Out of Chaos, Collaboration

By: Tony Deligio 24. September 2014

Like any good buzzword, “collaboration” has been used and abused enough that its literal definition has all but completely eroded away, leaving in its place a vague sense of what the word once meant


At SPI’s Fall Meeting in Chicago, Dan Sanker, founder and president of CaseStack, sought to reaffirm collaboration’s definition, acknowledging the importance of a word that has served as the operational basis of his company, which optimizes shipping of goods among manufacturers, OEMs, retailers and distributors.


Per the company’s website:


CaseStack combines an advanced transportation and warehousing system with proprietary, web-based software to enable customers to reap the benefits and economies of a sophisticated, global logistics system without all the infrastructure costs.


In plastics, he sees similar opportunities in another “sophisticated, global logistics system”, describing the sector in his speech as a “complex, dramatic, big industry with a lot of trading partners.”


“If you happen to be in a large, complex industry that seems chaotic at times,” Sanker noted, “that can be a huge opportunity.”


The consumer’s role
In a job that requires the day-to-day management of supply chains, Sanker has become acutely aware of the consumer’s ability to influence activity up and down the chain.


“The consumer is at the very bottom of the supply chain,” Sanker noted, “and when they they go shopping, that dictates everything that happens up the supply chain,” adding that companies up the chain that respond to consumers are the ones that succeed.


Success for Sanker, in part, has meant collaborating with the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart. He discussed how the 1300-plus consumer product companies that surround Wal-Mart create a new kind of business cluster, rife with the chaos that can lead to opportunity, describing a “collaborative ecosystem” that is ultimately consumer driven.


True collaboration
Sanker broke down true collaboration into four steps:


  • Networking (share information)
  • Coordination (take action)
  • Cooperation (share resources)
  • Collaboration (shared risks/rewards)


In his business, which involves linking various parties with common interests (albeit at times competing goals), Sanker noted that true collaboration has been key, explaining the power of groups with a simple equation.


In a group with 2 participants there is 1 collaborative opportunity, while in a group with 12 participants, there are 4083 collaborative opportunities. How large of a collaborative network could you build? 

CaseStack's Illinois Consolidation Center

Big Area Additive Manufacturing Stars at IMTS

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 23. September 2014

At this year’s IMTS show in Chicago earlier this month, Cincinnati Inc., launched its prototype Big Area Additive Manufacturing Machine (BAAM), which resulted from the formation of the company’s partnership earlier this year with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to develop a large-scale additive manufacturing system. One that would be capable of printing polymer components up to 10 times larger than what is currently producible, and at speeds 200-500 times faster than existing machines.


The partnership’s aim is to introduce significant new capabilities to the U.S. machine tool sector which supplies manufacturing technology to automotive, aerospace, appliance, and robotic industries. The prototype machine uses the chassis and drives of Cincinnati Inc.’s gantry-style laser cutting systems at the base, and incorporates a high-speed cutting tool, pellet feed mechanism, and control software.


Cincinnati Inc.’s market development manager Rick Neff explained to me how the company participated with Local Motors, Sabic, and ORNL to take on the challenge to 3D print a car during the IMTS trade show. “We started printing on Sunday morning at 7 am. We printed the main structure of the car including the frame, seats, cockpit, hood and tail in one 1000-lb piece by 6 am on Tuesday. We then took the rough part to a Thermwood Router where the surfaces that needed to be accurately machined smooth were routed smooth.”

On Wednesday through Saturday morning, the Local Motors crew attached a drive train, suspension, steering wheel, instruments, brakes and some trim to complete the car. The car, named Strati (Italian for layers), uses a drive train from Renault that is employed in the European Twizy City Car. “Right on schedule at 9 am Saturday, we fired up the Strati and drove it out of the show…the reaction from the crowd and the press was overwhelming,” says Neff.


Here is some key information Neff provided about BAAM:


• The machine extrudes hot thermoplastic to build parts layer-by-layer, similar to an FDM machine.

• BAAM’s extrusion rates are very high—in the neighborhood of 35 lb/hr, which is reportedly hundreds of times faster than typical rapid prototyping 3D printers.

• The material for Strati is ABS with carbon fiber reinforcement formulated right into the plastic. Carbon fiber reinforced ABS is readily available for about $7/lb.

• The layer thickness is 0.160”.

• The build envelope on the prototype BAAM is 2m x 4m x 0.87m.

• The extruder can use quite a variety of thermoplastics and fiber reinforced thermoplastics. Neff says they have used ABS, PPS, PEKK, and PEI. Carbon fiber and glass fiber reinforcements have been used to improve strength and thermal stability of the parts.


Although a production version of BAAM is not yet ready for delivery, Neff confirms that the company is considering selling a very few alpha level machines to laboratories or companies who would like to do some basic research on the technology right now. He says, they are also willing to take orders for beta level and production machines that will be available in 2015 for customers who want to be the first in their industry to be using BAAM. 

Bayer To Quit Plastics

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 18. September 2014

Bayer AG has announced that it plans to focus entirely on its Life Science businesses—HealthCare and CropScience—and intends to float MaterialScience on the stock market by 2016 at latest as a separate company. The BMS business, with North American headquarters in Pittsburgh, is comprised of polyurethane, TPUs, PC, inorganic chemicals and coatings & adhesives.


Bayer CEO Dr. Marijn Dekkers says the company intends to create two top global corporations: Bayer as a world-class innovation company in the Life Science businesses, and MaterialScience as a leading player in polymers. Subsequent to the intended spin-off, MaterialScience will be Europe’s fourth largest chemical company; it had global sales in 2013 of more than $14.2 billion (pro forma figure). The new company will have a new name and a separate identity and be headquartered in Leverkusen, Germany. Employment levels are expected to remain stable over the next few years. It is planned that the new company will have a global workforce of about 16,800, including 6500 in Germany.


Dekkers noted that the company firmly believes that MaterialScience will use its separate status to deploy its existing strength even more rapidly, effectively and flexibly in the global competitive arena. A strategy and corporate culture aligned to technological and cost leadership, coupled with the ability to make its own investment and portfolio decisions, would give MaterialScience the best development prospects in a highly competitive market. That, according to Dekkers, includes direct capital market access so that that it would not have to compete with the Life Science businesses for investment funding in the future.


It is possible that a similar action might be taken by DuPont, according to a Sept. 17 Forbes article. Activist investor Nelson Peltz sent a note to DuPont’s board this past Tuesday, which said Peltz’s hedge fund, Trian Partners, is urging the company to break itself up. According to Forbes, Trian is one of DuPont’s largest shareholders and discussions have been underway for the past year as Trian feels that it can “no longer be silent as DuPont continues to struggle to execute” what Trian believes is a flawed business plan.


Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.


Thermoplastic Composites Prominent At SPE's ACCE

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 17. September 2014

Last week in Novi, Mich., I attended SPE’s Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE) and was impressed by the daily panel discussions, including one on lightweighting and the multi-material car. Moderated by president and CEO Jay Baron of the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), it featured panelists from Ford, GM, Magna, Gurit Automotive, and EDAG Engineering AG.

            Among the highlights of the discussion:

• Lightweighting in automotive is an enabling tool to deliver fuel economy and performance, and not something consumers care about.

• The greatest advantage of plastic composites currently is also their greatest disadvantage: that they are so infinitely tailorable.

• The composites industry would do well to take cues from the steel industry which has aligned itself with the automotive industry and identified the development of new materials.

• The steel industry seems to reinvent itself every 10 years and the third generation steel grades allow for making low-cost parts with tenfold the strength of previous generations. As such, we can expect a rather stable presence of low-cost, high-performance steel in automotive, even in the most composite-intensive vehicles.

• Ford’s new aluminum-intensive F-150 truck will demonstrate a significant step in weight reduction, but this can be achieved by other materials.

• There is great potential for carbon fiber reinforced plastics as new materials are developed, the cost is dropped, and parts are designed for these materials.

• By the same token, we are not likely to see high-volume, composite-intensive vehicles on the road for a while.

Also impressive was the broad range of presentations on developments in both thermoset and thermoplastic composites. A “star” emerging in the thermoplastics composites arena is long fiber thermoplastics (LFT). Advances with LFT were discussed by suppliers of materials like Invista and DuPont, suppliers of glass fiber reinforcements Owens-Corning and PPG, carbon fiber supplier Zoltec, as well injection molding machine maker Arburg, and the Fraunhofer Institute. In the exhibit hall, compounder PlastiComp, which specializes in LFT, showcased a semitruck fender liner made of LFT-PP, which outperformed a failed short glass fiber part and replaced metal, resulting in mass reduction and increased durability (see photo).

Stay tuned for an upcoming article in PT on these and other interesting developments in thermoplastic composites. These include  advances in thermoplastics reinforced with carbon nanotubes (CNTs), high-impact nylons reinforced with a new nanoadditive that are promising for use with FDM additive manufacturing technology, and new generation boron nitride nanotube continuous fibers that show potential to surpass in mechanical properties CNTs and possibly graphite fibers.


Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastic Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.



Plastics Industry Puts Skills Gap in its Sights

By: Tony Deligio 17. September 2014

When you complete an article, sometimes you feel like everywhere you look news related to that topic is popping up.


In Plastics Technology’s September issue, I wrote about the so-called skills gap in manufacturing and what plastics companies are doing to address it, so the whole topic is still very top of mind for me. Apparently the issue is top of mind for lots of others as well. On September 16, I received five press releases related in various ways to the skills gap, ranging from a Manufacturing Day celebration to machine donations to schools to plastics education online and in apps. If awareness of the skills gap really is everywhere, that’s a good thing for the plastics industry.


Toshiba Machine announced it will host students and their teachers from local high schools, community colleges and universities for its first annual Manufacturing Day celebration. On Oct. 3, more than 600 Manufacturing Day celebrations will take place across the U.S. For Toshiba, celebrating means helping the U.S. “secure its leadership position in the global manufacturing marketplace by inspiring the next generation of workers to pursue careers in the industry.”


Toshiba’s event will run from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm at its corporate headquarters in Elk Grove Village, Ill.  Guest speakers will include Michael Taylor, Senior Director, International Affairs and Trade, Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) and Omar A. Ghrayeb, Associate Dean, Outreach and Undergraduate Programs, Northern Illinois University. Additional presentations at the event will come from Paulson Training Programs, RJG, Reiloy Westland and Yushin America.


SPI and Tooling U-SME launched a new online training program intended to close “the manufacturing skills gap in the plastics industry.” PlasticsU will provide a customized selection of courses and programs for a broad array of plastics related skills. SPI noted that the offerings range from a basic introduction to the most advanced studies, with courses including Interpreting Blueprints; Creating a Milling Program; Principles of Injection Molding; Measuring System Analysis; Rigging Inspection and Safety; and CNC Controls.


Milacron announced an expansion of its Education Partnership program, specifically shipping a Magna T Servo injection molding machine to Salt Lake Community College in support of its short-term intensive training program for injection molding. Milacron noted that it has more than 40 machines supporting learning institutions across the U.S.


The Salt Lake Community College molding lab currently features three machines, with room for five. The plastics program’s goal is to train up to 15 students every eight weeks. Milacron also noted that Penn State Erie, which offers an accredited plastics engineering technology degree, celebrates the 25th anniversary of its first graduating class in 2014. The multimillion dollar Penn State lab, which has equipment from Milacron and others, provides more than 125 students hands-on training every year.


Routsis Training announced the release of its new Injection Molding Reference Guide app for both Apple and Android devices. Routsis notes that the reference guide gives process techs the info they need to troubleshoot and establish a scientific molding process. The app also includes information regarding Routsis’ RightStart and SmartTech training, including video previews from actual training courses.


Finally, the first ever International Congress on Vocational and Professional Education and Training was held, an event described as a “global dialogue about the importance of a skilled workforce for economic competitiveness.”


Jim Wall, executive director of the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) attended highlighting the NIMS’ Competency-Based Apprenticeship System. NIMS reported that the congress focused on “building a positive image of vocational training, supporting bilateral exchanges between the private sector and policymakers, and presenting best practices in companies and schools.”


« Prev | | Next »

RSS RSS  |  Atom Atom

All rights reserved. Copyright © Gardner Business Media, Inc. 2014 Cincinnati, Ohio 45244