NPE Diary Vol. 5: The Hypnotic Churn of the Plastics Industry
A fond farewell and a friendly reminder as NPE2018: The Plastics Show reaches its conclusion.
After a few days on the show floor now, I’ve spent my fair share of time standing hypnotized in front of an injection molding machine—or a robot, or a 3D printer, or a pneumatic conveyor, or whatever. It’s happened enough this week that I’ve wondered how anyone in the plastics industry gets anything done with all of this remarkable stuff happening around them.
But that’s the thing: for most everyone here, it’s not remarkable. That process—where gigantic machines churn out products using enough force to crush a car, then a robot picks up the product and effortlessly throws it into a box before another machine wraps it in a pallet and a forklift comes and carries it off for shipping—is just normal to most of the people here.
I work and live in Washington, D.C. I work in communications. I love my job, I love my team and I love my city, but in my office, I don’t walk by rows of machines diligently churning out anything. I don’t get to see four-story-tall blow molding machines every day. Typically on the metro people are responding to emails on their phone, scratching a few things off their to-do list before they arrive at the office. Seeing someone on the metro scratching things off their to-do list by operating a multi-screw extruder would be a relatively rare occurrence.
Today on the last day of the show I get to lead some local students on a tour of the floor. I’m anticipating a lot of “whoa” and a lot of questions that I’m in no way qualified to answer. I’ll have help, which is good for the students (and for me), but the thing that excites me the most is that if I can get hypnotized and awestruck just by walking the show floor, I can’t wait to see how thoroughly everything on display at NPE blows the students’ minds. That’s a thing that kids do though. They can make you realize how unique and awesome the things you consider mundane actually are.
So, on this, the final day of NPE, I would invite you to retain, or rediscover, your capacity for astonishment, and to take at least a moment before you hit the road to look around and be hypnotized. This show and this industry are very unique, and you deserve to feel glad to be a part of it.
Thanks, everyone, for a wonderful show! I’ve enjoyed writing and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.
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3D printing expands possibilities for plastic parts, short-run molds and production mold tooling. Here are just 10 of the ways 3D printing is advancing:
With advances in additive polymers, it may be time to consider moving a traditionally manufactured part to 3D printing.