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Week of 11/18-11/22: Chinese manufacturers adopt robots & Top 10 articles

Work is on the rise in China, but it doesn't involve humans. On a recent trip to China, our Automotive Editor and Asia-Pacific Correspondent Stephen Moore read in the local China Daily that Zhejiang Province, a manufacturing hub that neighbors the commercial capital of Shanghai, would invest a "staggering $82 billion over the next five years to encourage manufacturers to adopt more robots; this in order to overcome the short supply and high cost of labor that currently prevails in the coastal areas of China."

Work is on the rise in China, but it doesn't involve humans. On a recent trip to China, our Automotive Editor and Asia-Pacific Correspondent Stephen Moore read in the local China Daily that Zhejiang Province, a manufacturing hub that neighbors the commercial capital of Shanghai, would invest a "staggering $82 billion over the next five years to encourage manufacturers to adopt more robots; this in order to overcome the short supply and high cost of labor that currently prevails in the coastal areas of China."

The program is apparently already underway and will assist at least 5,000 companies a year, according to a source with the investment division of the Zhejiang Economic and Information Commission quoted by the newspaper.

"The future for industrial robot makers in China looks bright," Stephen wrote. "It is expected to become the world's largest market in the next few years, and with current penetration at 21 robots per 10,000 workers versus a global average of 55, and nearly 350 in Japan and South Korea, future growth looks certain."

Stephen's article generated quite the interest, including this response on twitter:

While China is embracing robots, Americans were encouraged to buy American made products on the appropriately titled, American Made Matters Day, which took place on November 19. Senior Editor Clare Goldsberry wrote that if Americans increase spending on American made products by just 5%, it can create one million American jobs, according to the American Made Matters movement.

"I've heard people say they can't find anything made in the USA, but I know from my own experiences that if you really look you can find products made in the USA," she wrote. "If you can't find exactly what you want made in the USA, then look for something made in Mexico (many of our kitchen appliances both large and small, are made in Mexico, as are some televisions and other consumer electronics), and they're a NAFTA neighbor. Some of our goods come from Canada, also a good neighbor."

I've written extensively about expanded polystyrene (EPS) and bans since it directly impacts packaging, and the biggest complaint from ban supporters is the lack of recyclability of EPS. So I read with interest that EPS has experienced a slight increase in recycling. In 2012, post-industrial and post-consumer EPS recycling increased from 71.3 million to 93.7 million lb, according to the EPS Industry Alliance (EPS-IA).

In addition to that, the EPS Industry Alliance is now accepting nominations for the 2014 Excellence in EPS Recycling Award. This award is intended to encourage members of the EPS recycling community to continuously strive for greater achievement, while raising public awareness of their work and EPS recycling in general.

Drug-delivering plastics could release antibiotics directly into the brain? Senior Editor Norbert Sparrow wrote about this fascinating development conducted by researchers from Chang Gung University who developed a resorbable membrane made of polylactic co-glycol acid (PLGA) nanofibers that are loaded with vancomycin to treat gram-positive bacterial infections.

"Previous research has demonstrated the effective delivery of antibiotics directly to the brain using plastic materials. However, follow-up surgery has been required to remove the plastic when treatment has been completed," he reported. 

Major brand owners are showing their alliance with bioplastics with the formation of the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance, European Editor Karen Laird wrote. Partners in the new initiative are The Coca-Cola Co., Danone, Ford, H.J. Heinz Company, Nestle, Nike, Inc., Procter & Gamble, Unilever and the World Wildlife Fund, all of whom have joined together to "encourage a more sustainable flow of materials, while helping to create lasting value for present and future generations," according to a statement on the website of the alliance.

"Consumers across the world increasingly are looking for more sustainable products, including those made from plant-based plastics," she wrote. "Yet, at the same time a number of critical issues have come into focus, such as resource competition for food, land, water and energy, which represent challenges to the future growth of the bioplastics industry. As BFA founding member Unilever has pointed out, renewable is not the same as sustainable: it all depends on agricultural practices."

Top 10 most-clicked PlasticsToday articles 11/18-11/22

1. Covidien restructures again, seeks manufacturing partners

2. Sealed Air targets 'bleeders' in attack on margin weakness

3. Chinese manufacturing; betting its future on robots

4. Wohlers reports growing use of 3D printing for final part production

5. Trexel tackles blow molding process

6. Kick off the holiday shopping season with American Made Matters Day

7. Diversified Plastics expands prototyping services with 3D mold components

8. Are 3D printed molds ready for prime time?

9. K 2013: DSM showcases sustainable automotive solutions

10. If you're involved in plastics, you should care about recycling

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