PT Blog

Held in Houston in early June, sustainability loomed large as a major theme of the seventh Global Plastic Summit (GPS2019), with nearly 300 attendees from several countries. Key panel discussions on the topic included presenters from IHS Markit and PLASTICS, the hosts of these conferences, and companies representing the industry across the chain—from resin suppliers, to processors to brands.

Examples included the keynote panel, titled Sustainability. Moderated by Lyn Tatem, v.p.  IHS Markit and publisher of IHS Chemical Week, it included: Nova Chemicals’s v.p. of PE markets Greg DeKunder; PepsiCo’s v.p. of global sustainable plastics Burgess Davis; Westfall Technik’s v.p. of procurement and sustainablitly Allison Lin; Mars PetCare’s global commercial lead for packaging Barnaby Wallace; and, ACC’s managing director Keith Christman.

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Curtain About to Rise on Extrusion 2019 Conference

One thing about being the first in the marketplace with an idea or products: imitators are sure to follow. But Plastics Technology’s annual Extrusion Conference, which launched in 2015 in Charlotte, N.C., was not only the first, but is and was the best.

This year’s event will take place Sept. 17-19 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill. The agenda is all set; once again we’ll have a program packed with extrusion’s illuminati. Once more we’ll have three morning sessions devoted to “general” extrusion topics—issues like screw design, material handling, purging, coloring, size reduction, and more—that are germane to your operation regardless of what is formed in your die. And we’ll have four concurrent sessions on two afternoons that drill down to more specific kinds of extrusion: Film, Sheet, Pipe/Profile/Tubing and Compounding.

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Denmark is evidently a hotbed of innovation in robotics, and especially the burgeoning new field of collaborative robots, or cobots. U.S. injection and blow molders are already becoming familiar with lightweight, articulated-arm cobots from Universal Robots of Denmark. (See, for example, here and here.)

UR cobots are compatible with grippers from a Danish firm, OnRobot, which recently acquired another Danish maker of cobot tooling, Purple Robotics.

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As we got into the second half of the year, the pricing trajectory has been downward for PP, PET and PE. Actually, prices of PP and PET may bottom out this month, owing to typical inventory buildup in the July-August timeframe for the former and upward pressure from feedstock costs for the latter. In contrast, prices of PE are generally expected to drop owing to a decline in global prices and an amply supplied market. There’s an upward pricing trajectory for PS and PVC, driven by feedstock benzene in the case of the former and suppliers’ claims of tight supply in the case of the latter. However, in the case of both resins, all other key driving factors are pointing to a flat-to-down trajectory.

Here’s a look at how some of our key industry resin pricing experts view things for each of the top five commodity volume resins including, purchasing consultants from Resin Technology, Inc. (RTi), Fort Worth, Texas; senior editors from Houston-based PetroChemWire (PCW); and CEO Michael Greenberg of the Plastics Exchange in Chicago.

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In the summer of 2015, I reported on IntegriCo Composites  which had just moved from Texas to a new 170,000 ft² manufacturing facility in Springhill, Webster Parish, La., that would  allow the company to more than triple its production capacity, with room for further expansion on its 10-acre site. Now, the company has stepped up its efforts to take hard-to-recycle plastics, not accepted by China since its January 2018 ban, to produce its signature composite railway products such as railway crossties and composite grade crossings using its patented and unique manufacturing process.

IntegriCo compression molds railroad crossties, also known as sleepers, from a proprietary blend of recycled plastics. Matt McCooe, the company’s v.p. of sales and marketing told me that the company is the largest of only three domestic companies that make railroad ties using post-consumer plastics. He also noted that IntegriCo is the only one that makes the rail ties via compression molding, versus extrusion, and produces them by its own proprietary compounding and blending process. This process allows the company to compound without having to heat the material to its melting point.  McCooe had indicated that they can accept some of the dirtiest material others can’t process because their process can use much lower temperatures.

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