From Cobots to Cartesian to Cells: Molding 2016 Has Automation Covered

By: Tony Deligio 10. February 2016

The reasons for, methods to and technology available for injection molders to automate their processes continue to evolve.


Molding 2016 will feature a five-speaker session focused on automation and representing the entire robotic supply chain. Called “Adding Value Through Automation, Assembly and Packaging,” the session will feature speakers from automation, molding machine and cell suppliers, as well as an injection molder using automation to tack on value added operations of packaging and fulfillment.


On the automation supply side, Jim Healy, VP of sales and marketing at Sepro America, will help attendees “Reimagine What a Robot Can Do.” The global company with U.S. offices outside Pittsburgh and headquarters in France has extended its automation offerings to include highly automated cells (read more here).


Cobots, or collaborative robots, will be the focus for Carl Palme of ReThink Robotics. In February, Plastics Technology tackled this new concept in automation, and Palme will expand on that further with case studies of how cobots can enable advanced manufacturing.


Bill Egert, Logic One Robots, an integrated supplier of robotics, machine controls and software will extend the concept of “lean” to automation, discussing finding value while cutting waste with robotics. Mike Fil of injection molder Extreme Molding will discuss the skills and equipment needed to extend molding operations to include packaging and fulfillment.


Finally, Michael Stark of robot, auxiliary and injection molding machine supplier Wittmann Battenfeld will present a paper entitled “Integrated, Traceable, Automatic Flow Control for Your Tooling and Process.”

Register for Molding 2016 (March 29-31, New Orleans) today!



Jim Healy, V.P. Sales & Mktg, Sepro America

Re-Imagining What a Robot Can Do


Bill Egert, Logic One Robots

‘Lean’ Automation – Finding Value, Cutting Waste & Perfecting Process With Simple Robotics


Carl Palme, ReThink Robotics

Collaborative Robots Enable Advanced Manufacturing


Mike Fil, Extreme Molding

Extending the Value Chain to Include Packaging and Fulfillment to Effectively Compete and Win Against Chinese Molders


Michael Stark, Wittmann Battenfeld

Integrated, Traceable, Automatic Flow Control for Your Tooling and Process


Evonik to Double Nylon 12 Powder Production

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 10. February 2016

Growth of 3D printing and thermoplastic composites cited as key contributors to Evonik’s substantial investment.


The market leader in the production of nylon 12 powders, Germany’s Evonik Industries (U.S. office in Parsippany, N.J.) has announced plans for a major investment—in the mid- double-digit million euro range—for a new production line for nylon 12 powder at its Marl facility. Slated for start-up in late 2017, the expansion will boost annual capacity by 50 percent.


What is particularly interesting is that the company cites two “growth fields” as contributing to the decision to move ahead with this investment: 3D printing and thermoplastic composites. This, in addition to steady growth in the traditional uses for nylon 12 powders, which are sold by Evonik under the brand of Vestosint—modified nylon 12 powder manufactured at the Marl site from a nylon 12 granulate, using a proprietary Evonik process. For example, such powders are used to coat metals for household appliances such as dishwasher baskets, but also in automotive and medical technology production and as matting and structural agents in coatings.


Evonik anticipates significant increases in demand in tool-free production—especially in the 3D printing industry. “We project attractive market growth. The new production line in Marl will meet the growing demand for PA12 powder products in the long term to support our customers’ growth,” said Claus Rettig, chairman of the board of management of Evonik Resource Efficiency GmbH. Due to their mechanical properties and chemical resistance as well as the high melting point of finished products, nylon 12 powders are particularly suitable for use in powder-based 3D printing processes such as selective laser sintering (SLS) and high-speed sintering (HSS).


In addition, Evonik is aiming its investment to the fiber composite materials field. Nylon 12 powders are said to be an ideal matrix for thermoplastic composites made of fiberglass and carbon fibers, as well as aramid or steel fibers. Applications can be found in the automotive and oil drilling industries, as well as the sports sector and in orthopedics. 

PET Landscape, Plastic Innovation Highlighted at Packaging Conference

By: Heather Caliendo 10. February 2016

Presenters at The Packaging Conference noted one advantage PET has over other packaging mediums is its ability to grow through technology.


Here are some highlights from the various presentations during the conference (Feb. 8-10; Henderson, Nev.), I’ll have a more in-depth report in an upcoming edition of Plastics Technology magazine.


PET Outlook
The PET value chain has benefited from the shale and crude advantage of the last two years, but Aloke Lohia, group CEO of Indorama Ventures PCL, Bangkok, Thailand, cautioned the audience that this will not last. He said to expect the price of PET to go up.


“The price of energy stocks going down has allocated some manufacturing to continue even in a weak environment,” he said. “As prices go up, we will see some constraints.”


PET resin demand for 2016 is at 24.2 million tons, according to Steven Ates, managing director of SBA-CCI, Ocean Springs, Miss. PET packaging resin production is forecast to grow at about 6.2%/yr globally now through 2020. In looking at 2015-2020, he said that PET rationalization will continue globally as integration into PTA/PET will become the norm.


Bottled Water Is King
There was a time where many environmentalists pushed for the usage of less bottled water and for consumers to embrace tap water. Well, according to Gary Hemphill, managing director and COO at Beverage Marketing Corp., New York, consumers are instead embracing the bottle—PET bottled water that is. In looking at the U.S. beverage marketplace, bottled water has seen accelerated growth over the last two years. Refreshment beverages are up 3% and a lot of that is being driven by bottled water.


“Declining tap water consumption is a positive for the industry,” he said. “The decline of tap water is really a reflection of a healthy beverage industry.”


Bottled water has gained the most volume over the last 10 years while carbonated soft drinks have lost the most. PET single-serve bottled water is 67% of the bottled water market. Over last five years, ‪plastics has seen the highest growth due mostly to the success of the bottled water category.


“Advances in supply chain, declining resin cost, light weighting, lower fuel costs are all contributing to single-serve PET bottled water market growth,” he said. “Water is a great place to be.”


Hemphill said that it’s inevitable that bottled water will surpass carbonated soft drinks as the No. 1 beverage category in the U.S. He predicts this will happen either by the end of 2016 or beginning of 2017.


Continue to Innovate
Denise Lefebvre, vice president of the global beverage packaging of PepsiCo., Purchase, NY, focused on packaging innovation during her presentation. Pepsi’s approach has the consumer in mind for the entire lifecycle of a package: when they use it, why, how and what happens afterward.


“Across the lifecycle, there is innovation opportunity, and we want to be able to push the button and go in a meaningful direction,” she said. “Unless we start thinking in more of an innovation mindset, we will continue to miss an opportunity and shrink our volume collectively as an industry. We don’t do as much innovation as an industry due to lead time, and I urge us all to fix that.”


During a separate presentation, one example of packaging innovation was the TruVue clear  plastic can developed by global packaging company Sonoco, Hartsville, S.C. (read more here). It consists of a multi-layer structure featuring PP and EVOH and is processed using multilayer extrusion. Sonoco expects TruVue to be commercial this year.


“Consumers want this transparency—what you see is what you get,” said Jeffrey Schuetz, staff vice president, global technology - consumer packaging at Sonoco. “It’s good for processors because it runs on existing assets, and it will deliver the product protection that consumers are looking for.”


He went on to say that he doesn’t believe plastic cans will take over the entire metal market but that there is a strong niche in certain categories that are well suited for the plastic can.

Engineering Plastics Growth Led by Nylon and ABS

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 5. February 2016

New Aranca market study projects significant growth for engineering plastics, generated by metal replacement, 3D printing and photovoltaics.


A new study from India’s Aranca, a global research and analytics firm with U.S. offices in New York City and Palo Alto, Calif., projects continued growth in metal replacement by engineering plastics with nylon and ABS in the lead here in the U.S.


Demand for engineering resins is estimated to grow at an annual rate of 4.1% through 2019, hitting $7.4 billion compared to 2009 market of $4.9 billion. The growth is attributed to metal replacement in the construction, automotive, and electrical & electronics industries. Technological advancements such as 3D printing and a growing photovoltaic industry are expected to boost the market further as well.


According to the study, the U.S. engineering thermoplastics market is dominated by nylon, followed by ABS and PC in terms of volume. Aranca places nylon and ABS in the lead, with 27% and 26% market share, respectively, followed by PC at 22% and PBT/PET at 10%, with 15% market share for all other engineering thermoplastics.


The market share of nylon is estimated to expand rapidly, driven by demand for metal replacement in underhood vehicle applications and 3D printing. ABS is projected to grow slowly as a result of competition from lower-cost resins. PC is expected to benefit from growth in the consumer and medical devices market sectors. According to Aranca, smaller-volume engineering thermoplastics are likely to exhibit high growth rates driven by increased usage in advanced batteries, photovoltaic modules and medical implants.

DuPont automotive air ducts

Plastics Recycling Conference Explores the Economics of Recycling

By: Heather Caliendo 3. February 2016

These are interesting times for the recycling market—the industry has been impacted by the erratic commodities markets and low cost virgin material will test commitments to use recycled materials.


This topic was brought up quite a bit during the first day of Resource Recycling's Plastics Recycling Conference (Feb. 1-3; Hyatt Regency Center, New Orleans), which featured representatives from the entire plastics recycling supply chain.



“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times (for polyolefin buyers),” said Phillip Karig, managing director with Mathelin Bay Associates, St. Louis. The shale revolution has left PP producers feedstock constrained as resin prices are high and volatile whereas PE producers are fully integrated to natural gas, making them big winners in the ‘Shale Revolution.’


“Be careful about getting caught when the market falls down, everyone tries to buy scrap inventory but don’t assume tomorrow will be like today,” he said. Lots of scrap inventory with sharp virgin price drops can break a recycler.


“There is a lot of pressure on the spread right now with customers coming in and asking for fixed prices,” Karig said. He cautioned attendees to “hedge carefully” and recognize that resin prices are less correlated with energy costs than they used to be so “don’t hedge with them.”


Karig also mentioned the potential liability from customers who expect recycled resin to “not only ‘run like virgin’ but to be virgin.’”


“The biggest thing to watch out for is everyone wants to run recycled material like virgin material but it’s not virgin,” he said.



One material that could be a highlight for the recycling industry: polypropylene. A panel dug down deep into the supply chain to discuss PP and how the resin can grow. KW Plastics, Troy, Ala., is one of the world's largest reprocessors of the material. Stephanie Baker, KW’s director of market development (pictured below), highlighted work the company has down with Lush Cosmetics to apply recycled post-consumer (PCR) PP packaging. 

Plastics Recycling Conference Stephanie Baker KW Plastics

“Who would have thought 10 years ago that we’d not only see PP PCR in packaging but that a brand owner would actually want to tell customer, ‘We are proud not to be virgin,’” Baker said. “There are some really high-grade products developing as a result of our work with PP PCR.”


She went on to say that “PP is what is stabilizing us, as we are not seeing the big swings; PP is a stable commodity and a pretty safe bet.”



Joe Pickard, chief economist and director of commodities at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI, Washington, DC), didn’t shy away from the fact that the industry faces a number of challenges.


“ISRI members say 2015 was the worst year they have seen in a decade,” he said.


For the first 11 months of 2015, plastic scrap exports—totaling 1.9 million metric tons—were down 5% by volume as compared to year-prior shipments. Among the major overseas markets, the 20% drop in plastic scrap exports to mainland China and 42% decrease in loadings for Indonesia more than outstripped gains to Hong Kong, Canada, India, Taiwan, Vietnam and others.


Generally speaking, Pickard said the issues are: falling commodity prices plus soft manufacturing output, a strong dollar, and logistical and regulatory issues equaling disappearing margins and scrap industry consolidation. The Chinese manufacturing slow down is impacting commodity and scrap demand and having a big impact on U.S. scrap exports.


“While there are positive macroeconomic numbers—GDP growth and the labor market adding jobs—for the manufacturing sector, it’s different story; job gains have reduced,” he said.


Will it be more of the same in 2016? China is still expected to slow down, and commodities are widely forecast to go lower for longer, however, Goldman Sachs and the International Monetary Fund are forecasting gains in global economic growth and trade. While few are expecting a “V-shaped” recovery, Pickard said there are signs some commodities may hit bottom as falling prices impact supply. Overseas markets are expected to experience faster growth especially in South Asia. He said the industry needs to focus on operational efficiency, quality and product diversification with also a targeted investment in technology.

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