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Articles from 2016 In March


And the winners of the JEC Innovation Awards are . . .

<p>Composites industry organization JEC Group has announced the winners of its 2016 JEC Americas Innovation Awards. The companies represent a broad cross section of expertise in the design, testing and materials categories as well as in the automotive, aerospace and sports and leisure end markets. The awards will be presented during the fifth annual JEC Americas Composites Show and Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 3 to 5, 2016. In advance of the event, the winners are featured in this slide show. The descriptions of the innovations are their own.</p><p> </p><p><strong>JEC Innovation Award for transportation: Omni Tanker Pty Ltd. (Randwick, Australia)</strong></p><p>The Omni Tanker A and AB tanks are composite tanks that combine lightweight qualities with high chemical resistance at an attractive price point. The tanks are particularly light and strong, with a mass of approximately half that of a steel tanker with equivalent volume. The benefits of a lightweight tank include fuel savings and reduced emissions, and more importantly, an increased payload that can be shipped in a single transport run.</p><p>Compared to tanks with standard liners, Omni Tanker A and AB tanks are more durable (longer service life) with lower maintenance costs, and ensure higher chemical purity. The tanks can be effectively washed out, meaning that they can be back loaded with different chemicals, and that the chemical being transported can be changed based on seasonal demand. The composite tanks have captured the Class 8 corrosive dangerous goods transport market in Australia, and reportedly are in high demand from transport operators in the European market.</p>

Composites industry organization JEC Group has announced the winners of its 2016 JEC Americas Innovation Awards. The awards will be presented during the fifth annual JEC Americas Composites Show and Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 3 to 5, 2016. In advance of the event, the winners are featured in this slide show. The descriptions of the innovations are their own.

Constantia sees growth in sales and earnings in 2015

Constantia sees growth in sales and earnings in 2015

Flexible packaging and label company Constantia Flexibles (Vienna, Austria) has achieved its global growth strategy for 2015 thanks to two new acquisitions in growth markets and a year-on-year increase in sales and operating earnings.

The Austrian company saw sales in 2015 improved by 9.4% year-on-year to €1.89 billion. The strong appreciation of the USD against the Euro was the main contributor influencing all divisions within the firm.

Alexander Baumgartner, CEO of Constantia Flexibles, said in statement, “On behalf of the Board of Management, I would like to thank our dedicated employees for achieving another sales and operating earnings increase in 2015—our sixth year in succession. We will proceed with our integration of the recent acquisitions Afripack in Africa and Pemara in South East Asia and will look for further opportunities as part of our ongoing global expansion strategy.”

The number of employees increased by roughly 25% year-on-year to 10,086 at the end of December 2015, driven above all by the acquisitions of Afripack and Pemara.

Food division sales increased by 7.5% year-on-year to €1.1 billion in 2015 due to increased sales of aluminum foil containers for pet food and dairy product packaging in Eastern and Western Europe, while sales of convenience-food packaging and foils for confectionery remained stable compared to 2014.

The growth of portion packs, especially for coffee and tea, in which the Food division offers customers innovative system solutions for modern household machines, also contributed to the spike in sales.

In the markets of North America and the emerging markets, there was a significant jump in sales in the field of snack packaging, in particular through the production plants in India and Mexico.

The Pharma division sales rose by 7.9% year-on-year to €296 million. The three product groups, coldform, sachet and blister, were responsible for the growth, with double-digit growth achieved in the first two product groups. This increase came from rising demand for high-density packaging materials, in order to protect highly-sensitive pharmaceuticals on the way to the patient.

For the Labels division, sales rose by 11.7% year-on-year to €541 million. The new developments in recent years, such as recycling-friendly self-adhesive labels, haptically enhanced self-adhesive labels and various in-mold labels, contributed significantly to the strong growth.

While the global economic environment remains challenging, Constantia Flexibles judges its prospects positively for 2016 after a promising start to the year. The company attributes future sales growth to be driven by leveraging the company’s strong relationship with key customers and promoting in-house innovation based on its expertise in foil- and film-based products, as well as in-mold and pressure-sensitive labels.

Constantia Flexibles employs around 8,000 people, at approximately 42 production sites in 18 countries, predominantly in Europe, North America and Asia.

It takes a village to develop the next generation of plastics employees

Wittmann Battenfeld ribbon cutting

Trade publications—as well as the mainstream media—are filled with articles about the skills gap and the difficulty companies have in finding trained, or even trainable, employees. Yet the solution to this seemingly ongoing problem lies in the hands of many different entities besides processors and mold manufacturers. Apprenticeships and various training programs are coming back into the manufacturing setting and that’s a good start, but it takes much more.

One reason many community colleges and trade school programs gave up their manufacturing readiness programs is because of the lack of good, up-to-date equipment, which most of these schools just flat can’t afford. How do you prepare young people for a career in manufacturing if you don’t have equipment on which to train them?

That’s where machinery and equipment companies come into play. For the metal working trades, including moldmaking, machine tool manufacturer Haas (Oxnard, CA) has been a huge contributor. For example, Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, MN, has 17 CNC machine tools in its Haas Technical Educational Center. In Dearborn, MI, the Henry Ford Community College (HFCC) has all the latest Haas equipment for student training. The equipment is serviced by a nearby Haas factory outlet, and the machines are upgraded every two years, so that HFCC always has the latest equipment, which makes these students relevant in today’s machine shop environment.

Molding machine suppliers are also active in these programs. Recently, Wittmann Battenfeld Inc. (Torrington, CT) supplied an all-new injection molding machine work cell to the University of Massachusetts – Lowell for use in the university’s plastics engineering lab, which recently received a “significant face-lift,” said Wittmann Battenfeld. The work cell features an EcoPower all-electric molding machine, a W818 robot with telescopic vertical arm, an indexing conveyor, and a Tempro Plus D temperature control unit. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to formally open the newly updated lab on March 23, 2016.

L to R: Jacquie Moloney, Chancellor of UMass Lowell; James Peyser, Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; David Preusse, President of Wittmann Battenfeld and alumnus of UMass Lowell; and Joseph Hartman, Dean of the Francis College of Engineering at UMass Lowell.

David Preusse, President of Wittmann Battenfeld and UMass Lowell alumnus (1985), joined James Peyser, Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Jacquie Monoley, Chancellor of UMass Lowell; and Joseph Hartman, Dean of UMass Lowell’s Francis College of Engineering for the ribbon-cutting. Over 50 current UMass Lowell students and faculty attended the event.

In her opening statements, Chancellor Moloney thanked Wittmann Battenfeld for its support of UMass Lowell’s plastics engineering program and said that the new machinery will “have a transformative effect,” adding that “it’s critical for us to know that we’re educating and graduating students who are ready to immediately make an impact in their field. Wittmann Battenfeld’s generous support of our program with this brand new equipment helps ensure just that.”

The key words in her statement were “brand new equipment.” Over the years, many companies including processors and moldmakers, have been willing to donate older equipment as they upgraded to new CNC machine tools and state-of-the-art molding presses. But while those were okay, students couldn’t get the training they needed to hit the ground running when they graduated and went to work.

David Kazmer, a professor at UMass Lowell who teaches process control, automation and machine integration, will be using the new work cell to teach students how to take injection molding to the next level, such as web integration, controlling data storage and using Industry 4.0. “We feel we have a special program here at UMass Lowell, preparing students for good jobs in the plastics manufacturing industry,” he said. “Having this new Wittmann Battenfeld machinery will help us prepare our students to be familiar with state-of-the-art injection molding best practices as they enter the workforce.”

Wittmann Battenfeld’s Preusse noted that UMass Lowell already had two older Battenfeld molding machines in its labs, originally placed there in the 1990s. Wittmann Battenfeld took one of the older machines back for upgrades and replaced it with the new EcoPower work cell. The second machine is a specialty machine used for liquid silicone rubber (LSR) molding and will continue to be used in the UMass Lowell lab.

These donations of new, state-of-the-art equipment benefit the students, the processors and mold manufacturing companies that hire them, as well as the equipment suppliers. As the machinery and equipment suppliers upgrade the schools’ equipment every few years, like Haas does, these lightly-used and well-maintained pieces of equipment are sold to companies at a discount. It’s a win for everyone involved, but especially the industry, which is getting the next generation of well-trained, skilled employees.

Thank you to Wittmann Battenfeld and all of the machinery and equipment suppliers that step up to the plate and do the right thing to help create a better, stronger plastics processing and mold manufacturing industry.

If you’re a machine tool or molding press supplier supporting education programs, leave a comment below and let the PlasticsToday audience know what you’re doing to help shape the next generation of industry employees.

Transilwrap acquires Dow's specialty films unit

Transilwrap acquires Dow&#039;s specialty films unit

Converter and specialty films manufacturer Transilwrap Co. Inc. (Franklin Park, IL) announced today it is to buy the global specialty films business of Dow Chemical Co. (Midland, MI). The transaction is expected to be finalized by the end of 2Q 2016. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.  This marks the fifth acquisition in nine years for Transilwrap.

“Dow’s film technologies, market focus and geographic presence support accelerated growth and global expansion in Transilwrap’s strategic market segments including healthcare and packaging.” said Andy J. Brewer, President & CEO of Transilwrap. “Dow’s specialty films business is well regarded in the industry for strong technical expertise and globally recognized brands associated with quality, reliability and leadership and we look forward to working with their existing management team to drive new business opportunities forward.”

Upon the acquisition, Transilwrap will take over Dow’s manufacturing facilities in Hebron, OH, and Drusenheim, France. Dow’s specialty films’ facilities and employees will continue to operate as they do today as part of Transilwrap Co. Inc.

Dow’s specialty films business has more than 50 years of expertise in offering film solutions used in medical, packaging and industrial markets and specializes in the production of blown oriented polystyrene films and co-extruded multilayer barrier and polyolefin films for global customers.

In packaging and industrial segments, the specialty films business has strong brand recognition with Saranex films, Procite films and Opticite films across many applications including beverage closure liners, ostomy appliances, window envelope films, labels and protective fabrics.

“We are excited for the new opportunities that this acquisition will bring,” said Spyro Petsalis, Global Business Director for Dow’s Specialty Films business. “Transilwrap’s complementary products, capabilities and extensive geographic foot print will allow us to offer customers additional solutions with an enhanced service platform, while renewed investment and focus will allow for continued innovation to fuel future growth.”

Transilwrap operates 10 manufacturing and converting facilities throughout North America and three in Europe. Its products are used in used in healthcare, packaging, point-of purchase, display advertising, security identification, protective and industrial markets.

Bioplastics simplified - and not just for dummies

Bioplastics simplified - and not just for dummies

As concerns about climate change, marine debris, plastic waste and greenhouse gases – to name but a few of the issues which have made the headlines in the past six months alone – continue to rise, the use of bioplastics as an alternative to conventional oil-based plastics is starting to look like a realistic option, both to consumers and industry.  To date, however, among the many obstacles to mainstream acceptance has been a lack of the public understanding. It’s a problem that has now been tackled by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association; with the release of its new publication entitled “Bioplastics Simplified: Attributes of Biobased and Biodegradable Plastics”, SPI has created an easy-to-understand review of what bioplastics are, where they come from and, most importantly, the benefits they can offer.

Misconceptions about bioplastics abound. Even as the demand for environmental products rises, with consumers taking supply chain transparency and built-in sustainability features almost for granted, the role of bioplastics often remains misunderstood. For example, bioplastics are persistently confused with biodegradable plastics. They are commonly held to be a solution for littering – which they most definitely are not. Moreover, most people have no idea that many bioplastics can also be recycled. And the list of misunderstandings goes on and on.

“Bioplastics Simplified” is a laudable attempt to clear up these misunderstandings. Clearly and concisely written, it starts with the definition used by the SPI Bioplastics Division, which states that a bioplastic is a plastic that is “partially or fully biobased and/or biodegradable.” The key point to remember here? A bioplastic that is biobased may not necessarily be biodegradable, and a biodegradable bioplastic may not be biobased. While a bioplastic may, in some cases, be both, most are either one or the other. Hence the idea that all bioplastics are biodegradable, while a persistent one, is false.

As “Bioplastics Simplified” explains, bioplastics have other benefits that are not tied to biodegradability, such as the reduction of fossil fuel usage, or a smaller carbon footprint, compared to their fossil-based counterparts. This, writes SPI, is “because the biobased carbon content is typically CO2 captured from the atmosphere through plant growth. This also leads to reduction of the GWP associated with the biobased bioplastic.”

Other topics dealt with include biodegradability and compostability, and how this works. A look is also taken at the feedstocks used to produce bioplastics.

"Bioplastics provide unique advantages and opportunities, and are an important option in the broader plastics industry,” said Patrick Krieger, assistant director of regulatory & technical affairs at SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association. “This document provides an easy overview for those looking to explore bioplastics."

Taking a complicated subject and reducing this to a ten-page overview in clear and easy-to-understand language is a challenge, but it is one that in “Bioplastics Simplified” has been more than met. This is a publication that lives up to its title, and should be required reading for anyone interested in the basics of bioplastics.

Law firm petitions FDA to ban Boston Scientific surgical mesh

FDA logo

The law firm that has sued medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific (Marlborough, MA), alleging that the company used counterfeit materials from China to manufacture surgical mesh devices, has petitioned FDA to recall the products. Houston-based Mostyn Law cites an “urgent need to protect the health of women” as the basis for the petition.

Mostyn Law filed the request on behalf of a West Virginia woman who suffered health problems from a Boston Scientific pelvic mesh implant. The allegations also are the basis of a federal racketeering lawsuit that the law firm filed earlier this year (for more on this, read “Boston Scientific used counterfeit resin from Chinese supplier to make vaginal meshes, lawsuit alleges.”) The suit alleges that Boston Scientific started using counterfeit resin from China when it ran out of the FDA-approved, U.S.-made Marlex brand material. It used a Chinese resin with “no history as to when it was made, how it was made, who made it, no title, and [it] was smuggled out" in a series of transactions "mimicking an international drug deal," writes Mostyn Law in a press release distributed today.

The petition filed with FDA cites “internal, previously undisclosed Boston Scientific e-mails that say the company bought the stock in 2011 and 2012 from a suspected counterfeiter in China without fully testing it or getting FDA approval for its use as a vaginal implant.” It also includes a recent letter that the device manufacturer distributed to customers acknowledging that the devices were made with a non-approved resin.

The petition, based on internal Boston Scientific documents, gives new details on the extraordinary steps the company took to move the resin out of China, notes Mostyn Law. “It split about 37,400 pounds into four shipments, sending them on different dates, by different methods to avoid detection and limit losses if confiscated by customs agents.”

The law firm goes on to describe a process that, as stated, certainly appears shady: “The shipper was instructed to tell Chinese authorities the product was made there, meaning it didn't need certain paperwork for export. The company then switched its story, getting it into the U.S. by claiming the material was authentic American-made Marlex," the petition says.

A Boston Scientific employee in China reportedly said in an email: "For this material, we have lost all of the original paperwork so we can't prove that was legally imported in the country. And if we don't get rid of the original bags or the writing on the bags when we claim they are from China (we have to say they are from China since we don't have the original paperwork attached), if it is caught by custom, we will be in trouble. Therefore the shipper told me it is better to consider to re-pack all of them or find a way to get rid of all of the words/writing on the bags."

Vaginal surgical mesh procedures have been classified as high risk by FDA, possibly resulting in "severe pelvic pain and organ perforation," according to the agency. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against implant manufacturers who followed FDA rules to the letter. Patients have complained about discomfort, bleeding, infections, painful intercourse, urinary problems and other complications resulting from the implants.

In filing the FDA petition, attorney Amber Mostyn said, "The FDA needs to do its job and ban this outright. We've clearly documented the health risks. Acknowledging there is a problem is not enough. It's a like a firefighter watching a building burn while warning us not to play with matches."

Low-cost carbon-fiber production process seeks licensees

Low-cost carbon-fiber production process seeks licensees

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have demonstrated a production method they estimate will reduce the cost of carbon fiber as much as 50 percent and the energy used in its production by more than 60 percent. After extensive analysis and successful prototyping by industrial partners, ORNL is making the new method available for licensing.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers at the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility have demonstrated a production method that dramatically reduces the cost and energy required to produce carbon fiber.
The new process can produce carbon fiber at a much higher throughput than is possible with conventional methods.

The process used acrylic fiber of a type commonly used in carpets and apparel rather than the costly precursor commonly used to make carbon fiber at present: polyacrylonitrile, or PAN. ORNL had also looked at polyolefins and lignin as potential feedstocks for low-cost carbon-fiber production.

The corporate sector has been striving for some time to reduce the cost of carbon-fiber production so that the material might be more widely deployable in the automotive sector in mass market vehicles rather than its usage being limited to luxury cars. Toho Tenax, for example, has developed a manufacturing process that reduces energy consumption by 50%, although it still employs PAN as a precursor.

High cost has been the single largest roadblock to widespread use of carbon fiber as a strong, stiff reinforcement for advanced composites. ORNL’s new lower cost method, demonstrated at its Carbon Fiber Technology Facility, builds on more than a decade of research in the area. The researchers’ success promises to accelerate adoption of carbon-fiber composites in high-volume industrial applications including automobiles, wind turbines, compressed gas storage and building infrastructure.

More than 90% of the energy needed to manufacture these advanced composites is consumed in manufacturing the carbon fiber itself. Reduction in energy consumption in manufacturing will enable earlier net energy payback—that is, the energy savings gained in using products made from lighter-weight material compared to the energy consumed in making the material. Similarly, ORNL is working as a technology partner with IACMI – The Composites Institute – to enable the use of low-cost carbon-fiber composites in a wide range of next-generation clean energy products, from offshore wind turbines that lower the cost of electricity to high-pressure tanks for the storage of natural gas.

“This accomplishment underscores the Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s commitment to addressing our nation’s most pressing energy challenges, and the payoff could be significant,” ORNL Director Thom Mason said. “Automakers, consumers and the environment will realize tremendous benefits because of the investment just a few years ago in the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility.”

A detailed analysis compared the new process to a published baseline for conventional carbon fiber production. Cost factors were considered for nine major process steps, starting with the precursor and pretreatment and finishing with surface treatment, sizing, winding, inspection and shipping.

Carbon fiber is produced by converting a carbon-containing polymer precursor fiber to pure carbon fiber through a carefully controlled series of heating and stretching steps. In current commercial practice, the precursor – polyacrylonitrile, or PAN – is chemically modified and optimized to maximize the mechanical properties of the end product. The high cost of specialty precursor materials and the energy and capital-intensive nature of the conversion process are the principal contributors to the high cost of the end product.

Acrylic fiber is a high volume produced on a commodity basis that costs roughly half as much as specialty PAN currently used in the carbon fiber industry. ORNL researchers believed textile-grade PAN was a pathway to lower-cost carbon fiber, but laboratory-scale experiments couldn’t fully explore its potential at a production scale.

To provide that capability, DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing and Vehicle Technologies offices have funded research and operations at ORNL’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility, a highly instrumented, semi-production scale carbon fiber conversion plant.

Extensive mechanical property tests have been performed on carbon fiber from the new process, and several auto manufacturers and their suppliers received quantities suitable for prototyping, with encouraging results.

“Our R&D into process improvements and the extensive validation work at the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility provide manufacturers and end-use industries the confidence needed to invest in large-scale manufacturing, knowing there will be a market for this material,” said Gary Jacobs, ORNL’s interim associate lab director for Energy and Environmental Sciences.  

Companies, including licensees of the new method, will be able to use the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility to refine and validate carbon fiber manufacturing processes. ORNL will accept license applications for this low-cost carbon fiber process through May 15. Licensing information for manufacturers in the U.S. is available at this link.

Samsung selects Arnitel TPE for Galaxy Gear S2 smart-watch strap

Samsung Galaxy Gear S2 smart watch

Samsung has chosen Arnitel thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) from Royal DSM  (Geleen, Netherlands) to fabricate the strap of its Galaxy Gear S2 smart watch, the materials supplier has announced.

The Arnitel compound got the nod for its balance of physical and chemical properties, according to DSM. The material’s soft touch and feel make the strap comfortable to wear in direct skin contact. Certified to USP and ISO standards related to biocompatibility, Arnitel is resistant to perspiration and to the various oils and other liquids that a watch strap may be exposed to during use.

The material is easy to process via injection molding, adds DSM, and it can be used in overmolded structures in combination with other thermoplastics such as polycarbonate, ABS and thermoplastic polyesters. Compounds can be produced in a broad range of colors, including ultra-white.

During development of the Galaxy Gear S2 strap, DSM’s local team in Korea provided Samsung with support in up-scaling from prototype to high-volume molding.

DSM also touts Arnitel’s sustainability compared with thermoplastic polyurethanes and thermoset silicone elastomers. Arnitel is free of any halogen, red phosphorous or fluoropolymers and is fully recyclable. “This is in particularly important for OEMs and manufacturers targeting consumers with a strong awareness of their environmental footprint,” says Fredric Petit, Global Business Director, Arnitel.

In what it claims is a first, DSM also has introduced fragrances into high-performance plastics for watch-strap and related applications. Arnitel is available in different scents, such as lemon and rose, enabling OEMs to provide customers with an additional sensorial experience.

Annual sales of wearables are expected grow to 200 million devices by 2020, with smart watches and activity trackers capturing the largest share of the market. In addition to functionality and user interface design, wearability and overall aesthetics are a key consumer requirement, notes DSM. Comfort, color and how the device feels on the skin all play an important role in product design, and this extends to the strap.

Branson's latest welder offers long-term production versatility

Branson&#039;s latest welder offers long-term production versatility

Branson Ultrasonics (Danbury, CT), a business of Emerson, recently launched its GVX-3 vibration welder, which is said to offer long-term production versatility. The user-configurable design of the GVX-3 welder complements a powerful set of standard features with a plethora of application-specific upgrades. Options include everything from the addition of Branson’s dual-axis Clean Vibration Technology (CVT) to upgrades involving tooling, clamp force and calibration, and cycle speeds.

“Based on global customer feedback, Branson has designed the GVX - 3 with the ability to maximize configurability to best suit our customers’ current and future application needs. Customers are able to select the features and performance they need today, with confidence that they will be positioned to meet the requirements of future applications,” said John Paul Kurpiewski, Director, Global Product Management, Non-Ultrasonics for Branson.

The GVX-3 welder is built on a compact footprint and offers easy rear-door access for tool changes, with a wide front door for part loading and unloading. Internally, the welder provides a large lift table driven by a precise servo motor, offering clamp forces of up to 25 kN and optional closed-loop calibration and control. Applications that require clean, particulate free welds, the GVX-3 welder can be fitted with a modular CVT package that employs infrared power emitters to preheat part joints for quicker, more reliable vibration weld strength and consistency, even for parts with complex, 3-D geometries.

An advanced user interface allows the GVX-3 to store up to 99 different users with configurable access rights. The crisp digital display has an intuitive navigation with globally recognized icons and houses an improved sequence editor that simplifies production programming. Programmers may choose from dozens of tooling codes and unlimited welding specifications, plus other features like automatic tooling identification and weld specification recognition. Operators can easily access production related functions and equipment safeties, but are prevented from modifying production-critical programming.

Custom molder MDS Manufacturing grows an astonishing 800% in six years

Dave Skaggs

The United States was just coming out of the Great Recession when MDS Manufacturing LLC (St. Louis, MO) was founded in March 2010. Over the past six years, however, the company has grown an astounding 800%, expanding from three thermoplastic injection molding machines and three employees to 18 machines and 30 employees today. Contributing to that growth in large part has been the company’s liquid silicone rubber (LSR) capability, which was initiated in 2013. Today, it runs seven LSR machines, representing more than one-third of the company’s capacity.

Dave Skaggs, MDS Manufacturing

Engel North America, a member of the Engel Group (Schwertberg, Austria), a global manufacturer of injection molding machines and parts-handling automation, recently delivered the seventh LSR-equipped injection molding machine—an Engel victory 200/100 hy-tech U.S. machine with eco-drive—to MDS Manufacturing.

While their injection molding business was increasing, brothers Dave and Mike Skaggs felt they needed to find a niche to achieve a higher level of growth, and LSR was their choice. Missing from the molding community in the Midwest, and causing customers to look either to the east or west coast or overseas, it definitely turned out to be the right move.

It wasn’t easy in 2009 when the recession was still ongoing to try to “negotiate a start-up” molding company, Dave Skaggs told PlasticsToday. Diversification was the key to the company’s success. “There are all kinds of custom injection molding shops from big to small and companies offering blowmolding, and all of them can offer a variety of different things, but nobody here in the Midwest can offer LSR,” Skaggs commented. “It’s a way to separate us from our competition, and it’s resulted in new opportunities that enable us to compete even with China.”

One of MDS’s primary LSR markets is baby bottle nipples, and Skaggs noted that the company molds five million of them a month. “We also mold a neo-natal baby bottle nipple with a 0.005-inch molded-in hole, while other suppliers from overseas punch the hole in after molding.”

MDS Manufacturing also provides injection stretch blowmolding capabilities, which allows the company to make baby bottles. “We can do a complete bottle unit—nipple, cap, collar and bottle—and it’s all made in the USA. I believe there’s only one other company in the United States that does this.”

Steve Broadbent, ELAST/LSR Project Engineer for Engel Machinery Inc., said that the Skaggs’ success in LSR is the result of their willingness to work with suppliers that have the expertise and technology to provide the best equipment. “Dave and his team chose their LSR suppliers based on their level of expertise in LSR processing, not cost, and were willing to pay a higher price, when necessary, to work with these leaders,” said Broadbent.

Skaggs noted that he and his brother have been very happy with Engel as the company has grown. MDS runs Engel injection molding machines and knew the LSR machines offered excellent technology. In addition, MDS also runs some Nissei injection machines, and they have three Aoki stretch blowmolding machines. The brothers are currently planning a substantial expansion of their facilities for 2017, and are looking for an additional 60,000 to 90,000 square feet. The new facility will allow them to bring in a wider range of infant care products and additional products for the medical industry, and will allow the manufacturing of products being designed by MDS.