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MassPlastics report: New players emerge as the regional industry evolves

MassPlastics opened this week in Fitchburg, MA as a smaller show than it was a few years ago, but one that was much more clearly focused on the New England region.When it was positioned as a mini-national exhibition located in north-central Massachusetts, the booth space was dominated by many of the same name players that dwarf the National Plastics Exposition every three years.

March 17, 2011

3 Min Read
MassPlastics report: New players emerge as the regional industry evolves

Front-and-center at the entrance at this year's show was a large booth occupied by Absolute Machinery Co. of Worcester, MA, which opened its first plant space in 2006 and doubled in size to 50,000 square feet in 2009.

The Absolute Group sells reconditioned and warrantied surplus injection molding machinery, and new machines produced by Haitian in China and Germany. 

"The three founders of the company are former sales reps for Van Dorn Demag, and we felt there was a need for the kinds of service and support you get with new machinery," says Nate Smith, one of the co-founders. He estimates that the used machinery market in the United States is now comparable in size to the new machinery market, around 2000 to 2300 machines sold annually.

Supplies of used and new machinery are tightening in the U.S., says co-founder Glenn Forhring, with lead-times for 300-ton machines not in stock stretching out to 14 to 16 weeks, compared to 10 to 12 weeks two years ago.

In an adjacent booth, Absolute is showing its newest business venture, Absolute Green Energy, which sells photovoltaic equipment. "We just installed 518 solar cells at the MassMutual headquarters building in Springfield, MA," says Mike Ortolano, managing director of the Absolute Group and the third cofounder.  "This is a natural fit for us because we emphasize energy-efficiency in our machinery."

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, the sponsor of MassPlastics, estimated attendance at this year's show at around 2000, a gain of about 8% from the 2010 show. There were 65 exhibitors, up from 63 a year ago, but down about 25% from six years ago, when the show spilled out into tents in the parking lot.

"I really tried to put a focus on New England this year, which brought in a few new exhibitors," says Dick Quinlan, the show manager. Examples include Redheat Technology Sales, which sells heating elements for hot runner molds, and FHC Industrial Supply, which sells measurement and other tools.

In another demonstration of growth in the regional plastics economy, F&D Plastics expanded its capacity to produce color concentrates at its Leominster, MA plant. Two new Coperion twin-screw extruders were added last year. The company also added two Coperion extruders at its new location in Montreal.

"Everything in our business is custom now," says Germain Archambault, vice president of sales and marketing for the Canadian branch of the company, explaining one of the reasons for the expansion. "Everyone wants to differentiate their products from their competitors."

In a presentation at Mass Plastics, Michael  McGee, director of technology at custom injection molder Nypro, agreed that customization is one of the mega-trends that the Massachusetts-based molder sees in the global plastics business. The others are sustainability, miniaturization, advanced product development, and "reverse logistics", which stands for all operations related to the reuse of products and materials.

"Right up front, customers want to see a high degree of transparency in what happens to their products throughout their life cycle," says McGee.

He says that Nypro is developing its first sustainability report, which will initially show the company's global carbon dioxide footprint and water usage as a percentage of sales. He told PlasticsToday in an interview that one of the metrics used in determining carbon dioxide footprint is electricity usage at the company's plants.

In another project, Nypro's technical group is studying emission levels of volatile organic compounds in functional coatings, and is working with suppliers to reduce emissions.

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