According to the 2015 plastics manufacturing industry survey results released by Ray Products (Ontario, CA), pressure forming saw a significant increase in popularity from last year, while other processes saw a dip. The survey, conducted annually over the past three years, asks professionals who use plastics manufacturing about their activities over the past 12 months and about their plans for the next 12 months. This year's survey was distributed to thousands of engineers, administrators and manufacturing professionals, according to Ray Products.
The respondents represented automotive (31%), medical (24%) and high-tech manufacturing (7%), as well as industrial designers (12%) and a range of other fields. As a heavy gauge former, Ray Products has what it claims is the largest pressure former on the West Coast, with the capability of forming parts 10 x 18 x 40 inches deep.
Comparing year-on-year data from the annual survey reveals trends in manufacturing. In both 2014 and 2015, respondents were asked to list the manufacturing processes they used in the past year. This year, pressure forming experienced the most growth in popularity, with respondents saying that 28% of plastics manufacturing projects will use the thermoforming process over the next 12 months. That is compared to 24% who said they would use the thermoforming process in the 2014 survey. Sheet metal and injection molding experienced the largest declines in popularity, down 17% and 12% respectively.
"We're seeing a big volume of new work coming from other processes," said Jason Middleton, Vice President, Sales and Business Development, for Ray Products. "Once people learn about the quality of pressure forming, the option to mold in color, the ability to create multi-part assemblies and the cost advantages at low- to mid-volumes, it becomes a very appealing process."
The survey also revealed a 10% decline in domestic plastics manufacturing. In 2014, survey takers indicated that, on average, 64% of their plastics manufacturing happened domestically, while this year the average was just 54%, said Ray Products. Not surprisingly, the survey also showed a 4% year-over-year dip in respondents who said they were happy with their offshore plastics manufacturing and had no plans to reshore. In 2014, 13% said they were happy with offshore sources; that dropped to 9% in 2015. That would indicate that most survey respondents are not happy with their offshore sources. As the rate of offshoring goes up, the number of respondents who are happy with their offshore sources drops.
"The idea of offshoring can be appealing," said Middleton. "But when you look at the whole picture, including cost, shipping, quality and capability, domestic plastic manufacturing tends to make more sense."