China Serves Up Stiff Competition in Table Tennis and Plastics Machinery

By: Tony Deligio 27. May 2015

Billed as a live-action personification of energy efficiency, a table tennis match between Germany’s professional ping ponger, Timo Boll, and two up-and-coming Chinese youth players more closely reflected the shrinking gap between the two country’s plastics machinery sectors. (Check out a slide show of the action).

Staged by the VDMA, Germany’s machinery association, and Adsale, organizer of Chinaplas 2015 in Guangzhou, the exhibition pitted 34-year-old German national Timo Boll, currently placed 7th in ITTF World Rankings, against two rising youth stars in Chinese table tennis, ages nine and 12.

Boll, the world’s No. 1 player as recently as 2011, towered over his youthful competition in size and game, and was certainly energy efficient in his play, dispatching the boys 11-2 and 11-3 in action that took less than 10 minutes, including warmups.

In game play, the Chinese youth showed flashes against the German veteran, with brief, albeit early leads, impressing Boll in the process. Of the 9-yr-old, Boll, who started playing at age 4 coached by his father, said the youngster’s skills were ahead of his own at the same age, with the potential to keep improving.

“He has the motivation, he will practice,” Boll said. “He’s still a little small and a bit nervous, but I think he’s a player who will practice hard and wants to be a good player, and I wish him luck.” Of the 12-yr-old, who dueled Boll to several lengthy rallies, the Germany professional spoke highly of his technique and aggression.

At the show, machinery executives also acknowledged the rising credibility of China’s game on the machinery front. In a sector that continues to grow, Chinese equipment makers’ share of the domestic market has risen every year since 2008, jumping from 49% in 2008 to 78% of the total “plastics machines” consumed in China in 2014, according to CPMIA.

Despite declines in 2012 and 2013, overall exports of Chinese made equipment have risen from nearly $1.12 billion in 2010 to just over $1.45 billion RMB in 2014, according to the CPMIA.

A key component for growth at China-based injection molding machine maker Haitian, which had record revenues ($1.21 billion) and gross profits ($395 million) last year according to Chief Strategic Officer Helmar Franz, was derived from record exports, which were up 13.1% in 2014 fiscal year to $375 million.

At the show, Ralf Pampus, director of strategic sales for Reifenhäuser’s blown film division and managing director for the company in China, acknowledged China’s rise as a rival to Germany. “The competition against local machine manufacturers is challenging,” Pampus said, acknowledging that firms like his can still differentiate but also noting that Chinese machine makers continue to improve.

The day before the match VDMA held a press conference to promote its Blue Competence energy efficiency push, featuring leading figures from top German firms. One of those, Karlheinz Bourdon, senior VP technologies at KraussMaffei, said of the exhibition match: “I’ll tell you what tomorrow is—the present playing the future.” He was of course, talking about table tennis, but in the years to come, the same sentiment could be said about Germany and China’s respective equipment industries.

Molding, Then and Now

By: Tony Deligio 20. May 2015

That quote from Amos Golovoy who in 1991 in New Orleans launched what is today Molding 2015 but was then “Advances in Polymer Processing”. In 1994, the event’s name was changed to Molding, but the goal then as now was to help people in plastics make better parts faster. That was a particular area of interest back then for Golovoy who was working for automotive OEM Ford Motor Co.


“At Ford Research, I was involved in research on plastics properties and processing,” Golovoy says. “The general knowledge in the area was diffuse. I thought a conference that focused on plastics processing would help.”


Back in 1991, the main conference sessions covered injection molding, rapid prototyping, mold making, computer aided engineering (CAE) and molding simulation. At the second conference, presentations examined gas assist, co-injection, SCORIM, automated molding cells, robotics, metallic lost core technology, and more.


Speakers came from some recognizable companies, which have since changed their names and/or ownership, including Battenfeld of America, Co-Mack, Lexmark, Mannesmann Demag, Wittmann Robots, and Pitney Bowes among others.


Some important injection molding topics the conference has covered over the years include:


  • Gas assist
  • Co-injection and multi-materials molding
  • In-mold processing (assembly, coating, labeling, decorating)
  • Automated molding cells
  • Clean Room medical molding
  • ‘Green’ molding
  • LSR Molding
  • Micromolding
  • Mucell


“Individuals come and go,” Golovoy remembers, “but the majority of speakers and attendees are from the molding industry, resins suppliers, and OEMs.”


To learn more about Molding 2015, visit the event’s website where you can view the full agenda and register.

Moon’s Rise: Extreme Molding’s Joanne Moon Reflects on 38 Years in Medical

By: Tony Deligio 13. May 2015

Joanne Moon, who in 2002 cofounded custom molder Extreme Molding with Lynn Momrow-Zielinski, will bring the breadth and depth of that experience to Molding 2015 (June 16-18, Chicago) where she’ll deliver a presentation as part of the Medical and LSR session.


Recently, Moon reflected with Plastics Technology on her ever-changing path in the industry:


  • Plant Manager at C.R. Bard in 1978 in charge of manufacturing extruded and molded catheters
  • Employee No. 2 at startup UroMed Corp.
  • Worldwide General Manager for Healthcare Products for Saint-Gobain
  • Co-founder Extreme Molding (Read Plastics Technology’s July 2013 Onsite for more on Extreme)


She also gave her insights on the future of the sector, including where technology is taking it. Extreme Molding specializes in molding plastics and silicone life sciences products and high end consumer products, with overmolding as a core competency. As a contract manufacturer, Extreme also provides packaging and fulfillment for its customers “shipping around the block or around the world.”


PT: What are some of the processing challenges associated with molding silicones and thermoplastics in the same facility? How do you overcome these?


Moon: The two materials are totally different processes, one running the final product in a  hot mold, the other a cold mold. We therefore have to stagger the equipment for chilling and heating requirements. We also have to have technicians with different skill sets in the installation and process set-ups of each type. We have done a great deal of training and planning to overcome the differences.


PT: What are some of the reasons Extreme Molding has been able to reshore jobs? Is this trend continuing?


Moon: We have been competitive in our pricing, and emphasized quality and delivery as well as volume flexibility. We receive probably 3-5 calls a week from companies producing overseas eager to transition to the states. The most vulnerable group is in infant and female healthcare products, where material integrity is such a concern. The trend is increasing.


PT: What is the biggest challenge associated with over molding, particularly mixing materials?


Moon: The biggest challenge with over-molding is the temperature and processing parameters of the two materials. The second biggest challenge is bonding of the two materials.


PT: Given when Extreme was founded (September 2002), and the market challenges that plastics in particular and manufacturing in general have seen since that time, what have been the keys to the company surviving and succeeding?


Moon: Extreme has always focused on markets that were less “commodity pricing” focused, and we have been very fiscally conservative. The economic black cloud was seen by us, and we started doing contingency planning and really reigning in our expenses. We turned down several opportunities if they were not a good fit with our material and molding expertise and could not yield the level of gross margin we needed to be profitable.


PT: In the ‘old boys club’ of plastics, has it been difficult to succeed as a woman-owned business?


Moon: Just the opposite—many of the customers for the markets we serve prefer dealing with women. At the end of the day, all that matters is that we can deliver to our customers a quality product, at an affordable price, on time.


PT: From a process and technology standpoint, what are the keys to serving the medical/healthcare market? 


Moon: The process and technology must support a repeatable process with very little variation in specification and quality. We perform statistical quality control as well as 100% inspection on all the products we ship. In addition, impeccable material and lot traceability is critical to our customers.


PT: What new technologies is Extreme most excited about and/or interested in?


Moon: We are most excited about new techniques for imbedding electronics into substrates, new over-molding techniques and new materials, such as the evolution of TPE/TPU grades. We are also intrigued with a new class of fast cure silicones as well as fiber reinforced silicone.


To learn more about Molding 2015, visit the event’s website where you can view the full agenda and register.

20 Questions for Medical Molders

By: Tony Deligio 6. May 2015

“I call it the 20 questions, and I want to know the answers before I’m even going to give you one iota of advice,” Mark Bonifacio, principal of Bonifacio Consulting Services says with a laugh, although he’s not entirely kidding.


Equipped with a degree in plastics engineering from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Bonifacio began what has been two-decades-plus in medical plastics manufacturing in 1993 at device OEM, Baxter Healthcare.


In the intervening years, he cofounded medical injection molder and contract manufacturer, APEC, which was sold and became Helix Medical in 2004. In January 2007, he founded Bonifacio Consulting Services, where he he’s currently using his 22 years of experience and those 20 questions to help companies launch new devices, offering expert advice on the technical and business aspects of medical manufacturing.


On June 16, Bonifacio will deliver the keynote address at Molding 2015, celebrating its 25th year and organized by Plastics Technology magazine (for the full agenda, click here).


So what are some of the questions you should be ready to answer for Bonifacio?


  • Where are you going to sell the product?
  • Is it a really big product or a small product?
  • Does it have a lot of assembly?
  • Does it have a lot of materials?
  • Does it have a lot of IP?
  • Is it complicated?
  • What are the tolerances?
  • Has it been done before?
  • Does it involve complex processes?

“Every one of those questions you ask, you get a different answer in your matrix,” Bonifacio says, “and you’re going to see that there are a lot of factors in play here.”


The Big Mistake
Bonifacio’s time in the industry has been spent tackling technical and business questions from both sides of the supply chain (OEMs and contract molders) and for all manner of devices, including artificial heart components, IV systems, syringes, implantables and safety products, in disciplines as diverse as respiratory, anesthesia, ophthalmological, neurology, cardiac, and more.


Using that broad and deep reservoir of experience, Bonifacio has consistently seen one mistake made in the launch of devices. “The biggest thing that I see is everyone wants to use one example or something that they’ve done as the blueprint for everything that follows, and I tell people we’re way beyond that,” Bonifacio says. “The supply chain—especially when you talk globally—has become so sophisticated and so complicated that there is no one kind of cookie-cutter solution.”


Past success most definitely does not guarantee future returns, according to Bonifacio. “We have people say, ‘Hey, when we built that IV catheter, we did this,’ and then they move on to either another company or a totally different device, and they want to treat it the same way. I really caution people about doing that because the supply chains are very different; the capabilities of your suppliers are different; the ordering patterns are different; so you really have to look at everything holistically.”


Keep An Eye on 3D Printing and Robotics
In a wide-ranging presentation at Molding 2015, Bonifacio will also highlight how technology advances are impacting the device industry. Asked about which technologies he’s most interested in, Bonifacio answered quickly: 3D printing and robotics.


“Certainly the proliferation in the advancements in 3D printing,” Bonifacio said, pointing out that  developments seemingly come out every day. “That is changing how we think about things; how we’re developing products; and how we’re launching things. No doubt about that.”


Robotics impact on the healthcare industry is multipronged, according to Bonifacio, ranging from automation in manufacturing at suppliers to home health to the operating room. “The other area is robotics,” Bonifacio says, “and I think that automation and robotics are continuing to advance at such a rapid pace.”


Learn more about Molding 2015 here, including the full agenda. (Photo courtesy Bayer MaterialScience).

Tiebarless Training in Tennessee

By: Tony Deligio 24. April 2015

The 85-ton tiebarless Engel victory spex and 110-ton all-electric machines were installed at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Pulaski as part of its revamped Advanced Manufacturing Program that’s busy readying workers for the region’s booming automotive sector.


GM, Nissan, and Volkswagen all build cars in the state, supported by parts suppliers like Denso, Calsonic Kansei, Yorozu Automotive, and M-Tek, with more companies on the way.


In the first quarter alone, Denso, Unipres USA Inc., Nissan, Magneti Marelli, and Hicks Plastics announced  investments in the state, which according to the Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association (TAMA), employs 115,939 in auto manufacturing jobs with more than 1000 auto manufacturers and suppliers statewide.


To help those companies fill out their shifts, Tennessee has spent more than $80 million in automotive industry training since 2006, according to TAMA. Receiving a portion of that money is the TCAT Pulaski. Located in South Central Tennessee, Pulaski sits 75 miles south of Nashville and only 20 miles from the Alabama border.


TCAT Pulaski is one of 26 applied technology centers in Tennessee, part of a statewide system created in 1963. The centers’ Advanced Manufacturing Education offers students three career paths: robotics automation, PLC automation, and plastics injection molding, and students that complete the program are awarded an engineering technician diploma. The plastics engineering technician certificate is comprised of three labs and an internship/shop project totaling 1296 hours.


Dino Owen, Advanced Manufacturing Education (AME) Instructor at TCAT Pulaski, told Plastics Technology that the two new Engel’s will replace a hydraulic Nissei that had been used in training for 12 years. Owen said at this time there are 17 students in the AME program, with 10 of those on the injection molding track.


A recent lesson for those 10: molding machine installation. Owen said the students assisted in rigging, leveling, and wiring the machines for their initial start up. The 85-ton press, which was purchased, and the 110-ton machine, which is on loan, will now ready those students for the molding world around them.


“Thanks to the governor’s grant we received, our equipment was updated and technology advanced to meet employment needs of local business,” Owen said. “Students feel they are working with state-of-the-art equipment, which closely matches equipment used by growing companies within 100-mile radius.”


Owen said that all students must complete hands-on projects focusing on areas like injection speed, transfer, pressure, temperature, and cycle optimization. In addition, students working towards the Injection Molding Masters Diploma, also study tool and die technology, including practice building insert molds, with draft angles, vents, waterlines, part design, and more taught as they cut their molds.


Owen said in the program students build their molds in aluminum, with a recent project calling for 3D printing of a simple cavity. “Our record thus far is 20 parts from a plastic 3D-printed cavity,” Owen said.


Partnering on behalf of plastics training isn’t new for Engel, which over the last three years has also set up machines at Bradley University (2013: 30-ton hybrid e-victory), Clemson University (2014: 30-ton victory); and Nypro University (2015: 105-ton e-mac). Its efforts, and those of programs like TCAT, come at a time of need for the U.S. plastics industry.


“Our goal is to help bridge the skills gap that manufacturing is experiencing,” Owen said. “I feel the 27 TCATs’ statewide are the best match for student and business to achieve this goal.”

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