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M&A, NPE and more; the week that was at PlasticsToday

The first week of 2012 was a busy one for plastics, particularly in the M&A markets with multiple deals in the packaging, automotive, and machinery sectors. Our newest senior editor, Heather Caliendo spoke with MWV regarding its purchase of closure maker Polytop Corp., as well as Peninsula Packaging, which picked up the agricultural thermoforming division of Packaging Plus.

In automotive, Stephen Moore tackled Valeo's acquisition of Chinese automotive lighting specialist Ruby from Chery Technology, a subsidiary of Chinese automaker Chery; as well as the news that Toyota group affiliate Aisin Seiki is establishing two parts manufacturing subsidiaries in India.

Finally, Onex got out of the plastics machinery business when it sold Husky last May but is back in it now with the purchase of extrusion equipment supplier Davis-Standard.

Doug Smock, editor of our medical channel, continued his series of reports from the corner offices of the top medical device companies, chatting with Dale Behm, the newly appointed vice president of the Flambeau Medical Products Group, formerly Mastercraft. He also weighed in on changes in plastics manufacturing in the U.S., revealed through a new Society of the Plastics Industry study, and how manufacturing's woes have largely skipped the medical industry. Doug also introduced us to the Extractionator, a device it's creators, backed by Bill Gates, hope could be used as a low-cost medical diagnostic system in remote, poor areas.

Hard truths aren't easily acknowledged, but Glenn Beall did so in his latest posting on the state of manufacturing in the U.S., and how it's informed by corporate mismanagement and an outmoded education system.

Is MuCell ready to make the leap from niche technology to widely adopted processing tool? The folks at Ford, Trexel and Proper Mold certainly think so, according to this on-the-ground report from Clare Goldsberry.

Natural gas limbo, Tom Langan, author of our Price Wise series, asked how low natural gas prices can go.

NPE is upon us, well, at least the press releases and early buzz are. We covered two items this week previewing the big one in Orlando:

If Feng Ping did NPE, you knew it would have to be big, they won't disappoint.

Engel, as ever, is bringing it big technology guns to the show. Highlighted here are automotive plans, but the company will display the latest automation tech, as well as injection molding machines for packaging, medical, and technical applications.

Finally, U.S. unemployment dipped to 8.5% on Jan. 6, but that doesn't mean plastics firms are having an easier time filling skilled labor positions. According to our poll of the biggest challenge you will face in 2012, finding skilled labor was tops taking in 32% of the votes, followed by growing your business (26%), and managing raw material costs (21%).

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