20 Good Things to Come out of 2020—Part 2
Business durability, online learning, value-added compounding, PPE reshoring and new barrier sheet tech/player—five more positive stories to come out of 2020.
Processing Market Proves its Resiliency
Layoffs, plant closings, supply-chain disruptions…these were issues most manufacturers were confronting as the Coronavirus swept through North America. The plastics processing market was not spared but has rebounded nicely. Gardner Intelligence reported that October’s Plastics Processing Index, based on surveys of Plastics Technology subscribers, hit a two-year high in October. It slipped a bit in November, but upticks in the housing market—with which plastics part production closely tracks—could keep the numbers strong in 2021. A ramp-up in automotive would be welcomed as well.
Plastics, like the rest of the economy, took a hit business wise as the coronavirus shuttered large parts of the economy, but it has since rebounded.
Digital Learning Fills Gap as Live Conferences Get Tabled
Conferences and trade shows left and right were cancelled in 2020 thanks to the global Coronavirus pandemic. Plastics Technology was among those impacted, as its annual Molding and Extrusion conferences were shuttered. But in the spirit of “the learning never stops,” we launched a digital series of online, real-time webinars we called Tech Days. They ran every Thursday from Oct. 8 through Dec. 10, and drew more than 1000 attendees. The sessions were recorded; you can still tune in.
Shedding Light on High-Value Compounding Techniques
This past October Plastics Technology we distributed to our compounder subscribers—along with their regular issue—a supplement devoted to compounding. We called it Value-Added Compounding. It took a deep dive into a future growth area in compounding (recycling), and took on two areas of the world of compounding that are still considered somewhat mysterious—devolatilization and reactive extrusion.
PPEs are Here to Stay: Reshoring Plans Loom
The perception is that processors suppling the medical market got a big lift in 2020 as a result on the global Coronavirus pandemic. In some cases, that was proven true. In others, not quite—the cancellation of elective surgeries, for example, softened the market for medical tubing. Nevertheless, the opportunities beckon for processors in the area of personal protection equipment (PPE). While many processors made quick adjustments to their current production lines to make PPEs literally on demand and on-the-fly, industry experts believe processors will set up new divisions—perhaps even new plants—to make PPEs part of their product mix. Plastics Technology offered some tips for those looking at masks and the various PPEs made of sheet.
New Player, New Approach in Barrier Sheet
Dave Kingeter, president of Impact Plastics, believes innovation in barrier packaging has proceeded at a snail’s pace for decades. Brand owners are under enormous pressure from environmentally conscious consumers, retail chains, and government legislation, and thus have set aggressive target dates to roll out more sustainable products as early as 2022. The trouble is, according to Kingeter, that the solutions proffered by their processor and converter suppliers are based on legacy technology in place for 20 years or more. “Some brand owners have come to realize that they are stuck inside of a box,” Kingeter says. “We’ve created the opening to get them out of the box ... now.” That opening comes in the form of Impact Consumer Products Group (ICPG), in which the company has invested $10 million over the last two-plus years as part of a projected $50 million spend to get the brand running full throttle. ICPG believes the future in barrier sheet packaging will be based on PP. To that end, it has developed a proprietary material, called XPP Enhanced Barrier Polypropylene, with enhancements to oxygen and moisture-vapor barrier properties, that in some cases will reduce or eliminate the need to add addition barrier materials such as EVOH, which may disrupt the recycling stream.
Under attack from fiber cement, PVC siding makers are exploring different technologies to shore up their future.
A poorly designed profile die—one that does not permit the part to be extruded with the same dimensions from run to run—coupled with a lack of understanding of the extrusion process, is a recipe for scrap generation.
All things being equal, PET will outperform PBT mechanically and thermally. But the processor must dry the material properly and must understand the importance of mold temperature in achieving a degree of crystallinity that allows the natural advantages of the polymer to be realized.