Do You Have Your NPE2015 Hotel Booked Yet?

1. July 2014

Registered attendees can reserve rooms at special low rates for NPE2015, and if you haven’t registered yet (one more to-do item to check off), you can do so at Just click on the “Register to Attend” button.


Organized by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, NPE is a triennial international plastics exposition to be held March 23-27, 2015 in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center. This will be the second iteration of the show in Orlando after it executed a successful and well-received move from Chicago in 2012.


SPI believes NPE2015 will be the largest plastics industry event in 2015, with the trade show portion to include 2,000 exhibitors spread out over more than 1 million-ft2 (93,000 m2) of exhibit space.


Why should you book your room now? SPI is expecting the show to attract more than 60,000 industry professionals from 120 countries. Plastics professionals will come not only for the exposition, but also several co-located events, including the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) ANTEC 2015 technical conference; SPI’s Business of Plastics conference; a Spanish-language seminar; the new NPE3D exhibition and conference about 3D printing; the Zero Waste Zone; and other special programs.


Orlando’s hotels boast an inventory exceeding 115,000 rooms, which sounds like and is a lot, but those hotels are also experiencing higher and higher booking rates. According to Visit Orlando’s Metro Orlando Annual Lodging Industry Results, hotels located on International Drive, where many of the Orange County Convention Center hotels are located, occupancy rates in 2013 were up 1.4% over 2012, to 71.6%.


That compares to 62.3% for the U.S. and 67.0% for all of Florida. Convention and business occupancy rates rose 2.0% in 2013, from 70.2% to 71.6%. The average daily rate for International Drive rose by 2.6% in 2013, from $109.03 to $111.84. That’s a smaller increase than the national rate, which rose 3.9% to $110.35 and the rate for all of Florida, which jumped 4.6% to $118.46.


Orlando had 59 million visitors in 2013, setting an all-time record for U.S. destinations, according to Visit Orlando. The record-breaking year reflected a 3% increase over the previous high water mark set in 2012. Orlando International Airport’s passenger traffic, however, was essentially flat in 2013, slipping 1.0 percent from 2012 levels to 34.9 million.


NPE bump
In 2012, when NPE first moved to Orlando, Orange County Convention Center Convention and Tradeshow attendance jumped 8.7% to 1.316 million. It dropped by 5.5% in 2013 to 1.244 million, but through the start of 2014, was tracking 4.9% higher and will no doubt get a nice NPE bump once again in 2015.


Book through the NPE2015 housing office
By booking your room through the NPE2015 Housing Office (Expovision), SPI notes that attendees will receive the following benefits:


  • The guaranteed lowest rates for the dates of the show—negotiated exclusively for show attendees and exhibitors
  • Automatic adjustment if rates drop after you make your reservation
  • Complimentary shuttle service between your hotel and the Orange County Convention Center

SPI notes that attendees should know all reservations require a deposit equal to the first night’s rate plus tax. Shuttle buses will run between NPE2015 designated hotels and the Orange County Convention Center on Monday, March 23 – Thursday, March 26 from 7:30 am to 10:30 am and 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm. On Friday, March 27, the shuttles will run from 7:30 am to 10:30 am and 1:30 pm to 4:30pm.  


Hotel scams
SPI is warning potential show goers to “be wary” when they book lodging, noting that hotel room scams are on the rise in Orlando. Per SPI:


Visit Orlando has reported hundreds of complaints from tradeshow managers regarding exhibitors and attendees who booked rooms through a “3rd party room broker” and ended up at sold out hotels with no reservations and no recourse for the payment of rooms. The Official NPE2015 Housing Office (EXPOVISION) requires only a one night room plus tax deposit without any contracts to secure hotel room reservations.


New Study Finds Plastic Bag Bans Have Had Reverse Effects

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 25. June 2014

A new study from the Reason Foundation--a public policy think tank that promotes choice, competition, and a dynamic market economy, assessed the environmental and economic effects of grocery bag bans. The findings may be surprising to the bans’ proponents who claim benefits such as a reduction in litter and other environmental impacts, ranging from resource use to emission of greenhouse gases, to a reduction of municipal costs for litter removal and waste collection. 


Using the best data available, “How Green Is That Grocery Bag Ban”, investigated the claims of proponents of such ordinances, which have been passed in about 190 municipalities in the U.S. within the last 15 years, imposing bans, fees and/or taxes on plastic grocery (HDPE) bags.  The findings include:


• Such bans have had nearly no impact on the amount of litter generated. In fact, plastic bag litter constitutes only 0.6% of visible litter across the U.S. So, even banning all plastic bags would have little impact on overall litter. Moreover, it accounts for less than 1% of visible litter items in storm drains, so it does not pose a flood threat.


• Plastic bags have had no discernible impact on the amount of plastic in the ocean or on the number of marine animals harmed by debris.


• There is no evidence of a reduction in waste collections costs.


• Some alternative bags appear to be superior to lightweight plastic on some environmental measures, such as use of energy and emissions of greenhouse gases. But that is true only if those bags are reused a sufficient number of times—ranging from six to 30 or more, depending on the bag. In practice, households do not typically reuse their bags enough to achieve those gains. At actual reuse rates, plastic bags result in about half the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of alternative bags.


• There is likely an adverse health effect from people failing to wash bacteria-ridden reusable bags, the use of which may increase as a result of restrictions on the distribution of other bag types.


• The cost of plastic bag bans fall disproportionally on the poor.


The World Cup…of plastics

25. June 2014

Germany's plastics and rubber machinery manufacturers have revised their expectations for 2014 downward, technically cutting them in half from 6 to 3 percent growth. That said, the sector, which remains the world’s largest still expects business to top Euro 7 billion, breaking that barrier for the first time ever. Further growth is anticipated in 2015, with sales forecast to rise 4 percent to just below Euro 7.3 billion.


Germany’s Plastics and Rubber Machinery Association (VDMA) announced the revision in mid June, noting that the sector is coming off record growth and exports in 2013. Russia, and its political difficulties, remain a drag, with performance hard to predict for what had been the third largest sales market for VDMA members, trailing only China and the U.S. (more on their equipment sector performances here and here). Those countries remain a bright spot, and an important one, with business in Brazil, Turkey, India, as well as Russia described as “markedly negative” by VDMA.


Germany’s exports of plastics and rubber machinery posted a small gain in their share of global exports. According to the data, almost 25 percent of all machines exported (24.5) were manufactured in Germany. China ranks second at 12.3 percent, followed by Japan (9.9 percent) and Italy (9.1 percent).


Italy’s plastics machinery and molds association, Assocomaplast, captured the sector’s struggles in its March summary of 2013, entitled “The Sector Is Holding, In Spite of Everything”. In 2013, production, exports, imports, and the domestic market were all down. There was, however, a slight positive trade balance, as overall production slipped from Euro 4 billion to Euro 3.9 billion.


Overall, imports fell 5.6% from Euro 625 million to Euro 590 million, while domestic demand fell 5.4% from Euro 2.050 billion to Euro 1.940 billion. Exports were fueled by injection molding machine demand, where sales jumped 32% to more than Euro 126 million, while exports of extrusion and blow molding machines shrank. Tooling, which accounts for the largest portion of exports with a 25% share, held steady.


The top five export markets remained unchanged from 2012, led by Germany (Euro 365 million), France (Euro 145 million), U.S. (Euro 143 million), Poland (Euro 125 million), and China (Euro 121 million).  


In an survey, one third of Assocomaplast members expected business to increase in 2014, while 46% anticipated “stability”.  At least in January, order levels were “virtually identical” to month- and year-prior levels.


The British Plastics Federation (BPF) also surveyed its member companies regarding expectations for 2014.  The respondents, comprised 66 percent by processors, were largely optimistic. Nearly three quarters (73 percent) anticipated an increase in U.K. sales in 2014, up from 67 percent in June 2013, and 55 percent at the start of last year.


Of the respondents, 21 percent thought 2014 would be flat compared to 2013, with only 6 percent forecasting a decrease. Nearly half (49 percent) believed profitability would be up in 2014, with the greatest optimism coming from injection molders, rotational molders, recyclers, and masterbatch and machinery suppliers.


Machinery markets were mixed for Japan in 2013, according to the Association of Japan Plastics Machinery (JPM). Production of injection molding machines fell to a three-year low in 2013, dropping 6.5% to 10,765. Extruders rose 9% to 464 units, while blow molding machines had their best result in more than 8 years, rising 8.2% to 645 units.


Germany’s VDMA called out Brazil as an area of lackluster growth, but for what it’s worth, the host of the 2014 World Cup was bullish on plastics in 2014. Jose Ricardo Roriz Coelho, president of the country’s plastics association, ABIPLAST, forecast growth in plastics production (+8 percent), jobs (+2 percent), and consumption (+9 percent), with imports, exports, and the trade deficit in transformed plastics all expected to expand.

Good Vibrations: Ultrasonic Technology Applied to Micro Molding

By: Tony Deligio 25. June 2014

Back in 2007, researchers at the Ascamm Technology Centre in Barcelona, Spain started investigating melting thermoplastics via ultrasonic energy. After proving out the process, the researchers considered possible commercial applications, according to Enric Sirera, who became sales director at Ultrasion, the commercial venture spun off in 2010 from Ascamm’s to commercialize the invention. 


“[The researchers] saw a market need for small parts, micro parts, including ones with higher aspect ratios,” Sirera explained. “They saw a commercial opportunity.” Ultrasion was created in 2010 as means of “designing, developing, and industrializing a machine surrounding this ultrasonic molding process.”


Ultrasion’s vision is to use ultrasonic waves to melt plastics prior to molding, as opposed to the shear and radiant heating used in the heater-band, reciprocating-screw, and barrel set up of traditional injection molding. By doing so, the researchers believed they could prepare only the required amount of material for each part versus bringing an entire barrel of material up to temperature, with the subsequent residence time and potential for degradation.


In their first crack at a ultrasonic-centered machine, the researchers constructed a prototype press by taking a standard injection molding machine, removing the entire injection unit and substituting one of their design.


“It worked perfectly,” Sirera recalled, “it was great step forward. At that point, however, we realized that the hydraulics and the clamping force were over sized and over dimension for what we needed. So, we said, ‘Hey, let’s think about redesigning a new machine according to this process.’”


With the first prototype machine completed in 2010, the company hit the show circuit to begin promoting the technology, including stops in Germany at Fakuma and Orlando at NPE2012. Last year, Ultrasion participated in the K Show in Germany, as commercial sales began in earnest.


Today, Sirera notes there are 12 machines in the field, with seven running production and the rest involved in further research at universities and R&D centers. Those machines are spread throughout the U.S., U.K., Poland, the Netherlands, and Spain, working in medical, aerospace, and precision mechanics applications.


Key difference
Sirera notes that one key differentiator for Ultrasion’s molding technology (they drop the injection, more on that later), is how ultrasonic melting of the pellets lowers the material’s viscosity.


“This means at the same melting temperatures,” Sirera says, “the viscosity by ultrasonic heating drops down, leading to the possibility of molding at much lower pressure, with less stresses internally, as well as the ability to make the material flow into thinner, tinier geometries that previously had not been able to be filled.”


Instead of a traditional hopper-fed barrel and screw, Ultrasion machines feature a dosing unit, dispensing only the amount of material needed to be melted for each cycle. Once inside the dosing chamber, the resin is heated via ultrasonic waves, vibrating the plastic and creating spaces within its molecular structure. “When you create more space around the molecules,” Sirera explains, “you lower the viscosity. As the free volume increases, the viscosity drops down.”


In micro injection molding, Sirera notes that pressures can easily rise to 1200 bar and higher. With ultrasonic melting, however, those pressures drop down to the 300 to 500 bar range.


The Ultrasion machine is technically rated with a clamping force of 3 m.t., but even that description is overkill, according to Sirera. In production, he notes that  the Ultrasion machine typically uses from 1.5 to 2.2 m.t. of clamping force. As an added bonus, the elimination of heater bands, as well as hydraulic pumps and motors normally used to keep the clamp shut under high pressure, means that energy consumption for the Ultrasion is reduced by 85 to 90 percent compared to a standard injection molding machine.


Residence time
In a standard micromolding setup up, where a part might utilize a .1g shot and the machine has a 100g capacity barrel, a molder would have to go through 1000 shots to clear the barrel. “This can lead to big problems,” Sirera notes. In the Ultrasion design, the dosing unit handles the material at room temperature, and only as needed.


“Imagine a hopper with material at room temperature,” Sirera explains. “The machine stays at room temperature. As soon as we want to mold a part, we close the mold, dose raw material as pellets into the mold—using just the amount of material for that shot—and then the horn comes down, vibrates, and melts only the amount of material dosed into that shot.” Once melted, a plunger pushes the molten plastic into the tool cavity at much lower pressures.


“There’s no residence time at all, which means the machine can be started and stopped at any time,” Sirera says, adding that there are no purging operations either. If a material change is needed, the hopper is simply emptied and refilled.


Sirera says parts still have a runner and sprue, which can become outsized in micro molding, but here he notes Ultrasion still saves between 40 to 70 percent of the equivalent cold runner compared to traditional micro injection molding.

For the material, eliminating the dual stresses of thermal degradation caused by long residence times as well as injection under high pressure has had some interesting results.


Ultrasion has seen less change in the polymer’s molecular weight, helping materials retain mechanical properties, while the process also means the polymer chains “refreeze nicely”, according to Sirera, resulting in a stronger, more homogenous melt and part.


Apart from silicones, Sirera notes that the technology is suitable for all types of thermoplastics, including high-temperature materials like PEEK, PSU, LCP, and POM. In filled materials, or ones with additives, Ultrasion has also seen better dispersion and more homogeneity in the finished compounds and parts. At this time, maximum overall shot sizes are around 1.5 to 2 g, but could go bigger, to a point.


“If you ask me if some day will we make a bumper fascia using ultrasonic molding, I don’t think so,” Sirera says, before adding. “It’s too soon to tell.”


That doesn’t mean there aren’t big opportunities in small parts, however. “Mold geometries that had previously proven impossible are now possible,” Sirera says. “When we talk about design for manufacturing, now you have a new manufacturing technique that will allow you to try new geometries. We don’t know what the limits are yet, but we envision a huge opportunity.”

Biocompatible, Zinc-Based Antibacterial Treatment For Plastics

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 19. June 2014

A unique patented antimicrobial treatment has been developed by Parx Plastics, a two-year-old business founded by Michele Fiori and Michael van der Jagt to explore the possibilities of creating antibacterial plastics. Headquartered in The Netherlands, with laboratory and production facilities in Italy, Parx Plastics was named by the European Commission as one of top three tech startups in Europe in the prestigious Tech AllStars competition 2014.


By applying biomimetics and nanotechnology, a method was developed to make an intrinsic change to any plastic that results in a mechanical/physical property that acts against bacteria or microorganisms, according to van der Jagt. The technology does not use chemicals, biocides, heavy metals or nanoparticles. Instead, it makes use of the one of the body’s most abundant trace elements: zinc. Moreover, it is said to kill 99% of the bacteria and microorganisms that are on the surface of a product within 24 hours, in step with ISO 22196 testing guidelines.  Says van der Jagt, “The technology can be used nearly for any end-use product, but its unique characteristics—biocompatible, non-toxic, non-migratory, makes it especially suitable for food packaging to prolong shelf life and medical devices where it reduces the chances of infection with implants.”


To date, the treatment has been applied to BPA-free copolyester Tritan EX401 from Eastman Chemical where its successful incorporation of the antibacterial property resulted in 98.7% for Gram- and 98% for Gram+ bacteria. The material is targeted at infant care products and the Parx technology opens up broader opportunities. “So, if you need to make an antibacterial product that is normally made out of Eastman’s Tritan, we will treat 3% of the Tritan granulate/pellets of the Tritan you require. That 3%-treated plastic is referred to as Saniconcentrate, which is mixed in with the untreated 97% portion prior to production. We are now in direct contact with the molder of one of these products,”says van der Jagt.  He also notes that the company has had equally successful results in applying its treatment to BASF’s Terluran GP-35 ABS copolymer, a standard ABS grade with a low viscosity used in a very wide range of applications.



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