PT Blog

During MD&M West, Bluestar Silicones showcased its expanded Silbione Biomedical product line for long-term implant applications and its new primerless skin adhesive. The company has extended its > 30 day in the body range to include low consistency elastomers available in 25 to 40 Shore A hardness.

Dolomite featured live demonstrations of its unique Fluidic Factory, the first commercially available 3D printer for sealed microfluidic devices which utilizes cyclic olefin copolymer (COC) from TOPAS Advanced Polymers. The Fluidic Factory ran continuously at TOPAS’ Booth #662, producing a variety of microfluidic demonstration parts.

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Multiple speakers and exhibitors at Extrusion 2016 addressed the growing trend in the market towards predictive maintenance or fixing a piece of equipment before it breaks with the knowledge that its failure is imminent.

In a practical sense, predictive maintenance allows processors to take a piece of equipment off line to quickly replace components before their failure would require a lengthy, output-impacting shutdown. It is increasingly empowered by the twin forces of cheaper sensors and the outsized computing power of the cloud.

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Here we are into the shortest month of the year and already the industry is seeing price increases either being implemented or about to be. Just last week, I tried to tackle what is taking place and how things might turn out, at least going into second quarter, in the typically volatile polyolefins pricing arena.

Meanwhile, in addition to supply/demand fundamentals, which vary depending on the resin, the combination of higher global prices of crude oil and key resin feedstocks, along with planned and unplanned production outages, are major factors driving price initiatives for other resins as well. Polystyrene and PVC are among them, and Mark Kallman, v.p. of client services for engineering resins, PS, and PVC at Resin Technology, Inc., recently offered an update. 

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Hearing a strange sound from a motor, seeing a sag in a line, feeling a bubble in a film or even smelling an off odor in the plant, a savvy technician can know something’s up and might even be able to diagnose the problem.

That institutional knowledge is invaluable, and its intuitive grasp of extrusion has long been the primary means of keeping operations running. Increasingly, however, extruders are adding instrumentation beyond the process tech’s senses, tracking the temperatures, pressures and speeds that ultimately separate good production from bad.

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Around this time last year, I blogged on how global factors like plunging oil prices and larger global resin decreases were impacting polyolefin prices—with a downward trend appearing to be the most prudent and one that actually colored most of 2016. You can say that the start of this year appears to be an ‘about-face’.

Those global factors are still in play—but, now with rising oil prices (though hovering in the low $50/bbl range despite talk of reduced production) and rising prices of global polyolefins and other resins. But other key factors must be accounted for: in the case of PP, those include the significant run-up of propylene monomer prices, as well as tight supply in the case of both PP and PE at the start of the year.

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