PT Blog

Surging Demand for Hand-Sanitizer Dispensers Keeps Molding Machines Busy

It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good.

The old proverb rings true in the current coronavirus pandemic. Injection molder and contract manufacturer Sussex IM in Sussex, Wis., has around 20 of its 70 injection machines running 24/7 to produce wall-mounted dispensers for Purell hand sanitizer. Each dispenser comprises 10 to 14 injection molded parts—of ABS, SAN, PC and acetal—as well as metal springs, magnets and motors. Assembly involves sonic welding and snap fits with both manual and automated steps.

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Materials Part 1: What Annealing Can Do for Your Process

Long before there were plastics there was the process of annealing. The metals industry, and more specifically the steel industry, has known for a long time that conducting a follow-up process that exposes materials to controlled heating and cooling will reduce the hardness of the material, increase ductility, and reduce internal stresses. The microstructure of the material is also changed. Other metallic materials such as copper and brass can also benefit.

Annealing of plastics is not performed as part of most manufacturing processes. There are exceptions. Products of significant thickness such as solid rod, thick-walled tubing and sheet are often annealed as a preparatory step for machining. This is done to stabilize the structure of the material and reduce internal stress, much the same reasons that the process is conducted in metallic materials. In all products fabricated by melt processing, the relatively rapid cooling rates that are associated with these processes introduce some level of internal stress and a departure from an equilibrium state. In cases where this produces a level of internal stress that creates functional problems in use, annealing may be performed to draw down the stress to levels that may not be achievable during processing.

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Time to Learn More About the Real World of Recycling

Sustainability. The Circular Economy. Cradle to Cradle. Yesterday’s buzzwords have become today’s reality for plastics processors. Pledges from brand owners and OEMs to produce products—or package them—in previously used materials will be forcing dramatic changes across the entire plastics processing supply chain. Simply, if you’ve been molding or extruding products from all-virgin materials—because that’s what your customer and the application demanded—you will most likely be asked to change things up in the near future.

Think of all the far-flung obstacles that have to be overcome before this becomes a reality. If you are making, for example, a sophisticated packaging film for a high-end application, are you going to be able to change that to one containing 10-50% post-consumer reclaim at a flip of the switch? Heck no. For starters, from where are you going to source this material? And if and when you get it—even if it’s in pristine condition—will you be able to drop it into an existing process and go about the rest of your day? I doubt it.

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Need Help with a Molding Project to Counter the Coronavirus?

John Bozzelli, veteran injection molding consultant, trainer, and all-around molding guru—not to mention, a frequent contributor to Plastics Technology’s Injection Know-How column—has made a generous offer to others like him who want to help beat this pandemic any way they can. This is what John writes:


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Plasmatreat Building New Open-Air Plasma Units for Personal Protection Equipment

As with several other suppliers of plastics equipment and materials, we recently received notification from Plasmatreat North America, subsidiary of 25-year old Plasmatreat GmbH, Steinhagen, Germany, that it is open for business during this pandemic. Moreover, President and CEO Hardev Grewal revealed that the company is working on two new plasma applications geared to addressing the growing concerns about a shortage of disinfecting agents and personal protective gear (PPEs).

First, the company is building new Openair-Plasma systems to disinfect and sterilize PPEs such as face masks and garments for their safe reuse. Second, the company is also producing plasma-activating water to treat surfaces. In addition, Grewal is asking customers and others in the industry to contact him if they are aware of other opportunities for which the company’s technology can be used to help. “We have amazing people here at Plasmatreat that deeply care about your well-being and your success. On behalf of all of us, be safe.”

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