Save the Date: Molding 2016, March 29-31

By: James Callari 10. November 2015

I was talking to a molder the other day. I won’t give you too many specifics because I’m going to write about his operation in more detail in our January issue and I don’t want to use this column as a spoiler.


Anyway, this fellow had bought into a struggling molding business around 2008 that, as he put it, “had two machines and one customer.” This particular gentleman had just sold a non-molding business for a hefty sum, and he was still fairly young and not ready for retirement, so he figured, “What the heck?” and jumped into molding.


Then along came 2009. Two machines and one customer became two machines and no customers. So this fellow had a choice: cut his losses and bail, or invest more, potentially throwing (lots of) good money after bad.


He picked the latter, and his business is thriving—to the point where he just bought a new building and lots of new presses and auxiliary equipment. A business with fewer than 10 people in 2008 has 220 now, with plans to hire 50 more by the end of next year’s first quarter.


I use this story as a backdrop to this invitation to attend Molding 2016 conference. It’s scheduled for March 29-31 at the Westin New Orleans Canal Place. If you’re a molder, as I learned from this gentleman’s inspirational story, you either move forward or you’ll fall behind. And if you don’t want to fall behind, then Molding 2016 is the place to be.


The conference is now in its 26th year, the second under the management of Gardner Business Media, parent company of Plastics Technology magazine. As I write this, my PT colleagues Matt Naitove, executive editor, and Tony Deligio, senior editor, are working feverishly on buttoning up the program details. You’ll see more of those details in print, online, via email, and in our social media offings in the weeks ahead.


One new thing we are doing with the Molding 2016 program is expand it to include virtually every aspect of a molder’s business operation: not just molding, per se, but also crucial areas such as materials conveying, drying, feeding/blending, equipment maintenance, best practices, ERP, and lots more. We’re also looking to follow sessions on topics of general interest with breakout sessions on molding for particular markets, notably Automotive and Medical. We found this formula to have worked very well in our first-ever Extrusion Conference, which wrapped up on Nov. 3, and we believe it will resonate equally well in molding.


Of course, the guts of any processing operation is the primary equipment: You can’t mold a gear with a press, but in many cases what goes on in the mold is influenced by what happens before the resin hits the screw. You might have your molding parameters set just right for making that gear—heck, you might even be a scientific molder—but if your parameters for drying your acetal or nylon aren’t right, you’ll likely be molding rejects. Or if you are dosing color into your machine and don’t get the letdown ratios just right, you could be making scrap—expensive scrap, at that.


Be on the lookout for more info from us in the weeks and months ahead. On March 29-31 in New Orleans, you will hear about the latest cutting-edge technologies at Molding 2016, as well as the best practices of your colleagues and most salient tips from your suppliers. 

Injection Molder Shows How Plastics, Sustainability Can Go Together

By: Tony Deligio 4. November 2015

Of late, if a governor, or any legislator, is talking about plastics, it’s more likely than not to be in the context of a ban or fee, but on October 27, custom injection molder Hoffer Plastics was recognized with an Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award for its eco-minded efforts, joining companies like Abbott Labs, Caterpillar, and Silgan Containers.


Established in 1987, the Illinois Governor's Sustainability Award recognizes private and public Illinois organizations that have implemented outstanding and innovative sustainable techniques or technologies, demonstrating a commitment to sustaining environmental, social and economic health. Per the Awards’ website:


Governor's Sustainability Award winners are an elite group of committed leaders reducing environmental impact and contributing to the growth of a more sustainable Illinois economy. By prioritizing sustainability throughout their operations, programs, technology, products and company culture, they serve as a model within their industry and community.


Approaching Zero Landfill
Hoffer’s efforts towards sustainability are certainly award worthy. Going back to 2007, when the third-generation family-owned company in South Elgin, Ill. published its first Sustainability Report, Hoffer has been committed to greener operations. Among the highlights in its 2015 award-winning submission:


By 2010, after initiating a facility wide 100% recycling program in 2007, less than 1% of the 24 million lbs. of the resin used in manufacturing ended up in landfill.


In 2012, the facility’s old lighting was replaced with high efficiency fluorescent lighting, generating annual savings of approximately 1.7 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 1200 metric tons of carbon dioxide.


In 2014, it implemented a high cycle water treatment program, saving an estimated 1.2 million gallons of water, annually.


Going forward, Hoffer’s sustainability goals for the year 2020 include a 50% reduction in overall water usage and a further 20% reduction in energy consumption per unit of production. 

Hoffer Plastics 2015 Illinois Governor Sustainability Award

Manufacturers Grow, Remain Optimistic Despite Hiring Challenges

By: Tony Deligio 4. November 2015

Manufacturers' Revenue Expectations

Despite ongoing staffing challenges, a survey of more than 750 U.S. manufacturing companies in over 25 different industries was overwhelmingly positive. Conducted by buying consortium Prime Advantage in July, the survey found:


  • 80% of respondents expect to be at or above previous year’s revenues
  • 83% percent anticipate maintaining or increasing revenue performance in 2016.
  • 61% planned on hiring new employees in 2015


The last point, however, also touches on a potential hurdle for manufacturers: finding skilled workers. A lack of qualified workers remained the top threat to manufacturing growth among respondents for the second consecutive year, with 46% citing this concern, down slightly from 53% in 2014.


Tempering Expectations
While having 80% of respondents think 2015 revenue will meet or beat 2014 is quite strong, that figure actually represented the lowest percentage of optimists in this category since 2010, and 27% of respondents were currently performing below forecast for 2015. Of those enjoying revenue growth, new product lines and new customers were credited for the growth.


Additional insights
Some other takeaways from the survey:


  • Capital expenditures: 87% are either meeting or exceeding capital expenditure plans for 2015 and 73% expect current trends to continue throughout the remainder of the year
  • Cost pressures: Raw materials top the list of leading cost pressures, with indirect materials and supplies, as well as component parts pricing, also reflecting significant margin-threatening factors for manufacturers
  • Employment: Of the 61% of members that went into 2015 planning to add new employees, 79% have already fulfilled that mission. No respondents are expecting layoffs and 47% expect to hire on additional employees.

Highlights Of CAMX 2015

By: Heather Caliendo 3. November 2015

Thermoplastics as well as 3D printing were hot topics during CAMX 2015, the second combined conference and exhibition from the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) and SAMPE (Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering).


One of the showstoppers was the retro Shelby Cobra that was on exhibit by Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL), Oak Ridge, Tenn., which is the stunning product of additive manufacturing, using the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) technology developed by Cincinnati Inc. (Harrison, Ohio) in collaboration with ORNL. Design and manufactured in just six weeks, the 635-kg car includes 227 kg of BAAM-printed parts, using a chopped carbon fiber-reinforced ABS provided by Sabic. Cincinnati’s BAAM technology was also a winner of one of the CAMX Awards. BAAM encompasses a number of innovations that enable large-scale 3D printing. The BAAM enables components of arbitrary geometry to be 3D-printed at a scale that is times larger than any other commercial system, using a screw-extrusion technology for deposition, similar to what is used in the injection molding industry. Cincinnati Inc. and ORNL designed an extrusion screw specifically for the BAAM system and mounted it on a high-speed, high-resolution gantry system. BAAM is also the first to deposit with carbon fiber reinforced-plastic pellets and uses a novel Z-table that provides the capability to build large parts. The system also features innovations that improve layer-to-layer adhesion and the ability to easily separate support material from build parts.


Receiving the award were Rick Neff, manager market development at Cincinnati Inc., and Lonnie Love, group leader at ORNL. They commented on the Shelby Cobra: “ORNL first mentioned the Cobra on Nov. 10 of last year,” Neff recalled. “By January it was done and you couldn’t tell that it was additive manufactured.” Love and Neff credited a variety of partners, including Techmer, Sabic and Alpha Star.


A presentation that stood out was from Axel Boettcher, owner of Boettcher Consult, where he discussed the high potential for carbon fiber in automotive. Automotive OEMs continue to work to reduce the weight of their vehicles due to global legislation setting a mandate to reduce vehicle emissions. As a result, there are high expectations for carbon fiber in automotive as it gives the best mechanical performance/component strength per weight, Boettcher said.


He addressed why carbon fiber composites are of interest in automotive and also covered the technical, political, social and economic issues associated with carbon fiber. He also looked into market considerations and production technologies being pursued (RTM, HP-RTM, wet pressing, prepreg, SMC, BMC and organo-sheet methods).


So as fuel consumption relates to less emissions, reducing the weight allows the best option for fuel reduction. The forecast for the next five to 10 years is that there will be more of a demand in weight reduction and the biggest potential to achieve this lies at structural components.


Boettcher took a closer look at resin choices—thermosets vs. thermoplastics—and their pros and cons. With thermosets, the benefits include chemical resistance and structural integrity. But the limitations of thermoset-based CFRPs include the long process times and and it is difficult to achieve a good surface finish. Whereas thermoplastics allows remolding without impacting physical mechanical properties, provides superior surface finish, “eco-friendly” manufacturing and high impact resistance. A drawback of thermoplastics is high viscosity and high melt temperatures.


As far as where composites are leaning more toward, Boettcher said that OEMs can save more weight and have higher performance with thermosets, but in thinner applications like bumpers, they tend to choose thermoplastic.


Generally speaking, plenty of barriers for widespread adoption remain as the high cost of carbon fiber is three times that of aluminum. There’s also the high cost investment of production. Another issue is the lack of technology competence and shortage of qualified composites workers.


BMW has lead the way of carbon fiber usage in automotive such as in its i Series. And while carbon fiber has been used in exotic race cars and sports cars, Boettcher said the goal should be to find a way to boost volumes to 50,000 cars a year. But to get there, the industry needs to advance automation beyond the early stages.  


“Carbon fiber growth will exceed expectations,” Boettcher said. “Regulations are driving innovation primarily and technical performance to a lesser extent.”


Other Thermoplastic Highlights


CompositesWorld, the sister publication of Plastics Technology, Senior Editor Sara Black reported that thermoplastic specialist Impact Composites, Erlanger, KY, introduced a new molded woven carbon/polyetheretherketone (PEEK) solid billet, intended to be machined to net shape for complex, three-dimensional parts.


Sean Reymond, the company’s chief technology officer, says the billet, called VTL (Very Thick Laminate), is a good alternative to replace titanium or aluminum parts, in orthopedic medical applications such as external fixation devices for broken bones or orthopedic tools (VTL is the large block on the table in the photo foreground). VTL can be produced to suit customer needs, in a variety of thicknesses and sizes. “Because it’s a thermoplastic resin, there’s no worry about exotherm during molding,” says Reymond.


CW Senior Editor Ginger Gardiner wrote that thermoplastics are also being used to produce 3m by 9m structural composite panels made by Axia Materials (Seoul, South Korea). Using powdered in-house matrix systems, Axia achieves water-like viscosity upon heating which it claims achieves excellent wet-out, including impregnation of the filaments in the fiber, all in a continuous process. The 3m-wide rolls, complete with UV coating on one side, are then laminated onto various core materials, also in a continuous process, to produce composite structural insulation panels (SIPs) which are lightweight, waterproof and UV-resistant for walls, floors and roofs that Axia is developing for military shelters, modular housing and much more. The flat structural panels can be shipped in a container and then quickly assembled using bonding and/or structural connectors on-site.

Takeaway from IHS Presentation on PE Outlook

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 3. November 2015


Among the several informative and thought-provoking presentations and panel discussions at the third annual Global Plastic Summit (GPS2015) last week in Chicago, co-hosted by IHS and SPI, was “Polyethylene: 2016 and Beyond”, presented by IHS’s Nick Vafiadis, global business director plastics & polyolefins.


I’m going to focus on Vafiadis’ key takeaways regarding the North American market, starting with his projection for end of year 2015, which concurs with that of other industry sources I’ve talked to; namely, PE prices will likely remain flat through this month and next, despite suppliers’ aim to implement their 5ȼ/lb hike, now effective this month. Through September 2015, he places domestic demand at up 3.1% and export demand at up 8.7% for a total 4.5% increase in demand, and average PE plant operating rates at 94.4%, in what has been a well-balanced market.


But change is coming. By end of first quarter 2016, Vafiadis predicts PE prices to increase by 3ȼ/lb, driven by tighter ethylene supply due to a heavy Q1 cracker turnaround schedule. But, the big story, starts in the subsequent two quarters when new production from new entrants comes on stream fully, and Vafiadis predicts PE prices dropping. In Q2, Braskem-Idesa (B-I) in Mexico is expected to impact U.S. imports to that country. Competition will increase as B-I’s HDPE and LDPE resins start to enter the U.S. market. In Q3, the new Ineos/Sasol HDPE joint venture in Deer Park, Texas, and Nova’s LLDPE plant in Joffre, Canada, will further increase supply and domestic competition. With regard to HDPE, in particular, Vafiadis anticipates that prices may separate from other resins due to increased competition.


There are further significant new North American PE expansion projects planned for 2017-2020, most of which will occur, though some scheduled start dates could slip, while other may cancel, according to Vafiadis. But, he also expects several new foreign North American PE investments/joint ventures to pop up. He ventures that SABIC might be one of them.


The 2016 capacity excess will be concentrated in low-cost/high-demand regions of North America, but also the Middle East, and China.  This will result in new and incumbent North American suppliers focusing exports on Latin America and Europe which provide best netbacks. Vafiadis expects these markets ought to absorb most North American exports in 2016.


His key takeaway to PE processors: leverage competition and reduce contract commitments 

« Prev | | Next »

RSS RSS  |  Atom Atom

Amerimold 2016
All rights reserved. Copyright © Gardner Business Media, Inc. 2015 Cincinnati, Ohio 45244