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Mexico polyethylene plant to use GE hyper compressor technology

Alejandra Sánchez Healy, spokesperson for Braskem, told PlasticsToday the Mexican market has been in need for this production of polyethylene for years due to the fact that it imports more than 70% of the polyethylene consumed in the country.

The new plant, based in Veracruz, Mexico, will provide high-efficiency plastics production and significantly reduce the amount of polyethylene the country imports for manufacturing, packaging, and other industrial applications, the companies said.

"Mexico has the resources necessaries to fulfill this demand," he said. "This project investment will reduce the deficit by $2 billion as there will be a decrease in imports."

Braskem chose the location because it's a high-potential area for new reserves of petroleum and gas, and it provides easy access to roads, ports, and railroads for the distribution of the product.

The $4 billion plant, anticipated to open in 2015, will produce more than 1 million tons of polyethylene per year.

During the peak point of the project's construction, Healy said the company estimates it will add around 9,000 jobs. When the construction is finished, Braskem will have created approximately 800 direct jobs and indirect permanent jobs.

GE's hyper compressor and booster compressor technologies are key elements of the low-density polyethylene (LPDE) production facility. These compressors are designed to use less electricity, reduce operating costs and require less maintenance, making the local plant more competitive with imported plastics, according to GE.

"This project is very strategically important for business development in the area, and our expectation is for it to spur long-term growth, so it was imperative for us to be extremely selective with the solutions we chose," said Silvia Pires Migueles, purchasing director for Braskem."GE's efficient, reliable compressor technology makes us more competitive from day one, and GE's strong local presence gives us installation, maintenance, service and expansion advantages that will pay dividends for the life of the installation."

GE's series "P" hyper compressors are designed specifically for ethylene compression in LDPE plants. The long-life components are assembled to minimize piping pulsation and vibration, improving overall plant conditions.

Marco Caviola, sales leader, GE Petrochemicals, Latin America, said the GE compressors allow Braskem to expand its production capacity up to 15% without major modifications.

In addition to the Mexican announcement, GE said it has sold 51 hyper compressors to resin manufactures.

Polycarbonate spreads reach in mobility sector

Chinese consumption of polycarbonate (PC) accounted for around 30% of global demand, pegged at around 3.5 million tonnes, in 2011. This was a key reason for Bayer MaterialScience (Leverkusen, Germany) relocating its global business for the resin to Shanghai last year. Speaking at a press event at the recent Chinaplas show in Shanghai, business-unit head Michael Koenig detailed some of the initiatives the company is working on to expand the reach of PC, a resin for which demand is growing at 6-7% per annum globally.

Bayer
Bayer's Koenig (center) and Rainer (right) with Holly Lei, VP of Business Unit Polycarbonates at Bayer MaterialScience (China) Co.: Mobility and energy conservation key themes in future of PC.
rail

PC extends mobility-related scope to guard rails.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2011-2020 as the Decade Of Action For Road Safety, and one of Bayer's contributions is development of a PC-based guardrail that combines color with reflective properties to ensure high visibility, while also being friendly to cyclists and motorcyclists. They can also be shaped more easily than steel guardrails to accommodate a broad range of topographies and road conditions. In other mobility-related developments, Bayer has developed vandal-proof charging stations for electric cars, 200 of which are to be installed in Shanghai.

Bayer and machine builder Engel continue to work together on development of technology for automotive glazing and China is on the radar for this effort too. "PC is slowly moving into place [in automobiles], firstly in small windows that cannot be closed," notes Koenig.

Rainer Rettig, Head of Business Unit Polycarbonate in Asia at Bayer, adds that the next big development is PC sunroofs, particularly from the standpoint of design freedom and that the light weight of the plastic lowers the vehicle's center of gravity. A glass sunroof may weigh between 6 and 10 kg, and PC enables a 50% weight reduction.

The front window is the biggest challenge but Rainer notes that police cars already use PC and the technology, including scratch-resistant coating, is essentially in place. Rather than technology, regulations present the biggest hurdle and resin suppliers are working with regulatory authorities to overcome this.

Bayer is also actively developing supporting technologies for LED lighting applications: not only for lenses but also heat sinks. "Here we are leveraging our experience in automotive and optical discs," says Koenig. One promising area is LED-based billboards that offer significant energy reductions. —[email protected]

By Design: Reshoring

By Design: Reshoring

A frightening number of manufacturing jobs have been, and are being, sent offshore. The plastics industry has lost its share of those jobs. An increasing number of all kinds of these manufacturing projects is now being brought back to the U.S. Reshoring is the word coined to describe this practice and that is the topic of this article. Actually, this is more of a story about one man who is making a difference.

A number of factors are contributing to reshoring. One of the more important is the hidden costs of the offshore manufacturing of products that will be sold in this country.

Many industry observers have long suspected that buyers at original equipment manufacturers were being seduced by low part-cost quotations. In many cases, purchasing decisions were based on these incomplete part costs without giving consideration to the additional costs associated with offshore manufacturing.

This apparently simple method of reducing cost was widely touted in the trade press and at conferences. This created the impression that everybody was going offshore. This practice quickly became the management flavor of the month. The herd mentality took over, and the trend became unstoppable. Many OEM buyers even stopped requesting proposals from domestic suppliers. There is now some indications of a reversal or at least a slowing of the blind rush to produce everything in low-labor-rate countries. It is not likely that manufacturing in the U.S. will ever return to what it once was. However, any reversal in the offshoring trend is worth the support of everyone in the plastics industry.

With that thought in mind I recently attended a Chicago Section Society of Plastics Engineers meeting. The guest speaker was Harry Moser. I was interested in the reshoring topic, but I also wanted to reintroduce myself and catch up on what Harry had been doing. I first met Harry in 2000 while he was President of GF AgieCharmilles. The occasion was an American Mold Builders Association conference where we were both making presentations.

White House Insourcing Forum
Harry Moser (second from the left) participated in the White House Insourcing Forum this January, shaking hands with the president (below).
Moser shakes Obama's hand

Harry told me that he retired in 2007 after 40 years in the manufacturing industry. After chatting for a while I concluded that the word "retired" doesn't accurately describe his current status. Indications are that he is fully occupied in a one-man effort to bring lost manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.

The sight of shuttered factories and empty parking lots motivated Harry Moser to take action. Not wanting to see the loss of any more good-paying manufacturing jobs Harry founded the Reshoring Initiative in 2010. A thorough analysis of the situation revealed that the industry observers were right. The total cost of producing products offshore is frequently not being taken into account. These overlooked costs can be a deal breaking portion of a component or product's total cost. The many buyers, who were basing their sourcing decisions on only a piece part or mold quotation, were guilty of mismanaging their company's sources of supply.

Harry started collecting case histories from companies who had experiences with offshoring and reshoring. Armed with these case studies he set out to spread the word about the dangers of offshoring and the advantages of reshoring. The large number of published articles and Reshoring Initiative quotations has not been recorded. However, Reshoring Initiative's website has had 7930 visitors.

In the last 18 month he has presented his message more than 150 times to all kinds of organizations, including technical societies and trade associations, individual companies, and politicians. These presentations attracted the attention of important people and Harry was inducted into Industry Week Magazine's Manufacturing Hall of Fame in 2010. He was also invited to participate in a day-long insourcing forum hosted by President Obama at the White House on January 11, 2012. The forum featured a cross-section of American industry leaders, experts, and cabinet level officials, who participated in a roundtable discussion with President Obama, followed by two panel discussions on bringing jobs back to America. Vice President Biden and multiple cabinet members participated in the day's proceedings. Throughout the day it was established that many American companies make sourcing decisions based on a quoted price while ignoring the total cost of offshore manufacturing.

During the morning roundtable discussion, President Obama asked Mr. Moser to explain what costs American companies often overlook in their sourcing decisions. Harry cited the largest factors typically overlooked as: (1) emergency airfreight, (2) travel, and (3) the negative impact on innovation of separating manufacturing from engineering. These and other frequently overlooked costs usually account for as much as 20-30% of a company's total cost of offshoring. The presidential forum was a great acknowledgement of Harry's work. It also drew attention to his development of a free online "Total Cost of Ownership Estimator" (at www.reshorenow.com). The Estimator provides users with a list of less obvious, but important, cost factors while reminding the user to include all of these factors in determining their true total costs. Large companies can use the Estimator in determining their total costs and the risk factors in their sourcing decisions. Smaller companies can utilize the Estimator as a sales tool to accurately reflect their competitiveness with overseas manufacturers.

Harry Moser's one-man crusade to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. is ongoing. He is still eager to assist any company seeking help with offshoring or reshoring. The increase in the amount of manufacturing work coming back to America may be, at least in part, attributed to his ongoing efforts.

All thinking Americans want their country to have a strong manufacturing industry. Most bemoan offshoring, but think there is nothing one individual can do about it. Harry Moser is an example of how one person can make a difference. Most of us are not retired and we can't travel around the country lecturing on the advantage of onshore manufacturing. Every single one of us can, however, help Harry Moser carry on with his Reshoring Initiative program.

Harry needs more and more case histories of plastic parts or products, and especially molds that experienced trouble with offshore manufacturing and/or were brought back to the U.S. A lot of case histories will create the impression that everyone is reshoring. The herd mentality may then take over and the trend will become unstoppable. If your company has such a story to tell or if you know of someone who does, please share it with Harry at harry.mos[email protected], or by phone at 847-726-2975. If you do, you will have done your part to help return America to being a major manufacturing country.

Reshoring Initiative is a not-for-profit organization. Harry's work is, however supported by 27 sponsoring companies and trade associations. Anyone who would like to encourage more reshoring but doesn't know how to, could become a sponsor and help finance Harry's ongoing work.

Thanks Harry. I admire you for what you are doing.

One family, many standards


The Flexible Noryl family employs non-halogenated flame retardance, meaning that in addition making the materials more sustainable, they support standardization of solutions across "major global markets," and meet the UL VW-1 vertical wire test without halogens or heavy metals. Flexible Noryl resins are said to offer easy processability, and can be used on standard PVC lines. They comply with Europe's HD 21.14 S1:2003 standard for AC cords, UL 758 for appliance wiring and UL 62 for flexible cords and cables in the U.S., and Industrial Standards (JIS) C8303 for AC cords in Japan.

Grade WCD883 has a Shore A hardness of 88, and is intended for flexible AC cord and cable jacketing. Grade WCD933 has a Shore A hardness of 93, and is intended for insulation applications. The Flexible Noryl family is available in a range of hardness levels to balance softness and durability in order to better resist scratching and pinching.

TPE resin prices, April 23-27: PE steady/lower; PP down $0.02/lb; spot deals abundant as April closes

Spot resin trading remained challenging last week, as the stream of offers continued to flow at a heavy rate and prices were steady to mostly lower. Spot-trading platform The Plastics Exchange (TPE) noted that despite price increase nominations, April resin contracts for both polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) rolled flat. Overall market sentiment has turned negative and buyers are limiting purchases, targeting deeply discounted offers as needed since they anticipate lower prices ahead, according to Michael Greenberg, TPE CEO. Resellers, especially those caught with relatively high levels of uncommitted inventory, are chasing the bids even as they fall. Resin offers from Asia and the Middle East are hurting export demand, which is currently insufficient to clear the growing overhang of North American supply.TPE resin pricing, April 27, 2012

Energy markets moved higher in the U.S. last week, with natural gas gains actually outpacing crude oil. This brought the crude oil : natural gas price ratio in from the record level of 54:1 back to 48:1. Even there, it is still eight times the ratio considered parity. June crude oil futures, which moved to the front month, added $1.05/bbl to end the week at $104.93/bbl. June natural gas jumped $0.171/mmBtu, over 8%, to settle at $2.186/mmBtu on Friday.

Ethylene's spot market fell in fairly active trading. The final round of seasonal cracker maintenance began, and about 15% of total capacity is currently offline. Despite this, Greenberg noted that "some light can be seen at the end of the tunnel." Ethylene for both April and May delivery transacted several times during the week at $0.685/lb, down a penny, and then May slipped further on Friday to $0.66/lb. The forward ethylene curve was also pressured and deals were done about $0.02/lb lower for both third quarter (high $0.50s/lb) and the fourth quarter (low-mid $0.50s/lb). Ethane prices were fractionally lower, closing the week at $0.5125/gal ($0.215/lb).

Polyethylene (PE) spot prices were mostly steady to a penny lower with some consolidation seen when market leading discounts were met by competitive offers from other suppliers. Abundant resin availability has pushed buyers away since they expect prices to slide further, according to Greenberg. For those that need to fill in supply gaps TPE has seen "relatively good deals" available for HDPE blowmold and injection, LDPE film and some LLDPE grades. The $0.07/lb price increase nominated for April will be re-attempted by some as a split effort, $0.03/lb for May and $0.04/lb for June - neither of which are likely to be implemented. Offers for material in Houston have fallen sharply as traders look to unwind positions; however, export orders are few and far in-between.

Propylene's spot market exhibited very little activity, and the market remained offered at prices nearly 10% below April contracts, which rolled steady at $0.775/lb. May polymer grade propylene (PGP) contracts have been initially nominated flat, but based on current spot conditions, a decrease is likely to occur. "A nickel or so is reasonable," stated Greenberg. Refinery grade propylene (RGP) changed hands several times, breaking down to $0.625/lb, about 10% below the previous trade, which was almost 2 weeks ago.

Polypropylene (PP) spot prices fell $0.02/lb for the second week in a row. Resellers with excess inventories have dropped prices as they seek orders, with prime PP homopolymer packaged in Houston and good offgrade railcars for domestic delivery available at what TPE calls a very modest premium to spot monomer. The PP market is challenged by inconsistent domestic demand as volatile PGP monomer costs have created wild swings in resin purchasing while processors build and draw down inventories based on expectations of future resin prices. "After enduring $0.215/lb of first quarter price increases, followed by a steady transitional month in April, wide expectations are that next a down-leg of the cycle will ensue," Greenberg said.

Final thought from Michael Greenberg

Spot commodity grade resin was available in abundance as April drew to a close, there were some super-sharp spot specials offered that were not necessarily indicative of general market pricing. Processors withstood price-increase nominations early in the month, breathed a sigh of relief as contracts rolled flat and have since gained confidence as the market appears poised for a fall. May might begin with a typical firm undertone as there is a price increase on the table and special end of the month prices disappear, but it will likely be short lived and at some point, producers might just try to maintain a steady market.

Wittmann founder honored in Austria on heels of successful Chinaplas

Werner Wittmann, founder of the global auxiliary and automation supplier of the same name, was honored by the government of Lower Austria for his company's contributions to the province. Wittmann was presented with the Silver Commander's Cross by the governor of the province of Lower Austria, Erwin Pröll, at an award ceremony held in the assembly hall of the Lower Austrian Parliament House in St. Pölten.

Werner Wittmann accepts award.
Werner Wittmann speech
Pröll honored Wittmann's achievements on behalf of Wittmann Battenfeld GmbH in Kottingbrunn, and simultaneously on behalf of the Province of Lower Austria. The Wittmann Group acquired its fellow Austrian firm, Battenfeld, in 2008. The governor noted that Wittmann's "courageous entrepreneurial move in taking over Battenfeld GmbH in 2008", resulted in more than 200 jobs being preserved in Kottingbrunn. Since that time, reinvestment in the machinery supplier has enabled it to increase its workforce to just under 400 employees today.

Due to continuing high demand for the newly developed large-machine model, MacroPower, Wittmann has decided to extend the production and warehouse facilities at the Kottingbrunn plant by an additional 3000 sq m.

Wittmann, who had just returned from the Chinaplas show in Shanghai, expressed optimism for the future of Europe as an industrial location in his thank you speech and pointed to the opportunities which the Asian market has in store for innovative companies such as the Wittmann Group.

At Chinaplas, The Wittmann Group displayed a vertical rotary table machine designed as a complete production cell, and a MicroPower machine from the company's PowerSeries presses specially laid out for high-precision injection molding of micro parts. The PowerSeries molded a medical clamp with a part weight of 0.003g from POM supplied by Ticona within a cycle time of 4 seconds. Screw drivers were produced in a 4-cavity mold on a VMR 110/350V vertical rotary table machine with a rotary table 1280 mm in diameter.

Wittmann has a local production facility in Kunshan, China, where various peripherals and robots are manufactured. In operation since 2005, the Kunshan plant

has been has developed into a competence center for automation and peripheral equipment for the Asian market. Production and storage space has been increased and totals 7000 sq m. In 2011, the number of robots produced could be doubled, and the company said its is expecting a further increase in production for 2012.

On the automation side, the company showed various versions of the W818 and W828 robots, including the new robot model W818 with a maximum handling load of 6 kg. In auxiliaries, the Drymax series dryers, Feedmax loaders, Tempro temperature controllers Minor and Junior MAS series of granulators.

Amcor and Sacmi commercialize new technology for production of rigid pharmaceutical containers

Amcor and Sacmi commercialize new technology for production of rigid pharmaceutical containers

Amcor Rigid Plastics and plastics machinery manufacturer Sacmi have teamed up for the commercialization of the industry's first compression blowforming (CBF) machine for the production of rigid HDPE pharmaceutical bottles.

Calling it a "highly viable alternative to traditional injection blowmolding" for rigid pharmaceutical bottles, Amcor and Sacmi made the announcement at a May 1 press conference during the Interphex 2012 Exhibition and Conference at the Javits Center in New York City.

The process, which combines compression molding and blowmolding, was originally developed by Sacmi Imola S.C. Amcor collaborated with Sacmi in a 14-month development project to adapt the unique technology for pharmaceutical packaging.

Laurel Spencer, VP of marketing for Amcor Rigid Plastics North America, told PlasticsToday this new technology delivers significant advantages over conventional processes.

"There are three main benefits: the first is enhanced quality, the second is the faster processing, and the third is the sustainability benefits," she said. "In addition, there is also the potential for lightweighting."

Amcor has an exclusive arrangement with Sacmi to utilize the technology in select market segments and global regions.

The company has already commissioned a 12-cavity platform (CBF-12), and is producing HDPE packer (over-the-counter and prescription) bottles at its Youngsville, NC facility. Three additional machines are on order and will be in production by the end of the year.

In addition to the 12-cavity unit already in production, Amcor has committed to additional CBF systems, including a 20-cavity unit, which will be in production by the end of 2012. New-generation equipment will have capability for production of HDPE, PP, and PET pharmaceutical containers.

Bob Israni, Amcor's technical manager for the pharmaceutical market, said that in the past, plastic bottle manufacturers have relied on injection blowmolding as the primary technology for pharmaceutical containers.

However, drawbacks in the areas of quality, process control, cycle time, and sustainability have limited the process and new alternative manufacturing technology has been slow to emerge over the years.

The compression blowforming process

In the compression blowforming process, material is extruded, cut, and transferred into the compression cavity. A preform is produced and a pre-blow and full-blow process is completed in the same mold station with no transfer of the preform.

Compression blowforming has no manifold for melt distribution to individual, separate cavities, which results in no temperature differences and less chance of resin burn and degradation.

The pre-blow process allows for effective separation of plastic from the compression core, which reduces the chance of plastic sticking to the metal core rod, resulting in more uniform wall thickness distribution.

The weight of the resin shot is controlled for all cavities with a servo-controlled melt pump, resulting in more accurate part weight distribution across all mold cavities.

The process also operates at lower temperatures (30ºF cooler), which results in lower residual stress in the end product and cycle times, which are reduced.

In the CBF continuous rotary process, the plastic preform undergoes compression forming through the use of a neck ring, core, and compression cavity. The neck ring carries the plastic preform through the continuous rotary motion with the entire mold assembly (compression and blow), moving in synchronization in a circular 360-degree process.

Compression blowforming's continuous rotary motion eliminates station-to-station indexing time, thus optimizing idle (non-process) time. Secondary cooling on the exit conveyors allows bottles to be removed hotter from the machine.

Sustainability  

Key sustainability advantages include a significant energy reduction through lower process temperatures and application of updated machine process improvements, the companies said. The process achieves thermodynamic stability quicker and makes production bottles within 10 minutes from machine start-up.

Inspection system

One unique aspect of the CBF process is an inline quality inspection system that is fully integrated into the machine control. An infrared vision system detects dimensional variations and contamination (including any embedded opaque or metal particles).

Additionally, a fully integrated plasma surface treatment system is available for full wrap label and finish induction seal application.

And with CBF, leak testing validated to 0.3-mm minimum hole diameter is performed before the bottle leaves the machine immediately after each bottle is blown.

Other market potential

Along with pharmaceutical packaging, Amcor and Sacmi see strong potential for CBF in other markets, including single-serve dairy packaging made of HDPE for applications such as liquid yogurt and probiotics.

The commercialization of the new technology gives Sacmi entry into a new market segment and increases brand awareness, according to Luca Nanetti, sales and marketing manager for closures and containers for Sacmi.

"Pharma is a good fit for us, and dairy is also something we are very interested in," he said.

Milacron deal final; ex-Berry boss Boots named chairman of board

set to join Milacron's board of directors as its chairman. CCMP, which describes itself as a private equity firm specializing in upper-middle-market buyouts and growth equity investments ranging from $100 to $500 million in the U.S. and Europe, was a one-time investor in Berry Plastics. CCMP declined to comment on its plans for Milacron, with a company spokesperson saying it was too early to discuss strategy.

CEO Dennis Smith and the management team will be retained as the leadership of Milacron. As part of the investment structure, the management team will continue to retain an ownership interest in the company going forward.

CCMP Capital Advisors LLC acquired Milacron from Avenue Capital Group, the private equity firm that bought the plastics machinery and industrial fluids supplier out of bankruptcy in June 2009.

As a corporation, Milacron's 2011 sales increased to $780 million, according to the company spokesperson, climbing more than 20% over 2010. The added revenue has allowed Milacron to reinvest in its businesses, injection $10 million of capital in 2010 and another $20 million in 2011. There has also been $10 million spent on research and development, primarily targeting new products. Global staffing as of February 2012 stood at 2848, up 233 from February 2011.

Founded in 1884, Milacron has 22 facilities and more than 2700 employees. The company supplies injection molding, structural foam molding, blowmolding, and extrusion equipment, as well as mold and machine components and industrial fluids, through its two key business areas. The company's integrated business units include Milacron Plastics Machinery, Ferromatik Milacron, DME, Uniloy, Milacron Americas Aftermarket, and CIMCOOL Fluid Technology.

Specialty labels developed for medical applications

A German label specialist is switching to high-performance film to improve durability of labels in healthcare applications.

Hospitals and medical facilities have been seeking a solution to the issue of peeling, cracked and missing

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Durable labels allow scannable code.
labeling of critical instruments, according to S+P Samson GmbH (Kissing, Germany).  Permanent identification of medical instruments such as endoscopes and forceps, can be difficult due to sterilization and upstream washing processes. Conventional labels produced by laser engraving may degrade over time, resulting in misidentification and the inability to track and monitor equipment.

Samson says it is now using labels made from APTIV polyetheretherketone (PEEK) films from Victrex Polymer Solutions (Lancashire, England). Victrex says that labels made from PEEK resin are able to better handle aggressive cleaning and sterilization processes used in hospitals today.

The labels provide options such as a matrix barcode that allows a scanned code to be applied on a piece of equipment that links to Web pages or computer programs leading to traceable information of the instruments. Another benefit is the ability to retroactively label older equipment.

APTIV films are available in thicknesses of 6 microns to 750 microns. Victrex says they possess excellent resistance to wear and abrasion; have minimal moisture absorption; are electrically non-conductive and are resistant to aggressive chemicals such as those used in ethylene oxide (ETO) sterilization.

Several other companies also are promoting durable label stock for medical applications. 3M, for example, teams a variety of materials with special adhesives. Polyonics (Westmoreland, NH) offers a specialty label for cryogenics applications made of woven nylon material with a permanent pressure-sensitive acrylic adhesive and high opacity matte white color topcoat.