“Winning With the Lifecycle Approach”

By: Tony Deligio 17. November 2015

In existence for 155 years, including 47 in plastics, Milacron has seen its business model (along with the industry it serves) change dramatically over the years. Most recently, those changes have included a $285 million initial public offering on June 24. Earlier this month in two investor presentations and a conference call with Plastics Technology, company executives laid out Milacron’s current interests and how those have changed in recent years, with more evolution to come.


The big takeaway? Formerly synonymous with “machinery”, the new Milacron will emphasize much more than primary processing equipment and be more present in its customers’ day-to-day business.


“We’re winning because our approach is lifecycle,” President and CEO Tom Goeke told analysts in the company’s Nov. 6 third quarter earnings call. “When a customer buys a machine, we’re there until they need to purchase a new one.” Comparing the company to a service-oriented car dealer, Goeke said Milacron’s renewed emphasis on aftermarket parts/service and what it calls consumables (think wear components), not only benefits customers by keeping their machines running with the latest kit, but makes sense financially, giving the supplier more sales opportunities.


In a Nov. 9 Baird 2015 Industrial Conference presentation, Milacron said 61% of its sales come from those consumable products—a “high margin recurring revenue stream.” Consumables here include aftermarket, fluids, and melt delivery/control systems, with the remaining 39% of revenue attributable to “equipment systems.”


In that same presentation, Milacron noted that while an injection molding machine can have a replacement cycle ranging to 15 to 25 years, items like hot runners, mold bases and other components can require new investments every one to five years due to wholly new projects or wear on existing tools.


On the existing equipment front, the company sited large installed bases of machines (40,000) and hot runner systems (140,000) as potential sources of ongoing aftermarket business. Looking forward, Milacron forecast 7.1% CAGR in processing equipment, with the total to rise from $25.3 billion in 2014 to $31.1 billion in 2017. Business here would be fueled by upgrades in emerging regions and replacement of aging fleets in developed markets. The global hot runner market was pegged to grow at 8% CAGR, rising from $2.1 billion in 2014 to $2.6 billion in 2017.


In the earnings call, executives referenced several bright spots, including an expanded hot runner plant in India and a “very successful” Fakuma, where the company presented as “one Milacron” for the first time in Europe, with close to 1000 leads booked at the Friedrichshafen event.


On the technology side, testing continues on its coinjection molded answer to tin cans for food packaging, the Klear Kan, with collaboration ongoing with select prospects, up to and including focus groups with consumers.  


The company noted that it has sold three of its new PET preform systems, which launched at NPE, with the first being shipped and two more being manufactured. In automotive, Milacron executives talked up interest in a four-component machine for applications like taillights, which require multiple materials/colors.


On a geographic basis, the executives did describe a slow down in Asia in general, and China in particular. Overall the region was a wash with increased business in Singapore, Vietnam and South Korea largely offsetting contraction in China.


In North America, Milacron has seen what the executives called a general slow down, with strength in automotive, appliance, housewares, and custom molding ongoing, but weakness in construction. North America still constitutes a slim majority of Milacron’s business (52% of revenue), with Asia (22%) and Europe (21%) accounting for next biggest chunks. By end market, automotive (23%) and packaging (21%), dominate.


Goeke told Plastics Technology that the company spends around $20 million/year in R&D, and at the Baird event, a long-term goal of generating more than 20% of revenue from new products was stated, laying out the potential for a win-win for Milacron and its customers.


“At the end of the day, our customers are trying to make higher quality parts at a lower price,” Goeke said, “so everything we can do with precision of the part, is a benefit to them.”

Pictured: Milacron's Fakuma booth, image courtesy Milacron

Milacron Fakuma 2015

Get Ready For Carbon Fiber 2015

By: Heather Caliendo 17. November 2015

There will be plenty of discussion of carbon fiber reinforced plastics during Carbon Fiber 2015, a conference hosted by our sister publication, CompositesWorld. The conference is dedicated to understanding the properties, benefits and applications of carbon fiber. In addition, during the conference, there will be tours of the Manufacturing Development Facility at ORNL on both the morning and afternoon of December 8.


Here are some key presentations that will take place during the conference:  


  • The Future of Automotive Lightweighting: Building Case of 2025 and Beyond by Anthony Vicari, Research Associate at Lux Research. Carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRPs) combine high strength and lightweight, making these materials attractive to many industries. However, due to high costs and other technical hurdles, thus far their use has been restricted to high-end niche applications. In order to forecast the near- and mid-term penetration of CFRPs into both major and emerging target industries, Lux Research built a detailed cost model based on current and near-term production technology, and an industry demand model based on the needs and adoption cycles of each application. They further analyzed key technological, market, and regulatory factors likely to affect the long-term growth of the carbon fiber market to create a road map to large-volume automotive applications in the 2020s.


  • Elium – A New Technology to Make Recyclable Structural Parts by Dana Swan, scientist with Arkema. Dana will discuss a room temperature liquid resin that reactively cures to generate a thermoplastic part. The final part is thermoformable, weldable and recyclable.


  • 777x Composite Wing: New Consumer of Composite Fiber Technology by Perry Moore, director, 777X Wing Operations, at the Boeing Co. This will be the first public discussion by Boeing about the carbon fiber composite wings being developed for the 777X. Unlike it does with the 787, Boeing is fabricating the 777X wings in-house in a purpose-built plant being erected in Everett, WA. The wings represent some of the largest carbon fiber composite structures ever fabricated.


Carbon Fiber 2015 takes place December 8-10 at the Knoxville Convention Center. Click here to register for the conference, and use code PTDEAL at check out for $150 off registration.

Aussie Additives Newcomer has Alternative to Hardcoating for Mar/Scruff Resistance of Polar Plastics

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 16. November 2015

Australian plastic additives startup TenasiTech Pty. Ltd.  (U.S. office in Boston, Mass.) has been further expanding and globally marketing its patented nanoadditives first developed six years ago at Queensland University. Solid-TT is a family of surface-treated nanoclays that have been shown to provide enhanced mar/scruff resistance of acrylic polymers and have significant potential for use in several other polar polymers ranging from PET to TPUs, and is positioned as an alternative to hardcoating in a broad range of applications.


CEO Richard Marshall says the company has been manufacturing the proprietary additives via toll compounding in the U.S. within the last three years, and while it maintains its Australian R&D activities and official headquarters, its thrust of activities are in North America, Europe, and Asia. “The intellectual property of the patents covers a wide range of morphology in terms of the size of the particles and treatments we put on them.” Solid-TT comes in easy to handle powder form, similar to the consistency of talcs.


TenasiTech’s initial focus has been on acrylic in applications such as injection molded automotive door pillars and extruded sheet for building interior decoration, for which trials at OEMs are underway. The company has also started internal testing of the nanoadditives with nylon 12 and other nylons, as well as TPUs. Marshall indicates that they are ready to move into PC and PET for applications ranging from automotive, consumer electronics and industrial electronics such as touch screens and control panels.


 “We are an alternative for mar and scruff resistance for customers who want to avoid the significant investment required for expensive hardcoating processes. Our additive is not designed to replace hardcoating where that investment has already been made such as automotive front headlamps.” However, Marshall says there is a whole market of products where such high levels of performance and handling is overkill. The Solid-TT additives are tailored with surface modifications that enhance the dispersion of the additives within high-polarity plastics. Compared to hardcoating, they are less costly, provide more consistent results and, as such, a much lower reject rate, according to Marshall.


Where Was 3D Printing at the Fakuma Show?

By: Matthew H. Naitove 12. November 2015

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, appeared in various guises throughout October’s Fakuma 2015 show in Friedrichshafen, Germany:


 •  Arburg (U.S. office in Rocky Hill, Conn.) brought three of its Freeformer machines, the first to use standard molding pellets, to Fakuma. Two of them formed part of “Industry 4.0” exhibits of “personalized manufacturing” in which the Freeformers applied individualized decoration to injection molded parts. One new wrinkle was an automated cell in which a Freeformer was tended by a Kuka robot instead of a human operator.


Arburg officials noted in a Q&A session with the press that its 3-axis Freeformer model is meeting current demands of the market and there is little push from customers so far to commercialize a more expensive 5-axis version. More immediate development priorities, the officials said, were nitrided components to resist wear, a larger build envelope, and printing of high-temperature resins.


 •  While Arburg is the first plastics machinery company to offer its own 3D printer, Boy Machines (U.S. office in Exton, Pa.) announced at the show that it is offering a turnkey package with a Stratasys 3D printer for making plastic cavity inserts. Such tool inserts (which also appeared at multiple exhibits at NPE2015 in Orlando) are typically made of ABS and are said to last for up to 500 shots. Because there is no internal cooling for the inserts, Boy blew cold air over the mold face between cycles.


3D-printed ABS mold inserts were also shown at Fakuma by Hasco (U.S. office in Fletcher, N.C.) as prototyping accessories for its quick-change mold bases.


 •  Boy Machines showed another application of 3D printing in end-of-arm tooling for a sprue picker. KraussMaffei (U.S. office in Florence, Ky.) also showed 3D-printed EOAT on articulated six-axis and Cartesian three-axis robots, as well as a servo sprue picker, in three molding cells. KM noted that 3D printing allows the customer to make its own EOAT, to make it fast and lightweight and with optimized conformity to the shape of the part to be handled. (For more on 3D-printed EOAT, see Aug. ’14 Close Up.)

Plasmatreat Completes 20th Year in Atmospheric Pressure Plasma Technology

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 11. November 2015


Plasmatreat just had its 20th birthday, celebrated at a party with over 300 guests at the company’s new headquarters’ site in Steinhagen, Germany. Considered the market leader in atmospheric plasma technology for the pretreatment of material surfaces, the company was formed by Christian Buske, managing partner of Plasmatreat GmbH and president/CEO of the Plasmatreat Group and his then partner, engineer and inventor Peter Fornsel.


Buske, who has a degree in cybernetics and automation technology, became fascinated with plasma in his late 20s. Together with Fornsel, he developed the Openair Plasma jet technology, filing a patent application of it in 1995, the same year he founded the company. Buske used the innovative technology to successfully apply atmospheric pressure plasma on an industrial scale for the first time.


Hella, one of the world’s largest automotive component suppliers for lighting technology and electronic products bought the first Openair Plasma system, and used it in a series production for the pretreatment of car headlamps. Many other large and smaller companies were to follow as Plasmatreat expanded around the globe. From the outset, the company’s planning strategy was also characterized by targeted cooperation with universities and research institutes.


“The one thing that typifies Plasmatreat is change,” notes Buske, referring to the fruitful change that his now medium-sized company  has experienced since its start. Plasmatreat has a workforce of 180 worldwide, and now operates in 35 countries, with 15 subsidiaries in 11 countries. Four of them are located in North America, chaired by Plasmatreat US in Elgin, Ill. In 2014, the company generated a turnover of around $32 million. Plasmatreat invests 12% of its turnover annually in research and development.



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