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A World Without Machine-Hour Rates?

By: Matthew H. Naitove 3. March 2015

I don’t know what that would be like … but I can imagine what would happen if Plastics Technology didn’t publish its exclusive, twice-yearly Custom Injection Molders’ Hourly Rates Survey.

 

It would mean there is no objective source of average machine-hour rates for presses of specific tonnage ranges in different regions of the country. Molders who have found that to be a unique source to benchmark their competitiveness would have no place to turn.

 

But that nightmare need not ever come true—if you help, now. We are eager to release our latest figures for machine-hour rates in the fourth quarter of 2014, but we need more data to make those figures reliable for you.

 

If you’re a custom molder, please take 5 minutes to fill out our online questionnaire form here. (If you have any difficulty with the link, cut and paste this URL into your browser address bar: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PTRATE42014 

 

The survey is anonymous, so it’s 100% confidential. We report the overall averages.

 

And if you’re not familiar with our Hourly Rates Survey, you can see the latest results (June 2014) here.

 

Thanks, and please contribute to this unique survey to see data on your industry that’s not available anywhere else.

Injection Molder or Medical Device Supplier?

By: Tony Deligio 25. February 2015

Close inspection of booths at the recent MD&M West trade show at the Anaheim Convention Center revealed an interesting phenomena. Whereas in the past, molders exhibiting at the show might fill their display cases with individual components they’ve made to showcase their capabilities in the medical market, many can now show finished devices they’ve taken on, up to and including, packaging.

 

At the 2014 edition of MD&M, Nypro Healthcare told me the company was “not just about injection molding anymore” and a year later they backed that up with news that they’ve ramped up cleanroom injection molding in support of a finished medical device.

 

Custom molder and contract manufacturer, Mack Molding, which traded the computer/business equipment sector for medical back in 2000, announced the addition of another cleanroom of its own to support a move into medical disposables at MD&M.

 

EJ Bio Med, a division of Eldon James, highlighted its new Denver, Colo. facility, finished in 2013, at MD&M. According to EJ Bio Med, the facility, which offers injection molding, extrusion and assembly, is one of the only U.S. companies that can “manufacture, assemble and package PVC-free tubing and connectors in a single Class 7 cleanroom.”

 

GW Plastics, Bethel, Vt., used the show to announce the addition of two 240-ton high-speed Netstal injection molding machines and automation to expand its capability in the high-volume disposable medical device market, part of its bid to support the company’s “growing medical device molding and contract assembly business.”

 

Diversified Plastics, Minneapolis, Minn., announced the installation of a 1,300-sq-ft controlled environment production room at the show, saying the space is available for use in “product assembly and packaging operations with increased cleanliness requirements.”

 

S.E. Ward Sokoloski, VP and general manager of medical molder Helix Medical, explained to me how his company’s Baldwin Park, Calif. operation achieved FDA registration in support of it manufacturing devices, telling me the company is moving past “just contract molding.” In 2014, the company began fabricating a new medical device used in IVs in six different sizes.

 

“The response has been overwhelming,” Sokoloski said. “When we got FDA registered in 2014, we opened our doors for customers and told them we only deal with medical. Customers like that. The analogy I use is, ‘Would you rather eat a buffet or a have a specialized dinner?’”

 

Sounds like more and more processors in the medical space will be cutting other end markets from their molding menus in the near future. (Pictured below, Diversified Plastics new controlled environment manufacturing space.)

 

Is It Time to Automate Your Insert Molding Job? Answer these questions first

By: Tony Deligio 25. February 2015

Wayne Gibson of automation system designer and manufacturer Pro Systems LLC, Churubusco, Ind., has consistently seen one problem area arise in automating insert molding operations, and he had some simple advice for his audience.

 

“Let a part be fed they way it wants to be fed,” Gibson said, “I’ve seen cell after cell where there are feeding issues.”

 

Gibson was a presenter at injection molding and automation supplier Engel’s recent symposium held at its Technical Center in Corona, Calif. Pro Systems has worked with the Austrian machine supplier on a number of installations, with more than a few of Engel’s vertical injection molding machines tasked with insert molding jobs domestically.

 

Prior to automating, Gibson offered up a list of project assessment questions molders should answer, including:

 

  • Production volume
  • Molding cycle time and overall cycle time
  • Mold cavity matrix/layout
  • Machine selection
  • Type of runner system

 

In addition, Gibson said molders looking to build a cell around an insert molding job should consider:

 

  • How are inserts presented to the cell (bulk, trays, conveyor, tubes, reel, bandolier)
  • Orientation requirements
  • Handling, feeding
  • Measurement/Inspection/Verification requirements

 

It’s during this process that molders should consider the preferred orientation of the insert and how it needs be positioned within the mold to make sure they’re not, “stepping over dollars to get to pennies.” If tool steel hasn’t been cut, for example, the mold could be designed around the insert’s preferred orientation.

 

Gibson also noted that some jobs are best suited for the original automation solution, human operators, who, in some instances, can save you some dollars vs. pennies. He recounted a recent job where the cell as required would have cost enough to hire on 10 new operators.

 

“I’ve been doing automated cells for a long time,” Gibson said, “but there are still a lot of things that only an operator can do.” 

3D Printing Filament Engineered From Recycled Plastic

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 20. February 2015

Technology start-up Dimension Polymers, Chicago, has developed what is said to be the first ‘professionally engineered’ 3D printing filament made from recycled plastic. The company envisions that the innovation of a ‘sustainable’ 3D printing filament will have a significant impact on the fast growing additive manufacturing market.

Co-founders Gerald Galazin and Mark Sherman have worked extensively to create a sustainable filament solution that can reduce carbon emissions by 66%. The two have been refining their formula, which is based on recycled ABS, since the June 2014 launch of their firm. Following rounds of beta testing with industry stakeholders and manufacturers, they have refined the product and are ready to bring it to market. The co-founders launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month  that will introduce their proprietary filament to the marketplace. They have already enjoyed brisk interest with 19 backers comprising 10% of their funding goal within the first 12 hours of the campaign.

 

The company has identified the most consistent and cleanest waste streams while partnering with recycling industry experts to ensure their product is stable and uses material that was already bound for landfills. They had their materials source vetted and certified for recycled content by SCS Global (national leader in sustainable and food product certification), which gave them the ‘green light’ to carry its esteemed Kingfisher Recycled Material Logo. Their U.S. manufacturing partner is reportedly an industry leader in filament for 3D printing, and the co-founders say they have a inked a partnership agreement that provides them with the capacity to manufacture and distribute enough filament to meet demand, as well as plans to expand as demand increases.

 

Dimension Polymers has also partnered with a local company to source their packaging, which it too is made of 100% recyclable material. In fact, they call it a ‘first-of-its-kind’ spool, it is in that it is made of chip board that it is recyclable in home or office recycle bins, vs. the majority of heavy plastic pools currently in use by major filament makers. The laminate and ink used for the company logo are also ecofriendly. Moreover, these spools are said to be sturdy to withstand heavy use, yet are over 50% lighter than traditional plastic spools, which translates to lower customer shipping costs.

 

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

 

Orlando Startup To Showcase 'Green', Affordable Graphene Additive

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 19. February 2015

As noted in a January 19 blog, the NPE2015 Startup Garage, a partnership of SPI and new-venture tracking firm Startup.Directory, will have at least twelve startup firms exhibiting innovations in polymer technology and beyond. Among them is Orlando-based Garmor Inc., which as previously reported will showcase graphene priced for high-volume plastics applications.   

 

Garmor will display samples of its low-cost graphene oxide and reduced graphene oxide in addition to products made with graphene oxide polymer and fiberglass composites. These composites can be used in a variety of applications ranging from automotive, aerospace, and military to consumer electronics, medical, and construction.

 

The company will also share the methods developed for the smooth dispersion of graphene into both polar and non-polar plastics. According to v.p. of engineering Sean Christiansen, the company’s partnership with the University of Central Florida (UCF) has played an integral role in perfecting a method to optimize the incorporation of graphene in various polymers, composite materials and coating. Although initial work has been with epoxy-based and other thermoset composites, the company has data on its work with graphene-reinforced thermoplastics such as HDPE and PC, and is actively seeking interested companies in the thermoplastic arena to further its development. Polymers enhanced with Garmor’s graphene oxide show a dramatic increase in mechanical and electrical performance.

 

The big feat of this startup company is its ability to manufacture low-cost graphene oxide in large volume. This novel as well as ‘green’ manufacturing technology was developed at UCF by Richard Blair, a researcher in the College of Sciences and the Center for Advanced Turbine and Energy Research. It was then licensed to Garmor, which has further enhanced the technology. This is said to be a simple yet effective method of producing edge-functionalized graphene oxide with only water as a by-product. This proprietary achievement eliminates costly hazardous waste disposal and delivers a ‘green’ additive suitable for large-scale production at commodity type prices.

 

According to Christiansen, Garmor has focused on testing and evaluating the use of graphene in downstream products to facilitate product acceptance. Essentially, it has been devising ‘simple’ recipes that potential customers can use to produce advanced graphene-based materials. The company continues to work with UCG to advance the technology for specific applications including the incorporation of graphene into polymeric materials as well as the development of coatings for anti-corrosion applications.




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