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Articles from 2012 In January

Condiment producer switches from glass to PET containers

A Southwest supplier of specialty food products is now using Amcor Rigid Plastics' 32oz decanter-style polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles for its Brack Ranch Sweet Pepper Glaze.

Heritage Family Specialty Foods Inc. stated this move will provide entry into the club store market segment, with a launch late last year at Costco's locations throughout the Southwest.

Up until now, Heritage Family has only offered its Brack Ranch Sweet Pepper Glaze in 16oz glass containers for retail and specialty stores.

The PET bottle was chosen over alternative packaging options due to the container's ability to provide cost benefits and improved manufacturing efficiencies for club store distribution, stated Michael Moss, VP of Marketing for Heritage Family Specialty Foods, in a news release.

Amcor Market Development Manager Yi Jiang told PlasticsToday that since PET containers are portable and lightweight, they can provide reduced transportation costs and carbon footprint.

Compared to glass bottles, which can weigh in at more than 400g, the PET bottles weigh about 50g. 

"You can get more PET bottles on truckloads versus glass," she said. "The savings in freight and also the savings on the carbon footprint were a good reason for them to choose this."

In addition to freight cost savings, there is also less broken and damaged-goods charges from retailers. Jiang said more companies prefer bottles made of PET because they are just as clear as glass, but are less likely to break.

The PET containers are integrated into existing glass filling lines with minimal adjustment. Amcor's 32oz ambient fill (up to 140°F) and hot fill (up to 185°F) decanters are targeted for barbecue sauces, salad dressing, and other sauce products.

"If we hadn't found an acceptable bottle like Amcor's we would have been forced to use two shrink-wrapped 16oz bottles which would have added cost and increased production time," said Moss.

The final product would have required twice as much packaging and increased the cost for consumers, he stated.

Moss noted that PET meets the growing sustainability requirements of the packaging and retail industry, resulting in greater access to retail/club store channels. He also stated consumers are drawn to the lightweight features of the PET bottle compared to traditional glass containers.

"In the end, lightweight PET not only delivered a savings in terms of transport costs and breakage but also gave us the glass-like appearance and shelf life appeal to maintain the brand image of our Brack Ranch Sweet Pepper Glaze product," said Moss.

TPE resin prices, Jan. 23-27: PE steady to up $0.02/lb; PP rises $0.03/lb; ‘Hold on to your hats’

The prospect of higher prices in February had buyers seeking end-of-the-month resin-buying opportunities, pushing the spot-resin market into swift trading at the end of January, according to The Plastics Exchange (TPE). Average spot polyethylene (PE) prices were steady to $0.02/lb higher, while polypropylene (PP) jumped $0.03/lb last week amid limited material availability and soaring feedstock costs. Producers are resolved to implement the current $0.06/lb increase for January PE contracts, according to TPE, having already invoiced for the month, but popular consultancies have called the market steady to jsut $0.03/lb higher. Spot generic prime PE railcars are still available in the secondary market at $0.03 - $0.06/lb higher. PP contracts rolled flat in January but are poised to rise significantly in February on rising feedstocks and producer desire to expand margins.TPE Resin Prices Jan. 27, 2012

Energy markets moved higher, more than reversing the previous week's losses, as March crude oil futures climbed $1.23/bbl to finish at $99.56/bbl. Natural gas futures finally snapped back, ending what TPE called a "relative free-fall" wherein prices plummeted to circa 2002 levels. The March futures contract recovered $0.364/mmBtu, some 15%, to settle at $2.756/mmBtu on Friday. The crude oil : natural gas price ratio contracted from the recent record level of 41:1, back down to 36:1, which is still six times the 6:1 ratio that is generally considered parity.

Ethylene extended its winning streak to 6 weeks, rising further in moderate trading. The spot market took a step backwards to $0.59/lb in the beginning of the week, but then surged several cents to make a new high for the move. Ethylene for January delivery last traded in the active Williams facility at $0.63/lb on Friday, a penny premium over material for February delivery. Forward months are priced at increasing discounts;  ethylene for the delivery over the entire second half of 2012 was priced at $0.55/lb. Ethane shed a couple more cents to $0.585/gal, and TPE noted that ethane-to-ethylene margins are "simply staggering."

Polyethylene's (PE) spot market remains supported by relatively tight upstream inventories and rising spot monomer costs. Spot PE prices were steady to higher depending on material, and film grades were the strongest, particularly low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which is suffering from production issues. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) supplies remain adequate, although in many cases, these prices have also ticked higher. The status of the January price increase remains unsettled, as producers and processors continue to spar. Producers are intent to maintain the $0.06/lb increase that they have billed for January contracts. Buyers however, see spot sales at prices less than the current increase, and consultancies and notable market observers have indicated the market steady to only $0.03/lb higher. "One thing is for certain, if producers do not get their increase in January," Greenberg noted, "they will go for it again in February."

Propylene was active again and prices charged higher, with refinery grade propylene (RGP) trading as high as $0.64/lb, a level $0.26/lb above the December trough price of $0.38/lb. Polymer-grade propylene (PGP) for January delivery transacted a number of times, reaching $0.655/lb, nearly a dime above January PGP contracts. PGP for February delivery went on to trade once at $0.705/lb. Financially settled transactions for the second quarter of 2012 were priced just above and below this level. A producer has nominated to increase February PGP contracts by what TPE called a "whopping" $0.22/lb; and while the spot market has rallied, $0.78/lb for contract PGP currently seems out of line.

Polypropylene (PP) continued to rally, adding another $0.03/lb, pushing prices up about a nickel during January. This is significant price movement considering that PP contracts were steady in both January and December, according to TPE. The current deviation is based on tight inventories from end-of-the-year de-stocking along with tempered resin production, which created an under-supplied environment. More recently, the rapid-run up in spot-monomer costs has impacted the market. Spot monomer for January is now nearly $0.10/lb above contracts, and February PGP traded even a nickel above that, but on low volume. The upward momentum was enough to spur one producer to seek a huge $0.22/lb price increase for February PP contracts. "Some buyers have reacted with disbelief, some with anger, while others are just trying to buy up as much well-priced spot material as possible," Greenberg said. TPE noted that it has had some difficulty moving material in the low $0.70s/lb, so asking prices in the high $0.80s/lb at the start of February seem "unrealistic."

Final thought from Michael Greenberg

The resin market's bullish momentum has taken hold. Suppliers are trumpeting higher resin prices and are pointing to their rising costs. PE buyers eagerly retort that margin is already plentiful between ethane and ethylene. PP buyers might recognize that low volume trades are pushing the spot PGP market higher and might not necessarily reflect the entire market. Either way, we expect to see sharply higher asking prices in early February. PE producers will seek any part of the $0.06/lb increase that might not take hold in January, plus an extra $0.04/lb for LDPE. PP producers will be looking for a double-digit increase, but it will likely fall short of the $0.22/lb that has just been nominated. Hold on to your hats, this ride could get a bit bumpy.

Industrial Molds completes automated moldmaking cell

Industrial Molds Group announced the addition of a Makino F-5 CNC high-speed machining center that will complete the company's robotics cell, which also has an S56 Makino high-speed machining center. Industrial Molds (Rockford, IL) is a manufacturer of injection molds specializing in complex part tools for Tier 1 and Tier 2 automotive suppliers, industrial equipment, commercial appliance OEMs, medical and consumer packaging markets, building molds up to 1500 tons.

Over the past three years, Industrial Molds has invested more than $1 million in high-speed machining, EDM equipment and software. The company will showcase the capabilities of their 85,000-sq-ft plant at the upcoming Plastec West (Feb. 13-15; Anaheim, CA, Booth #4049; that show is owned and operated by PlasticsToday parent, UBM Canon).Industrial Molds Group

Additionally, one of the company's 2012 initiatives is to implement Lean Manufacturing procedures, including a 5S program. "Currently we are completely reorganizing the entire East side of our production facility," said Tim Peterson, VP of Industrial Molds Group. "Our goal is to become more efficient in how we work."

Industrial Molds offers mold design, engineering and manufacturing of injection molds with multiple features and complex geometry. With a team of 55 designers, engineers, machinists, and moldmakers, Industrial Molds provides R&D on new tooling, re-design/optimization of older tooling, and mold tryouts, qualification, and process validation at its Pyramid Plastics Inc. molding subsidiary.  Pyramid's injection molding capabilities, include 31 presses ranging in size from 22-1000 tons.

Industrial Molds offers project management and sales coordination to maintain communications between itself and its customers' engineering teams. The company's fully-staffed engineering Technology Center utilizes CAD/CAM software for product development assistance and to ensure manufacturability of every component.

High heat FR-PET is free of halogens

Kaneka will start shipping Hyperite JS K401NX from this March for application in injection molded components in industries such as transportation (automobiles and trains), electronics, appliance and business machines. The grade is reportedly good for use of 100,000 hours or more at elevated temperatures. Halogenated flame-retardant PET grades already existed that passed this performance parameter but Kaneka says its new offering is the first non-halogenated option. -[email protected]

Taking stock: Diversified Plastics’ employees invested in company’s success, literally

Retirement brings with it a lot of major decisions, especially for company owners who've grown a successful business over many decades like James Dow, founder, President and CEO of Diversified Plastics Inc. While there are many options, the one that Dow chose to continue the success of his 35-year-old company was to sell to the employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Diversified Plastics
From left to right, Annette Lund, James Dow and Roger Vang.
"Knowing that someday I would eventually retire and have to sell the company, the most obvious direction would have been to sell to an outside organization," Dow stated in a prepared release. "But, I found that prospective buyers had no desire in continuing the company. Their only interest was our customer list and equipment, which meant that in all probability, our employees would be out of work."

An ESOP was the best option for the continuation of Diversified Plastics as a successful company, providing continued employment for the employees. "Our employees are like family to me and who better to lead the new company forward than the people who helped make it what it is today," said Dow.

While the employees took ownership on Nov. 1, 2011, Dow will remain as president. "The changeover has been smooth," said Annette Lund, vice president of the company. "We're in the middle of a five-year plan and are continuing to follow those long-term goals. It's very important to us to have a seamless transition and maintain continuity for our customers as well as our employees." 

Dow began his retirement planning eight years ago and attended an ESOP seminar to learn more about the program and his options. Working with the company's CFO, Roger Vang, they began exploring the possibilities of an ESOP strategy, but determined the company wasn't quite ready at that time. After a few more years of substantial growth, Dow revisited the ESOP idea and decided they were ready to move ahead in making Diversified Plastics an employee owned company.

To establish the ESOP and purchase the company from Dow, a trust, with company stock, was set up in the name of the employees. "We automatically vested all the employees who were here at the start of our 2011 fiscal year," said Vang. "Going forward, any new people will be vested like a typical 401K vesting schedule and base salary will determine the trust assets distribution schedule.

Diversified Plastics, a custom injection molder specializing in high-precision components for medical devices, filtration, aerospace and a variety of other industries, was founded in 1977 by Dow and William J. Cullen. Cullen retired and is no longer active in the company. The company started production with 13 employees and three injection molding machines in a 2300-sq-ft rented manufacturing space.

Today, Diversified Plastics has grown to more than 50 employees and operates 16 injection presses ranging from 55-550 tons in a 45,000-sq-ft facility. In 1984, Design Tool & Engineering Inc. was added as a wholly owned subsidiary of Diversified Plastics to build and maintain the company's molds. In addition to molding and moldmaking, Diversified offers an extensive range of secondary operations including sonic and spin welding, pad printing, heat staking and silk screening. The company is ISO 9001:2008 and 1345:2003 certified and UL registered.

RFID helps crack LA pallet-theft ring; plastic thieves beware – you’re being tracked

Plastic is fantastic - and it's also big business for thieves who steal the pallets and sell them to recyclers for cash. A pre-Christmas raid by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Industrial Plastics Theft Task Force - yes, there really are five officers dedicated to tracking down and arresting those who steal industrial plastics of all types - at a South LA plastics recycling facility netted the task force over $250,000 worth of illegally obtained pallets.

Also confiscated, in addition to the plastic pallets, were a number of large boxes containing hundreds of pounds of ground plastic. 

LA pallet theft ring
On Dec. 19, 2011, LA Police task force members conducting business and professions code compliance checks of recycling businesses uncovered a large pallet theft ring in south LA.

The plastic pallets were recovered thanks to the RFID tags on the pallets owned by Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS Company LLC). iGPS has been a supporter of the task force and  has worked with it in its efforts to stop plastic pallet theft.

Al Farrell, VP of Asset Management at iGPS, told PlasticsToday in a telephone interview that plastic pallet theft is a "significant problem resulting in a multi-million dollar line item loss" for companies. This is the second major pallet theft bust that iGPS has participated in in less than six months. RFID tags on iGPS pallets helped Virginia State Police trace a large cache of misappropriated plastic pallets and containers at a pallet manufacturing and recycling firm operating in New Kent County, VA

Thieves don't just steal pallets, but also plastic milk crates, baking trays, and other industrial plastic containers which they then sell to plastic recycling facilities for cash. "The value of resin has gone up so much that this has become a lucrative business for these thieves," says Farrell.

Arizona implements legislation to discourage plastic pallet theft

Taking a lesson from previous legislation keyed on metal recyclers who would pay cash-on-the-barrel-head for steel, aluminum and copper - often stolen by thieves who need the cash - Arizona state legislators hope to discourage the theft of pallets used in wholesale deliveries by requiring recycling firms to keep a record of the people who turn in company-branded pallets for cash.

Supporters of the law said Arizona businesses are losing up to $3 million a year from the theft of plastic and wooden pallets, used by wholesale suppliers to deliver a variety of goods to grocery stores. Penalties could lead to fines of up to $30,000 for convicted pallet thieves.

While they were in the minority, opponents criticized the measure as "nanny" legislation and said the punishment was unjustifiably severe because it's already illegal in Arizona to possess stolen pallets.

 This past summer, new restrictions were placed on recycling companies that shred, resell or destroy pallets. If they buy five or more plastic pallets at a time from any individual the recycling firms must collect identifying information from the sellers, including name, phone number, driver's license or other ID number, and license-plate number. Recycling firms must keep the records on hand for at least a year and be open during regular business hours so police can examine the paperwork, according to the legislation, which is similar to the legislation passed a few years ago on recyclers of scrap metal.
Over $5 million in stolen trademarked plastic of various types has been recovered in the last four months of 2011, according to Capt. Mike Claus of the City of Industry sheriff's station, where the task force is based.

"Additionally, there's a large recycling community out there creating greater demand for recyclable plastics, and the problem is growing. For us, it's very important to manage the pool of our asset base," Farrell adds. "It's critical to what we do and we use a variety of procedures and processes to do the best we can to minimize loss and track down assets that stray from our supply chain."

iGPS uses both active and passive tracking technologies. Each pallet manufactured by iGPS has its own unique serial number. If products stray outside the supply chain, iGPS can track down the pallets, identify them discretely and prove that they are the property of iGPS.

The LA County Sheriff's Industrial Plastics Task Force had its beginning in the City of Industry, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles and a big industrial center with a large number of plastics processing companies. The City of Industry has funded this dedicated task force pursue plastic theft.  

"All the wrong conditions lead to the formation of this task force," Farrell explains.  "Los Angeles is a port city with a high population, and a lot of available plastic and grinding capacity. Often the theft and grinding of the pallets is associated with other criminal activity, so finding the plastic thieves often leads to drug busts and other illegal activities. The City of Industry is trying to create a better bus climate. The Task Force has been up and running since October and they have done a great job in helping us deter theft."           

Sodick Plustech molds Nypro syringe with COC

Cyclic olefin copolymer (COC), a transparent engineering plastic, is targeting replacement of glass in medical syirnges. In a demonstration at NPE2012, Sodick Plustech (Schaumburg, IL), a manufacturer of high-precision injection molding machinery, will mold a medical syringe made of cyclic olefin copolymer (COC) in a mold developed by Nypro (Clinton, MA).

The prototype application demonstrates the use of COCs as a replacement for glass in syringe applications. Cyclic olefin copolymer is crystal clear with outstanding moisture barrier and dimensional consistency, according to Topas Advanced Polymers (Florence, KY), which is supplying resin for the part.

Sodick Plustech’s injection system uses a two-stage "V-LINE" method for plasticizing and injection. Unlike a conventional in-line reciprocating screw system, the V-LINE plasticizing screw remains stationary during material transfer, minimizing axial wear and ensuring each pellet sees the same heat profile, according to Sodick Plustech.

Sodick Plustech (Booth 363) and Nypro (Booth 4263) will both be exhibiting in the second level of the West Hall at NPE 2012.

Read the full article at PlasticsToday.

Nypro syringe molded with COC in NPE demonstration

In a demonstration at NPE2012, Sodick Plustech (Schaumburg, IL), a manufacturer of high-precision injection molding machinery, will mold a medical syringe made of cyclic olefin copolymer (COC) in a mold developed by Nypro (Clinton, MA).

The prototype application demonstrates the use of COCs as a replacement for other plastics and glass in syringe applications. Cyclic olefin copolymer is crystal clear with outstanding moisture barrier and dimensional consistency, according to Topas Advanced Polymers (Florence, KY), which is supplying resin for the part.

Two-stage injection plunger eliminates check valve.
The Topas COC has a non-polar substrate that does not promote adsorption, denaturation, aggregation, or precipitation. Another benefit compared to competitive materials is a non-ionic, minimally reactive surface. Leachables and extractables are also said to be lower.

Sodick Plustech's injection system uses a two-stage "V-LINE" method for plasticizing and injection. Unlike a conventional in-line reciprocating screw system, the V-LINE plasticizing screw remains stationary during material transfer, minimizing axial wear and ensuring each pellet sees the same heat profile, according to Sodick Plustech.

The injection unit is controlled by a closed-loop system that compares actual speed to set speed and maximum melt pressure. When the exact amount of material is transferred into the injection chamber, the injection plunger that is retracted via the melt is maintained to a set position.

This design eliminates the need for a check valve, which can be a source of material degradation and shot volume inconsistency. Prior to injection, the plasticizing screw is indexed forward creating a positive shut-off (exact dosing). This action prevents any opportunity for backflow of molten material back into the melt stream.

Nypro, one of the largest medical molders globally, also develops proprietary products for the medical market. It has 36 awarded U.S. patents, mostly for medical products, such as valves.

Sodick Plustech, with headquarters in Tsuzuki-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan, developed its own design of plunger-style injection molding machines in 1988 based on its experience with Sodick, a major manufacturer of electrical discharge machinery (EDM). Its equipment is designed and built in Kaga, Japan.. 

Sodick Plustech (Booth 363) and Nypro (Booth 4263) will both be exhibiting in the second level of the West Hall at NPE 2012.

Agr launches new series of profiler gauges for PET container industry

Agr International has launched a new series of lab profiler gauges to offer a non-destructive method to identify the presence and thickness of PET and barrier materials in multi-layer containers.

Designed for use on the plant floor, or in the laboratory, these "T" series laboratory profiler gauges can help save time and reduce waste by serving as an alternative to the practice of section weight cutting for monitoring material distribution during the production of PET bottles, according to Agr.

"Unlike methods that involve bottle cutting, the profiler gauges are safe, fast and economical to operate. Measurements are performed in a less than 10 seconds without destroying the bottle and creating the associated waste or environmental implications," the company stated in a news release.

The profiler gauges uses infrared measurement technology to scan the sidewall of the bottle, producing a visual representation of wall thickness, material distribution and bottle height.

Graphs representing current measurements are superimposed over a graph of a baseline bottle, making it simple for an operator to compare ongoing production samples and instantly identify shifts in distribution, according to a news release. Information can then be captured and saved to a database for future reference or exported for use in plant-wide process management systems.

The "T" series laboratory profiler gauges are available in two versions:

  • PG9800T - for mono-layer containers, this device provides operators with the ability to perform vertical scans in up to eight sectors around the container and horizontal scans at multiple height locations.
  • PG9810T -- for multi-layer bottles and preforms, offers the same capabilities as the PG9800 but also provides the ability to identify the presence and/or the thickness of barrier materials on multi-layer containers.

These profiler gauges are part of a line of process monitoring and measurement products Agr produces to the PET container industry.  These gauges use the same measurement technology as Agr's PETWall profiler in-the-blowmolder material distribution management system that is used in plants world-wide as a tool for light weighting efforts and as a basis for automated blowmolder process and quality management.

Evonik targets glass, metal replacement

Look for several examples of new applications for plastics that replace traditional materials such as glass and metal at the Evonik Degussa exhibit in two booths in the South Hall at NPE2012 (numbers 24023 and 55020).

Recent new product introductions provide a glimpse of the work under way. One is the DinoPress applicator, which uses working parts that are made from polyetheretherketone (PEEK) from Evonik Industries.The PEEK replaces titanium alloy, making the device lighter and easier to use.  The device can be steam sterilized up to 134°C. The new DinoPress has been developed jointly by Gossau, Switzerland-based Alfred Schmid AG, producers of plastic parts for the dental industry for more than 40 years, and Basel, Switzerland-based Dolder AG.

Another example is a flexible plastic barrier film for photovoltaic cells that replaces glass.

Read the full story at PlasticsToday.