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BMW Ups Its Stake in Composites

By: Matthew H. Naitove 20. August 2014

BMW continues its exploration of large composite parts for lightweight automotive structures. It just installed a 3600-metric-ton model of the new v-duo vertical v-duo two-platen injection press from Engel Austria (U.S. office in York, Pa.), a smaller version of which was shown at K 2013 in Dusseldorf (see our January show report). The machine was delivered to BMW’s plant in Landshut, Germany, where it will be used to mold large structural elements from fiber composites using the HP-RTM (high-pressure RTM) process. This process injects liquid reactive components for thermosets (epoxy or polyurethane) or thermoplastics (caprolactam for in-situ polymerization into nylon 6) over a layup of dry reinforcing mats or fabrics. BMW plans to use the Engel press for thermoset composites, but would not specify the resin system.

 

The press has two slide tables to remove finished parts and insert fiber reinforcements. Engel notes that the machine has a much smaller weight, footprint, and height than typical vertical compression presses. The clamp unit is accessible from all four sides instead of just two. The press uses ecodrive servo-driven hydraulic pumps for energy efficiency, without any hydraulic accumulators.

‘There are no unskilled jobs here anymore’

By: Tony Deligio 20. August 2014

Completed in conjunction with the Manufacturing Institute, the study, which was conducted between August 2013 and January 2014, surveyed more than 300 manufacturing executives hailing from companies with an average annual revenue of $100 million.

 

Cervinka’s quote highlights the predicament those manufacturers currently find themselves in. The jobs they need to fill are becoming more and more complex while the pool of people who can do them becomes more and more shallow.

 

The survey found that 80% of manufacturers reported a moderate to severe shortage in finding highly skilled workers, while at the same time, skilled and highly skilled roles make up 80% of their workforce.

 

As these companies face a labor shortfall, many are simultaneously attempting to boost production. According to the report, more than 50% of companies reported plans to increase U.S. based production by at least 5% in the next five years. In general, the U.S. manufacturing sector has enjoyed an annual growth rate of 7.7% between 2009 and 2011, reaching its highest level ever at more than $5.4 trillion in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis – Manufacturing Industry Data. Productivity in the U.S. has jumped nearly 20% from 2001 to 2011, increasing is every year save two—2008 and 2009—according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cited by Accenture.

 

That’s despite the very real, and detrimental, impact of too few skilled workers. According to the report, 62% of respondents saw an increase in production downtime of 5% or more, while 66% reported cycle time increases of 5% or more.

 

Survey participants are actively working to address the gap, however, with almost 10% spending more than $5,000 annually per employee on skills training, with the average respondent spending about $1,000 annually per employee for skills training.

 

The report also identified some best practices companies are deploying to address the skills shortfall.

 

Digital learning experiences—“Embracing digital technologies to offer learning experiences anytime, anywhere.”

 

Combine formal and informal training—“All of the leading companies we interviewed had some form of established relationships with local community colleges or vocational technical programs.”

 

Use a certification approach to skills building—“Not only do employers gain confidence that their employees are able to perform at a given level of skill, employees gain confidence in their own abilities as they acquire new skills certifications.”

 

The bottom line is the gap is actually impacting companies’ bottom lines, with the report finding that earnings were reduced up to 11% annually due to increased production costs and revenue losses due to skills shortages. The problem will only get worse, with the U.S. Department of Labor stating the average age of manufacturing labor was 44.1 years in 2011.

 

In our September issue, Plastics Technology will see how some plastics processors are attempting to bridge the gap. Does your company have a contingency plan?

 

 

Machine-Hour Rates Report Awaits Your Participation

By: Matthew H. Naitove 20. August 2014

We’re getting close, but still not there yet. Maybe it’s due to summer vacations, but more custom injection molders still need to provide data (anonymously) on their midyear machine-hour rates before our next survey can be published. I know from your emails that you find our survey report—broken down by machine size and region of the country—valuable and unique (it’s available nowhere else). But you have to give something to get something. So go online now and take five minutes to fill out the survey here. If we hear from enough of you in the next week or so, we’ll be able to get the report out on time in October.

 

Thanks!

Single-Serve Wine Spritzer in Plasma-Coated PET

By: Matthew H. Naitove 19. August 2014

When it comes to barrier containers, the smaller the package volume, the greater the relative surface area and the more challenging it is to achieve barrier protection. A case in point is a new 330-ml PET screw-top bottle for wine spritzers, which must retain carbonation to preserve the “spritz” as well as prevent oxygen ingress that would spoil the wine.

 

That was the challenge facing Amcor Rigid Plastics, Ann Arbor, Mich., in designing the bottle for Andrew Peller Ltd., Grimsby, Ont., a Canadian wine producer and marketer. Its wines are made from grapes grown in Ontario, British Columbia, and around the world. Its new skinnygrape line of ready-to-drink wine coolers are low-calorie drinks aimed largely at women. That factor determined the slender, comfortable shape of the custom PET bottles. Barrier properties are afforded by an ultrathin <100 nm) silicon oxide (SiOx) plasma coating applied to the inside of the bottle, which is clear, resistant to cracking and delamination, and does not degrade over time. This glass coating is applied using technology from KHS Plasmax GmbH in Germany (U.S. office in Waukesha, Wis.).

"Arpro" EPP Manufacturer Exceeds Sustainability Goals; Launches EPE Sheet Foam Business Here

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 14. August 2014

JSP (U.S. office in Madison Heights, Mich.), a pioneer and world leader in engineered plastic foam technologies and most widely known as the manufacturer of Arpro EPP, recently reported that it is more than meeting its ambitious Minus40% project to reduce its environmental impact by 40%. The program was launched in 2012, and by end of this year, JSP expects to have reached the 30% mark, according to Paul Compton, president and CEO Europe, Middle East and Africa.

 

By the end of July, JSP had achieved a 23% reduction in CO2 emissions, water use and waste; had saved 2.38-million/gal of water; and generated a 13,000 kWh/yr electricity savings through new LED lighting installed across its plants. It has also placed economizers on all boiler stacks, heat recovery on compressors and boiler feed water tanks. Currently in planning is a project that would see the recycling and re-use of CO2 to achieve up to 39% savings if installed in two Arpro plants. It would involve recycling CO2 directly from the production line, which would be captured, compressed, liquefied and stored ready for re-use.

 

Moreover, the company set about conducting research to reduce energy requirements of its Arpro EPP, now used widely in automotive, packaging and a range of consumer goods, which led to the development of a further improved version: Arpro 1000. This bead can be expanded on-site and according to JSP, it can provide the same molding cycle times, shrinkage and appearance characteristics as conventional molding beads. It is also possible to mold a density range from 18-60 g/l with a single grade. The intent of this development was to help redress geographic logistic penalties by significantly reducing transport costs and emissions, increasing the likelihood of material adoption regardless of location.

 

Meanwhile, JSP has now launched a crosslinked expanded PE sheet foam business in North America that utilizes an electron beam cross-linked method.  Compared to chemically cross-linked PE sheet, the electron beam technology produces more uniform and finer cellular structure and surface. Applications include high-performance tape medical applications, general and industrial converting solutions, flooring, and automotive components. Currently, PE sheet foam is being produced at JSP’s plant in Detroit. To accommodate future increases in demand, it is constructing a 3400 sq.mt. PE sheet foam manufacturing facility in Jackson, Mich., close to its existing plant that produces EPP packaging and components. 

 

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




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