KraussMaffei Purchase Another Sign That China Will Remain a Tough Competitor

By: Matthew H. Naitove 11. January 2016

One hears talk lately about how China is supposedly losing its killer edge as a global exports powerhouse. It has an aging population, rising wages, slowing economic growth, a shift in emphasis toward internal consumption, and recent upsets in financial markets.


There’s truth in all of that, but something else is going on, too. It has been widely observed that China is shifting from its initial emphasis on high-volume commodity products toward higher-quality manufactured goods. It’s part of the state-sponsored “Made in China 2025” 10-year plan to upgrade China’s manufacturing to make it competitive with countries like Germany and withstand growing competition from even lower-cost, less developed countries in Asia.


Speaking of Germany, China National Chemical Corp., the largest chemicals group in that nation, announced today that it agreed to purchase the KraussMaffei Group of Germany for a little over a $1 billion (see Starting Up). KM CEO Frank Stieler linked the purchase to the higher-quality trend in China, stating that this is the sort of manufacturing to which KM machines are suited.


What this means, to my mind, is that North American plastics processors will have to keep hustling to keep ahead of Chinese competitors. Many processors profiled in this magazine’s “On-Site” reports have said they stay competitive through continuing investment in automation and the most advanced molding and auxiliary technologies. But topnotch machinery from Europe and the U.S. is selling well in China, and U.S. observers see growing competence in precision molding, multicomponent molding and other sophisticated technologies. One U.S. molder recently shipped an automated, multi-station assembly cell to its Chinese plant to make medical products (though for domestic use, not export). And despite numerous reports that some Chinese molds are not up to Western standards, molders and moldmakers here see a growing number of Chinese sources of high-quality tooling, often as a result of partnerships with, or ownership by, North America companies.


All of which says there’s no way out of the continuous-improvement race. Got to keep peddling, faster and faster.


KraussMaffei plastics injection molding machines

Highlights of Body Interior Finalists of SPE Auto Innovation Awards

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 7. January 2016

Late last year, I reported in a series of blogs on the award winners of the nine categories of the 2015 SPE Automotive Innovation Awards. Just about all the finalists in each of these categories is worthy of mention, and here I’m giving the floor to some well-designed body interior applications.


Back-Mounted iPad Tablet Holder

This is featured on the Ford China Taurus D568C 2016, with four patents pending. An industry first, this seat-back mounted tablet docking station and charger allows for smooth, one-handed loading/unloading of a tablet (or other 12 V-powered devices). The unit meets OEM head-impact requirements—will not fragment or release during impact, and has a range of automatic and synchronized convenience features that are totally new to the tablet holder market. When not in use, the holder rotates downward and stows tightly in the seat back and a tambour door covers the lock if the device is not in use.


The seat back dock and the friction hinge interface are steel structures. No structural metal is used in the housing and locking mechanisms to secure the tablet. The injection molded unit’s structural exterior is made of a 15% glass-reinforced Ultramid nylon 6 from BASF, while its low-friction mechanisms are made of Delrin 500P, a medium-viscosity acetal copolymer from DuPont. The tambour door is made with high-flow 15% mineral-filled Hostacom ERC homopolymer PP and 20% mineral-filled Hostacom X M2 PP copolymer, both from LyondellBasell. The Tier 1 supplier is Lumens High Performance Lighting and Lear Corp.


Active Glove Box (AGB) System

Active Glove Box

This is featured on Ford’s 2016 Lincoln MKX CUV and represents an enhancement to Ford’s AGB technology without losing functionality or safety. Design changes included the glove box door being hand wrapped and the inner door flocked, eliminating cut lines for a separate airbag door. The occupant protection zone was increased by 35%, the inflator was precision tuned, and the bladder design was optimized, leading to a larger weld-surface area.


Key materials used for the various components of the injection molded and vacuum formed components of this system were TPOs, as well as PVC skin. Advanced Composites provided ADX 5028, a 20% talc-filled TPO with high rubber content for cold ductility, and ADX 5017, a 20% talc-filled TPO that’s stiffer than 5028, which provides a reaction surface. Mitsubishi IDK and IDC) provided TT850N, an airbag door grade TPO that performs well at high strain rates as well as hot and cold temperatures. CGT (Canadian General Tower) provided two PVC skin variants. The Tier I supplier is International Automotive Components Group.


Compact Driver’s Side Bin

Compact Driver Side Bin

An industry first, this is featured in the 2015 Ford Edge CUV and utilizes molded-in plastic features that allow for the elimination of conventional non-plastic bin and bin rail components for a driver’s side bin. Thanks to the simple, non-binding, all-plastic rail system, this bin box is quiet, fully dampened, and requires no grease. The self-centering acetal copolymer (POM) snap-in rail caps and molded-in lower stabilizing rails allow full extension of the bin drawer while providing smooth, durable function. No screws, mechanical fasteners, welding or heat staking were required in the mating process, eliminating secondary operations and lowering assembly labor.


Key materials used included two Celcon POM grades from Celanese for the latch and rail caps and ADX 5017 20% talc-filled TPO from Advanced Composites for the plastic outer door that snaps to the bin. The bin itself, with molded-in bin rails, is made of Pulse 2000EZ PC/ABS from Trinseo, while the plastic housing is a molded-in color HH1891 ABS from Ineos. The Tier I suppliers was Yanfeng USA Automotive Trim Systems.


2-Shot Molded Crash Pad Garnish with 3D Patterns

Two Shot Molded Crash Pad

This injection molded component is featured on the 2015 Hyundai Kia KX3 CUV and features a transparent PC layer with unique, low-cost 3D patterns molded-in and a second ABS layer with molded-in metallic color. This second metallic ABS layer showcases the 3D patterns molded into the transparent PC layer, creating an effect that cannot be reproduced using traditional decorative processes, such as insert-molded film, while lowering cost by 56%.


To eliminate weld and flow lines and improve the luminous appearance, the size of the hybrid metallic flake system in the ABS was optimized and a hot/cool mold process was used. The materials were provided by Samsung SDI and the Tier I was Hyundai Mobis.

The Role Demographics Play in Plastic Packaging

By: Heather Caliendo 6. January 2016

Plastics continue to be the material of choice for the packaging market, according to a new report by SPI. 


Plastics account for one-third or $250 billion of the packaging industry, which is the largest single market for U.S. plastics, according to the report: “Packaging Market Watch: Plastics Packaging Wraps it Up”. The global polymer industry is expected to grow with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3.9 percent over 2015-2020. The demand for polymers is driven by growth in end-use markets, like packaging, mainly from emerging economies.


One item that stood out from the report is a look at the impact of demographics on plastic packaging. The growing middle class in developing countries, changing birthrates and life expectancies, shifting cultural norms and values all change global consumption patterns that affect industry, including the plastics packaging industry, according to the report.


The world population is estimated to reach at least nine billion people by 2050. So as a result, the size of the plastic packaging industry’s potential customer base will also experience growth until 2050, if not longer.


The report states that in the U.S. the two largest consumer groups that should be of most interest to the plastics packaging industry are the Baby Boomers and Generation Y (which is also called Millennials). The estimated 79 million Baby Boomers (ages 51 to 70) as of 2015 grew up with plastics. Boomers are significant consumers of food and healthcare products, both of which serve among the biggest end uses for plastic packaging.


Going forward, the 87 million Millennials will be a key driver for plastic packaging, according to the report. Millennials prefer healthy and convenient food and beverages that come in packaging which are easily opened; can be resealed for later use; and offer recyclability.


But it’s not all sunshine and roses for the industry. Don’t forget that plastic bag bans are still being implemented. So as plastic packaging is becoming more widespread, it’s even more crucial to communicate the recyclability of packages.


“Plastics perhaps do the job of packaging better and more efficiently than alternative materials such as metal, glass and paper, and are equally, if not more, sustainable,” according to the report. “Concerns about the environmental impact of plastics linger in the background, which underscores the importance for industry to focus on increasing recovery opportunities so plastic packaging also wins in the end-of-life category when stacked up against alternative materials.”


View the full report


Plastics Technology’s Most-Viewed Articles of 2015

By: Tony Deligio 6. January 2016

From how to’s to best methods to troubleshooting, the most-viewed articles on Plastics Technology in 2015 are typified by timeless technical advice and insights.


Injection molding, extrusion, materials and auxiliaries articles were among the most-viewed at Plastics Technology in 2015, with a deep dive into impact testing by Senior Editor Lilli Manolis Sherman at No. 1.


On the materials front, articles on plastics that conduct heat and thermoplastic polyesters continued to be popular with our readers, while others sought out practical knowledge for injection molding, including molding undercuts, stopping flash, reducing sinks and better knowing mold coatings.


In extrusion, readers continued to open stories on troubleshooting melt fracture and understanding the causes for gels in films. Rounding out our top 10, a review of the six things processors should know about eco-friendly chillers from Executive Editor Matt Naitove. Check them all out below:


  1. IMPACT: Which Test to Use? Which Instrument to Buy?
  2. Plastics That Conduct Heat
  3. Thermoplastic Polyesters: It's a Good Time to Know Them Better
  4. Best Methods of Molding Undercuts
  5. How to Stop Flash
  6. Six Things You Should Know About New Eco-Friendly Chillers
  7. Know Your Mold Coatings
  8. Extrusion Troubleshooter
  9. How to Reduce Sinks
  10. What's Causing Your Gels?


injection molding tool with undercut

Plastics Technology’s Most-Viewed Columns of 2015

By: Tony Deligio 6. January 2016

Materials, and the effects temperature and pressure have on them, are fundamental to plastics processing, and no where is that more clear than in Plastics Technology’s most-viewed columns of 2015.


Mike Sepe and John Bozzelli are respected authors, educators and experts in their respective fields and, as such, it’s no surprise that their columns occupy all top 10 spots for most-viewed columns in 2015.


Sepe’s insights into overall process temperatures, including those of the melt and the tool, and Bozzelli’s shared knowledge of fundamental molding questions like calculating shot size and understanding pressure loss, are sought after again and again.


Need a refresher? Take some time to review all these articles and improve your processing today.


  1. The Importance of Melt & Mold Temperature
  2. The Effects of Temperature
  3. PBT and PET Polyester: The Difference Crystallinity Makes
  4. Calculate Shot Size Vs. Barrel Capacity
  5. Injection Molding: How to Set Second-Stage (Pack & Hold) Pressure
  6. The Strain Rate Effect
  7. Density & Molecular Weight in Polyethylene
  8. When It Comes to Nylon, Don’t Do the Math
  9. Injection Molding: You Must Dry Hygroscopic Resins
  10. Injection Molding: Understanding Pressure Loss In Injection Molding


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