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Articles from 2012 In June

The week that was, highlights and the top 10 articles, June 25-29

The United States Supreme Court's decision to largely uphold the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare to the law's critics and, in some cases, supporters) has the potential to broadly impact a major plastics market: healthcare. In particular, the use of a tax on devices to fund portions of the measure is pointed to by many as calamitous for the medical device industry. Our medical channel editor, Doug Smock, offered his opinion of the outcome in his Medical Musings blog. Whether you agree or disagree with Doug's take, PlasticsToday would welcome your thoughts on how the law could (or perhaps already has) affect(ed) your business. The end of the republic, legislative perfection, something in between...what do you think?

The list of materials capable of withstanding a journey to the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench is understandably short. Composites managed to make the cut for the vehicle used to take famed director James Cameron nearly seven miles below the ocean's surface. Auto/mobility Editor Stephen Moore reported on the collaboration between Australian composite parts manufacturer LSM Advanced Composites and the vessel's manufacturer, Aceron Project Pty. Ltd. Not 20,000 leagues under the sea, but pretty respectable nonetheless, with the composites forming a quite snug cockpit for Titanic director.

Automotive OEMs have earned a reputation among suppliers for business practices that at times seem to borrow more from the mob than an MBA program. But some car makers do seem to understand the potential benefits of building up rather than beating down their supplier partners. Case in point, according to Clare Goldsberry, BMW.

Is sustainable packaging, as a marketing meme, unsustainable? That question was probed by our Packaging Channel editor, Heather Caliendo, who reported on a Pricewaterhouse Coopers report, entitle "Sustainable Packaging: Myth or Reality." The packaging industry in the U.K. would like to see the term head straight to the landfill. Not long after it was posted, a long-time marketing professional in the plastics industry gave me a ring, backing the basic concept. For companies that strive to offer truly sustainable packaging, the shameless greenwashing of eco-charlatans makes the case for scrapping "sustainability" a strong one. Elsewhere, Heather spoke with the president of Geo-Tech a recycling firm acquired by Wastren Advantage that claims to have a proprietary recycling process initially developed in cooperation with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy. The upshot, "clients get prime resin quality at a fraction of the cost."

Top 10 articles for June 25-29

  1. Medical Musings: Supreme Court ruling on mandate is good for plastics and good for America
  2. Reshoring a keynote theme at Amerimold
  3. Carbon fiber composites reach rock bottom
  4. Plastics pollution study will be conducted on Great Lakes
  5. Cavity pressure transducers: how many and where should they go?
  6. Industrial Molds Group keeps on winning
  7. Should sustainable packaging be "scrapped"?
  8. TPE resin prices, June 18-22: PE flat/down $0.01/lb; PP up for first time in 10 weeks
  9. ISO Poly Films adds new West Coast plant and additional capacity to its East Coast plant
  10. Names in the news: Wittmann Battenfeld, Teknor Apex, Clariant, Songwon, Tech Mold and more


TCI rebuilds after Katrina, finds success in plastic packaging

When Hurricane Katrina swept over New Orleans, it destroyed two warehouses owned by Transportation Consultants, Inc. (TCI).

TCI was founded in 1983 by Jack Jensen Jr. when he recognized the need for trucking and warehousing in New Orleans. What began as a one-truck shop has evolved into a company with several U.S. locations.

Instead of wiping their hands of New Orleans after Katrina, the family-run company decided to stick it out in the city it calls home.

"We started to look to bring a new market to New Orleans," Christian Jensen, president of TCI, told PlasticsToday. "After a good review, we found there wasn't a packaging facility in the New Orleans market after Hurricane Katrina."

Part of TCI's intention was to recapture some of the cargo that has gone to Houston, TX and Mobile, AL. The company formed a new subsidiary, TCI Packaging, to package and export polyvinylchloride (PVC) resin powders to overseas markets.

The company embarked on a three-phase project, which started with TCI's procurement of 27 acres of undeveloped, unimproved property from the Port of New Orleans in 2008. During that transaction, TCI invested $10 million to secure the acreage, a container cargo handling facility and a 150,000-ft2 facility for warehousing and TCI's national headquarters.

According to the company, by the end of 2011, the initial investment will have resulted in approximately 60 direct jobs in addition to increased port activity and revenue, which is the result of more than 10,000 20-ft equivalent units (TEU) transitioning from outside ports to the Port of New Orleans annually.

Likewise, the expansions will provide an additional 20 direct jobs and are projected to produce more than 300 indirect industry related jobs.

This expansion became the perfect platform for the company to enter the form-fill-seal packaging market, a natural extension of their warehouse and shipping services. TCI became the first company in North America to bag PVC powderwith fully automated FFS equipment when it installed a TOPAS FFS line from Windmöller & Hölscher (W&H). The company runs its PVC operations in a 400,000-ft2 building.

While bagging powdered PVC with FFS technology has long been popular in Europe, U.S. companies have employed this technology primarily for the bagging of free-flowing bulk goods, such as sugar, fertilizer, plastic pellets and salt. Recently, W&H has seen a change, with an increase in orders from U.S. companies specifically for this application, according to W&H.

While the FFS process is tried and true for the packaging of pellets, it has proven tricky for some powdery chemicals with dust particles that prevent reliable sealing. W&H designed the TOPAS at TCI to bypass this problem by deterring dust from entering the seal area. This is done by mechanically obstructing dust during filling and afterward blowing ionized air to eliminate any particles that might have collected.

Jensen said the benefit of packaging PVC powder with FFS machines is that it's faster and cheaper than alternative packaging styles, and the package itself is recyclable.

The packaging process at TCI is well-located as rail cars can park on two spurs located alongside TCI's facility. A pneumatic conveyer pulls resins or PVC powder into a silo over the net weighing system just above the TOPAS. After packaging, the goods are palletized and ready for transport by truck or ship.

The company has seen such success with its first TOPAS line that it installed a second line.

"We have the confidence in this particular unit and it produces a nice, cleaner package," he said. "I suspect over the next five years as machines deteriorate and wear out, my competition will most likely install these lines."

In 2013, the company will expand into polyethylene (PE) in a 350,000-ft2 building.

"It's under the same premise of PVC (to put in a polyethylene packaging line) as there currently isn't much polyethylene packaging capacity in New Orleans," he said. "The economics and service justify the investment. We're excited about the market opportunity and to offer more services to our existing customer base."

Why reshoring?

Yup, Mexican labor, like most low-wage countries', gives significant savings over U.S. labor. This wasn't a problem if you could accept the high turnover rates (20%+), the hand-generated scrap, and the disappointing yield rates at the final test station. However, for a medical IV product, it somehow was profitable.  

I'd finished my assignment and came back to the U.S. With my follow-up report and the subsequent phone calls I asked the "King-has-no-clothes" question: "Why are you in Mexico? Assuming the personnel problems and yield aren't part of the equation?" I then got the speech on using low-wage countries and would I be interested in helping relocate this operation to China? I answered his question with another one:

"Why not automate the whole thing and it can be located anywhere there's electricity?"

My rough calculations showed less than a year's payback at the same yield rates and probably a six-month ROI because with automation the yields would be 99.9%+. What was interesting was the answer (for the moment we'll ignore the possibility of politics, international trade negotiations, and other silliness): "Yes, but...Third World wages are much lower than the U.S."

In any context anyone who says "Yes, but..."  is really saying they've only acknowledged you opening your mouth. Whatever came out of it might has well been said to an empty room. They don't want to hear it. "Yes, but... " stems from the first two generic excuses: 1) "We always did it that way," and 2) "It's convenient". Both of these excuses come from a mentality that relies on tradition and is afraid of innovation. History tells us those who insist on doing things "The Olde Way" are eventually put out of business by those who innovate using newer proven techniques to improve profits. Enough said.

Let's look at the facts of the Off Shore Decision. You've developed a product and its associated process. Since prototyping is usually a hand-made philosophy, very few people think in the initial stages of the product development that they'll automate the process in production. What starts out being labor intensive—The Olde Way—stays that way. Since labor is the primary component of the product cost (never looking at the final landed costs into your distribution network) you expand your supply chain and look for a way to lower the labor costs. The most immediate answer is to go to a low-wage environment, read: off shore.

This then creates another layer of infrastructure hilariously known as Supply Chain Management. Supply chain Management, on a day-to-day basis, is an ongoing exercise in herding cats: Paying for expedited freight (someone else's budget); jerking schedules around usually knowing promises won't be honored; locating lost shipments; paying for maintenance on poorly built tooling (just because you specified an SPI Super Spiffy mold doesn't mean you'll (1) get it or (2) someone can't damage it or wear it out in 25,000 cycles); language barriers; and the ultimate "lost in translation" problems of cultures, local politics, religion, etc.

"But it's too late to automate" they whine.

If it's a custom product at the end of its life cycle, maybe that's the correct answer. But look at what's off shore: Wiring cables, Medical IV sets, and many assembly operations. These (generically) have an infinite life span. Now you get the argument of custom-built automation, and its associated expense (the "Yes, but..." excuse). But again they missed what you've said. Solvent welding a tube into a connector, or insert molding a plug onto a set of wires, fastening part A into part B are generic processes. So why not tool up a generic machine using as many standard components as possible whose only changeover would be the end-of-arm-tooling that is product specific? This machine could be used for many products or product lifetimes.

To do this you must have a vision and the initial determination to design your product and its components for automation. You must also have the commitment that once you've built this equipment it must produce the same-quality parts in the same volumes anywhere in the world. If your market is in Europe, South America, or anywhere else, your biggest decision is where you can locate your machine or; do you build multiple machines and have multiple manufacturing sites? Now, if your want to produce in Boston or Beijing, your only problem is finding people to feed it components and maintain the equipment.

Is this novel or new thinking? Nope. Look at Husky. They've built turnkey plants all over the world. There are several excellent automation shops all over the U.S. and Europe that will interface with your molding equipment and assembly lines. 

Instead of a room full of hexane fumes and a hundred-plus people busily putting things together, you have one multi-station unit where you feed components into shaker bowls and tubing from a coiler and out the other end come your finished products, coiled in a bag, and ready for gamma sterilization.

Is this good (profitable) thinking? Take a tour of your plant or look at your off shore facilities. Think about how much you could lower your product costs and improve your profits: and stop saying "Yes, but..."

It's your choice. 

Portola Packaging shuts down cosmetics closure and container manufacturing unit

Portola Packaging will shut down its Portola Tech International cosmetics closure and container manufacturing unit to focus on its beverage closure and bottle business.

Portola Packaging Chief Financial Officer Glenn Fish told PlasticsToday the cosmetics closure and container unit represented less than 10% of sales for the company.

"When we looked at our cosmetics packaging unit it hasn't provided sufficient return on capital," he said. "We don't have a competitive advantage with cosmetics like we do with the main portion of our business."

Production at Portola Tech's Cumberland, RI and Nanhai, China manufacturing locations is expected to cease by the end of August. The business assets, manufacturing equipment, molds, etc., are expected to be liquidated by the end of the year.

Fish said the company believes that more opportunities lie ahead for the non-carbonated beverage sector.

"We are clearly focused on areas where we have competitive advantage and strength," he said. "We have a proprietary manufacturing process and methods that really provide us with a competitive advantage in producing closures and bottles for non-carbonated beverage applications."

Over the past three years, Portola has grown its beverage closure volume by double-digit percentages annually.  Manufacturing and quality initiatives, coupled with new stock and custom closures for tamper evident, aseptic and extended shelf-life applications are responsible for part of the growth-particularly in the juice, dairy and specialty beverage market segments.

Going forward, Portola Packaging will operate 10 manufacturing facilities around the world: three in the U.S., three in Canada and one each in Mexico, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the Czech Republic.

Portola acquired the former Tech Industries (Woonsocket, RI) in September 2003, as part of its broader effort to target growth segments, which it identified at the time in food, personal care, and cosmetics. In January 2004, when Tech Industries changed its name to Portola Tech International, its parent, Portola Packaging, said some of its manufacturing sites would add capacity to fabricate closures and containers for PTI.

In 2008, Portola Packaging announced that it had reached an agreement with creditors to enter a "pre-packaged" Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

Small Erie molder makes big impact on healthcare recycling

Small Erie molder makes big impact on healthcare recycling

American hospitals generate more than 400,000 tons of plastic and other packaging waste every year, and the percentage recycled is close to zero.

Kurt Duska is leading technical efforts in a powerhouse recycling coalition.
That's about to change, in part because of a chance conversation an Erie, PA injection molder had on an airplane with a medical manufacturer. "She told me she wished more of the products they made could be recycled," Kurt Duska, president of Engineered Plastics Inc. and EPI Recycling Solutions said in an interview with PlasticsToday.

Two years ago Duska joined with officials from Beckton, Dickinson and Co.; Cardinal Health; DuPont; Hospira, Johnson & Johnson; Kimberley Clark; and Waste Management to form the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council. Since the formal launch of HPRC in 2010, six other companies have joined the effort: Eastman Chemical, Covidien, SABIC, Phillips Healthcare, Kimberly-Clark, and Baxter International.

Cleveland Clinic pilot study
The group's goal is to promote recycling of plastics and other materials used in the healthcare field. Duska was the pilot study lead for one of the group's first big accomplishments: an evaluation of recyclability and best practices of pre-patient operating room waste.

The pilot study, conducted with the Cleveland Clinic and Waste Management, indicated that operating room plastics can be economically recycled with less environmental impact than an equivalent amount of virgin plastics. Design guidelines were developed from the study listing suggested do's and don'ts.

Practices to be avoided include:

  • Use of rubber seals on polypropylene saline bottles;
  • Combination of incompatible bioplastics and oil-based plastics in one product;
  • Welding, gluing, or insert molding of two components of unlike plastics in the same part. One example is a polycarbonate handle with an overmolded silicone grip;
  • Paper indicator tape on sterilization wrap; and
  • Paper and film combinations used in packaging.

The design guidelines promote use of  monomaterial structures, chemically compatible materials (e.g., polyolefins) in single devices, and use of breathable plastics as alternatives to paper, such as spunbound polypropylene and nonwoven high density polyethylene (HDPE). The guidelines also suggest minimal use of pigments in healthcare products. Pigments, particularly dark colors, limit re-use options of recycled plastics.

Tyvek may have big role
In one example of a potential change, labels made from a polyolefin fiber called Tyvek made by DuPont would replace paper labels on polyolefin bags, making them easier to recycle. The Tyvek label could be

One of the project's goals is to eliminate packages that use paper and plastics.
recycled with the bag. Tyvek is already used extensively in healthcare applications, and DuPont is studying possible use of Tyvek regrind in other medical applications.

"A lot of the changes that can be made are simple things," says Duska. "For example, a one-liter polypropylene irrigation bottle has a paper label. If we can switch that to a PP label, it dramatically improves the potential to recycle that product." Soda bottles have already gone through a similar design transformation to materials that can be recycled together.

EPI Recycling has worked with faculty and students at the Penn State Behrend campus in Erie to study specific hospital waste such as blue sterilization wrap with and without paper tape to see what the specific value of the waste stream is each way. The work is supported by a $500,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.   

Partners in that project are Waste Management and the UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center). EPI Recycling does not collect waste from hospitals. Its function is to process and prepare the material for re-use.

Land of the giants
It's interesting that such a small operation like Duska's could fit in well with the giants on the HPRC.

"We work on niche, specific recycling programs for hospitals that a lot of big companies wouldn't bother with," says Duska. "There's a need for involvement of some smaller companies that don't mind getting their hands dirty. We climb right into the garbage."

The goal of the HPRC program is to develop designs that have little if any cost impact while increasing the potential for recycling. Many major healthcare groups and their suppliers already have sustainability programs that have to date stressed energy and water savings. Recycling is the next frontier. The focus of the HPRC is on materials that do not come into contact with the patient.

Duska's enthusiasm and leadership in the technical aspects of the HPRC are interesting since his companies seem to have less skin in the game that the resin and medical device powerhouses involved.

"What we're doing now will increase the opportunity for profitable recycling from hospitals in two to three years

Duska's companies are developing expertise in converting trash into pellets that can be used in high-tech molding processes.
when these design changes start to take effect," says Duska. "We can make changes today that will help the environment and give us a profitable stream. I'm doing this to make my life easier."

The long-term goal of the project is to re-use medical waste in medical packaging, but the immediate goal is to find a profitable re-use for the material. One example could be use in recycling containers located in hospitals. 

"We're not going after every material," says Duska. "We're targeted on products and processes that are clean, safe and have the best opportunity for producing at least a cost-neutral situation for hospitals." The focus is on polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate glycol, and polystyrene.

Important leverage
Another important point is that involvement with the HPRC gives EPI Recycling some leverage.

"If I went to a label company and said it would be a good idea to change materials, they wouldn't take me seriously," says Duska. "But when I walk in with Johnson & Johnson and Baxter, I get a lot of attention. In our group, we have close to $500 billion in sales. A lot of these companies are competitors, but they are working together to make changes that will improve cost structures for hospitals and dramatically decrease the amount of good plastic into the landfill."

There is a fit between Duska's recycling business and his injection molding company, which he and two partners founded in 1986.

"We got into recycling because our customers were looking for low-cost feedstocks. Now we're processing a million pounds a month of recycled plastic at our Erie facility, focusing on polyolefins and polystyrene and doing a lot of work with the food industry."  EPI recently opened a second recycling facility in Sanford, NC. The $1 million investment includes an NGR Recycling System which will be delivered in October.

There are 31 injection molding machines up to 850 tons in clamping force in the processing side of the business called Engineered Plastics, and one of the specialties, not surprisingly, is working with recycled compounds. "We've been molding these materials for 30 years now. If a company wants to use recycled material, I will run the trials for their specific requirements."

The molding angle
Duska has run recycled pellets on a sophisticated Husky machine molding thin-wall containers on very tight cycles. That's a different game than shoveling recycled pellets into a 25-year-old machine with poor tolerance control to make patio chairs. Engineered Plastics added a 210-ton Nissei two-shot machine to its lineup last year.

Investment this year is focused on the recycling side of the business, which is mostly post-industrial.  

Duska's story is an interesting illustration of how even small players can have very big impacts. And big things can happen for very small reasons. "That chance conversation on an airplane changed my career," says Duska.

Cavity pressure transducers: how many and where should they go?

Optimal instrumentation could be defined as two transducers in each cavity, one post-gate and one near the end of the fill. This allows for V-P transfer and quality monitoring. The reality is that this configuration can greatly increase the cost of of a mold, and one transducer per cavity properly placed can monitor the part quality and sometimes control V-P transfer. Using a standard decoupled two process, one transducer near the end of fill should be enough to monitor the part quality effectively as long as the process is robust. In most cases, one transducer per cavity is really all you need. Whenever a molder is forced to use less than one transducer per cavity it can get tricky and, in some cases, completely ineffective.

I will start off stating that if you have a full hot runner mold directly gated into the cavity you must have at least one transducer per cavity to ensure part quality. Anything less than this is very risky, even if you control the drop temperatures. A hot runner going through a normal heat cycle is more than enough to cause process conditions to change, and with less than one transducer per cavity, these condition changes can go undetected. This is definitely something to avoid.

A mold with a full cold runner or a hot-to-cold runner can be monitored with strategically placed cavity pressure transducers, but I would not consider this to be fail-safe. The key to transducer placement in the cavity is to ensure they are in the last cavity to fill in each runner group. If this rule is not followed, the parts that fill after the cavity with the transducer are at risk and are not quality monitored. It is actually very difficult to get optimal balance on a multi-cavity mold and greater imbalance reduces the ability to effectively monitor. Optimal balance, in my opinion, is 97% or above but often times 95% is about as good you can get. To get these types of fill balances you must seek out technologies such as Beaumont's melt flippers.

Also note: Never try to balance the fill on an injection mold using differences in runner and/or gate diameters!

The reason you can't effectively monitor with a single transducer placed in a cavity filling first is due to the viscosity of the material in each cavity. Cavities that fill ahead of the others will actually see less pressure than the cavities to fill last. A full cavity has a tremendously high viscosity rate, because the cavity is full and plastic cannot flow. Considering one of the basic rules of processing—plastic flows in the direction of least resistance—you can understand the physics behind this. That is, plastic has stopped flowing in those cavities that were first to fill and now all the pressure is transferred to the cavities that have yet to fill.

This can cause nightmares when developing a robust process let alone trying to monitor it from another cavity. You can't guarantee the quality level of cavities that fill after the cavity that has been instrumented with a transducer. This is also why this method can't be considered fail-safe. Even if a mold is instrumented with a transducer in the cavity that is last to fill, process conditions can change that could cause the balance to shift.

So the question is:

  • Will the transducer detect these condition changes when not placed directly into the effected cavity?

The answer:

  • Possibly.

It is extremely difficult to guarantee the quality level of the parts because of the thousands of different scenarios that could potentially take place. "Possibly" is sometimes not good enough depending on the product's tolerances or intended use. You must decide whether the risk is worth the reward of a lower-cost mold.

When no other options are available and you are forced to use this method of instrumentation, there is one critical rule that must be followed when building the mold:

Each cavity must be built with provisions to install a cavity-pressure transducer.

Basically, the mold must be designed so that transducers will fit into each and every cavity, even if you intend to only use only a single transducer. Why? Well, how do you know which cavity is going to fill last? Put simply, you don't! After your initial process development you must complete a fill-balance study to determine where to place the transducer.

Remember, fill balance will change depending on fill speed so you also must wait until you have chosen the optimal fill time before you can determine transducer location. Cavity pressure transducers can be the ultimate means of monitoring part quality but understanding how to effectively utilize them is key to a robust, repeatable injection molding process.

About the Author: The Tech Group's Robert P. Gattshall has worked 17 years in the automotive and medical injection molding industries, including 12 years in process engineering and process development. Certified in John Bozzelli's Scientific Injection Molding for more than 10 years, Gattshall has developed more than 600 processes using scientific injection molding principles. Certified in Lean 5S and SMED, Gattshall has also trained more than 50 process technicians and engineers on the principles of decoupled molding.

Names in the news: Wittmann Battenfeld, Teknor Apex, Clariant, Songwon, Tech Mold and more

Wittmann Battenfeld Inc. has established a new scholarship in the name of its founder,  Werner Wittmann. The Werner Wittmann Scholarship Program will provide a graduating senior from the Kennedy High School in Waterbury, CT with $1000 a year for four years of the student's college career. The scholarship will go to a a graduating senior who is active in Kennedy's First Robotics Team and has been accepted into a college where he or she will pursue a technical degree. The first winner of the scholarship is Anthony Hernandez of Waterbury, CT, who will be attending Boston College, where he will major in Physics.

Teknor Apex Company (Pawtucket, RI) has hired Jeffrey E. Dickerhoof as a senior market manager in its Thermoplastic Elastomer Division. Dickerhoof will be responsible for TPE sales and business development in the North American transportation market. Dickerhoof began in the plastics and elastomers industry in 1998 when he joined Advanced Elastomer Systems, now part of ExxonMobil Chemical. He subsequently spent 10 years with Zeon Chemicals in marketing positions chiefly involving elastomers for automotive applications. His last position with Zeon was that of business manager for polyacrylate, styrenic, and TPV elastomers.

Songwon Industrial Co. Ltd. (Ulsan, Korea) has appointed Anas Nowarah to be its Sales, Technical Service & Marketing Manager for the Middle East & Africa region, effective July 1. In December 2011, Songwon acquired Additives Technology Greiz (ATG) in Germany, one of Europe's largest manufacturers of one-pack systems (OPS) for the polymer industry. The company also announced a series of OPS manufacturing and commercial JV's to be located in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, with the first manufacturing facility to come online in 2013. The company said the creation of this position is partially in response to those business moves.

Hans-Joachim Müller, a member of Clariant's executive committee, will leave the company effective June 30, for personal reasons. Clariant said his current responsibilities will be transferred to the other members of the executive committee.
Müller was appointed as a member of the executive committee in July 2011.

Pacific Rim Traders (PRT), an importer and supplier of PET resin to customers throughout North America, appointed Dale Behm as its business general manager effective June 24. Behm is a long-time plastics industry executive, having worked for the past four years as the COO for Mastercraft Companies (Phoenix, AZ), until that company's sale to Flambeau. He is taking over the position recently vacated by Vincent Di Mizio who left PRT to pursue other interests and return to his family home in Ohio, said PRT. Behm's experience in PET includes being a member of the original development team that commercialized the very first one-piece PET beverage container that has become the industry standard, according to information from PRT. PRT (San Francisco) distributes PET throughout North America and will be expanding into South America. It was founded in 2006 as the importer for Dragon Special Resin of Xiamen, China, and its partnership with Dragon Special Resin allows PRT to import resin from Asia at a competitive price.

Tech Mold Inc., a Tempe, AZ-based designer and manufacturer of high-cavitation production molds, LSR molds and manufacturing cells, announced the appointment of Paul Saltrick as a technical sales person. In addition to a career that includes manufacturing management with other companies, Saltrick has more than 12 years with Tech Mold in various capacities. Tech Mold, which is celebrating 40 years in business this year, serves Fortune 100 OEMs in the medical disposable, pharmaceutical, packaging (caps and closures), and high-production consumer products markets. The company employs 85, and continues to be headed by founder and CEO Bill Kushmaul.

American Tool & Mold Inc. (Clearwater, FL), a manufacturer of complex, precision multi-cavity molds for a variety of industries, has hired Mark DeHaven as its new business development manager. DeHaven has more than 30 years of experience in injection molding and tooling. , and "is a welcome addition to the company," according to a release.  American Tool & Mold is a woman owned business, headed by CEO Emlia Loulourgas-Giannakopoulos.

Specialist plastics packaging technology business Petainer has appointed Jörg Lauer as global sales and business development manager for large container products. Lauer has spent more than six years with beverage plant and machine-line manufacturing firm, KHS.

Arlington Plastics Machinery Inc. (Elk Grove Village, IL) has hired Garrett Benson to its sales team as a sales associate. Benson comes to the company from Aerotek. Garrett earned his Bachelor's degree in Communications from Northern Illinois University in 2010.  Originally, from Schaumburg, Garrett now resides in Chicago. Arlington Plastics buys and sells all types of plastic processing equipment.

Medical Musings: Supreme Court ruling on mandate is good for plastics and good for America

Please read this decision before you have any instant reactions. It's readable, very well written, and extremely interesting. It's really at the heart of what a democracy is all about. The Executive Branch proposed a law; Congress considered the legislation and modified it; and the Supreme Court made sure the law complied with the U.S. Constitution. If you condemn this process, you don't believe in a constitutional democracy.

The decision states: "We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation's elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions."

To review quickly, the most important (and controversial) provision of the law is an individual mandate requiring most Americans to maintain "minimum essential" health insurance coverage. That is the lynchpin that provides income for insurance companies to enact very beneficial changes, such as removal of bans on pre-existing conditions.

In what seemed to me to be the key finding, Chief Justice Roberts "concluded that the individual mandate must be construed as imposing a tax on those who do not have health insurance, if such a construction is reasonable." In other words, Congress has the right to impose a tax through creation of the individual mandate, but it did not have the power to order an individual mandate under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The majority opinion stated: "Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority."

Well put. And in other words, if the law had been written more carefully, it may have never reached the Supreme Court in the first place.

What does all of this mean to the plastics industry?

Well I've been reading annual 10-K reports filed by medical device manufacturers with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This is an important window into what companies really think because they are required to honestly report genuine risks to individuals who may be interested in buying stock. This information is much more powerful than what medical device manufacturers say in speeches or on panel discussions.

My take is this: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will dramatically expand the market for medical devices and other products made from plastics in the United States. And the public companies make this clear. Some even say they are planning expansions in the U.S. because of the new law. Many more people will be receiving health care. Period. The tax on medical devices? It helps fund this greater good.

Large vertical and electric dual-shot machines debut in Austria

Engel expanded its range of large, dual-platen duo two-shot machines in time for its recent Symposium 2012 with vertical and all-electric machine versions: the v-duo and the e-duo, respectively.

Engel (Schwertberg, Austria) has introduced an innovative lightweight composite process into its vertical Engel v-duo two-shot machine. When inserting reinforcing elements such as organic sheets and tapes—and in the case of in-situ polymerization and the high-pressure RTM (resin transfer molding) process—it often makes sense to work with gravity. A vertical clamping unit offers benefits in these instances, and increases efficiency.


Vertical two-shot press available in clamping forces up to 2300 tons.

The vertical version of the large-scale duo machine also features a compact design with low height and weight. Low machine height ensures easy access to the handling and maintenance area while the relatively low weight of the machine cuts investment costs as existing halls can be used (and the cost of foundations is reduced where a new structure is built).

Sidestepping the conventional hydraulic accumulator and opting for an energy-saving ecodrive as standard reportedly makes the machine even more cost effective. The Engel v-duo is initially available for sale in five clamping-force ranges (400, 700, 1100, 1700, and 2300 tons).

The e-duo, meanwhile, brings the advantages of electric drive technology to the large-scale machine class; it stands for the ultimate in precision and repeatability, high injection performance, and maximum energy efficiency according to Engel. Drawing on 12 years of experience in constructing all-electric injection molding machines, Engel Austria can now apply synergy from its established Engel e-motion series to large-scale machines.

Engel also unveiled an e-duo 500 pico from the new series at the Engel Symposium 2012. With five clamping-force ranges between 500 and 700 tons available, Engel will be the only producer of injection molding machines in Europe to offer all-electric dual-platen machines in this class. —[email protected]

Heavy-duty underhood applications get silicone treatment

Bluestar Silicones (Lyon, France) will present its new range of silicones at DKT 2012, taking place from July 2nd to July 5th, 2012 in Nuremberg, Germany. One of the latest developments from the company is the HD Series especially designed for heavy-duty automotive underhood applications.

Such applications include turbocharger hoses, exhaust gas recycling systems, coolant hoses, intercoolers seals, and gaskets. This series brings high mechanical performance (tensile, elongation, tear), as well as low compression set for extended periods at extreme temperatures, thermal stability up to 250°C, good fluid resistance (oil and cooling), and adhesion to FKM (fluoro) elastomers.

This product range has a low density (compared to the most common oil-resistant HCR silicones) and can be processed by all the standard technologies: extrusion, calendaring, injection and compression molding.

In order to better serve its customers, Bluestar Silicones has developed the Mix & Fix Centers, specialized formulation and packaging units, located at the center of major elastomer converter regions. Besides selling masterbatches and other products, these centers develop products, within short lead times, according to the specifications and the equipment of individual Bluestar Silicones customers. —[email protected]