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Proprietary barrier pits PET against PP/EVOH packaging

By: Tony Deligio 9. April 2014

Mullinix Packages Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind., was an early mover in the thermoformed PET packaging space, helping pioneer the use of CPET in the early 1980s, according to Tim Love, VP sales and marketing at the company.
 

Speaking at this year’s Packaging Conference, Love detailed Mullinix’s work to further advance PET, pairing it with a proprietary oxygen scavenger developed with packaging innovator, Boh Tsai, a holder of  patents at American Can, Amoco, and Ciba, helped to create “glass-clear” packaging that can maintain zero oxygen permeation for more than 4 years. Even at that point, the company says the amount of headspace oxygen is still lower than the initial oxygen.
 

Love said Oxy Rx prevents oxidation of foods and drinks, protecting flavor, with clarity for low-temperature APET applications, as well as the ability to be crystallized into an opaque package that can withstand retort sterilization of 260 F and microwave and conventional oven reheating to 400 F. In addition, the packaging is still recyclable in the PETE recycling stream.
 

Among its other novelties is a “designable” shelf life of anywhere from 4, 12, 18, or 24 months. The gaudy zero-oxygen-permeation-over-4-years test results were actually achieved in a package with a very high surface to volume ratio and fairly thin (20 mils) sidewalls. Perhaps most novel: that that barrier can be put on hold until its needed.
 

“We can create a dormant state,” Love said. “We can put [Oxy Rx] to sleep for a period of time until it needs to be used. That way, we're saving the capacity for that scavenger to be effective.” In one slide, Love showed testing where the packaging didn’t start consuming oxygen until after 14 days in inventory.
 

Love said there are some limits to the “incubation period,” but that processors have enough of a window to make it practical to build up package inventory prior to filling.
 

In response to Plastics Technology questions, Love estimated the potential market size for thermoformed PET utilizing Oxy Rx technology at $150 million. At this time, there are no commercial products on the market using the technology, but there are several applications undergoing tests to confirm shelf life. Love wouldn’t comment on the let-down ratio for Oxy Rx, or what percent of a finished sheet it comprises, noting that that information would be proprietary and ultimately depend on the required shelf life.

Plastics Diplomacy

By: Tony Deligio 9. April 2014

On a visit to the machinery manufacturer’s Taoyuan, Taiwan facility (pictured), Aran Chao, sales director for Chen Hsong subsidiary, Asian Plastics Machinery (APM), listed the top five export markets for the company as:

 

  1. China
  2. India
  3. Brazil
  4. Turkey
  5. Iran

 

Chao said Iran’s emergence as a top market for its machines coincided with global thawing of relations with the Islamic Republic following last year’s nuclear accord. In fact, during a tour of the company’s assembly facility, Chao noted that a majority of the completed injection molding machines in one factory bay would soon be headed 4000 miles west to Iran.

 

The Chen Hsong group, including APM, serves the middle east from an office and warehouse located within a free trade zone in Dubai. If Iran can build out a downstream plastics processing sector to support its massive natural gas and petrochemical resources, that office, and other equipment sellers in the region, might need to expand.
 

Production of polymers and plastic products is slated to jump from 800,000 tons today to 11 million tons by 2015, per the National Iranian Petrochemical Industry Development Plan. If successful, the productive capacity of Iran’s plastics industry will rise from 0.5% of the global total to 3.8%.
 

According to a GlobalData report entitled “Plastics Industry in the Middle East - Increased Focus on Downstream Petrochemicals to Drive the Sector”:

 

The Middle East already has a large downstream petrochemicals industry and this move will further boost the downstream petrochemical capacity in the region. Diversification drive will also encourage the plastic processing industry which is currently very small and scattered.

 

In short, diplomatic success could soon translate to business success for the Persian plastics industry.  

Time to Get Drying Right

By: James Callari 7. April 2014

It’s one of the most nettlesome of issues…resin drying. Even the most grizzled of molders is often vexed by it. Well coming in the May issue there might be a solution to your resin-drying problems.

 

You’ll be receiving your May issue with a supplement—as in another publication.  We’re calling this supplemental publication Drying Done Right. It will contain materials tips from our noted Materials Know How columnist Mike Sepe; equipment tips from injection molding wizard John Bozzelli, frequent author of our Injection Molding Know How column; and an article highlighting molders and extrusion processors who are on top of their game when it comes to drying hygroscopic materials and were willing to share their secrets about it with us.

 

So look for this supplement with the regular May issue of Plastics Technology. Both publications will come at the same time in a polybag.

 

Meantime, check out our Drying Knowledge Center and Drying Zone for more insights on this critical topic.

Photo of dryer desiccant bed courtesy of Dri-Air Industries

How Many of Your Employees Stick Around This Long?

By: Matthew H. Naitove 2. April 2014

One thing that everyone in plastics processing can agree on is that good people are hard to find. And one thing that I find successful processors have in common is that they have nurtured and held onto a loyal, experienced crew of long-term employees. I’m sure many of you are proud of—and grateful for—your 10-, 15-, and 20-year veterans. But how many of you can match this:

Moldmaker Richard Benn just hung up his tools after 50 years at family-owned custom thermoformer Ray Products in Ontario, Calif. He started as a toolmaker at the company when it was at its original location in Alhambra, Calif., on Feb. 17, 1964, hired by founders Allen and Margaret Ray. Benn retired on Feb. 17, 2014, exactly 50 years later to the day. He was given a send-off by Brian Ray, third-generation president of the company. As a retirement gift, Benn received the keys to a brand-new Chevy Silverado pickup. Richard’s old truck had 300,000 miles on it, and the company thought a new one would be a good way to send him off into retirement.

When Benn started, his duties were building small thermoform tools and fixtures for trimming and bonding. Over the years, as Ray Products expanded from 750 ft2 to 48,000 ft2, and its manufacturing scope shifted from baby bassinets in the 1950s and ’60s to computer enclosures in the ’70s and to today’s repertoire from DNA-sequencer parts to solar-energy modules, Benn showed his ability to adapt and keep pace with changing technology.

“Ray Products will miss its most loyal employee, but we wish him all the best as he embarks on this exciting new chapter in his life,” said Ray. “These days, it’s rare to find employees who come into a job with his level of dedication. But Richard is the kind of employee every company owner dreams of. We have benefited tremendously from his work and are honored by his 50 years of service.”

“It’s been quite a journey,” responded Benn. “I’ve watched this company grow leaps and bounds, and I am proud to be a part of that success. I have known the Ray family for 50 years, and Ray Products and its employees are like a second home. I’ve had a great run and now it’s time to pass the torch.” Benn says he plans lots of travel, visiting family and putting some miles on the motorhome.



Photo:  Ray, Benn, and Daniel Sweet, v.p. of operations, stand in front of the new truck, Benn’s retirement present. Sweet himself received a lifetime achievement award from the SPE Thermoforming Div. in 2011.
 

2013 was a good year for North American equipment suppliers; can '14 overcome a slow start?

By: Tony Deligio 2. April 2014

The total value for primary plastics equipment shipments rose 8% for all of 2013 compared to 2012,  according to SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association’s Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES), marking the third straight year of growth for the market.
 

Equipment suppliers polled by Plastics Technology confirmed solid growth in 2013, but several noted that 2014 has struggled out of the gate.
 

Some green shoots
Dave Skala, VP and GM of Uniloy Milacron, the blow molding machinery unit of machinery and mold component supplier Milacron, looked back and then forward. A strong finish to 2011 had carried over into 2012, and while 2013 started quickly, it slowed in the second half, and that sluggishness carried over into the first two months of 2014.

 

As winter gave way to Spring, however, some proverbial green shoots appeared.
 

“As of late, activity has significantly increased,” Skala noted, adding that he anticipates 2014 finishing at 2012-2013 levels with respect to bookings. Skala said the first quarter of 2014 is trending up more 10% vs. the same quarter last year for the blowmolding segment, with Uniloy enjoying a similar bump. “We expect March to be the strongest month of the first quarter,” Skala said. “If industry’s March 2014 is as strong as March 2013, this year will be exciting.”
 

Dave Preusse, president of the North American, Torrington, Conn. based arm of injection molding machine, auxiliary, and automation supplier, Wittmann Battenfeld, said 2013 marked the third straight year of 25% growth for the Austria-headquartered company.
 

The strong results were fueled by a sizable 2012 backlog to start the year; several large “multi-line projects”, where the company delivered machines, robots, and auxiliaries; and strong automotive demand.
 

2014, however, has gotten off to a relatively tepid start in Torrington.
 

“Honestly, 2014 has started slower for us, and in the SPI data,” Preusse said, describing business as moving at “a nice steady pace” versus the “fireworks we had hoped for.”
 

“Current quote levels are very high, and those last corporate signatures will be obtained on projects promised in Q1,” Preusse said, “so maybe Q2 has greater promise for us."
 

Last year was a record one for automation supplier Sepro Group, selling 1700 robots and sprue pickers globally, pushing sales 31% higher than 2012. North American sales were up 34%, as the region became Sepro’s top market globally.
 

In 2014, it is ‘so far so good,’ according to Jim Healy, Sepro’s VP sales & marketing.  “The first quarter of 2014 was just about on par with Q1 2013, which was quite a strong quarter,” Healy said. “Early indications for April are positive with the sales pace continuing steady.”
 

Overall, Healy said Sepro expects 2014 to be more or less comparable to 2013. “Since 2013 was as strong as it was,” Healy said, “we’re not expecting major growth year-over-year but we’re not expecting any significant decrease either.”
 

Last year was a "record or near-record" one for auxiliary equipment supplier Conair, according to company president, Larry Doyle, thanks to improved conditions in the U.S. and growing global market share.
 

Looking forward to 2014, Doyle said the company will continue to see strong activity in the North American market, and abroad. In particular, the company is targeting Brazil, as it weighs establishing sales, service, and manufacturing operations there. "It's not really a question of 'if' we will expand there," Doyle said, "but rather 'how' we will expand. We fully expect Brazil will become a major market for Conair over the next decade." 
 

In the same vein, Conair is looking to expand its Chinese operations, using the location to manufacture more products for the Asian market. In 2014, the company will begin making its ResinWorks drying systems and blenders in China for Chinese customers, with that product line joing small dryers, drying hoppers, feeders, conveying pumps and dust collectors.
 

John Effmann, director of sales and marketing at Lebanon, Ore.-based ENTEK Manufacturing Inc., echoed the sentiment of a good 2013 giving way to a ‘meh’ 2014. Effmann said Entek, which is a supplier of co-rotating twin screw extruder systems used in compounding color and masterbatch formulations, as well as food products, decking materials, medical applications, and battery separator films, had some large projects from 2013 that have carried over into 2014, with activity in bioplastics as well as traditional compounding systems for the automotive market.
 

“So far, 2014 has started off a little slowly,” Effmann said, “We were a little surprised; maybe some of that has been due to the weather. At this time, the numbers I see on a monthly basis are not something to write home about.”
 

Reporting companies sip a half-full glass
In an associated survey taken with the report, participants asked about expectations for future market conditions were optimistic. Fully 87% of respondents expected conditions to stay the same or even improve in the coming quarter, and 95% expected them to hold steady or get better during the next 12 months.

Highlights

Injection molding: The shipment value of injection molding machinery decreased 5% in the fourth quarter of 2013 when compared to the unusually large total from the year-prior period.
 

Extrusion, blowmolding, thermoforming: The shipment value of single-screw extruders slipped 2%, according to SPI, but the value of twin-screw extruders shipments spiked 72%, while blowmolding machine shipments jumped 91% in the fourth quarter. The shipment total for thermoforming equipment fell 34% in the final quarter of 2013 when compared with year-prior output.
 

Auxiliary equipment: Robotics, temperature control, materials handling, etc., saw new bookings for reporting companies total $101.3 million in the fourth quarter, essentially flat from the previous quarter. Year-prior stats were not available as the reporting structure has changed.
 

Other indicators: The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that business investment in industrial equipment rose by 3% on a seasonally-adjusted annualized rate in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared to the fourth quarter of 2012. The Census Bureau reported that the total value of shipments of industrial machinery jumped 25% in the fourth quarter.
 

In January 2014, Plastics Technology publisher Gardner Business Media, reported that its capital equipment research indicated 2014 would be a strong one for plastics machinery purchases. The report projected investments of aourn $3.3 billion in primary machinery, auxiliaries, and molds—10% higher than the 2013 forecast.




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