Stratasys Starts Up Free Recycling Program For 3D Printing Material Canisters, Cartridges

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 4. March 2015

Stratasys Ltd, Minneapolis, has launched a new recycling program for its North American customers. It provides a code-compliant and free-of-charge system for disposing of waste FDM canisters and PolyJet cartridges that house its 3D printing materials and also supports local jobs for people with disabilities.


The recycling is taking place at the company’s Eden Prairie, Minn. facilities, in collaboration with Lifeworks, a nonprofit organization serving people with disabilities. Stratasys’ president Gilad Gans says that the recycling of these items brings some key benefits to the company’s customers: its helps them eliminate waste disposal shipping costs, reduces logistical concerns, saves space and helps them better adhere to compliance. Here’s how it works:


Customers can print out their own pre-paid UPS shipping label from the Stratasys website. UPS then picks up and ships the recyclables straight to the Eden Prairie facilities. “The new recycling program is one way we’re making 3D printing and additive manufacturing more convenient and accessible for everyone…In addition, the more our customers recycle, the more we’ll be able to expand the size and scope of our Lifeworks team in Eden Prairie,” says Zehavit Reisin, v.p. for Stratasys Materials Business Unit.



The “Second Machine Age”

By: Tony Deligio 4. March 2015

During the Industrial Revolution, machinery replaced muscle, complementing and augmenting human labor; today as machines increasingly replace minds in the workforce, and human obsolescence becomes possible in some areas, what are the implications for the economy if not our society?


Those insights and questions come from Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Center for Digital Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, who along with Andrew McAfee authored the “The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies”.


Brynjolfsson, McAfee and others came together in February to discuss the rise of “smart” machines and their implications for the economy at an event called The Future of Work in the Age of the Machine organized by The Hamilton Project.


Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Robert Rubin kicked off the event with a question regarding that machine replacement of man:


If labor displacing technology does move at a rapid pace and with great potential for economic significance, and if dynamism continues such that technology is deployed, will new industries and new jobs develop that will replace those that have been lost, and will those new jobs be well paid?


A Paradox
Brynjolfsson began his presentation by noting a paradox of today’s economy: American workers have never been more productive with “much of this bounty coming because of some advances in technology” but median income is actually lower now than it was 15-20 years ago. Brynjolfsson and McAfee call this “the great decoupling,” which has been fueled in part by technology.


“We're now in the early stages of a second machine age where machines are also beginning to supplant minds as well as muscles and do a lot of the control functions that used to be integral and only done by humans,” Brynjolfsson said.


Back in 2005, Brynjolfsson noted that there were certain skills considered to be “Uniquely Human”, like:


  • Autonomous mobility and fine motor control
  • Language and complex communication
  • Pattern matching and unstructured problem solving


Fast forward 10 years and we’re in a new era of “machine intelligence”, marked by systems that can interact with the physical world, with vision and other senses as well as fine and gross motor control. In terms of language, machines offer voice recognition, natural language processing and the ability to create narratives.  In terms of problem solving, software platforms can now answer unstructured questions, utilize rule-based analysis and perform pattern recognition and classification.


To illustrate these advances, Brynjolfsson’s slides included everything from Baxter and Siri to Watson and a service called Narrative Science, which uses software to automatically generate news stories for things like company earnings reports.


“Free, Perfect and Instant”
This area of machine intelligence will be one to watch, according to Brynjolfsson, particularly as more and more jobs can be “codified.”


Digital technologies are quite different.  You can take a process and codify it and once you codify it you can digitize it, and once you digitize it you can make a copy or ten copies or a hundred million copies, and each of those copies have three very interesting characteristics.  They can be made at almost zero cost, they are perfect replicas of the original, and they can be transmitted anywhere on the planet more or less instantaneously. Free, perfect, and instant are three adjectives we didn't use to describe most goods and services historically, but they are standard for digital goods and they lead to some weird and sometimes wonderful economics. 


The weird and the wonderful is also widespread:


This isn't just in a few obscure corners of the economy; software is eating the world.  It's coming to retailing, to finance, to manufacturing, to media, more and more parts of the industry. 


Another Tool
Brynjolfsson ended on an optimistic note, however. After all, increased productivity can never be considered a bad thing, and if it comes from machines (designed by humans), those humans are now free to tackle bigger, better problems.


And at the end of the day the most important thing to remember is that technology is and always has been merely a tool.  Now we have more powerful tools than we ever have had before and they have the potential to create enormous wealth with much less need for work.  Some people see that as a bug.  I think we should see it as a feature.  It should be good news.  I think shame on us if we aren't using these amazing tools to create more shared prosperity. 

PE Prices Bottom Out? PP Prices Move Up!

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 3. March 2015

So, here we are, at the beginning of the ‘Ides of March’, and perhaps that says it all, but most likely not when it comes to commodity resin pricing and particularly polyolefins!


Polyethylene prices dropped 5ȼ/lb in February, bringing the total decline in prices within a five-month period to 16ȼ/lb.  This movement and, in fact, the global PE price movement has been linked to crude oil prices in terms of key drivers affecting pricing for the last four years, says Mike Burns, v.p. for PE at Resin Technology, Inc. (RTi). “The delta between global and domestic PE prices has shrunk…for example, China’s PE prices dropped by 20 ȼ/lb within a two-month period last year and domestic prices took longer to follow but are now sort of ‘good enough’… though another decline is possible in March, depending on crude oil price movement.”


In general, Burns sees PE resin prices as maybe having bottomed out. Globally, prices have started to rebound a bit and domestic secondary markets are showing the same trend. Burns, for one, expects to see the PE exports market start to pick up within second and third quarters—with 2015 potentially emulating 2014’s same time frame in terms of demand and pricing stability. Burns points out that last year, demand appeared to be up during the first quarter primarily due to pre-buying in anticipation of price increases that were implemented and driven by several production capacity issues affecting nearly every PE resin. In contrast, this year, processors have been buying ‘as needed’ in anticipation since end of 2014, of further price relief. In addition, PE supplier inventory levels are at their highest within the last six years, reflecting the loss of exports. 


At the Plastics Recycling conference held last week in Dallas, Joel Morales, director of polyolefins for IHS noted that the key to lower domestic PE prices is the return of the exports market. (By the way, it’s interesting to note that one supplier—Dow Chemical,  issued a 5ȼ/lb price increase, effective March 15..a move that has not been supported thus far.)


Meanwhile, PP prices appear to have moved up on average a total of 2ȼ/lb within the last two months, as PP suppliers succeeded in achieving margin expansions of 1ȼ/lb beyond the cost of propylene monomer. Tight supplies, driven by unplanned plant production disruptions at three suppliers—Ineos, Phillips 66 and Lyondell Basell, are one driving force, along with rising demand. The latter is being met to a small degree by imported PP available at competitive prices, according to CEO Michael Greenberg of The Plastics Exchange.


IHS’s Morales sees domestic PP pricing power as shifting to PP suppliers due to lack of new PP resin capacity… in essence, mirroring PE pricing trends of a few years ago. “While PP prices have declined in step with crude oil prices, planned and unplanned outages continue to be an issue. Also, PP suppliers have aimed to decouple resin prices from monomer, in order to expand margins..similarly to steps taken by PE suppliers with regard to ethylene monomer prices over the last four years.” Stay tuned…



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




DuPont Experts And Partners To Address Recycling, Lightweighting, Optimal Material Selection

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 3. March 2015


DuPont will talk about new ways that plastics can be used in various markets, including automotive. In a recent program, as seen here, Zytel HTN PPA was used to make a coolant cross-over component that weighs one pound less thatn its brazed metal predecessor. 


Among the several major plastics materials companies that will have presence at NPE2015—either through a booth exhibit or through a specific conference room designation, is DuPont. Nearly all these suppliers have announced where they will be located and briefly described the materials and/or applications on which they intend to focus.


I found DuPont’s announcement of how they have structured their time there as a particularly helpful approach both for existing and potential customers and trade press alike. So, here is a rundown of their program of seminars, to be held at the Orange County Convention Center—Room W207A:


• Monday, March 23 at noon. “Material Selection Based On Feel—A Methodology For Technical Evaluation.” Presenters: DuPont technical specialists Eric Larson and Mark Schuchardt. These experienced DuPont Performance Polymers designers will talk about how the senses, such as feel, sight and hearing, can be engaged in the earliest stages of product development and material selection to bring new innovative ideas to light.


• Tuesday, March 24 at 10 a.m.  “DuPont Zytel Plus Nylon—Material Solutions For Long-Term Use At High Temperatures.” Presenter: DuPont scientist Rodica-Sinziana Himmeldirk. This session will address how this new advanced material can support the automotive industry’s drive to increase vehicle fuel efficiency by reducing weight.


• Tuesday, March 24 at noon.  “Not Your Average Recycling Talk.” Co-Hosts from DuPont Industrial Polymers: Shane Campbell, N.A. Industrial & Consumer Director and David Dean, Research & Development Director. DuPont and partner companies (see below) will talk about shifting mindsets about recycling, the latest advances in recycling machinery, and out-of-the-box success stories of recycled materials used in everyday items such as packaging, carpeting and decking.


Partner panelists: Kim Holmes, senior director, SPI’s Recycling and Diversion; Manfred Hackle, CEO, Erema Engineering; Frank Endrenyl, PET project leader, Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE); Darcy Meyers, global marketing director, packaging,PolyOne Corp.; and, Neville Browne, president and director, CarbonLife Industries.


• Wednesday, March 25 at 10 a.m. “Collaboration As The Catalyst For Innovation: Driving Differentiation.” Long-time DuPont collaborator John Winzeler, president of Winzeler Gears, will talk about how collaboration borne from deep relationship speeds development and excites innovation.


• Wednesday, March 25 at noon. “How Plastics Can Do More To Drive Automotive Lightweighting.” Presenter: Jeffrey A. Sternberg, Dupont’s global automotive technology director. Taking weight out of vehicle systems and components tops the automotive industry’s list of strategies to lower emissions and improve fuel efficiency and DuPont Performance Polymers shares a strategy to find new opportunities.


• Wednesday, March 25 at 2 p.m. “Engineering Polymer Solutions To Support Design And Innovation In Drug Delivery Devices.”  Presenter: William L. Hassink, global marketing manager for DuPont’s Medical Healthcare div.  DuPont Performance Polymers’ technical experts lend navigation to what can appear to be a bewildering range of materials to choose from when designing discrete drug delivery devices.


• Thursday, March 26 at 10 a.m.  “So What’s So Special About Surlyn Specialty Ionomer?” Co-hosts from DuPont Industrial Polymers will be Shane Campbell, NA industrial & consumer director and David Dean, research & development director. Presenters include other researchers and technical fellows. If you're not attenting ANTEC, but still want insights into cutting-edge advances in to the unique Surlyn capabilities, stop by for this interactive panel discussion. DuPont scientists will discuss the latest advances which help improve puncture resistance in packaging, bounce strength and anti-aging, and nylon modification. 


• Thursday, March 26 at noon. “The Possibilities Of Packaging & Industrial Polymers.”  Presenter is Timothy Libert, application development programs manager, and other DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers technical Experts. These polymer scientists in the field of packaging and industrial polymers will address some of the industry’s toughest challenges and invite attendees to bring their toughest issues to this panel discussion.


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



A World Without Machine-Hour Rates?

By: Matthew H. Naitove 3. March 2015

I don’t know what that would be like … but I can imagine what would happen if Plastics Technology didn’t publish its exclusive, twice-yearly Custom Injection Molders’ Hourly Rates Survey.


It would mean there is no objective source of average machine-hour rates for presses of specific tonnage ranges in different regions of the country. Molders who have found that to be a unique source to benchmark their competitiveness would have no place to turn.


But that nightmare need not ever come true—if you help, now. We are eager to release our latest figures for machine-hour rates in the fourth quarter of 2014, but we need more data to make those figures reliable for you.


If you’re a custom molder, please take 5 minutes to fill out our online questionnaire form here. (If you have any difficulty with the link, cut and paste this URL into your browser address bar: 


The survey is anonymous, so it’s 100% confidential. We report the overall averages.


And if you’re not familiar with our Hourly Rates Survey, you can see the latest results (June 2014) here.


Thanks, and please contribute to this unique survey to see data on your industry that’s not available anywhere else.

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