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Business opportunities abound for value-added rotomolders

October 12, 2006

2 Min Read
Business opportunities abound for value-added rotomolders

NEMBRO, Italy - Rotational molders need to leave commodity products behind and target high-end products that will provide a profit on investment to sustain competitiveness. That was a continuing theme from speakers at the Leonardo Seminar organized by Italian rotomolding equipment maker Persico (Nembro) last week.

Market analyst, rotational molding expert and author Paul Nugent told the more than 160 in attendance at the one-day event that Europe is leading the way in this direction, coming up with innovative applications that take full advantage of rotomolding’s technology. But automation, says Nugent, is needed to sustain competitiveness. "Today, 85% of all rotomolded products are commodities with only 5% really making it into the technology category," Nugent says. "The highest percentage of these value-added products is processed in Europe. Molders in other parts of the world need to consider altering their strategy."

In Europe there are an estimated 450 rotomolders, with the highest numbers found in Italy, the U.K., France, and Germany, but there is some growth coming from Scandinavia and Poland, he says. Today’s higher-end products are produced on molds milled by CNC, something that was non-existent 10 years ago. Persico’s Lorenzo Bergamo, product manager, says he expects that by next year about half of all of the company’s molds will be produced by high-speed cutting. Why has it taken so long in rotomolding to use technology that is standard in making tooling for injection and blowmolding? Bergamo says it is a simple matter of costs. Rotomolders have been unwilling to spend the money on such precise molds for commodity articles and are only now starting to see CNC’s advantages.

Nugent identifies a number of markets and applications that offer opportunities for rotomolders including single-piece rubbish containers as a metal replacement; foamed rotomolded food and fish containers; canoes and kayaks; as well as plastic pallets to replace wood. One processor, PVAXX (Dubai, U.A.E.), is scheduled in mid-2007 to start producing rotomolded plastics pallets with sand as a filler to reduce resin content. When up and running, the processor will have a capacity of 1.5 million pallets/yr.

Continued growth in the rotomolding sector is expected to come from a wider polymer choice than today, which is dominated by polyethylene, Nugent says. Powdered acetal is coming onto the market in the U.S., and silicone, liquid nylon, polyurethane, and polypropylene should be available if processors are willing to pay for them. The future also might hold possibilities for polystyrene, polycarbonate, and ABS, he says.—Robert Colvin; [email protected]

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