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SPI Rebrands as Plastics Industry Association

By: Heather Caliendo 16. December 2016

SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association is now the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS).

 

“To continue to drive the industry forward for decades to come, our board of directors made a decision to evolve our purpose-driven organization,” says Bill Carteaux, PLASTICS’ president and CEO. “We’re not a society; we’re an association that helps to shape the future of the industry. Our new identity as the Plastics Industry Association reflects the way forward.”

 

PLASTICS also unveiled a new logo, which represents the six facets of the plastics industry supply chain, including brand owners, equipment manufacturers, material suppliers, moldmakers, processors and recyclers. Moving forward, the plastics industry is looking to grow and support sustainability and find ways to make recycling easier, hence the association also added its new, and first-ever tagline: “Better Industry. Better World.”

 

“Our member-driven organization will continue to help the industry grow while promoting new technology through our trade shows and conferences,” says Jim Murphy, chair of PLASTICS’ Board of Directors and president and CEO of Davis Standard, LLC. “At the same time, we’re going to work to evolve the way people think about plastics.” 

 

Check out video below from Bill Carteaux explaining the change. 

 

11th Hour Extension to Proposed Lockout/Tagout Rule Changes

By: Tony Deligio 15. December 2016

Deadline extended from Jan. 1 to Jan. 4, 2017 as stakeholders weigh the potential impact on injection machine maintenance and mold changes.

 

On Monday, Dec. 12, the Plastics Industry Assn. (PLASTICS; formerly SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association) reported that OSHA had extended a deadline for affected parties to give feedback—including requesting hearings—on changes to lockout/tagout standards for injection molding machines.

 

Back in November, Plastics Technology reported on the proposed changes to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) Part 62 Plastic Molding Safety Standard R408.16234, designed to help it meet OSHA’s General Industry Safety Standard Part 85 “The Control of Hazardous Energy Sources”.

 

This latest move, according to PLASTICS:

 

…would remove “unexpected” from the term “unexpected energization” in the existing general industry standard for the control of hazardous energy, lockout/tagout (LOTO; 29 CFR 1910.147). The standard applies to and establishes requirements during servicing and maintenance operations “in which the unexpected energization or startup of the machines or equipment, or the release of stored energy could cause injury to employees.”

 

According to PLASTICS, the rub, in part, lies in the fact that:

 

OSHA’s proposal would expand the applications in which lockout is required, and would present challenges in demonstrating the efficacy of automated controls that could eliminate the potential for unexpected energization and therefore eliminate the need for LOTO.

 

Molders I’ve spoken with on the topic are understandably reluctant to be quoted on the record regarding these changes, fearful in part of an unexpected safety inspection at their plants. I did receive some input via email from an injection molding professional whose résumé includes time on the shop floor at an injection molding operation in Michigan.

 

That individual noted that his company had discussions about what it would take to perform a complete lockout/tagout on an injection molding machine during mold changeovers. The biggest issue then and now was impact on downtime—specifically downtime related to barrel heating not physical tool changeover.

 

If a molder locks out power on a press, power to barrel heats is also interrupted. Many molders use the time it takes to change tooling to allow the barrel temperatures to “soak to the new material set points”, my contact wrote, adding:

 

Essentially, the new rule means that all that time for barrel heats, mold heats, and the machine’s oil temperature to stabilize will have to be completed in series and not in parallel with the physical mold change. 

 

He went further noting that, estimates of this adding an hour to each mold change could be conservative depending on the material being run and the strictness of the rule interpretation.

 

If one must lockout a machine when performing a changeover, does this at some point mean the machine must be locked out anytime a person needs to put a body part into the clamping area? If this is the case, we are looking at needing to lockout the machine anytime the parting line of the mold needs to be cleaned or a runner gets stuck, or any of the 100s of other different scenarios that happen each day that require worker interaction in the clamping area. 

 

My source said that newer machines have proven, reliable means to prevent the clamps from moving when the operator or non-operator doors are open, but older machines are “the real issue,” specifically the “30-year-old machines that still use limit switches to verify the door is closed.”

 

These switches can be “tricked” into thinking the doors to the clamp are closed, in ill-guided, but nonetheless, real-world attempts to limit downtime.

 

You might ask yourself, ‘Who in their right mind would tie back a door limit switch? that can’t be possible.’ Well it has happened, and people have made bad decisions and paid a horrible price for them. “To err is human” but a person’s punishment for the error should not have to be the ultimate one.   

 

In its Dec. 6, 2016 email newsletter, MIOSHA reported that the 41st death of a Michigan worker for the year occurred on Nov. 30. There were 29 MIOSHA-related deaths in 2015, with the fewest back in 2009—24. As MIOSHA said in the article, and every party in this current discussion can agree, “Every life is precious. Our mutual goal must be that every employee goes home at the end of their shift every day.”

 

Do you have questions/feedback/information regarding this topic? Please log in and comment or send it my way: tonyd@ptonline.com.

 

Will Oil Price Fluctuations Continue to Be a Key Driver In PE Pricing?

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 13. December 2016

Oil prices just rallied above the $50/bbl mark; this, while PE prices continued to decline this month.

 

Within the last four to five years, crude oil prices have been one of the key drivers influencing PE pricing. Plunging oil prices this year helped keep PE prices relatively stable until September when suppliers successfully implemented a 5ȼ/lb increase; this owing to tightened supply at the time.

 

In fact, the September PE price was the highest since January 2015, when crude oil first dropped to $45/bbl from $90/bbl. Also that month, domestic commodity PE film processors followed suit by announcing price hikes of 6%.

 

At that time, I spoke with Mike Burns, Resin Technology, Inc.'s (RTi) v.p. of client services for PE, and he cautioned on likely competition from imported finished PE goods that could emerge following this action. Burns emphasized the influence of the plastic bag market on overall PE pricing by noting these key factors:           

 

Nearly 40% of PE sold is used for film applications: retail bags, garbage bags, food packaging, construction, medical supplies, etc.

 

Cost to produce a retail bag, grocery bag or can liner in China/Southeast Asia and deliver to a North American city is 25ȼ/lb over the cost of resin.

 

Cost to produce a retail bag, grocery bag or can liner in North America and deliver to a North American city is also 25ȼ/lb over the cost of resin.

 

Note: In 2015 and 2016, the average cost to produce and deliver PE pellet derived from oil/naphtha was near 45ȼ/lb; for that same time frame North America’s average cost to produce and deliver PE pellet from shale gas was 30ȼ/lb).

 

North American PE suppliers need to keep film production in North America.

 

When the price delta exceeds 10%, retailers call China/Southeast Asia.

 

Although Burns, and other industry pros, initially thought PE suppliers would aim to hold on to that 5ȼ/lb margin gain through year’s end, by the October-November time frame, things were looking quite different. Industry dynamics, including suppliers’ growing inventories, sluggish export demand, some softness in domestic demand, and lower prices abroad hampered that aim.

 

Burns had noted that “something had to give”.  He pointed out that PE contract prices were now 5ȼ above what they should be. At the same time, spot prices were as much as 10ȼ/lb lower vs. a more typical 5-7ȼ less than contract prices. Ditto for export prices which were 15ȼ lower vs. a more typical 7-10ȼ less than contract prices.

 

By early November, PE suppliers offered price concessions of 3 cents/lb, and some signaled further drops for December on the order of 2-5ȼ/lb, with 2-3ȼ, a more realistic expectation, ventured Burns. Speaking with Burns on December 1, regarding what might happen in January, he noted that if crude oil prices moved up to an expected $50/bbl, that may stop any further PE decreases, but will not result in increases. Only if oil prices rise beyond $55/bbl, will shale gas prices also move up, as will PE prices, he ventured.

 

Which bring us to Monday, Dec. 12, when nearly a dozen non-OPEC producers agreed to reduce their crude oil output in support of OPEC’s efforts to prop up prices. Prices jumped to $53.95/bbl, with some analysts talking about a $60/bbl or more emerging.

 

However, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook stated that the resurgence of U.S. shale will undermine the OPEC-fueled price rally, putting a cap on oil prices at about $50/bbl through 2017. The EIA also is doubtful on how much OPEC will actually follow through on its deal.

 

“The extent to which the announced plans will be carried out and actually reduce supply below levels that would have occurred in their absence remains uncertain.” The agency ventures that an above $50/bbl rally will simply serve to revive U.S. shale drilling, which will “encourage a return to supply growth in U.S. tight oil more quickly than expected.”

 

Back to RTI’s Burns, whose 2017 forecast is based on RTi’s naphtha resin cost model; namely, naphtha has a close10:1 ratio with oil—it moves very close to oil price movements. Every $2/bbl change in oil prices equals approximately 1ȼ/lb in the cost to make a pellet from naphtha. As such, every $10/bbl price movement above or below $50/bbl will increase or decrease the PE price 4-5ȼ/lb.

 

Large-Scale 3-D Printed Structure Featured at Entry of Design Miami Show

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 9. December 2016

 

Techmer ES partnered with ORNL to create this structure which utilizes a bamboo fiber-reinforced PLA.

 

It is heartening to see the continued “blossoming” of ongoing partnerships between private firms like Techmer ES (TES), Clinton, Tenn., wholly-owned subsidiary of Techmer PM, Branch Technology of Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to advance additive manufacturing technology. The latest project of the partners was featured at the entry of the Design Miami’s pavilion held November 30 to December 4.

 

This large-scale 3-D printed structure utilized custom carbon fiber-reinforced ABS materials developed by TES, which helped build the installation’s arc canopy printed by Branch Technology, using its free-form 3-D printing technology.

 

Meanwhile, the seating and counter space were printed of TES’s bio-derived PLA compound that is reinforced with bamboo fibers. These components were printed in DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility located at ORNL using a Cincinnati Inc. Big Area Additive Manufacturing, or BAAM, machine.

 

“It’s exciting to design and produce high-performance materials for a one-of-a-kind structure…Within a four-week timeframe, we worked through challenges related to the PLA and bamboo fibers and successfully formulated materials that met the installation’s structural and extended outdoor durability needs,” said TES product development manager Alan Franc.

 

 

The PLA/bamboo-reinforced material is supplied by TES in the form of 1/8-inch pellets, like is the case with most of the company’s other materials, according to Tom Drye, managing director for TES. “The real magic lies in how we compound and formulate the material—this information is proprietary,” he adds.

 

It was just two years ago that we were all treated to the world’s first 3-D printed car that was designed by Local Motors and made its debut at IMTS 2014. A BAAM machine developed by ORNL and Cincinnati Inc., was used to produce the “Strati”. It extrudes hot thermoplastic to build parts layer-by-layer, similar to an FDM machine.

 

Following a further upgrade to BAAM, ORNL and TES developed the first full-size 3-D printed electric car. The fully-functioning, 1400-lb Shelby Cobra 289 FIA contains 500 lb of 3-D printed parts (the body of the vehicle) made from Electrafil J-1200/CF/20—a 20% carbon-fiber-reinforced ABS formulated by TES. The tooling was also made with that material.

 

Moderate Decline Shown in Third Quarter by CES Machinery Data

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 9. December 2016

The Plastics Industry Association’s Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES) says this was the first quarterly decline since third quarter 2015.

 

According to the Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES) of the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS, formerly SPI), North American shipments of plastics machinery registered a year-over-year decrease in third quarter 2016.

 

This represents the first quarterly slippage since third quarter 2015, and only the second instance of a quarterly drop since the 2010.

 

The CES’s preliminary estimate for shipments of primary plastics equipment—injection molding, extrusion, and blow molding, for reporting companies totaled $294.7 million in this year’s third quarter. This was 2.4% lower than the total of $302 million from third quarter 2015, and 6.6% less than the $315.3 million from second quarter 2016. Year-to-date, shipments of primary plastics equipment are still up 4.7% when compared with the first three quarters of 2015.

 

When the recent CES data are broken out by reporting sector, there is typically some variance in the quarterly growth rates, and the third quarter was no exception.

 

The shipment value of injection molding machinery decreased 6% in third quarter when compared with the total 2015 third quarter. The shipments value of single-screw extruders dropped 3.8% in third quarter compared to 2015 third quarter. The shipments value of twin-screw extruders jumped 27.6% in the third quarter compared with last year. The shipment values of blow molding machines was not disclosed for this quarter.

 

Meanwhile, auxiliary equipment bookings totaled $119.8 million in the third quarter, representing a rise of 0.7% over the total from 2015’s third quarter, but it was a decline of 3% when compared with the second quarter’s total.

 

According to CES, the moderate decline in the third quarter machinery data was still better than the performance posted in that quarter for the entire industrial machinery industry. Data compiled by the Census Bureau show the total value for new orders of U.S. industrial machinery dropped 8% in third quarter 2016 when compared with the total from 2015’s third quarter. This was followed by a 6.8% increase in the first half of this year.

 

It is interesting to note that the respondent to CES’s third quarter survey expect the medical and packaging end-markets to enjoy the best growth in demand in the coming year. An improvement is expected for the construction and appliances sectors. In contrast, automotive expectations slipped, yet expectations for all other end-markets call for steady-to-better demand to prevail in 2017.

 




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