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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.

Report: Packaging Still Growing

By: James Callari 13. August 2014

 

Some have suggested that packaging is virtually recession-proof because of its connection to food. The Great Recession proved that might not be exactly true, but the contract packaging business still seems like a good market in which to stake a claim.

 

The third edition of the Contract Packaging Association's  The State of the Contract Packaging Industry revealed that: 

 

  • Since 2008, the contract packaging industry has more than doubled in growth.
  • The most prolific industry segments served by the contract packaging industry are food and beverage, but the personal care and pharmaceutical industries are poised for extensive growth through 2018.
  • Since 2008, the contract packaging industry has moved toward a workforce of full-time employees as opposed to using temporary labor yet the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may have a major impact on companies providing employee healthcare.

To ensure the confidentiality of those who participated in the report, the Contract Packaging Association secured the services of SAI Industrial LLC, the independent research firm, which conducted the research for the two previous studies.

 

For questions about the study email Mary Von Qualen

Is a robotic revolution underway in China?

By: Tony Deligio 13. August 2014

China was the second largest destination for industrial robots in 2012, with sales in the People’s Republic increasing an average of 25%/year from 2005 to 2012, according to the International Federation of Robotics 2013 World Robotics report.

 

Guangzhou, the epicenter of much of China’s plastics processing, is planning to build two to three “robot industrial development zones”, according to a China Daily article, appropriately headlined: Guangzhou to invest in robots.

 

In that article, a government official stated that more than 80% of manufacturing operations in Guangzhou would be using industrial robots by 2020, reflecting a period of “explosive growth.” Yi Ming, deputy director of the Guangzhou commission of economy and trade, added that at 30% demand growth, the capital of Guangdong Province was outpacing China’s overall interest in robotics.

 

Western suppliers look East
As a I researched an article on robotics within plastics processing for a special Industrial Automation supplement produced by PT’s publisher, Gardner Business Media, China emerged as a recurring theme.

 

My interview with Helen Ke Feng, global industry segment manager, plastics and rubber, at ABB was delayed as she traveled throughout Asia, spending two weeks in the region, noting that the her biggest demand growth came from the Chinese market.

 

Jean-Michele Renaudeau, managing director of Sepro, said his company is closely watching China. “We are optimistic about the future of Sepro in China,” Renaudeau said, adding that since salaries have been volatile, and increasing, a one-time investment in a robot can allow Chinese processors to stabilize production cost.

 

Beyond that, the Chinese market, like any market, sees the repeatability benefits that robotics can bring to a process. “Even in an emerging country like China,” Renaudeau said, “you see the exact same tendencies. There is a clear trend towards more robots because automation is the key for productivity, it is the key for quality.”

 

Jim Swim, business manager at custom automation supplier CBW, has seen interest in his company’s systems flow both ways: U.S. shops automating to meet increased production requirements due to reshored work, and Chinese molders automating to increase quality and lower costs as labor prices increase.

 

“It used to be that China just had to throw a lot of labor at a project,” Swim said, “but they’ve had to evolve into more automation.” When I visited CBW, one of the cells on its production floor was going through final testing before shipment to China. Swim said CBW has sent a few cells to China over the years, with the vast majority of its projects still in the U.S., and more to come if China doesn’t automate.

 

“The markets that have been used for China, like packaging, that used to be so much more cost effective,” Swim explained, “are not as cost effective anymore.”

 

At Chinaplas earlier this year in Shanghai, I asked Werner Wittmann, founder of what is now Wittmann Battenfeld, about the Chinese automation market. Wittmann was an early mover in China, adding production there in 2005. Over the last 8 years, Wittmann said that as labor costs rise in the country, there is greater pressure to automate. Today, there’s a focus on higher automation technology, with a switch from pneumatically driven to servodriven systems.

 

In March, one month prior to Chinaplas, German robot manufacturer KUKA Roboter GmbH opened a brand-new, 20,000 square meter production facility in Shanghai, with an annual capacity for up to 5000 robots. At the time, Till Reuter, CEO of KUKA AG, noted:

 

China is the world’s largest and fastest-growing robot market. We have a longstanding partnership with many renowned Chinese customers. In order to accommodate continued growth, we have now significantly increased our capacity in Shanghai.

 

An expectation for reliability
KUKA’s systems, just like ABB’s, Sepro’s, CBW’s, and Wittmann’s, will be priced to reflect their value. Today, Chinese processors have little choice but to pony up, with 90% of the robots purchased in China imported in, according to Guangzhou’s Ming. The government is hoping to address that with greater domestic supply, as noted in the China Daily article, but Sepro’s Renaudeau, for one, is still optimistic about the long-term prospects for Western robotics suppliers opportunities in China.

 

“There is a clear demand or expectation for reliability; it's a new philosophy for the Chinese market,” Renaudeau said. “The Chinese market will be very similar to the U.S. or European markets within a few years. You cannot afford to have molding machines or robots that are not being served, with the absolute guarantee that you have a partner that will be there.”




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