is part of the Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Sitemap


Articles from 2016 In April


Special Report: Emerging markets put auto sector in fast lane

Special Report on automotive industry

The U.S. auto industry had a banner year in 2015, with vehicle sales topping the previous record set in 2000—17.47 million vehicles compared with 17.35 million—but the sector is counting on emerging markets to drive car production to new heights in 2016. That shift is also causing automakers to review their global production footprints.

In a Special Report available as a free download (registration required), Stephen Moore, who covers the automotive and mobility beat for PlasticsToday, provides an in-depth analysis of the auto industry’s present and future. He also reports on the key technological innovations that are helping automakers to achieve mandated emissions and fuel-efficiency standards.

Download the Special Report here.

Kraiburg augments medical portfolio with TPEs that offer solvent-based adhesion to rigid compounds

Kraiburg TPE

More than half of all medical and pharmaceutical applications processed by Kraiburg TPE (Waldkraiburg, Germany) combine thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) with a hard component. These applications require robust adhesion and sometimes even a hermetic barrier between the materials. TPE compounds from the company’s Thermolast M portfolio can be processed economically with polypropylene (PP), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or polycarbonate (PC) using a two-component injection molding process, says Kraiburg TPE. The company also has developed compounds that can be combined with hard components by using solvents, which allows their use as two-component products in medical and pharmaceutical applications.

Polarity plays a key role in the adhesive binding of multiple materials, notes Kraiburg TPE. For example, two-component injection molding or insertion requires the use of plastics with a similar polarity. As an alternative, Kraiburg TPE has developed medical-grade TPE compounds that can adhere to hard components with dissimilar polarities through the use of solvents. Geometric conditions also play a role in this process.

Some solvents, such as cyclohexane or tetrahydrofurane (THF), dissolve the plastic and, therefore, alter the consistency of the materials. By immersing negative profiles in dissolved TPE it is possible to manufacture hollow bodies, such as gloves, from TPEs. In addition, textile fabrics can be partially or fully impregnated with TPE. It is also possible to bind hard components, such as PP, PE or PC/ABS, with a partially dissolved TPE compound.

These methods allow stress-free processing of the TPEs, resulting in outstanding mechanical properties. Unlike adhesives, solvents completely evaporate, leaving no chemical residue, and form a clean bond. After processing, the components can withstand most forms of sterilization.

As with all Thermolast M compounds, the specially developed materials are certified to ISO 10993-5 (cytotoxicity) and the Drug Master File. Selected compounds in each series are also tested in accordance with USP Class VI (chapter 88), USP 661 (in vitro), ISO 10993-4 (hemolysis, indirect blood contact), ISO 10993-10 (intracutaneous irritation) and ISO 10993-11 (acute system toxicity). These extensive certifications allow use of the compounds in direct contact with blood and medications.

Quality accreditation accelerates growth in milestone year for Omega Plastics Group

Omega Plastics

Quality in tooling and plastic injection molding has its rewards, and April was a winning month for Omega Plastics Group in the United Kingdom: The Blyth-based tooling and plastic injection molding manufacturer received its ISO/TS 16949:2009 accreditation, the global standard for the automotive sector. Since its launch in 2006, Omega Plastics has experienced significant growth in the sector by producing components for Tier One suppliers to various manufacturers including Aston Martin and Nissan.

Omega Plastics Group Quality Manager Paul Anderson (left) and Managing Director Dave Crone with molded products from the automotive industry.

Paul Anderson, Quality Manager, said: “The automotive sector is hugely competitive throughout its supply chain and any business that has aspirations to succeed and grow within it has to consistently deliver the very highest standards. By securing this prestigious quality award in our 10th year of operation, the Omega Plastics Group has demonstrated it has the capability and experience to work alongside some of the biggest names in the industry.”

The process to secure ISO/TS 16949:2009 began with a two-day audit conducted by Lloyds Register Quality Assurance (LQRA), the world’s leading independent provider of business quality assurance, said Omega Plastic Group’s information.

LQRA later carried out a four-day inspection at the firm’s Blyth and Hartlepool sites. “The auditor challenged all aspects of our business from how we receive raw materials to the dispatch of products to customers, as well as closely scrutinizing our internal processes such as purchasing, administration, training, measurement systems and quality control,” explained Anderson. “It is a very thorough audit and having now been accredited we will continue to be monitored to ensure we maintain the requisite standards.”

Since the business started, the company has operated under ISO 9001 and has supplied a range of sectors, experiencing strong growth across its portfolio, particularly in automotive, medical devices and fast-moving consumer goods. Last month, the Omega Plastics Group announced it was forecasting a 50% increase in turnover this year to around £8.5 million ($12.3 million). In addition to the Blyth and Hartlepool facilities, the Omega Plastics Group has a facility in Washington, UK.

Managing Director Dave Crone, commented: “The business has grown exponentially since I launched it at Team Valley, Gateshead, in 2006. Since then we have moved into additional and larger premises, creating more than 70 jobs and expanding our production capability. Our 2015 merger with Signal Plastics brought two successful and innovative businesses together, further strengthening our position in the market for prototype development, specialized tooling and plastic injection molding. Achieving ISO/TS 16949:2009 provides a great springboard into our second decade.” 

Applying machine vision to detect parts stuck in injection molds

Applying machine vision to detect parts stuck in injection molds

A key to the high productivity achieved in injection molding is the use of a blast of air or injector pins to remove the part from the mold at the end of each mold cycle. The chance of the part failing to be ejected from the mold is very small but the potential damage that can occur in this situation is large. The degree of automation on injection molding machines means that one operator is typically responsible for overseeing multiple machines so there’s a good chance that the operator will not notice that the part has not been ejected from the mold. Then, when the mold closes at the beginning of the next molding cycle, the core pins and other fine features of the mold may be damaged.

If the injection molding machine runs for several cycles without being noticed by the operator, then additional damage is typically inflected on each cycle. Often, the mold will require thousands of dollars in repairs while the machine downtime involved in replacing the damaged mold can also be substantial. In the worst case, the mold might be a complete loss which could result in a loss of up to several hundred thousand dollars.

Traditional methods to guard against mold damage

Injection molding companies have traditionally had several alternative methods to guard against mold damage. The most basic approach is simply to assign additional operators to monitor molding machines, particularly when running molds that have a history of parts sticking in them. This approach is usually effective but requires that an operator be assigned to each molding machine which typically involves a substantial increase in labor costs.

A second possible solution is to use low-pressure, low-velocity settings with the idea that even if the part does become stuck in the mold, the reduction in force applied to the mold will prevent mold damage. The weakness of this approach is that the molding machine must operate within a very narrow process window in order to apply sufficient force to mold a quality part while not applying enough force to damage the mold in case a part becomes stuck. Pressure and velocity parameters on the mold must be frequently monitored and adjusted, which also increases labor expenses although not to the degree required to monitor every molding cycle. An additional concern with this approach is that even a smaller amount of force may still be enough to damage sensitive parts such as fine surface features and core pins.

Fiber optic sensors can also be used to scan the parting line of the mold in order to automatically detect stuck parts. But this method is limited to the detection of stuck parts that rise above the surface of the mold. It’s not uncommon for parts to become stuck without protruding above the parting line surface and in this situation the sensors will fail to protect the mold from damage.

Machine vision provides potential solution

The dramatic reduction in cost and improvement in capabilities of recent generations of machine vision sensors provide a new potential solution to this problem. The basic idea is that a machine vision system is trained to recognize the difference between the empty mold normally seen at the completion of a molding cycle and a mold with a part stuck in it. The greatest challenge in the development of machine vision systems targeting this application is that the typical injection molding machine is continually running different molds and parts. In order to provide a practical and economical solution, the vision system must be capable of being easily and quickly configured to handle new molds and parts.

The HNJ mold protection system is mounted on a Nissei injection molding machine.

HNJ Solutions (Torrance, CA) has brought to market a new mold protection system that uses machine vision to check the mold every cycle to verify that the part has been properly ejected from the mold. “We felt that the advancements that have been made in vision technology over the last few years would make it possible to improve the reliability of detecting parts trapped in the mold while also making it much easier for users to configure and changeover the system for new parts,” said Greg McEntyre, President of HNJ Solutions.

HNJ based its mold protection solution on the Cognex In-Sight 7000 vision system which they say gives them the ability to set up a very simple front end to configure the application while also providing the ability to detect stuck parts with an extremely high level of accuracy.

Configuring vision system for a new part and mold

The first step in setting up the mold protection system for a new part or mold is focusing the camera on the mold and viewing the image on the included touchscreen. In the frontend developed by HNJ, the user presses “setup camera” from the powerup screen and enters the number of ejector cycles that occur before the ejection process is completed. This is the point at which the image is acquired. The user then presses the inspect region button. The software prompts the user for the number of cavities in the mold and, after the user answers, a window appears on the screen for each cavity.

HNJ configured this portion of the interface using the Cognex EasyBuilder “edit multiregions” function which displays up to 32 regions on the screen and allows the user to adjust the position and size of the regions with a mouse, stylus, or fingertip. The user drags each window over one of the cavities and sets up each of the cavities with the part in the moving platen to train the vision system for the first shot. When the mold first opens, there should be a part in the moving side of each cavity. The first shot captures an image of the fixed and moving platens to establish that the part has not become stuck in the fixed platen and is in the moving platen. Then, after the ejectors are triggered, another picture is taken to make sure the part has been ejected from the moving platen.

Improved pattern matching algorithm

The vision system uses a pattern matching algorithm to determine whether or not a part is in the mold. Pattern matching can be

Cognex In-Sight 7000 vision system used the PatMax pattern matching algorithm to detect parts stuck in the mold.

extremely challenging, as many variables can alter the way an object appears to a vision system. Traditional pattern matching technology relies upon a pixel-grid analysis process commonly known as normalized correlation. Though effective in certain situations, this approach limits both the ability to find objects, and the accuracy with which they can be found, under conditions of varying appearance common to production lines, such as changes in object angle, size and shading.

On the other hand, Cognex’s PatMax pattern matching algorithm uses geometric information in place of pixel grid-based correlation by applying a three-step geometric measurement process to an object. PatMax first identifies and isolates the key individual features within an object image and measures characteristics such as shape, dimensions, angle, arcs, and shading. It then correlates the spatial relationships between the key features of the trained image to the runtime image, encompassing both distance and relative angle. By analyzing the geometric information from both the features and spatial relationships, PatMax is able to precisely and repeatably determine the object's position without regard to the object's angle, size, or appearance.  “The Cognex PatMax pattern matching tool is by far the most effective pattern matching tool,” McEntyre said.

Setting tolerances for vision inspection

The tolerance screen enables users to set up a global tolerance or to set individual tolerances for each cavity. So a higher tolerance means that an image with a greater variation from the original image will be passed. The HNJ mold protection system includes a magnetic base for the vision system, allowing it to be quickly mounted on a molding machine and moved to another machine when needed.

“The vision-based mold protection system has been very well-received by our customers,” McEntyre said. “We have over 20 systems operating in the field. A major electronics company using these systems has discovered that it is improving the throughput of its molding machines and reducing mold repair expenses by detecting stuck parts before they can cause damage and downtime. This customer just ordered eight more mold protection systems to outfit all of its molding machines in one of their plants.”

Magma and Victrex collaboration breaks record

Magma and Victrex collaboration breaks record

Magma Global Ltd. (Portsmouth, United Kingdom) has developed the flexible m-pipe technology to reduce exploration and production costs and hazards in subsea oil and gas systems. Achieved with the support and expertise of Victrex (West Conshohocken, PA), the lightweight continuous pipe is both the largest and longest Victrex PEEK-based structure ever. It can be deployed to depths of 10,000 ft (and handle pressures of up to 15 ksi. The composite pipe combines Victrex PEEK, high-grade carbon fiber and S-2 Glass* fibers to create a dependable subsea intervention line that meets the demand for a hydraulic pumping system that can handle high pressures and high flow rates.

“Thanks to partnering with Victrex, we have been able to successfully develop our 10,000 foot solution for hydraulic pumping and light well intervention in the Gulf of Mexico. Victrex PEEK polymer’s high performance, and their material and processing expertise, has supported the new record-breaking flexible and spoolable m-pipe for the oil and gas industry,” said Charles Tavner, Commercial Director at Magma,

Magma is offering its m-pipe and integrated deployment package as a vessel back-deck system for rapid hydraulic light well intervention. The Magma deployment system has a modular reeler with m-pipe intervention line pipe handling system, built-in tensioner, level wind, controls cabin, hydraulic power unit, installation platform and winch, for rapid pipe deployment and retrieval. The m-pipe is a composite material based on Victrex PEEK polymer, carbon and glass fibers that delivers low fatigue, improved buoyancy in fluids and high resistance to corrosion compared to steel pipe.

“In oil and gas exploration the continuous need to extend scope and efficiency motivates us to develop reliable solutions further. In close collaboration with customers we consequently contribute to solve the toughest challenges,” explains Tom Swanson, Energy Director at Victrex.

“Victrex PEEK-based m-pipe and deployment system offers regular, reliable low-cost hydraulic well intervention, and can be rented as a complete deployment package from Magma, on either a short-term campaign or annual contract basis. The m-pipe reduces the cost of intervention at a time when the oil and gas industry is extremely challenged on operational costs, and is also striving to achieve efficiency and reliability. The Magma system is designed to minimize mobilization time and maximize vessel utilization by reducing hydraulic pumping time, reducing intervention costs by up to 30%,” adds Tavner.

PTI and INglass partner up to improve supply chain for single-serve capsules

PTI and INglass partner up to improve supply chain for single-serve capsules

As the single-serve market grows for a broad variety of beverage and food products, being able to offer a complete path for commercialization is becoming increasingly vital.

Plastic Technologies Inc. (PTI; Holland, OH), plastic package developer, is collaborating with HRSflow (San Polo di Piave, Italy), a manufacturer of high-precision hot-runners for injection molds, and ERMO (Marcillé-La-Ville, France), a moldmaker specializing in thin-wall containers, caps and closures and medical applications. The goal is to help improve speed-to-market for brand owners desiring a fast track from concept to the retail shelf. 

The partnership will make it easier for brand owners to develop new capsules, validate resins, confirm barrier properties and improve speed-to-market.  

“PTI has been helping many brand owners develop capsules or pods that will deliver the performance parameters required by the specific product application. With these single-serve containers being evaluated for everything from coffee to soup products, it is also important to be able to work with a hot-runner manufacturer that has expertise in material rheology. That is why we are collaborating with HRSflow and ERMO,” said Thierry Fabozzi, Managing Director of PTI’s European business unit.

According to results of a recent study done by PTI, there was significant performance and barrier differences in capsules used for coffee and other applications. The results made it clear that brand owners need to have a more in-depth knowledge of capsule structures and their impact on taste and barrier (oxygen, water vapor transmission rates). Creating an improved supply-chain infrastructure, by offering fast material evaluation is one way to address those issues.

HRSflow and ERMO are brands of INglass group.

Fitsi bedside caddy promotes patient hygiene

Fitsi bedside caddy

A bedside caddy developed by a nurse could help combat hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) simply by making it more convenient for patients to wash their hands. Plastics Color Corp. (PCC; Calumet City, IL), a supplier of custom polymer solutions, compounds, colorants and additive masterbatches with a global footprint, brought its expertise to the project and shared this story.

We are often told that washing our hands is the first line of defense against spreading germs and contracting a cold or the flu. You would think that diligent hand washing would be second nature in a hospital setting, but the facts tell us otherwise. Public health organizations estimate that 1.7 million HAIs occur in U.S. hospitals each year, resulting in 99,000 deaths and an estimated $20 billion in healthcare costs. While basic hygiene is only one of many contributing factors to HAIs, it is a simple and remarkably effective tool. While medical personnel, we assume, follow protocol, several studies indicate that patients do not, as a rule, wash their hands as often as they should. It’s not always their fault. Many patients are bedridden, for example, and it may be painful, even impossible, for them to get to the sink. That is what prompted nurse Kathleen Puri to invent the Fitsi bedside caddy.

The Fitsi bedside caddy allows patients to keep hand sanitizer, lip balm, lotion and other basic care essentials within arm’s reach. It serves as a physical reminder to practice hand hygiene. Designed with a flat bottom and a rotatable clip, Fitsi can sit on a bedside table or conveniently attach to a patient’s bedside rail. A built-in handle allows patients to pick up the caddy and take it to the bathroom. 

The Fitsi’s good influence extends beyond the patient. In its press release, PCC notes that hospital visitors are derelict when it comes to washing their hands, and, citing a New York Times article, that even “hospital workers wash their hands as little as 30% of the time that they interact with patients." In this context, the Fitsi serves as a physical reminder that will help patients, their caregivers and their visitors to practice good hand hygiene, notes PCC.

Considering that the device is designed to help patients avoid infections, it’s only fitting that the Fitsi have built-in antimicrobial features, says PCC. Puri and her team settled on MicroBlok S, an antimicrobial formulation developed by PCC.

MicroBlok S inhibits the growth of a broad spectrum of microorganisms on surfaces, reduces stains and odors, and impedes deterioration thanks to the uniform dispersion of silver ions throughout a polymer matrix. The silver ions create a large internal-specific surface within the polymer, producing high-efficiency antimicrobial action, according to the company. The antimicrobial effect is not diminished over time, and the MicroBlok product line can be custom blended in a variety of resins, including TPU, PC, ABS, PP, and PE.

MBA Polymers develops E&E waste into engineering thermoplastic compound

MBA Polymers develops E&E waste into engineering thermoplastic compound

Plastics recycling and technology company MBA Polymers has started what it says it the first commercial production line in the world manufacturing post-consumer PC/ABS pellets from shredded waste from electrical and electronic equipment. The new PC/ABS plant is located at MBA’s facility at Kematen, Austria. The company says it plans to build up production steadily through 2016.

PC/ABS is a highly-engineered blend of polycarbonate (PC) with acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymer (ABS). It is commonly used in a huge range of electronic products, such as computer monitors, cellular phones and laptop computers, as well as automotive applications. The new product will be distributed under the EvoSource trade name.

According to Richard McCombs, Chief Executive, MBA Polymers, the decision to develop PC/ABS products was driven by the growing demand from customers for post-consumer recycled plastic, as well as MBA Polymers’ commitment to sustainable growth. Post- consumer PC/ABS, is projected to become a vital part of meeting the growing global demand for sustainable materials in some of the largest markets in the world. “These are exciting times for our engineering plastics business,” said McCombs. “Every 1% increase in the usage of our waste benefits our return on investment enormously.”

The company claims that EvoSource PC/ABS grades have excellent mechanical properties that make them candidates for a broad range of applications including some in the automotive, electrical, industrial and consumer markets. “EvoSource PC/ABS and MBA Polymers’ other high-quality recycled plastics further expand the opportunities for manufacturers to use more sustainable materials, which in turn increase the realities of a circular economy,” explained Arthur Schwesig, Business Manager, Engineering Plastics, MBA Polymers, Austria.

In electronics, for example, designers will be able to specify Evosource PC/ABS to increase the use of post-consumer recycled plastics to achieve the higher ratings in the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), a global electronics registry that rates mobile phones, televisions, printers, copiers and other imaging equipment, and computers and displays.

With locations in China, UK and Austria, MBA Polymers is the world leader at producing high value plastics from end-of-life durable goods. It saves over 80% of the energy and between 1- 3 tons of CO2 for every ton of virgin plastic it replaces.

In addition to the new PC/ABS product, the company produces a variety of post-consumer plastics recovered from shredded WEEE and end-of-life vehicles. These products are sold into a broad range of industries including the automotive, electrical, industrial and consumer markets. Its premium EvoSource ABS (Acrylonitrile/Butadiene/Styrene) and HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene) grades are currently used in products such as printer housings, coffee makers and vacuum cleaners.

Plastic/metal hybrid technology saves weight, cost in automotive airbags with integrated lead frames

Plastic/metal hybrid technology saves weight, cost in automotive airbags with integrated lead frames

A hybrid plastic/metal airbag housing with integrated lead frame, co-developed and produced by Quadrant Creative Molding & Systems (QCMS; Tielt, Belgium) for an automotive steering wheel airbag assembly, is proving an important saver of weight, packing space and costs. Production is carried out fully automatically to provide high levels of quality and safety in the zero-defect environment of automotive passive safety. The assembly is being fitted on vehicles produced around the world.

Hybrid plastic/metal airbag housing with integrated lead frame saves on weight, packing space and cost.

The integrated lead frame activates the horn when the driver presses the airbag cover in the centre of the steering wheel, completing an electric circuit. As such, the module is a safety-critical component, so design and manufacturing requirements are very demanding. It is produced by injection molding a 40% glass-fiber-reinforced polyamide (PA) over a pre-coated stamped steel plate.

The airbag housing contains the airbag itself as well as the gas generator, with its main function being to direct the airbag during deployment, by maintaining the form and integrity of the housing. The design of the housing, as well as the polymer processing technology used to make it, is of prime importance to this. The hybrid structure is created by combining the plastic housing with the metal leadframe. During development, the metal part within the plastic part was shown to induce additional stresses during the deployment; these were eliminated using FEM analysis and design changes.

The overmolding process is carried out fully automatically in a purpose-built manufacturing cell at the main QCMS plant in Tielt, Belgium. A six-axis robot positions the leadframe precisely into the mold. The reinforced PA is then injected around it. After molding, the finished product is removed from the mold and placed in a neighbouring station that carries out a 100% quality check. Once the part’s quality is assured, it is positioned on a conveyer belt that takes it to downstream assembly operations.

The plastic/metal hybrid molding has replaced an assembly of cables on a full steel housing that was more complicated and costly to produce, heavier, and that took up more packing space. It was first designed for the Ford Transit van, which is assembled in Turkey. Production began in 2012. The success of the design has led to Ford introducing it on four other vehicle models. QCMS ships parts from Tielt to locations in Europe, USA, Brazil and India for integration into complete airbag assemblies.

The hybrid integrated lead frame fits in with the continuing trend in the automobile industry to reduce not only weight for savings in fuel, but also space—to allow room for the growing range of increasingly sophisticated safety- and entertainment-related devices now fitted to vehicles, especially in and around the steering wheel—and, of course, costs.

Automotive suppliers retain positive outlook, according to OESA Barometer

Check mark stock art

The April Barometer from the Original Equipment Supplier Association (OESA; Troy, MI) saw the Supplier Sentiment Index tick up two points from January to 55, which indicates a positive outlook for the 91 respondents of the survey, 65% of which are Tier 1 suppliers, 30% are Tier 2 and 5% are suppliers below Tier 2.

Image courtesy Stuart Miles/
freedigitalphotos.net.

When respondents were asked to identify their most critical hurdle in meeting their 2020 growth strategy within each country of the NAFTA region, 43% responded that labor/talent availability in the United States was the most critical hurdle; 44% said that labor/talent availability in Mexico was the biggest hurdle to growth in that region. Suppliers in Canada had no problems that would interfere with strategic growth plans, according to the survey.

As far as North American production is concerned, 75% of products produced in North America come from the United States, up from 70% in the 2015 survey; Mexico and Canada average 20% and 5% of manufacturing, respectively. A number of the respondents expect these percentages to “change significantly” over the next two years. Mexico, in particular, was singled out as a growth region.

Sourcing constraints are always a big concern for automotive suppliers, and things seem to be relatively good in that regard, with 56% of respondents overall reporting they have no supply-chain constraints. That’s good news, considering that in 2015 only 41% reported an absence of supply-chain constraints. The 33 Tier 1 respondents (56%) reported no supply-chain constraints. Among Tier 1 suppliers, concern over constraints was highest for electrical/electronic components (20%), with 14% saying that powertrain components are constrained. Tier 2 suppliers said that 19% of their constraints are in powertrain components, with 8% saying electrical/electronic components are constrained.

Comments regarding these concerns for powertrain-related components included, “More customers are moving to Mexico. Mexico has developed and the fear is if we don’t have a location in Mexico we will lose the business.” Another respondent noted that “OEMs’ purchasing staffs are stretched very thin and sometimes may source to ‘check a box’ without fully understanding the value [proposition] or process flow. They risk price creep with this approach.”

One goal of the OESA Barometer is to better understand the occurrence and impact of possible supply-chain scenarios to business, said the OESA. Overall, receiving late customer engineering change orders was rated the highest in probability of occurrence and near the top in terms of severity of impact to operations.

Respondents were asked to look out over the next five years and, considering their product portfolio, describe the capacity or capabilities of strategic suppliers that they will need to add to the supply chain, and whether those capabilities are available. Regional responses included more comments regarding Mexican suppliers: “need more domestic Mexican suppliers,” “develop supply chain in Mexico,” “additional U.S. steel sources and fabricators” and “we need to add more overseas suppliers to spread the risk.”

Product- and process-related responses included many involving plastics processors and mold/tooling suppliers. “Need injection molders capable of small, precision (tight -tolerance) plastics; we see this is possible, but it takes time/investment and training to get there.” Another respondent noted the opportunities for these capabilities in Mexico: “Suppliers for specific high-tech components, resins, complex electronic parts and plastic molding are still an area of opportunity in Mexico.” Still another respondent noted that “tooling and die companies are constrained.” Some respondents wanted “more qualified second-tier suppliers that are closer to our manufacturing facilities” and “it’s more of a capacity issue and the supply base bringing on additional capital. We also see with the Tier 2 supply base being very busy it does not have enough resources to invest in R&D and advancing materials/processes, which could further our competitive advantage.”