PT Blog

It is seldom that we see a cluster of price increases in plastic additives at the same time, with the exception of major events—such as global shortages due to unplanned production disruptions. But, perhaps, the cluster that has been shaping up within first quarter is not entirely surprising. It follows the nearly unprecedented rise in the same time frame of prices for all commodity resins including PE, PP, PS, PVC, PET along with commodity engineering resins ABS, PC, nylons 6 and 66.

As is the case with the resins, the key contributing factor cited by suppliers of plastic additives was rising costs of raw materials and energy. This took place primarily in early first quarter and there are indications—primarily lower spot prices—of a turnaround as we move into second quarter.

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The results of a survey from digital manufacturer Proto Labs, Inc., Maple Plain, Minn. are very promising for the future of manufacturing. The key: millennials have both a more optimistic outlook and a changing perception of the industry, which could help turn the tide on a nationwide skills shortage.

This public-opinion online poll was commissioned by Proto Labs and conducted by ORC International’s CARVAN Geographic Omnibus in September 2016. It consisted of a sample of 1,023 adults comprising 512 men and 511 women, 18 years of age and older. The margin of error is ±3.1% for the full sample.

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Particularly over the last few years, new developments in thermoplastic composites have continued to impress at the big international JEC composites show in Paris.  A variety of players continue to grow and/or newly emerge in this promising and strong growth arena. Here are just a handful of highlights in thermoplastic composites from JEC World 2017, held March 14-16.

SABIC: The company has expanded its Udmax range of continuous fiber thermoplastic tape portfolio. The new materials are Udmax GPE—glass-fiber-reinforced polyethylene and Udmax CPA—carbon-fiber-reinforced nylon, and they signal SABIC's entry into the continuous carbon-fiber-reinforced tape arena. SABIC’s FRT business leader Andrey Turchin heralds their unique mechanical properties which enable the production of stiffer, stronger and more lightweight parts that can be used in a variety of applications. These include pipe, pressure vessels, and sporting goods. 

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Molding 2017, which starts in less than two weeks in Charlotte, is shaping up to be the best and biggest iteration of the conference in its nearly three decades. In addition to those impressive figures, throw in one pre-conference Molding At the Press workshop with Scientific Molding guru (and regular Plastics Technology contributor, John Bozzelli, *space limited) one post-conference tour of induction mold temperature technology supplier RocTool (*space limited), two networking receptions, two luncheon speakers, and one box lunch for attendees of the aforementioned tour, and you have the must-attend event for injection molders in 2017.

If you’re still working on your boss to get clearance to attend, let’s break down the agenda for more ammunition.

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Well, there’s been a series of news items discussing how 3D printing is helping to launch various space programs. The most recent one comes from Solvay as the company is providing additive manufacturing lightweighting products to Oxford Performance Materials (OPM), which allow the development and manufacture of components for its low-Earth orbit aerospace project at Boeing.

In January, Oxford Performance Materials announced it has been selected by The Boeing Co. to manufacture 3D-printed structures for the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, and OPM has begun shipping OXFAB production parts for installation (pictured below). The Starliner is designed to transport up to seven passengers, or a mix of crew and cargo, to low-Earth orbit destinations such as the International Space Station. It is under development in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Oxford will manufacture more than 600 3D-printed parts for the Boeing CST-100 Starliner space taxis.

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