PT Blog

How the Coronavirus Crisis Will Change Plastics Processing

I’ll admit, I’m a bit befuddled about the seemingly conflicting accounts I’ve been getting lately about what’s going on in plastics processing. On the one hand, I’m regularly hearing stories and getting press releases about processors ramping up quickly to turn lines that had been running conventional plastics products into very specific personal protection equipment in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. I’m hearing stories of molders calling their machine builders and even moldmakers to run parts for them due to their own capacity restraints. I’m reading about states like California, New York and others reversing bans on plastic grocery sacks. I’m being told of processors pre-buying resin to meet an expected surge in demand for their products. I’m hearing about processors buying new lines to meet demand. Good stuff, I’m thinking. Plastics processors are really busy.

Then during grocery shopping I’ll make mental notes about what I see and don’t see on the shelves and what it might mean for processors. Bread? Going fast … lots of bags used there. Juice? Dairy products? The shelves are not bare, but not fully stocked either. People are buying these necessities, so it stands to reason there must be demand for lots of bottles, caps, labels. Hand sanitizer? Seems like lots of the “green” products remain, but everything else is moving. Lots of bottles, pumps, gaskets have to be in the pipeline. Toilet paper? Good luck. But it’s being made—lots of it—and the multi-roll packs are all wrapped in plastic. Fresh fruit and veggies going fast; lots of produce bags are likely being churned out. Done shopping, I loop around the store and see five trucks waiting to be unloaded. Lots of pallets. Lots of stretch film. Good stuff, I’m thinking, again. Plastics processors are really busy.

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Is Your Feeding Technology Robust Enough?

Today’s modern manufacturing processes utilize loss-in-weight (LIW) feeders as the automated dispensing technology for dry bulk solids. The most current feeding technologies have evolved in many aspects through improved control and design features with an emphasis on process robustness and intelligence. It is expected that feeder controls can easily connect to industrial networks and key process data, which has become a critical criterion in evaluating not only feeder performance but also real-time indication of the complete process.

This article will address what a processor should consider when evaluating his current feeding equipment and the feeder’s ability to monitor, trend and react to process variations. The availability of this data and its management in accordance with Industry 4.0 automation can allow the user to adapt to future manufacturing requirements, which can include greater traceability, flexibility, adaptability and overall effectiveness.

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Welcome to Plastics Technology’s Recycling Supplement. We put this publication together with one overriding thought: You’re going to be using more post-consumer scrap in the future as you formulate your products. This will almost certainly be the case in the packaging market, but is just as likely to spill over into other end markets as well. We’re going green, make no mistake.

It will be a tall order for processors to comply as consumer advocates, lawmakers, big-box retailers, and brand owners/OEMs apply more pressure on the plastics industry to move more toward a “circular economy.”  Getting there will take time, will be complicated, and will cost money, but the good news is that technologies are emerging every day to clear the path.

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Building a Better Buffer: Conveyor Tech at the Core of Lights-Out Molding Cell

Family-owned Happ Kunststoffspritzgusswerk und Formenbau GmbH (Ruppichteroth, Germany), which began life in 1964 making lunch boxes and furniture fittings, has turned a 2014 project to create an automated climbing wall, where users can adjust the angle and speed of the “ascent”, into a side automation business. A business that occasionally supplies systems to Happ.

Happ established that subsidiary—ErgoTek—in 2015 after the 2014 creation of the Ergo-Wall. Today, the original Ergo-Wall is at the University of Potsdam helping train physiotherapists. Since 2018, Happ has used the modules at the heart of the modular conveyors to create industrial automation systems, including its FlexiTek system, which uses precise timing to create buffer inventories. These are particularly useful in lights-out injection molding operations that combine multiple components—often with disparate cycle times—into a final assembly.

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Plastic Food Packaging and Sustainability During COVID-19

2019 was the year the focus really centered on a circular economy for plastics. It was the theme of many booths during the K 2019 show, which saw lots of new technology and innovations launched around sustainability.

We all expected 2020 as the year poised for the circular economy to take off. And then COVID-19 happened and in an instant, the world seemed to stop.

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