug. 28. He was 89.

 

I remember the first time I met Frank. It was in 1988. I had just joined the now-defunct Plastics World Magazine as senior editor in charge of reporting on extrusion. I didn’t even know what extrusion was at the time. My boss back then, current plastics blogger Doug Smock, explained it to me this way, to my recollection: “In extrusion, plastic pellets are melted and conveyed by a rotating screw through a die to form a part.” A light bulb went on over my head that would soon be extinguished. I replied, “Oh I get it, so the plastic is somehow colored?” “No,” Doug said. “It’s not d-y-e, it’s d-i-e.” I’m not sure if learning that made matters better or worse in my mind. Was extrusion a process where plastic pellets went to die?

 

So with that “background,” I was soon off to Blue Bell, Pa. to meet this regal, larger-than-life figure that I had heard a little bit about beforehand. I don't know how tall Frank was. Maybe 6 ft or a bit more? But he seemed a lot bigger. When he stood up his back was perfectly straight, his shoulders were thrust back, his shirt was crisp and his suit immaculate. I remember thinking, "This guy is a giant."

 

I was not working on an article about sheet when we met, as I recall; I just wanted to sit down and talk with someone who knew stuff and pick his brain. Pick his brain? Who was I kidding?  I was scared. I knew nothing, didn't even know what questions to ask, and realized I wouldn't understand the answers anyway. And I had heard that Frank, well, could be a bit intimidating and didn't suffer fools gladly.

 

But Frank could not have been more accommodating. He was pleasant, charming, friendly, and funny. Very funny. He called me Mr. Callari, which was disarming and immediately put me at ease. And he was patient. (I came to discover later that he wasn't always patient!) I learned more about his personal trials and tribulations, his outside hobbies and interests, and his opinions about this and that (including plastics magazines and editors) during that meeting than I did about the nuts and bolts of sheet extrusion. But that was more because a lot of the technical stuff he told me went over my head. Somehow he realized that (I guess it was the glazed look in my eyes), teased me about it, waved his hand and suggested that I close my notebook, told me to relax and assured me that at some point sooner or later some of this extrusion mumbo-jumbo would make sense to me (later, as it happens) if I kept at it.

 

One thing I found out soon enough was that a lot of people in a lot of places all over the world had his equipment. "That article you wrote about (so and so)...100% Welex," he'd quip.

 

Over the years, meeting at his office, at trade shows, at SPI/SPE events, Frank and I became friendly. Oh, he'd poke me every now and then about this article or that, but Frank was one of those guys who once he decided he liked you…that was that.  He enjoyed pulling my leg. "What’s new?” he’d ponder, repeating my question. “We painted our machines a different color. Write about that.” But he was truly a font of information about anything related to polymers and processing, and not just extrusion either. "I read that article you wrote last month," he'd say. "That (whatever) that you reported was new is actually about 25 years' old. It didn't work then, it won't now."

 

Excuse the cliches, but Frank was in no uncertain terms an industry icon, a legend, a pioneer, a giant, an immortal. Frank was to the world of extrusion what Robert Schad has been to the world of injection molding. Now, if God has any questions about seven-layer sheet extrusion for thermoforming drinking cups, he knows who to ask. Heck, they might be stringing up a line now.

Plastic Pallets Manufacturer Gets Grant To Further Expansion Into Thermoplastic Composites

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 28. August 2014

Indiana-based Jeco Plastics Products recently received a research grant from Purdue University under the IN-Mac program to study how thermoplastic composites with continuous internal fibers in either single or multiple directions develop wrinkles when being molded with multiple cavity thermoforming tools. The aim is to compete with thermoset composites used in applications such as aerospace and defense components. “Thermoplastic composites are lighter weight, less expensive and have fewer design limitations” says Jeco president and CEO Craig Carson.

 

Jeco was the first to receive a grant under this program which is tailored to assist companies extend existing technology. In Jeco’s case, the grant focuses on the company ability to design sophisticated multiple cavity thermoforming tools for molding complex structures that cannot be manufactured using other processing technologies. In fact, Carson points out that critical to his company’s selection for the grant is its unique thermoforming capabilities, which were recently used to develop a thermoformed door liner for a cryogenic container to be used by NASA on the International Space Station. In a recent interview, Carson told me that this cryogenic container is formed from a PP composite reinforced with continuous PP fibers which boasts significant durability even in thin gages at cryogenic temperatures of -195˚C (-319˚F).

 

Jeco’s mainstay has been the design and manufacture of  rotationallymolded, highly durable pallets and containers made of LLDPE and reinforced with steel or tension members for the worldwide printing and automotive industries, along with other industries handling heavy product that needs damage protection.

 

However, this forward-thinking company has developed capabilities that include the ability to produce large plastic structural components made with continuous carbon, fiberglass and PP fibers in a variety of thermoplastics including PP, nylons, PEEK, PEKK, and polysulfones. Carson told me they also have integrated custom woven cloth of various metals and other fibers into laminated thermoplastic structures to create materials with unique properties. “The IN-Mac grant has allowed us to discover how to predict the wrinkling of the fabric and optimize our tool design to minimize this problem.” He also notes that controlling the amount of wrinkling taking place is very difficult, as the necessary sheet control is too limited in existing thermoforming equipment. “It was necessary to develop and fabricate extensive modifications to address this shortcoming”, he notes. He also adds that tooling software currently available does not take into account the within the sheet. “So, after much trial and error, as well as simulation modification and validation, we are now capable of producing, for example, structural components with PEEK and PEKK with unidirectional carbon fibers and PP with bidirectional PP fibers.”  Be on the lookout for more extensive coverage on this innovator in an upcoming PT issue.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

New Guide Offers Tips on Speeding Changeovers

By: James Callari 27. August 2014

 

Time, as the old adage goes, is money. This is certainly true for custom processors, who in large part are able to pay their bills based on how quickly they are able to transition from one job to the next. It makes no difference whether you are involved in injection molding, extrusion, blow molding or any other process; you don't make money if your not making parts.

 

There’s some help along the way. Check out  How to Reduce Changeover Time and Increase Throughput, available on line from Polymer Ohio and its subsidiary, OH!Manufacturing.

 

Does $1.8 million sound like a lot of cash. According to the guide, that's what it costs for a one-hour daily changeover on a fairly significant packaging project with the line running 240 days per year. Many manufacturers don’t even realize how much money is slipping out the door because they aren’t measuring properly. Maybe there are techniques where you can cut that time in half.

 

Can you improve your changeover procedures? Click here and download the PDF.

Wal-Mart's Made in America Pledge and Plastics

By: Tony Deligio 27. August 2014

For the outsized influence it exerts on manufacturers the world over, there’s one important thing to remember about Wal-Mart, a basic fact stated by company President CEO Doug McMillon during that company’s second U.S. Manufacturing Summit held in Denver.

 

“We don’t make anything,” McMillon, pictured above, said. “We can’t provide value to customers on great items like these and others without having a strong collaborative relationship with you.”

 

The “you” referred to the more than 200 component part suppliers and contract manufacturers that had come to Denver for the second iteration of the summit, hailing from 42 states and Puerto Rico.

 

The “these” referred to the array of U.S. made merchandise stacked around the stage—easily recognizable brands and products as ready props to substantiate the retailer’s January 2013 pledge to source an additional $50 billion in U.S. products over the next decade.

 

It was that pledge that launched the inaugural U.S. Manufacturing Summit held in Orlando last year. The event is meant to serve as a matchmaking mixer between brand owners and U.S. manufacturers, giving the Procter & Gamble’s of the world a face and a name for a U.S. option to manufacture its various brands.

 

Setting the stage
In the minutes before the event began, workers from the Denver Convention Center and Wal-Mart representatives scurried around the auditorium stage, rearranging the product props that ranged from plastic bins and coolers to tires, TVs and light bulbs, with household names like Crest, L’Oreal, Good Year, and John Deere represented.

 

As I settled into my seat accompanied by a media handler, a Wal-Mart representative rushed past, saying aloud the instructions relayed to him on his headset: “Candles with the Old Spice and Connect 4 with the games.”

 

With every product positioned, a video, preceded by Toby Keith’s “Made In America” playing on the loudspeakers, launched the proceedings. On the large screen above the center of the stage, a camera panned across an abandoned factory, while a narrator intoned, “It’s time to get back to what America does best.”

 

Theatrical to be sure, but the summit, which also featured a exposition hall for manufacturers to pitch their skills to reshoring-inclined brand owners, was very much a practical exercise in connecting companies.

 

Michael Araten, president of K’NEX Brands, which includes injection molder, The Rodon Group, sat on a panel with Jim Stephen, executive chairman of Weber-Stephen Products LLC, maker of the iconic Weber grills.

 

Just during their brief time back stage, Araten had already pitched Rodon’s molding capabilities to an interested Stephen for wheels and other plastic elements of the company’s barbecues. Araten himself was on the lookout for new suppliers.

 

“I’m looking for toy motors and I hope I find them tomorrow,” Araten noted. Earlier in the event, a Wal-mart executive encouraged attendees to interact with people around them, noting that the person sitting next to them could supply “the key thermoplastic compound” needed for a new product.

 

Lincoln Logs, Made in the U.S.A. again
Araten also helped lay out the challenge faced by brandowners looking to reshore production that had been shipped overseas years ago. He announced that for the first time in 60 years, production of Lincoln Logs would return to the U.S., a move made possible with Wal-Mart’s help.

“I want to thank Wal-Mart for doing what it is doing here, which is connecting people,” Araten said. Without events like the one in Denver, Araten explained that K’NEX had resorted to the “pick and shovel work of little Google searches” as it tried to reshore production, with mixed results.

 

“It took us four tries to find factories that could not only do it and achieve the quality,” Araten said of Lincoln Log production, “but do it in the high volume you need to fulfill the scale of places like Wal-Mart.”

 

And that last comment is indeed part of the challenge. Wal-Mart, and its vendors, are cold-calling U.S. manufacturers at a time when many have been greatly diminished by a decade of offshoring driven in part by a lower-costs-at-all-costs mentality. To its credit, the retailer gets that and is trying to help U.S. industry regain its footing.  

 

Always low prices
“Yes we want to offer a value,” McMillon said, noting the retailer’s mentality is to run a low margin on high volume, adding that it wants its suppliers to “have a like mind about that.”

 

But, McMillon noted, that’s no longer the entire bottom line. “We want you to be able to make money, and we want you to invest in your business for the long term,” McMillon said. “We want you to innovate, to invest in R&D and create the next new item for next year or years beyond so it’s important that we have that kind of open, trustful dialogue as we do it together.”

 

On the innovation front, Wal-Mart’s U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund issued $4 million in grants to seven research and development institutions to “create new processes, ideas, and jobs that will foster America’s growing manufacturing footprint.”

 

Oregon State University has been chosen for one of the first seven grants from the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund created by Walmart and The Walmart Foundation to help accelerate manufacturing in the United States.

 

Among these was Oregon State University, which received a $590,000 grant for the development of innovations in injection molding; and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), which received a $291,202 grant to support its “Optimal Plastic Injection Molding Tooling Design and Production through Advanced Additive Manufacturing,” research project.

 

‘Stronger economy for everyone’
McMillon sees the summit in Denver, and its overall Made in the U.S.A. push of the last several years, as seizing on an important occasion. “In the U.S., we believe this window of time, these last few years and the years to come, create a great opportunity for us to lean in, do things more aggressively and differently than we would have before and convene groups like this one to create together the situation where U.S. manufacturing can grow and be successful and create an even stronger economy for everyone.”

 

To pass time in the car, my eldest daughter often counts Wal-Mart trucks. We spend a fair amount of time on the main north/south interstate by our house, and there is a Wal-Mart distribution center 25 miles north on that same highway, so on longer drives, it’s not hard for her to reach some pretty big numbers.

 

Since the summit, it’s been reassuring for me to visualize those trucks being filled with more and more U.S. made goods (many of the plastics heavy) and see more and more “Made in the U.S.A.” stickers on Wal-mart’s shelves. Hopefully it’s a trend other retailers and brand owners emulate. (Pictured below from left: Walmart U.S. Chief Merchandising & Marketing Officer Duncan Mac Naughton, Michael Araten of K’NEX and Jim Stephens of Weber Stephens). 

First-Ever Conference Planned on Conformal Cooling

By: James Callari 22. August 2014

Robert A. Beard & Associates, Inc. a well-known provider of technical, engineering and management support for plastics and Plastic Technologies, Inc. (PTI), a global leader in plastic-based package development is announcing the inaugural 2014 Conformal Cooling Conference.

 

The conference, Injection Molding Technology for Increased Efficiency and Profitability,  is aimed at helping OEMs, injection molders, and moldmakers to learn more about the advantages of conformal cooling.

 

The event will take place on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at Automation Alley, Troy, Mich. Fees are $ 495.00, which includes lunch and any conference related materials. The session will begin 8:30 AM, with registration open at 8:00 AM.

 

Beard calls conformal cooling of injection molds "a game changer in the molding industry." Typical cycle reductions of 20% - 40% can be realized, lower reject rates are accomplished because of uniform cooling and stronger parts are achieved through lower molded-in stress.

 

“This technology accelerates the speed of heat transfer and does so more evenly on curved and complex geometry than with conventional molds. This results in improved quality and increased profitability,” states Beard. Click here for an article Beard wrote on the subject in the June 2014 issue of Plastics Technology.

 

Presentations will include:

 

  • Jeff Higgins, Moldflow Corp.: The Design & Analysis of Conformal Cooling Channels.

 

  • Reiner Westoff, Contura MTC GmbH: Vacuum Brazed Conformal Cooled Molds and  Rapid Heat Rapid Cool Process.

 

  • Augustin Niavas, EOS GmbH: Direct Metal Laser Sintering DMLS.

 

  • Doug Hepler, Polyshot: Vacuum Brazed Hot Runner Manifolds and Design Guide For Conformal Cooled Molds.

 

  • Barry Sutherland, North Coast Industrial Imaging: Technologies & Techniques For Troubleshooting Conformal Cooled Molds.

 




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