Transitioning From the World’s Factory to the World’s Designer

By: Tony Deligio 15. June 2016

China has long since aggregated the means and materials of production, but increasingly it’s seeking to lay claim to the creative origins of products—the design.


For the second show running, global materials and additive supplier BASF teamed with show organizer Adsale to feature the BASF Design Innovation pavilion as an official concurrent event during Chinaplas 2016 held this April in Shanghai. According to China’s CCTV, the country boasts more than 1000 design colleges generating 600,000 design graduates annually, with these grads filling design roles at Chinese and multinational OEMs. Will they source plastics in new designs?


Located at one of the primary entrances to the show grounds, the program covered three main themes—travel light, live cool and play safe—with five different forums and a chance to “meet the designer”, including well-known industrial designers Chris Lefteri of LKK and Yang Wenqing of LOE Design. Closing the design loop, major OEMs including Haier, Lenovo and Volkswagen also took part.


During an opening ceremony, Stephan Kothrade, president and chairman of greater China for BASF spelled out the importance design holds for China’s industry going forward. “Good product design plays a role in bridging the gap between creative ideas, form and functioning,” Kothrade said. “China faces many challenges, as well as opportunities, because of rapid urbanization.”


Kothrade said a goal of the pavilion and an area of emphasis for BASF going forward is to help establish China as a global creative power. He noted that BASF is investing in China in line with its own growth, recently expanding its innovation complex in Shanghai and launching a design competition that address challenges of urban living. Supporting associations include cida (Chinese Industrial Design Association) and the Ningbo Industrial Design Union.


At the show’s opening press conference, Adsale Chairman Stanley Chu referenced China’s 5th-year plan and how it calls for the country’s industry to utilize “advanced materials” and transition from being a low-cost-labor country.


“That’s why we have to focus more on automation and high technology and high productivity,” Chu said. “We can’t just rely on the low cost of labor and the low cost of land. We’ll have technology innovation on one side, and on the other side, product design.”


Andy Postlethwaite, BASF’s senior VP engineering plastics Asia Pacific, has also seen the rise of design in the region. “In the recent past, there has been a much stronger design presence in China,” Postlethwaite told Plastics Technology. “That shows a maturing of the industry.” In particular, Postlethwaite noted that BASF works with Chinese OEMs to educate them on plastics’ potential.


“What is possible with BASF materials,” is a key question the OEMs need to answer, according to Postlethwaite. “Unless you can communicate with designers what’s possible, they won’t know what materials to source.”


At Chinaplas, BASF highlighted numerous applications applying plastics where they traditionally aren’t used to help Chinese clients understand the potential for the material. Among these, an auxiliary window form, usually fabricated in steel, utilized a pultruded polyurethane. In the construction phase, this form is used for the window mount, with the PUR version offering one-quarter the weight and improved thermal performance.


Elsewhere on the stand, BASF showcased a composite utility pole. Postlethwaite noted that in disaster-prone or difficult-to-reach areas these light-weight poles are easier to transport, install and maintain. A recent installation survived a typhoon in Guangdong while steel and concrete poles failed. In both these cases, BASF partnered with a Chinese company for the product design and manufacture.


In China and elsewhere, the challenge for Randy Beavers, regional business director Asia Pacific for Eastman Chemical, is helping familiarize processors, designers and OEMs with the company’s Tritan copolyester resin. Beavers noted at Chinaplas that more than 98% of companies working with Tritan are totally new to Eastman, with a majority of time spent not with buying customers but with brandowners in the design phase.


To offer technical support to area molders, a little over one year ago, the company opened a lab in Shanghai to offer molding trials and simulations, with design engineers on hand to provide material recommendations, mold and part reviews, and design recommendations, including nitty gritty aspects like draft angles, wall thicknesses and mold pressures and temperatures.


The challenge, Beavers said, is a familiar one for companies like Eastman in China and throughout the world. “Brandowners and designers know plastics,” Beavers explained, “but they don’t know differences in plastics. We try to teach them differences in plastics.”


If China does indeed become a global creative power, Eastman, BASF and other material companies are actively working to ensure Chinese designs call for plastics. 

Time’s Running Out to Prove You're World Class

By: Tony Deligio 1. June 2016

Plastics Technology’s World-Class Processor survey will be closing soon; take the opportunity today lay your claim to the World-Class title.


From our survey respondents, 25 will be declared World-Class on the basis of various metrics including business and processing performance. Take the free and anonymous World-Class Process survey today and see if your shop can make the cut. As they were last year, winners who choose to be identified will be highlighted in our printed review of the survey in a future issue of Plastics Technology.


In addition, all survey participants will receive the complete results of the survey, helping them better benchmark their operations against those of the broader industry. If you have not yet filled out the survey, set aside some time and participate today!

Read And Watch Plastics Technology

By: Tony Deligio 11. May 2016

Plastics Technology YouTube

If a picture is worth 1000 words, how much is a video worth?


One of the favorite aspects of my job also presents one of the biggest challenges. I’m often lucky enough to see the latest plastics processing technology first hand—at shows, in our readers’ plants, etc.—and in the past, my task was to sum up some pretty complicated manufacturing processes using only static pictures and words. I worked to do so in a manner that at the very least made sense and on good days hopefully engaged readers.


At Plastics Technology, my colleagues and I still face the challenge of sharing with our readers what we see and hear, but in addition to pictures and words, we have a new storytelling tool: video. Our efforts here are just beginning, but more and more, you can expect to not only read Plastics Technology but watch it too.


As we begin this process, we have set up YouTube channel that you can subscribe to and be alerted whenever we post a new video. This week, two videos were added by my colleague Heather Caliendo who was on hand to film the landing of the Solar Impulse 2 plane in Arizona and chat with one of the pilots about the role plastics play in the revolutionary plane. If you couldn’t make it to Phoenix Goodyear Airport on the evening of May 2, Heather has you covered.


In addition to our own videos, we can use the channel to share relative useful content from the industry (an example being this taped breakdown of Guill Tools’ Bullet II die). If you have video you think would be of interest, send it our way. Also be sure to check out our sister publication, Plastics Technology México’s channel, as well as fellow Gardner Business Media Sites CompositesWorld, MoldMaking Technology, and Modern Machine Shop.

Thanks and make sure to tune in to Plastics Technology today!

You Call That World Class?

By: Tony Deligio 4. May 2016

Back in January, we published the results of comprehensive industry-wide survey, naming 25 processors as World Class, and your reaction might have been, “That’s world class?”


The survey looked at all aspects of a plastics processing operation and on the basis of 11 metrics, we singled out 25 operations as the very best. If you saw the results and thought, ‘Our mold/product changes are faster than that,’ or ‘We have a better scrap rate,’ now’s your chance to prove it and get your company’s name on the 2016 list.


Can you beat a 5% scrap rate? How about sales growth of 36% or total open shop hours of 4827? The survey, and your opportunity to beat out your fellow processors, will close on May 31.


Take the online survey today and take your place among plastics processing’s elite.

30 Editions On, Chinaplas Continues to Grow

By: Tony Deligio 24. April 2016

Launched only five years after China’s 1978 Open-Door Policy reintroduced the country to the global economy, Chinaplas and the Chinese plastics industry have shared a meteoric rise over the last three decades.


Born in 1983 but celebrating its 30th birthday in 2016 thanks to a short-lived 18-month show cycle when it first started, Chinaplas kicked offed its 30th edition celebration in Shanghai with song, cupcakes and a look back and forward from Stanley Chu, chairman of show organizer, Adsale.


In 1983 in Beijing, where the show formerly rotated to in non-Shanghai years, roughly 100 non-Chinese exhibitors showed their wares to the newly forming plastics industry over a couple thousand square meters. In 2016 in Shanghai, 3323 exhibitors covering more than 240,000-m2 will welcome more than 140,000 visitors, roughly 30% of whom come from outside China, to Shanghai.


Certain areas in the Chinese economy might have slowed in recent years, but Chinaplas is not among them, with 2016 exhibitors up 4% over 2015. Cause for celebration in an economy that is contracting in some areas for the first time in a long time and Adsale did at the April 23 Media Day event, rolling out cupcakes and coaxing the assembled trade press in a rendition of Happy Birthday to the now 30-yr-old show.


Going Forward
In addition to being a time for reflection on the past, birthdays represent an opportunity to think about the future, and Chu admitted the show’s growth, and the opening of a new exhibition center in Shanghai, are giving Adsale something to think about going forward.


Completely filling the Shanghai New International Exhibition Center’s indoor facilities, Chinaplas 2016 will once again turn to temporary tents and stands within the exhibition center’s courtyard, with 40,000-m2 of exhibitors in tents outside the brick-and-mortar halls, while an additional 30,000-m2 of booths languish on a waiting list to get in.


The new exhibition facility, on the other hand, would offer Chinaplas 500,000-m2 of space—400,000 indoor and 100,000 outdoors. Chu, however, noted that the new two-floor center is not purposefully built to display machine and poses some possible logistics challenges. Despite that, he added that Adsale will “keep monitoring the situation, evaluating alternatives in light of the best interests of the exhibitors and the visitors.”


In 2017, Chinaplas returns to its same venue in Guangzhou. In 2018…? “We will evaluate all the options and consider what to do in 2018,” Chu said. “It’s still open.”  (pictured below, Stanley Chu and Ada Leung of Adsale, marking Chinaplas's 30th birthday.)

Stanley Chu, Ada Leung, Adsale

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