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Plastics Business Spring 2017

Strategies for Today’s Plastics Processors

Building an Efficient Material Handling System Welding 3D-Printed Parts PRD Implements Optics Testing MAPP’s 20th Anniversary

Official Publication of Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors

Achieving Processor of the Year Starts with an Award Winning System When Dymotek, a custom injection molder, purchased their IQMS manufacturing ERP system 13 years ago, they had their future in mind. With IQMS, Dymotek doubled its sales while remaining nimble and agile. IQMS stays current with the plastics industry, enhancing its ERP software to provide a host of powerful features to address your unique needs. What can you achieve with IQMS?


Manufacturing ERP


Spring 2017

view from 30

training room




8 12 18

training room Building a Successful Material Handling System by Doug Brewster, conveying product manager, Conair

26 32 40

management Three Questions that Capture Your Customer’s Attention by Stu Schlackman, author and sales expert

view from 30 Shedding Light on Mid-Process Quality Control by Lara Copeland, contributing editor, Plastics Business solutions 3D-Printed Plastic Parts: To Weld or Not to Weld? by Trevor Larcheveque, supervisor, application engineer development team, Branson Ultrasonics Corp.

industry Challenges in Plastics Industry Education by Nancy Cates, contributing writer, Plastics Business strategies Managing the Supply Chain Squeeze by Laurie Harbour, CEO, Harbour Results, Inc. Cover photo courtesy of Conair

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42 46

anniversary Celebrating MAPP’s 20th Anniversary

51 52

materials Liquid Color for Plastics: Friend or Foe? by Nick Sotos, iD Additives, Inc.


booklist Strategic Planning

focus Q&A: Development in Plastics Decoration by Paul Uglum, technology advocate, fabrication engineering, Delphi



economic corner Outlook: Shifting from Populism to Pragmatism by Chris Kuehl, managing director, Armada Corporate Intelligence

departments viewpoint.....................................6

association................................. 44

news.......................................... 16

supplier directory...................... 58

economic corner


Plastics Business

Strategies for Today’s Plastics Processors

Published by:

Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors, Inc. (MAPP) 7321 Shadeland Station Way, Suite 285 Indianapolis, IN 46256 phone 317.913.2440 • fax 317.913.2445 www.mappinc.com MAPP Board of Directors President Ben Harp, Polymer Conversions, Inc. Vice President Norm Forest, Dymotek Molding Technologies Secretary Ryan Richey, Precision Plastics, Inc.

Tim Capps, Par 4 Plastics Inc. Craig Carrel, Team 1 Plastics, Inc. Michael Devereux II, Mueller Prost PC Christopher Gedwed, Cosmetic Specialties International John Hoskins, Octex Holdings LLC Glenn Kornfeld, Asaclean-Sun Plastech Inc. James Krause, Microplastics, Inc. Bob MacIntosh, Nicolet Plastics, Inc. Terry Minnick, Molding Business Services Tom Nagler, Natech Plastics, Inc. Brian Olesen, Centro, Inc. Eric Paules, Crescent Industries Missy Rogers, Noble Plastics, Inc. Alan Rothenbuecher, Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP Chuck Sholtis, Plastic Molding Technology, Inc. Tom Tredway, Erie Molded Plastics, Inc.

Peterson Publications, Inc. 2150 SW Westport Dr., Suite 101 Topeka, KS 66614 phone 785.271.5801 www.plasticsbusinessmag.com

Editor in Chief Jeff Peterson

Advertising/Sales Janet Dunnichay

Managing Editor Dianna Brodine Art Director Becky Arensdorf

Contributing Editors Nancy Cates Brittany Willes Lara Copeland

Graphic Designer Kelly Adams

Circulation Manager Brenda Schell

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 5


What I've Learned: A Great Business Case Study I have the distinct honor of writing a note to members and industry professionals about the 20th anniversary of MAPP. When trying to decide how to approach this letter, I told a colleague that I didn’t want it to be about the association – because it’s never been about the association. More than 20 years ago, people came together to build something amazing. Professionals took time from their own full-time careers – from the businesses they were building – to invest in an association formed specifically to meet the needs of plastics processors to raise the level of performance for everyone in the industry. Rather than looking at the plastics processor next to them and seeing competition, these founders of the association looked at the molding businesses in their town, in their state, and across the country and saw the opportunity for the entire industry to grow and become stronger. This association is built on sharing knowledge so that we all can be successful; it’s about an organization for processors run by processors. In that spirit, I am sharing the lessons I’ve learned during the 20-year evolution of MAPP. Leadership is the key. One thing that resonates with me is the need to surround yourself with great people. The MAPP organization experienced very tough times in business, ranging from not having enough cash to meet debt obligations in its early years to sustaining itself through economic hardships during 9/11 and the Great Recession. Because of the countless plastics business professionals who volunteered and dedicated themselves to serving in leadership positions on MAPP’s board of directors, the organization was able to maneuver its way around these substantial business challenges. My takeaway from these experiences is that if you are lucky enough to surround yourself with really smart and successful people, all you have to do is listen closely, ask questions and execute. Hope keeps the fight alive. Even in the midst of nearly going out of business in the late ’90s, MAPP’s board of directors was never short on innovative thinking, devising ways to deal with tough business challenges and developing tactics that enabled short-term survival. Lindsey Hahn, one of the founders of MAPP and owner of Metro Plastics Technologies, taught me that, “Another day in business yields another day of opportunity.” To me, the concept of hope is an extreme motivator in overcoming challenges: Get me to tomorrow, and I have another day to fight! Failure is a step to success. Over the years, MAPP’s leadership team experienced a great deal of failure. Winston Churchill said it best when he stated, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Case in point: In 2002, at MAPP’s first Benchmarking Conference, the goal was to have 100 attendees, but a mere 22 people showed up. Although disappointed, MAPP’s leadership team continued to push ahead, knowing that the recipe of providing industry data,

6 | plastics business • spring 2017

benchmarks and leadership-led engagement was exactly what the industry needed. In October 2016, MAPP’s annual conference was visited by nearly 600 professionals – a 30-fold increase over the first conference. Had it not been for countless failures in creating new programs, services and events, members would not enjoy the extraordinary level of benefits they enjoy today. Marketing and branding cannot be ignored. MAPP’s 10th year in business was marked with the most dynamic changes in the organization. Still struggling for membership and lacking cash assets on the balance sheet, the board of directors made three major decisions that catapulted the organization forward. Investing every penny owned – including future dues payments – in the following actions was instrumental. 1. MAPP’s name was changed from the Mid-American Plastics Partners to the Manufacturing Association for Plastics Processors, which told plastics processors outside of the Midwest that they were welcome to join. Although not 100 percent guaranteed, market intelligence identified our original name as confining and confusing to prospects. 2. The creation of an interactive website provided new visibility on the internet and opened countless doors of opportunity that enabled members to find solutions to problems and locate proven resources. Members began connecting in ways never thought possible. 3. And, to ensure that plastics processing executives in the US knew of these changes, MAPP published its first magazine: Plastics Business debuted at NPE 2006. The goal of the overall strategy was to improve brand recognition, build marketplace credibility so executives understood that MAPP was here to stay and to better inform professionals about our offerings. Today, the magazine reaches more than 12,000 readers across the US. I am very proud to celebrate MAPP’s 20-year milestone and am truly thankful for all the professionals who have been affiliated with the organization over the last two decades. I look forward to the future of the organization because I know that another day in business will yield an array of new opportunities for MAPP to positively impact its members.

Executive Director, MAPP

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Building a Successful Material Handling System by Doug Brewster, conveying product manager, Conair

Materials represent the single largest expense in most facilities. In today’s world, having a reliable resin-handling system is as important as having reliable electrical power. The design, maintenance and operation of a material-handling system can have everything to do with how well the system meets production goals and objectives. The following hints and tips can help get things right if you choose to design and install a system yourself or when working with an equipment supplier. How to get started First, identify all of the materials that are processed in your plant and where each item comes from – refer to those silos, bins and gaylord boxes as “sources.” Keep in mind that blenders and dryers also may be considered sources if loaders are pulling material away from them. Make a complete list for each machine (injection molder, extruder, blow molder, etc.) in the plant and identify them as “destinations.” In this context, the hopper of a dryer or the material bins on a blender are considered destinations, since the system will be delivering material to them. Determine the maximum throughput rate (weight/hour) for each destination. The sum of these throughput rates, plus a factor for each 90° bend in the system and the horizontal and vertical distances that material must travel, will give an indication of the size of vacuum pump needed and optimal diameter of the conveying lines. Your equipment supplier can help perform these calculations and recommend the ideal pump(s) for each application. All employees should have a basic understanding of how the material-handling system operates and what their specific responsibilities are. Photos courtesy of Conair.

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In most cases, the line size will be dictated by the total throughput rate of all machines

on that system pump. Remember to keep all conveying lines served by a given pump the same size, and make sure the line size matches properly with the horsepower of the pump. For instance, never put a large 15hp pump on a small 2-inch OD line. (The proper size for a 15hp pump is a 3-inch OD.) A rule of thumb to follow for pump horsepower and line sizes is as follows:

If you have this...

...then use this

5hp pump

1.75- or 2-inch OD line size

7.5hp pump

2.25- or 2.5-inch OD

10hp pump

2.5-inch OD

15hp pump

3-inch OD

25hp pump

4-inch OD

Pay attention to details. Vacuum loader inlet tubes should match the system piping. Make sure existing loader voltages match properly with the control system, and be sure the controller has the features you need or that features can be added in the future. It’s always much less costly to have features added at the factory rather than having technicians visit to download new programs and add input and output cards. Strategically locating the vacuum pump near the furthest machine (furthest from the source point) will have the effect of balancing the system. A short vacuum line should have a long material line and vice-versa. See Figure 1 (on page 10) as a guide. System design Keep material runs as straight as possible, and minimize the number of elbows. Every change in direction in a material-handling system increases back pressure and reduces conveying capacity. A vacuum pump of a given size can only do so much work, and it is important to make sure as much of that work as possible goes into moving material instead of overcoming system design flaws. The expensive alternative is to install a larger pump, but remember: Larger pumps usually require larger line sizes. When laying out your system and sizing your pumps, make sure the conveying velocity at the material pick-up point (gaylord, storage bin or drying hopper) is kept as low as possible. Material will accelerate over the entire length of the run and, if it moves too fast, the material can degrade. Softer materials (such as polyethylene) can heat up and smear against the walls of the conveying lines, deforming and leaving “angel hair� behind to clog the system. Brittle materials (styrene or polycarbonate) can break up and create dust and fines that also clog the system. Abrasive materials (glass-filled ABS) actually can wear away the inside page 10 u

Top: Such problems as angel hair and snake skins, as well as pellet fracturing, dust and equipment damage, can be avoided by using a variable-speed conveying system. Bottom: Material-conveying systems can be quite complex.

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 9


Figure 1. The design of a material-conveying system requires a complete inventory of material sources and destinations, plus consideration of horizontal and vertical distances, number of 90° bends, required throughput rates and more.

of the conveying lines, eventually causing leaks and failure. You may want to consider a variable-speed conveying system that can change conveying speed automatically to suit the characteristics of the specific resin being conveyed at a given moment. Make sure the vacuum pump is sized for your location. Power systems that operate at 50Hz rather than the more conventional 60Hz can cause the vacuum pump to turn more slowly, actually derating it by about 17 percent. Use a bigger pump or one that turns at higher rpm to compensate. Also, don’t assume that a system specified for sea level will operate the same way at high altitude. The thinner air found at high altitudes has the same effect as lower electrical frequency. Because the air is less dense, you need to move more of it to achieve the same conveying capacity a system might have closer to sea level. Again, you’ll need a bigger or faster pump. If purchasing new loaders, a fill sensor option installed in each loader can help avoid problems of overfilling or underfilling,

10 | plastics business • spring 2017

which can occur when using timer control only. These devices can be invaluable in preventing equipment damage and keeping the conveying system running automatically. Maintenance Keep the filters clean. Your material-handling system is equipped with filters at two locations: one in the dust collector near the vacuum pump and the others in each vacuum receiver. A blinded filter has the same effect as too many elbows in a system design: Back pressure builds and the system loses conveying capacity. As the filters clog, you’ll notice that it takes longer to fill a vacuum receiver or, if the fill time is not changed, the receiver will not fill completely. Locate and eliminate vacuum- and material-line leaks. Either one will diminish performance because the system will be sucking air rather than material. Again, you’ll notice sluggish conveying, longer fill times and, in the case of a material line leak, pellets on the floor. Leaks most often occur in flexible

hoses and around couplings, seals and valves. They can usually be located via careful visual inspection. Sometimes, a hissing sound can be heard as air is pulled through a hole in the line. Smoke also can be used to locate a leak. Pay attention to preventive maintenance on the vacuum pump. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for changing gear oil, and make sure all drive belts are tight and undamaged. It’s especially important to make sure the vacuum breaker valve is working properly. This valve is designed to break the system vacuum if it exceeds safe levels (about 15 inches of mercury) due to a clog in the line. If this happens, and a dirty valve fails to open, the pump will likely overheat and become damaged. Operation Make sure the system is set up properly at the beginning. Have the manufacturer’s service technician check overall system integrity and ensure all components are routed properly. All feed tubes should be properly set, and all receiver controls should have been programmed with appropriate load times and dump times. Take care that the system always has material to convey. It sounds like a simple thing, but an empty gaylord or surge bin – or a feed tube that has become dislodged or clogged with a plastic box liner – will cause loader controls to alarm for lack of material. This can result in processing machine downtime and unscheduled maintenance. By making sure employees check material levels periodically, costly production disruptions can be avoided.

Even small-scale material-handling systems can be quite complex, requiring careful calculation of throughput, conveying distances, equipment specifications and more. Perhaps the most valuable tip of all is this: Take advantage of the knowledge, experience and advice of your equipment supplier. With their help, you can avoid many of the common problems that can arise in the design, installation, operation and maintenance of a material-handling system. n Doug Brewster is conveying product manager for the Conair Group and the primary developer of the R-PRO variable-speed conveying system. Brewster joined Conair in 1987 as a systems engineer. Since then, he has held a series of positions, including bulk-system product manager, project manager, national accounts manager, regional manager, national sales manager and customer service manager. In his current role, he has responsibility for continuous improvement in current equipment offerings and new product development. For more information, visit www.conairgroup.com.

The Material Advantage

Operator training is critical – especially when employee turnover levels are high. Make sure everyone has the information they need to keep the system running. As above, a simple thing like allowing material to run out can be very disruptive. All employees should have a basic understanding of how the material-handling system operates and what their specific responsibilities are. If you don’t have the resources in-house, a system manufacturer usually will be able to perform this training. Classroom training will cover such information as how the system is set up and how material is transported. On the plant floor, employees can learn how to operate the various components, how to log in to controls and make day-to-day adjustments, and how to change connections on a fantail manifold to source material from a different location or direct it to a different machine. Employees also need to understand various alarm conditions and know when there is a simple problem (the feed wand fell out of a gaylord, for instance) or something more complex (an electrical issue) that needs to be attended to by an electrician or service technician.

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The View from 30 Feet Business gurus often talk about the view from 30,000 feet – the big picture that provides a look at overall operations. Perhaps, however, the focus should be on the view from 30 feet – a close-up of specific processes and procedures that make an impact now.

Shedding Light on Mid-Process Quality Control by Lara Copeland, contributing editor, Plastics Business In operation since 1979, custom injection molder PRD, Inc., Springville, Indiana, is known worldwide for its molding components used in LED applications in automotive, municipal, signage and industrial uses. Currently, the company has 63 injection molding presses ranging from 20 to 610 tons in its facility’s 72,000 square feet. The most noticeable parts produced at PRD, according to President John Passanisi, are in automotive applications such as headlights, taillights, daytime running lights and side marker lights. “The industry is exploding now that consumers want this type of lighting on all levels of vehicles,” he explained.

The walls and all reflective surfaces in the room where optics testing occurs have been painted black. At the end of the 10-meter room is a diffuse white surface, where measurements are taken with the aid of an imaging colorimeter. Photo courtesy of PRD, Inc.

Opportunity came knocking on PRD’s door when one of its large customers approached the company after an unsuccessful search in finding a supplier for an LED cap. “We were invited by an existing customer to quote on making a tool and running LED caps for Mercedes Benz,” Passanisi explained. “It was a huge risk for us because it would require a special injection molding press that would only run about 20 percent of the time.” PRD decided to accept the challenge, purchased the necessary equipment and proceeded to build the mold. Thereafter, the customer increased the volume in such a way that the entire press was consumed – even running overtime on weekends. From that point on, other customers took notice of PRD’s new capability, and as Passanisi said, “the floodgates opened!” Brandon Walker, project engineer with a specialty in optics, explained that PRD’s focus has been moving into the molding and photometric testing of LED parts. “It's been a really good niche growth area for us,” Walker acknowledged. With this

12 | plastics business • spring 2017

new focus, PRD decided to go a step further in 2016 by adding 1,440 square feet to house its new testing lab. Instead of only producing the parts, PRD now can test them in this lab. The room designed specifically for the optics testing, sometimes referred to as the “tunnel” by employees, consists of a camera and fixtures that test customer requirements for various lighting applications. The walls and all reflective surfaces are painted black. At the end of the 10-meter room is a diffuse white surface where measurements are conducted. At the 10-meter mark, an employee will light up, for example, a primary optic headlight for a vehicle. This will create a pattern on the white diffuse surface where a special camera, called an imaging colorimeter, will take a picture of the pattern. The camera enables the employee to take several different measurements, e.g., color and intensity. One of the main measurements being done now is called luminous intensity

– an industry standard ECE/SAE measurement used by headlight manufacturers in end-of-line testing to certify their lenses. However, as Walker clarified, “We’re not certifying the whole assembly to legal/ customer requirements; we’re just testing our own components.” When a customer sends PRD a certified light engine and necessary mating components for testing, employees will first load and unload their own individual parts and take the measurements. Then, working with the customer’s optical engineers, the team will set up parameters so a pass/fail condition is established. Next, the quality assurance auditors test a specified number of parts throughout the day to see if they are passing or failing. This testing system guarantees that if parts fail, employees are alerted that something has changed and they must check the parts. “It’s a really good method for us to monitor our process and catch changes that may not manifest in a dimensional report,” Walker declared. Furthermore, this is not an end-of-line testing, but it is a sure way to catch something that is critical. PRD also conducts light pipe transmittance and color shift testing in its new lab. Utilizing a 10-inch sphere lined with a

Working with the customer’s optical engineers, the team will set up parameters so a pass/fail condition is established. diffuse Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) coating on the inside, employees insert an LED on one side. A base reading of the LED is taken, giving the color coordinates and total luminous flux. Then one end of the light pipe is placed inside the sphere, with the LED attached to the other. A measurement is recorded and compared to the base reading to calculate total light loss and color shift. “We’re able to measure if the resin and our process are creating good parts by making sure the transmitted light isn't shifting page 14 u

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www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 13

VIEW FROM 30 t page 13 to take over. Upon completion, the pair plan to develop a Graphic User Interface (GUI) to simplify the programs and allow the quality auditors to click through in a streamlined process. “We want to make this a simple process where an employee will go in, turn on the light, load the part for testing, click a button to take the measurement and record it, unload the part and load the next one, and repeat until all parts are finished. Once all the parts are finished, the fixtures will be swapped out and the process is repeated,” said Walker. Despite being a complicated system, it eventually will be a smooth and efficient procedure. Pattern shifts are immediately identified through the QA process, alerting production to a process change that results in parts that are outside approved parameters. Photo courtesy of PRD, Inc.

outside the specified parameters and if the material is clear enough for the customer's requirements,” Walker stated. Currently, Walker and another employee are charged with finalizing everything in the lab. As of now, the setup allows for measurements on a few specific parts that are in production, but PRD still is in the process of training the quality assurance techs

The employees do not need special external certification, “but we train them on the actual procedure to make sure they understand the entire process,” he added. A user manual will be made available for reference in case the employees have any issues they need to look up. Both Walker and Passanisi say the benefits of adding this lab have been incredible. The fact that the testing can be performed in conjunction with the molding allows PRD to save both time and money. There is no waiting until the parts get to the customer to receive feedback. By checking in process, employees know right away if they start making bad parts, saving precious production time. “It’s not like we’re going to lose a week’s worth of parts that we’re just going to have to throw out,” Walker continued. “We can catch the deviation immediately and then correct the process.” The second benefit is in regards to the Design of Experiments (DOE). With the optics, several process variables need to be changed and tweaked to get perfect parts, but there’s a small process window. “The lab allows us to check the various processes in our DOE to ensure that we’re changing the correct variables to make good parts,” Walker emphasized. This speeds up the whole development process and allows the molding manager to see the results of the tweaking to determine what will happen to the optic without having to wait for customer feedback.

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PRD is just one of a few companies throughout the country that can produce the parts to these exacting specifications as well as test them to then prove the parts meet a customer’s requirements. “We don’t know of more than about a handful of companies like us, so we are really on the cutting edge,” Passanisi reported. Right now, PRD has five customers that require this technology, with the potential for many more. The company is scheduled to complete an additional 18,000 square feet this spring, with the possibility of adding another 14 presses. n

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WITTMANN BATTENFELD Updates Control System The new UNILOG B8 control system from WITTMANN BATTENFELD, headquartered in Kottingbrunn, Austria, and with US operations in Torrington, Connecticut, distinguishes itself from its predecessor version by several additional features and even greater operator comfort. Via a pivotable 21.5" full HD multi-touch screen, the process functions can be retrieved by gestures (zooming/ wiping), while some selectable operating functions are triggered by tactile keys located in the machine’s central console. This makes it possible to address frequently used functions easily and directly. Visualization and operation of the machine run under the new Windows® 10 IoT operating system. A display screen, which can be partitioned, allows simultaneous visualization of two different functions. For more information, visit www.wittmann-battenfeld.com.

RJG Releases Cavity Pressure Sensor, Design Simulation Service RJG, Traverse City, Michigan, released a new 6mm cavity pressure sensor, ideal for high-cavitation molds with small, tightly packed ejector pins. The 6mm sensor is an indirect (under the pin) pressure sensor that works in conjunction with the eDART System™ to assist molders in diagnosing processes and automatically sorting suspect parts. The 6mm sensor head is the smallest strain gage sensor available, permitting the use in molds that may have tight clusters of pins with limited room. The company also introduced a new service offering called Part Design Analysis. It provides design and product engineers with a low-cost option to quickly analyze how their part design will perform, reducing waste and time to market. RJG’s team works in collaboration with the customer to make recommendations based on key product requirements, including product usage and function. For more information, visit www.rjginc.com.

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Teknor Apex Appoints M. Holland as Primary ETP Distributor Teknor Apex Company, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, has appointed plastic resin distributor M. Holland Company as its only national distributor for engineered thermoplastic products in North America. Teknor Apex anticipates the transition from its current distributor will be completed by early fall 2017. The Teknor Apex nylon product portfolio includes reinforced and specially modified compounds of polyamide 6, 66, 610 and 612 under the Chemlon® brand. For more information, visit www.teknorapex.com or www.mholland.com.

Paulson Welcomes New Seminar Instructor Paulson Training Programs, Inc., Chester, Connecticut, announced the addition of polymers technical expert Todd Bryant to the Paulson Training team. He comes to Paulson with decades of experience in tooling design and optimization, polymers processing, production and training. He also holds five patents for plastics products currently being manufactured and readily available in the marketplace. With his background in theoretical and hands-on approaches to teaching injection molding, Bryant will teach the ProMolder series of seminars for Paulson’s Plastics Academy and serve as Paulson’s in-house technical expert, assisting with the development of new products for Paulson’s interactive online and DVD courseware. For more information, visit www.paulsontraining.com.

SSR Rebrands as Stout Stout Risius Ross, LLC and Stout Risius Ross Advisors, LLC announced that both entities now will rebrand as Stout. Stout specializes in investment banking, valuation advisory, dispute consulting and management and consulting services. The new brand is intended to reflect how the firm has evolved, while the company continues its focus on client service. For more information, visit www.srr.com.

Milacron and Linear AMS Offer Conformal Cooling Products Milacron Holdings Corp., Cincinnati, Ohio, announced that its DME product brand has partnered with Linear AMS (a Moog Company) to offer metal 3D-printed conformal cooling products to help improve productivity in the molding industry. TruCool™ utilizes a direct metal laser melting 3D-printing process to produce complex cavities, cores and components with conformal cooling channels. The process achieves shapes, paths and channel geometries not typically obtained with conventional tooling. The DME/Linear AMS process uses advanced Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) technology, which allows for lighter weight solutions with improved performance characteristics to create complex shapes and improved reliability. For more information, visit www.linearams.com or www.milacron.com.

Maguire Releases Vacuum Resin Dryer Maguire Products, Inc., headquartered in Aston, Pennsylvania, released the VBD™ 300, a new vacuum resin dryer that achieves throughputs of up to 300lb/hr – double the capacity of the company's VBD 150 model. In comparison with desiccant dryers, the VBD vacuum dryer consumes 60 percent less energy, dries resin in one-sixth the time and substantially reduces the heat history to which polymer is exposed. The speed with which the VBD system removes moisture makes properly dried polymer available for production only 35 minutes after a cold start. For more information, visit www. maguire.com.

Absolute Haitian Announces Larger Injection Molding Machine Models Absolute Haitian, Worcester, Massachusetts, announced the availability of four larger models of its all-electric Zeres Series injection molding machines with integrated hydraulic systems. The new models range from 899 to 1,551 tons. Previously, the largest models available for the Zeres product line was 730 US tons. Also, Absolute Haitian has retained Gem City Plastic Machinery as its new sales representation for the distribution of Haitian and Zhafir injection molding machines in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Gem City also carries an extensive line of auxiliary equipment to address processor needs. For more information, visit www.absolutehaitian.com.

Routsis Training Releases Online Courses Routsis Training, Dracut, Massachusetts, announced the release of four new Purging for Scientific Molding online courses. These four training programs, titled Techniques, Procedures, Compounds and Analysis, cover the best practices for each step involved in the purging process to ensure that every injection molding application running is contaminant-free. With an emphasis on safety, participants will learn about each purging method used, including, small shot, large shot, continuous, open-mold and closed-mold purging. Attendees also will have access to a Purging Analysis Worksheet, which demonstrates how to properly calculate all associated purging costs. For more information, visit www.traininteractive.com. n

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 17


3D-Printed Plastics Parts: To Weld or Not to Weld? 3D printing (3DP) now is widely adopted for prototyping and developing new product designs because it allows plastic component and part prototypes to be developed, produced, assessed and modified far more quickly and economically than traditional injection-molded plastic parts, which require significant up-front investment in mold tooling.1 As a result, the use of 3DP is surging throughout the automotive, aerospace, consumer products and medical/medical devices industries. But along with the surging interest in 3DP for plastic part prototyping, there also has been a surge of questions about whether components fabricated with 3DP can be joined into assemblies in the same ways as injection-molded parts. Specifically, can these parts be joined using ultrasonic plastic welding techniques? According to current evidence, the answer is that “it depends.” To understand the factors on which the ultrasonic weldability of plastic components fabricated with 3DP depend, it is essential to look more closely at three questions: 1. What demands does ultrasonic welding place on a prototype part? 2. To what degree do the various 3DP processes deliver parts with the four critical physical characteristics – resolution, strength, solidity and weldability – needed for repeatable ultrasonic welding? 3. Are the materials used to produce 3DP parts compatible with ultrasonic welding?

by Trevor Larcheveque, Branson Ultrasonics Corp. Trevor J. Larcheveque is employed by Emerson as supervisor of Applications Development Engineer Team. He leads Branson’s Ultrasonic Application Development team, which specializes in plastics joining methods that utilizes ultrasonic welding. Larcheveque works with customers to deliver robust engineered solutions for their application challenges. Before joining Branson in 2014, Larcheveque worked four years as an application engineer for DresserRand, a Siemens business in Wellsville, New York, where he supported steam turbine customers with rebuilding and upgrading their equipment. For more information, email Trevor. Larcheveque@Emerson.com or visit www.bransonultrasonics.com.

Ultrasonic welding: the basics Ultrasonic welding is performed by applying high-frequency vibrations to two parts or layers of material using a tool commonly called a “horn” or “sonotrode.” These vibrations travel to the interface of the two parts and produce heat through hysteresis and friction, which melts the material and bonds the two parts together. Ultrasonic processes also can be used to insert, stake, swage, degate and spot-weld components. Ultrasonic welding requires that parts to be joined must be made from thermoplastics. Among thermoplastic materials, weldability varies based on a variety of factors, including polymer structure, density, melt temperature, viscosity, stiffness (modulus of elasticity), thermal conductivity and chemical makeup.

18 | plastics business • spring 2017

Figure 1. Example of an energy director type joint (left) and a shear type joint (right). Figures courtesy of Branson Ultrasonics Corp.

Part design, specifically the design of part joints, plays a major role in weldability. Typically, ultrasonically welded parts incorporate one of the two principal types of joint designs shown in Figure 1: an energy director joint or a shear joint. Successful ultrasonic welding demands that both of these joints are produced with a high degree of resolution within the part, since feature tolerances can be quite small. Energy director weld joints. The primary function of an energy director is to concentrate energy to rapidly initiate the softening and melting of the joining surfaces. An energy director is typically a triangular bead of raised material located on one of the mating joint surfaces. During the weld process, the energy director melts and flows throughout the joint area and mixes with the opposing melted surface. Adding an energy director to the joint helps to concentrate ultrasonic energy while significantly reducing weld time. Energy director sizes vary according to part size, but typically range from 0.010" to 0.020" tall, with angles that vary based on the thermoplastic being used. On the part side that is opposite to the point of the energy director, surfaces are usually textured. Molding a texture onto the mating part surface tends to improve the overall weld quality and strength by enhancing frictional characteristics and control of the melted surfaces. Usually this textured surface is quite shallow and, unfortunately, this resolution may be too fine for some 3D printing technologies to achieve. Shear type weld joints. Occasionally, parts with energy-director type joints may not produce the desired weld results. If this occurs, use a shear joint instead. Shear joints can have a variety of appearances, but all are designed to create an interference fit between the opposing parts, retain molten material in the area of the weld, and prevent premature solidification by preventing contact with surrounding air. A shear joint weld begins with initial contact in a small area of the opposing surfaces, where initial melting creates an interference fit. As the melt continues, it proceeds along the vertical walls of the parts, allowing the part joints to telescope and bond together under pressure. Shear joints thus result in strong structural or hermetic seals. How 3DP fabrication technology influences part weldability While 3DP components can provide precise part geometries that make them great for visual prototype evaluation, these parts have substantially different physical properties than those of injection-molded parts. As a result, they do not respond to ultrasonic welding as predictably or consistently. The key to understanding the differences in physical properties of 3DP part resolution, strength, solidity and weldability is to understand the 3DP technologies used to create them.

Material selection plays a primary role in weldability. Many engineered resins, created specifically for 3D printing applications, may mimic the behavior of more common materials, but are not necessarily weldable. Extrusion. Extrusion is the most common and recognized 3DP technology today. Extrusion processes work by melting thermoplastic filament and passing it through a heated extruder. Extruded material is then deposited in thin layers that form twodimensional slices of the final component. Layers are printed consecutively, one atop the other, so that the molten plastic can harden and bond to the layer below to form a 3D object. Filament materials for extrusion include many that are already used in ultrasonic welding applications—ABS, HIPS, Nylon, PC, PCABS, PET and PLA—with ABS and PLA being the most commonly used.2 Material grades are customized by different manufacturers to achieve special properties, such as greater similarity with injectionmolded parts. However, the physical strength of printed parts is significantly weaker in the direction that the layers are stacked.3 As a result, these layers are vulnerable to separation under the stress of ultrasonic welding or during testing to evaluate the strength of the weld joint. Creating a consistent hermetic joint may also be problematic due to gaps between layers or gaps within the print paths on a single layer. While post-fabrication processes that may close surface gaps are available, these processes can run the risk of smoothing over critical features of joint geometry. The maximum resolution (minimum layer thickness) that extrusion printers currently achieve is approximately 0.005"; however, achievable layer thickness varies based on the 3DP machine and material.4 For example, parts produced by the Fortus 900mc by Stratasys, have an accuracy of ±0.0035" or ±0.0015" per inch, whichever is greater.5 The high tolerances required to obtain repeatable shear joint results may not be possible with FFF technology. Figure 2 shows two pairs of parts. The top pair compares energy director butt joint specimens produced from an injection mold (left) and from extrusion technology. The extrusion part was printed with a Stratasys Dimension Elite 3D printer using Stratasys Dark Gray ABSplus-P430 material in 0.007" thick page 20 u

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SOLUTIONS t page 19

layers. Note that due to the limitation of extrusion width, the energy director of the 3DP part is created in two single passes, resulting in a rectangular shape (0.014" tall, 0.022" wide), rather than the preferred triangular shape. The bottom pair in Figure 2 compares shows two shear joint specimens: one produced from an injection mold (left) and the other using the same extrusion process as the energy director specimen. Although shear joints do not require the sharply pointed features of an energy director joint, 3DP fabrication of shear-joint parts must maintain the dimensions needed for a precise interference fit. In summary, the weldability of extrusion parts may be limited due to variance in the strength of the layers, the inability to build a repeatable shear joint feature due to variance in the interference fit, and the variability in the shape of the energy director. If these limitations in part design and 3DP fabrication can be overcome, the results obtained from welding these parts should more closely correlate with those of welded injectionmolded parts.

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Figure 2. The precision of injection-molded specimens (left pair) are compared to extrusion specimens. Note the differences in resolution related to an energydirector joint (top pair) and a shear joint at bottom.

Selective laser sintering. A second 3DP fabrication method, selective laser sintering (SLS), uses a focused laser directed by a mirror to melt materials, such as metal, plastic, or glass, in powder form. Commonly used polymers for SLS fabrication include variations of nylon and polystyrene.6 Within a heated enclosure, powder is pushed from a powder supply by a roller and spread in a thin layer across a build surface. A mirror directs a laser through a 2D trace of the object being printed, lifting the temperature of the focus point just enough to melt the powder. The build surface is then lowered and another thin layer of powder is deposited on top. The process repeats until the object is completed. (Figure 3) The minimum layer thickness achievable by SLS processes is slightly smaller than that of the extrusion process, approximately 0.003", so better resolution of joint detail is theoretically possible.6 However, wall thicknesses less than 0.040" in size are generally not recommended for SLS processes, and fine details – such as the sharp point of an energy director – may be “smoothed over” or lost as a result of the SLS layering process.7


20 | plastics business • spring 2017

The sometimes high levels of porosity of SLS-fabricated parts can pose a major concern for weldability. Pores in final printed parts can absorb ultrasonic energy and cause part features to compress. Or, they may create stress concentrations in the component that can lead to fracturing when subjected to the high frequency vibrations characteristic of ultrasonic welding. Note that fractures can propagate from any surface of the part, not just those contacted by the ultrasonic horn or by the opposing page 22 u

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Figure 3. Depiction of the selective laser sintering (SLS) process.

part surface. High porosity in fabricated parts also may be problematic when it comes to achieving consistent sealing. So, in summary: SLS processes can produce weldable parts, but achieving consistent weldability demands that part designers and fabricators carefully manage challenges associated with feature resolution, part porosity and part stress. Stereolithography (SLA)/digital light processing (DLP)/ material jetting. Multiple 3DP technologies utilize photopolymer resins, including stereolithography (SLA, Figure 4) and digital light processing (DLP). These processes use focused light to cure photopolymer resins, layer by layer, into a solid object. A third process, material jetting, applies a thin layer

Figure 4. Depiction of the stereolithography (SLA) process.

of photopolymer with an inkjet-style printing head, then cures it immediately with a UV light source. Parts produced with these methods have high accuracy and smooth finishes, two of the essential elements required for consistent weldability. Unfortunately, a third essential element for weldability is absent. As their name suggests, photopolymer resins cure using ultraviolet light (UV) energy. Unlike thermoplastics, they cannot be remelted, reshaped or joined using the friction-generated heat and pressure characteristic of ultrasonic welding.

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However, photopolymer-based 3DP processes still can play a role in the production of weldable prototype parts, since they have been used to create injection molds that benefit from the high resolution and smooth surface finishes of SLA printed/material jetted processes.8 Although these plastic molds lack the durability of traditional metal injection molds, they can produce a limited number of prototype parts that replicate part features better than other 3DP processes. Further, they can use the same polymer material that later high-volume manufacturing processes will use. This approach could well enable part designers to evaluate part weldability, strength, sealing and other performance characteristics with a high degree of accuracy – a plus when it comes to reducing lead times and product development costs.8 Designing a more weldable 3DP part Select materials carefully. Material selection plays a primary role in weldability. Many engineered resins, created specifically for 3D printing applications, may mimic the behavior of more common materials but are not necessarily weldable. For example, ABS is one of the easiest polymers to ultrasonically weld. However, Digital ABS, a material created by Stratasys to mimic the properties of ABS resin, is a photopolymer that cannot be ultrasonically welded.

Voids inside a part can make ultrasonic welding more difficult or impossible by preventing transmission of ultrasonic energy to the weld joint. Evaluate different 3DP print orientations. Depending on the 3DP technology used, joint design geometry can vary significantly when parts are printed in different orientations. Joints do not always follow straight paths, and the orientation of a single feature – such as an energy director – may lie in more than one direction. This large variance is created by the layer height typically being shorter than the minimum layer width and the tolerances achievable by the printer. Printing a weld joint in three different orientations will produce significantly different results and also may affect the tensile properties of the parts.3 page 24 u

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SOLUTIONS t page 23

Keep part walls solid. It is also important that all part walls between the joint location and the horn contact surface/ supporting surface be printed with maximum infill settings (100 percent solid). Some 3D printed parts are designed with internal voids and thin-walled geometries to reduce the amount of material required by the print; however, such voids inside a part can make ultrasonic welding more difficult or impossible by preventing transmission of ultrasonic energy to the weld joint. Even when printed solid, small voids may occur in extrusion parts along the edges of the layers and between layers. These irregularities may reduce the effectiveness of a shear joint, cause welded parts to leak, or reduce the ability of the part structure to transfer ultrasonic energy to the weld joint. Print settings should be set to achieve 3D prints that are as dense as possible. When designing parts for an extrusion-style printer, care also should be taken to avoid placing excess support material in critical weld areas. Removing this support material can damage the joint surfaces. The SLS process is self-supporting, so unwelded powder simply falls away.

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Figure 5. To simplify weld tooling parts, utilize prototypes that have flat contact areas above (red) and below (blue) the weld joints.

Design for simple tooling and fixturing. Typically, 3D printed parts are created to reduce time and cost when evaluating part designs. Creating custom ultrasonic tooling for each prototype design would defeat the advantages of 3D printing. To evaluate a joint design, the surfaces directly above the joint should be raised so that all horn contact surfaces are flat and above any other part geometry, as demonstrated in Figure 5. This will allow a generic, flat-faced horn to contact the 3D printed prototype and transmit vibrations down to the joint location. Ensure that horn contact surfaces are as close to the weld joint as possible to reduce the amount of energy absorbed by the material before reaching the weld joint. Ultrasonic welding also requires rigid support from the fixture. To avoid having to produce a custom-designed fixture, the bottom half of the assembly should have a flat surface below the weld joints so that it can support itself on a hard, flat surface. Conclusion Compared to traditional processes, such as injection molding, 3D printing offers a new and faster way to produce and evaluate prototype plastic parts. However, reliably assessing the ultrasonic weldability of 3DP prototype parts remains challenging due to the current limitations of 3DP fabrication technology and materials. Reliable and repeatable ultrasonic weldability requires not only that 3DP prototype parts be made with thermoplastic polymers, but that they offer sufficiently high resolution, strength and solidity to tolerate the ultrasonic process and retain key performance characteristics.

Of the 3DP technologies considered here – extrusion, selective laser sintering (SLS) and stereolithography (SLA)/ digital light processing (DLP)/material jetting – none has yet demonstrated that it can, with currently available capabilities and 3DP materials, directly print parts with physical characteristics and weldability that match those of injectionmolded parts. However, by managing the limitations of 3DP technologies, it may be possible for part designers and fabricators to produce prototypes that reduce current resolution, performance and weldability differences. At present, though, this remains the exception, not the rule. Statements made herein regarding the design of prototypes, weld joints and other factors are intended as a guide and may not reflect final production results. Given the latest advances in new 3D printing technologies and materials, 3D printed injection molds may offer a costeffective solution to producing prototype parts whose ultrasonic weldability and performance can more accurately predict final production results using injection-molded parts. n


1. Stratasys. Trend Forecast: 3D Printing's Imminent Impact on Manufacturing. [Online] 2015. [Cited: May 20, 2016.] https://www.stratasysdirect.com/content/ pdfs/sys_trend-forecast_v10.pdf. 2. Stultz, Matt and Ragan, Sean. Plastics for 3D Printing: An overview of 3D printing filament-from rigid to rubbery to dissolvable. Make: 3D Printing: The Essential Guide to 3D Printers. Sebastopol : Maker Media. Inc., 2014. 3. Belter, Joseph T. and Dollar, Aaron M. Strengthening of 3D Printed Fused Deposition Manufactured Parts Using the Fill Compositing Technique. Plos One. [Online] April 16, 2015. [Cited: May 23, 2016.] http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal. pone.0122915. 4. Stratasys. Frequently Asked Questions: Get to know FDM Technology. Stratasys. [Online] Stratasys. [Cited: May 23, 2016.] http://www.stratasys.com/3d-printers/ technologies/fdm-technology/faqs. 5. Stratasys. Fortus 900mc: Industiral strength, durability and scale. Stratasys. [Online] Stratasys. [Cited: May 23, 2016.] http://www.stratasys.com/3d-printers/ production-series/fortus-900mc#specifications. 6. 3D Systems. Selective Laser Sintering Printers: Production thermoplastic parts with ProX and sPro SLS printers. 3D Systems. [Online] 2016. [Cited: May 23, 2016.] http://www.3dsystems.com/sites/www.3dsystems.com/files/sls_brochure_0116_ usen_web.pdf. 7. Stratasys. Laser Sintering (LS): Design Guideline. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing. [Online] Stratasys. [Cited: May 23, 2016.] https://www. stratasysdirect.com/resources/laser-sintering/. 8. Stratasys. Precision Prototyping: The role of 3D printed molds in the injection molding industry. Stratasys. [Online] [Cited: May 23, 2016.] http://www.stratasys. com/resources/white-papers/precision-prototyping.

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Three Questions That Capture Your Customer’s Attention by Stu Schlackman, author and sales expert

You may be asking yourself, “Why didn’t I get the follow-up meeting with that recent prospect?” You asked all the right questions and got the answers you needed to qualify them. You had the prospect company’s budget, knew its goals and needs and understood the company’s timeframe to make the decision. You knew who the decision maker was, were keenly aware of the competitors that were in play and felt you had the perfect solution to meet the company’s needs. So, why didn’t it work out? Unfortunately, this happens to many sales professionals – in every situation, only one will earn the customer’s business. Put yourself in the best position by asking the right questions – the ones that make the customer take notice of who you are and what you have to offer. What makes them pay attention to you? What are the questions that get the customer to say, “Tell me more”? Customers get bored when salespeople ask the basic surface questions. These are the questions that you need to have answered to better understand the customer’s situation and so that your solution can be positioned to meet the customer’s needs. Customers, however, already know their situation. They want to know what makes you different from the pack and how you can help them in a way that provides value no one else can deliver. And remember, the last thing prospects want on a first appointment is a presentation! This meeting is not about you and what you offer. It should be all about the customer and how you can help meet and exceed the customer’s needs and achieve their goals and objectives. Customers want the conversation to

26 | plastics business • spring 2017

be all about them. In other words, let them talk – you should be listening! So, what are the questions you should ask? Think about it this way: customers engage best when they are asked specific and targeted questions that pique their interest and highlight the consequences of unsolved issues. There are three critical types of questions you need to ask to build momentum and ensure that you get the next meeting.


What are the issues? To build the critical trusting relationship, you need to understand what’s really going on. Ask, “What issues are you facing that most need to be resolved?” Do not start by asking what type of solution they are looking for or how much they will spend; instead, aim to learn where they are experiencing pain. How bad is the pain, and how long has it been going on? The best sales people dig deep when it comes to understanding customer issues. You can further understand the pain by asking “why” questions. When you ask “why,” you’re bringing the

Helping customers understand the cause of their issue helps you understand which solutions to offer. customer into the past, which allows them to elaborate on what happened in the first place.


What is the cause? Ask, “How long have you been having this issue? Is it getting better or worse? Do you have any thoughts on why?” These probing questions will demonstrate that you are truly interested in understanding their situation to the fullest extent. It means you are building credibility with the customer and showing them you care. This approach takes the conversation to a better level of understanding and often helps the customer discover something they hadn’t seen before. Helping customers page 29 u

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MANAGEMENT t page 27

understand the cause of their issue helps you understand which solutions to offer – when appropriate – and helps them think through the situation.


What is the impact? Impact questions help to create a sense of urgency about the issue. Now that you more fully understand the problem and how it was caused, it’s time to talk about the possible impact on the business. Ask, “How do you think this issue is having an impact on productivity, customer service, revenue or operating expenses?” When you can help customers understand the impact, they are one step closer to taking action in your direction. When the customer sees the impact of their issues in multiple areas, it’s time to start crafting a viable solution. You can start to help them see the future in a positive light by asking “what” questions. “What” questions focus on the possibilities. Now you can work with customer as a partner since you have a solid understanding of their issues, how they came about and how those issues are impacting the business. Good selling is all about going below the surface by asking thoughtful, probing questions that help to uncover the key issues, the root causes and the impact that those most painful issues can have on the customer’s business. As the saying goes, “If you ask better questions, you’ll get better answers.” The best sales professionals have great skill in asking the more significant, thought-provoking questions that make a difference in the customer dialogue. Prepare to ask questions that your customers will pay attention to and you will be much closer to building the kind of relationships that will lead to more closed sales. n Stu Schlackman is a sales expert, accomplished speaker and the author of “Four People You Should Know” and “Don’t Just Stand There, Sell Something.” With more than 25 years of success in the sales landscape, Schlackman provides his clients and audiences with the wisdom, techniques and practical advice to compete and win in business and in life. For more information, visit www.StuSchlackman.com.


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Challenges in Plastics Industry Education by Nancy Cates, contributing writer, Plastics Business The replacement of an aging workforce is an area of concern throughout manufacturing, and plastics is no exception. A handful of universities across the US have plastics-specific programs churning out highly sought graduates, but while processors are anxiously awaiting another matriculating class, the universities are struggling with challenges that have little to do with industry demand. Policy differences often arise when debating the costs and benefits of public funding for higher education. While Congress wrangles over proposed federal budget cuts to higher ed, administrators and faculty – along with students and their parents – deal with the realities of decreased per-pupil state funding, which has reduced the percentages of state support at public colleges and universities. Eventually, changes in educational funding filter out to the businesses that want to hire those new grads. Educational programs on the lower end of anticipated employment growth become targets for cuts as university administrators look for ways to fill funding

32 | plastics business • spring 2017

gaps. While steady growth is projected for the plastics industry, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth rate of one percent in materials engineering occupations, compared with a general occupation growth rate of seven percent, by 2024. The resulting scarcity of plastics engineering graduates already is apparent, challenging employers seeking the next generation of talent. Budget and staffing During the 25 years leading up to 2012, state budgets typically provided 65 percent more funding to public higher educational institutions than the federal government, according to a 2015 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts. After the Great Recession hit, per-student state budget contributions to higher ed began to shrink significantly. Left: A 28,000-square-foot facility houses labs, classrooms and faculty offices at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. Center: Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, serves 70 students in its plastic engineering technology program. Right: Universities like Ferris State often face funding and faculty challenges. Photos courtesy of each university.

Figures compiled by the College Board show that federal aid grew from nearly $190 billion in 2008, spiked up to $258.8 billion in 2010 and then settled around $240.9 billion by the 2015-16 school year. Pell Grants, a federal financial aid program based on need, are responsible for much of the federal spending growth, particularly as recession-hit businesses closed and newly unemployed workers searched for careers. With fewer job opportunities, some of those workers went back to school. College enrollment grew, tuition began a rapid rise, per-pupil state funding dropped and the budget percentages represented by federal funding increased – driven by the resulting demand for Pell Grants. Nearly a decade later, those effects of the recession are still being felt. “Shawnee State is a small university in a rural area,” said Larry Miller, plastics engineering department chair at the university in Portsmouth, Ohio. “Most of our students are on financial assistance and are first-generation college students.” Among the states represented in this article, Ohio’s per-student state funding cuts were the least harsh – a 15 percent drop between 2008 and 2015 – with an average $523 rise in tuition.* In addition, the Shawnee State program is benefitting from a $1.2 million capital improvement program to update facilities and systems. Even so, Miller says, tighter budgets increase pressure

to reduce the number of instructional hours. “It’s difficult to offer classes in the secondary processes,” he said, “but we do a little bit of those in our other classes.” A significant drop in state funding occurred in Pennsylvania, where the per-student rate of state support dropped 33 percent between 2008 and 2015. During that period, tuition at statesupported colleges and universities increased an average of $2,202. At Penn State Behrend in Erie, two faculty positions have been vacant, putting a hold on student recruitment, according to Jonathan Meckley, program chair and associate professor of engineering. The vacancies have affected the plastics engineering curriculum, Meckley said, such as a technical elective focusing on secondary processes that had to be dropped. “They are mentioned in the courses,” he said, “but there’s not a lot of depth.” Despite the vacancies, Meckley said faculty members regularly present various continuing education classes, pulling from the local area and as far as the West Coast. Although tuition rose an average of $2,200 by 2015, the state budget cut was less severe in Massachusetts, where per-student state support fell by 16 percent over the period. Generous endowments have helped shield the plastics engineering program page 34 u

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 33


INDUSTRY t page 33

at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. “Our graduates do well and give back to the program,” said David Kazmer, program director and department chair. “While plastics engineering is the smallest program within our college, we have more endowments than all the other majors combined.” Kazmer said UMass Lowell also has felt the staffing shortage, acknowledging that the department is hoping to fill a position for an adjunct instructor to teach an automation course. As the auto industry’s go-to source for specialty and engineering thermoplastic resins, Chase Plastics delivers expertise on material selection, part and tool design, and processing support. Combined with a global supply base, we put you in control of your success.

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“Our program is growing,” said Miller of enrollment at Shawnee State, where the program hosts about 60 majors. “The plastics industry is the largest in Ohio, and we offer the only four-year plastics degree.”



w w w. m o l d i n g b u s i n e s s . c o m

Program and enrollment growth Despite the financial stress, most of the programs represented were stable or growing in terms of enrollment. Stable enrollment was reported at Penn State Behrend, Western Washington University in Bellingham and the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

At Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, enrollment in the plastics engineering technology program has nearly doubled in the past five years, according to Robert Speirs, professor and plastics engineering technology program coordinator. However, while the student population has grown from 118 to 217 students over the past five years, the program has limited incoming freshman to 50 students due to funding restrictions. From its beginning in 1971, the engineering technology program at Pittsburg (Kansas) State University has grown, shrunk just before the turn of the century, then grew again to stabilize at around 70 students during the past seven years or so, said Bob Susnik, professor in plastics engineering technology. Susnik said the program’s recruiting strength is in word of mouth – and a strong employment outlook: “Alumni go out in industry and are successful, and the word passes on. Right now, the job market is crazy. We can’t supply enough graduates.” Graduate placement Prospective employers have been actively recruiting this spring’s plastics engineering graduates, and program directors at many of the schools say placement is virtually 100 percent.


Over 100 placements each year

M&A Advisory 79 transactions and counting

34 | plastics business • spring 2017

Students at Ferris State University serve two paid internships for at least 10 weeks each. During that time, they make long-lasting

connections while gaining real-world experience that makes them highly sought as graduates. At Pittsburg State, Susnik said graduates go to such familiar instate companies as Boeing or Cessna, but they also might turn up as far away as China. Adam Kramschuster, associate professor and director of the plastics engineering program at the University of WisconsinStout, said, “Our plastics engineering program is a hybrid. It has more hands-on experiences than a typical, fundamental (mechanical) engineering program — but not as much as a technology program.” He said most graduates in UWStout’s 80-student program are recruited into medical device manufacturing, which is prevalent in the region, but opportunities abound. “We have had students obtain careers at consulting firms and large tech/medical OEMs as well, and multiple extrusion companies,” he continued. “At the same time, a wide variety of companies that deal in plastic part design, plastic materials or plastic processing, have expressed interest in hiring our students or have already done so.” Because there are no graduate students in the program, undergrad opportunities to participate in research are plentiful at Western Washington University in Bellingham. “Students participate in projects involving product design, material design, process optimization, forensics, testing and analysis,” said Nicole Hoekstra, professor of plastics and composites engineering. “There are more research opportunities while at school and permanent job positions after graduation than we can currently fill.” Consider partnership strategies Businesses hoping to make connections that might offer an opportunity to snag the best new grads of the future, possible

financial advantages and a voice in future program direction might consider strategies that educators say have worked in their institutions. Among the possibilities: Offer internships. Volunteer for a program mentorship or advisory board. Donate needed equipment, installation or training. Think about contracting with the program for research, or consider an endowment. At Ferris State, alumnus and supporter John Kaverman of Pad Print Pros said long-standing corporate relationships and student activity in the Society of Plastics Engineers have resulted in several in-kind donations or consignments of equipment, installation and training. The program’s partnership with Wittmann Battenfeld is one example: Two Wittmann robots and control software upgrades are consigned to the university in return for Wittmann’s access to conduct regional training sessions at the facility. In addition, in 2015, SPE’s Decorating and Assembly Division donated a new pad printer to Ferris State, with the machine purchased at cost from Innovative Marking Systems. Shawnee State is one program taking advantage of the knowledge and resources available through local industry. “We have an advisory board of about 15 to help us,” Miller explained. “Our grads are in management positions all over the state and across the country at plastics manufacturers and other businesses – Honda, Stanley Electric, GE, Procter & Gamble. We have a good alumni network.” Kazmer at UMass Lowell emphasized the value of industry/ education partnerships, saying that institutional facilities are built around a shared resource model. “Support from industry is amazing. Students, researchers and industry seminar attendees page 36 u

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use the state-of-the-art at industry scale. We appreciate all the consignment and donations.” n * State support and tuition increase statistics compiled by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association in 2015. Amounts are adjusted for inflation and represent 2015 dollars. Sources • Federal and State Funding of Higher Education: A changing landscape. Pew Charitable Trusts, Research and Analysis, Federal and State Funding of Higher Education. Accessed 5/4/17. http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/

Ferris State University Big Rapids, Michigan Program enrollment: approximately 215 Degrees offered: BS in plastics engineering technology; AAS in plastics and polymer engineering technology

issue-briefs/2015/06/federal-and-state-funding-of-highereducation • State by State Fact Sheets: Higher Education Cuts Jeopardize Students’ and States’ Economic Future. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, SHEF 2015; Illinois State University, Grapevine fiscal year 2016; College Board, Trends in College Pricing 2016. Accessed 5/4/17. http://www.cbpp. org/research/state-by-state-fact-sheets-higher-educationcuts-jeopardize-students-and-states-economic

Western Washington University Bellingham, Washington Program enrollment: approximately 40 Degree offered: BS in plastics and composites engineering

In 1998, the National Elastomer Center, a 28,000-square-foot facility, was built to house stateof-the-art labs, classrooms and faculty offices. The National Elastomer Center also houses the university’s rubber engineering technology program.

“We provide industry-ready graduates from the only accredited plastics engineering program west of Kansas,” said Nicole Hoekstra, professor of plastics and composites engineering. “Our well-equipped labs ensure graduates are proficient with production-scale processing equipment, quality assurance strategies and characterization techniques.”

Penn State Behrend Erie, Pennsylvania Program enrollment: approximately 200 Degree offered: BS in plastics engineering technology

University of Wisconsin-Stout Menomonie, Wisconsin Program enrollment: approximately 80 Degree offered: BS in plastics engineering

Students receive thorough instruction on all the manufacturing components: one-third materials, one-third processing and one-third design. “It’s very hands-on, and every class has a lab,” said Jonathan Meckley, program chair and associate professor of engineering. “The students understand the correct way to approach manufacturing when they graduate.”

“The program is focused on materials science, processing and engineering fundamentals. UWStout’s plastics engineering program has excellent materials characterization and processing equipment,” said Adam Kramschuster, associate professor and program director. “Multiple student and industry projects are performed to evaluate processing effects on material performance, as well as to investigate new process control/monitoring systems for injection molding.”

Shawnee State University Portsmouth, Ohio Program enrollment: approximately 60 Degrees offered: BS in plastics engineering technology; AAS in plastics engineering technology “Our kids are hands-on,” said Larry Miller, department chair. “Students participate in internships all over the state. We also contract work to do testing for companies that don’t have the appropriate facilities and participate in research and development work.” Pittsburg State University Pittsburg, Kansas Program enrollment: approximately 70 Degree offered: BS in plastics engineering technology “Our strength is probably in processing,” said Bob Susnik, professor in plastics engineering technology. “We do injection, extrusion and blow molding, and we emphasize hands-on with a lot of one-on-one instruction. In our general plastics class, we cover hot air welding, adhesive bonding, vacuum bagging and surface preparation.”

36 | plastics business • spring 2017

University of Massachusetts Lowell Lowell, Massachusetts Program enrollment: approximately 430 (annually graduates approximately 50 to 60 students with undergraduate degrees, 30 master’s degree students and 10 doctoral students) Degrees offered: BS or five-year BS/MSE in plastics engineering; traditional MS or PhD in plastics engineering or PhD in polymer science with option in plastics engineering; and graduate certificates in medical plastics design and manufacturing, elastomeric materials, plastics design, plastics materials, plastics engineering fundamentals, plastics processing, sustainable polymeric materials and additives, and commercial development for plastics engineers. “From a curricular perspective, our diverse faculty provide coverage of all four areas: polymer chemistry, product design, polymer processing and characterization,” said David Kazmer, department chair. “We close the feedback loop from conception to realization. In addition, we have eight lab courses in the undergraduate program that address pad printing, assembly, welding and other secondary processes. We also have full master’s level elective courses related to coatings, adhesives and coloration.”

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Managing the Supply Chain Squeeze Supply chain management in manufacturing is by no means a simple process, and for the plastics processor it can be an even tougher challenge. Plastics processors experience what we like to call “the supply chain squeeze,” where they typically are in the middle of two much larger manufacturing companies – the end customer and a large resin provider. Processors constantly balance raw material costs and quality with product pricing. This means it is increasingly important to identify and implement best practices that will help optimize the supply chain. Depending on what type of products are being produced and for which industries, there are a few tools that plastics processors should consider. Commodity pricing index Commodity pricing index is a strategy that is successfully utilized across many different industries. By pre-establishing a price based on the amount of raw materials purchased, companies mitigate the risk of price fluctuations and better manage profitability. For the plastics processor, a number of materials could be purchased with this strategy. However, to be successful, it will be critically important to accurately forecast future needs to ensure inventories are effectively managed. Additionally, companies also can work with customers to contractually index product pricing that will increase or decrease with commodity (resin) pricing. This is another way to help mitigate risk for the processor, but the strategy needs to be part of the early customer negotiations to be successful.

by Laurie Harbour, Harbour Results, Inc. Laurie Harbour is president and CEO of Harbour Results, Inc. Combining operational and financial advisory expertise with industry analysis and thought leadership, Harbour Results delivers results that impact the bottom line. The company specializes in manufacturing, production operations and asset intensive industries, as well as a number of manufacturing processes, including stamping, tooling, precision machining and plastics. For more information, visit www.harbourresults.com.

Multiple suppliers Oftentimes, businesses will have multiple suppliers that can provide the same or similar materials for production. By doing this, companies protect against potential raw materials cost increases that could eat into profitability. Again, looking at resin as an example, a processor’s strong relationships with resin vendors do not preclude those vendors from raising prices. It can be time consuming and costly to ensure all vendors provide the same quality products that pass testing and PPAP, so it is important to be selective in this strategy to balance the cost vs. mitigating risk. Vendor-managed inventories Another strategy that might work is that of vendor-managed inventories, where the vendor is responsible for the inventory and the shop pays upon consumption. The goal of vendormanaged inventory is to provide a mutually beneficial relationship in which both sides will be able to more smoothly and accurately control the availability and flow of goods. To be successful in employing this strategy, extensive information sharing between the manufacturer and distributor is required. Additionally, the plastics processor needs to be able to accurately forecast the required volume of the goods by month or year. In fact, vendor-managed inventories lend themselves to supplies that are low mix and high volume, such as packaging, fasteners and inserts. Although not widely used across the industry, vendor-managed inventories have the ability to reduce risk while managing cost.

40 | plastics business • spring 2017

Leveraging customers’ buying power There may be situations in which a plastics processor can leverage its end customer’s size and purchasing power to help manage vendors within the supply chain. This strategy should not become a common practice within a shop’s organization, but – if utilized strategically – it could deliver cost savings for the processing company and the end customer. To be successful, it is important for the plastics processor to have a strong and open relationship with its customer and to work collaboratively to achieve a win-win for both organizations. Managing the data The single best practice that has the biggest impact on a company’s ability to leverage the supply chain is having an analyst and data-capturing system (such as an ERP) to manage the data. By collecting, reviewing and interpreting data – such as consumption rates, inventory turns and days on hand – decisions can be made quickly, risk can be mitigated, waste can be eliminated, excess inventories can be trimmed and shop leadership can be better armed for customer negotiations. In addition to looking at internal metrics, companies should monitor economic information, such as the value of the dollar and the

price of oil, which can significantly impact the plastics processing industry. Also, it is important to monitor the industries in which the processor operates. Take the automotive industry, for example: By leveraging information such as vehicle launch forecasts and production quantities made available by third-party analysts (such as LMC Automotive), companies can better manage their business forecasts. Those plastics processors that are managing the inventory data commensurate with the product demand can achieve significant cost efficiencies through lean inventories, reduced warehouse space and avoidance of obsolete material due to engineering changes or other product changes. The first step in determining whether the supply chain is being managed effectively is to review internal metrics and determine if the numbers align with the strategic plan. If not, the company should review its supply chain management strategies and processes. An analysis of what is working and what is not can oftentimes shed light on opportunities for improvement. Finally, making the investment to have someone dedicated to collecting and analyzing supply chain data on an ongoing basis will deliver the biggest return for any processing business. n


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Association Reaches 20-Year Milestone In the early 1990s, a small group of plastics processors began gathering in a hotel meeting room in Indiana with the goal of making the plastics industry more competitive. Bringing companies together in mini-clusters around a region to share common problems and work together to find solutions proved to be a concept that resonated. “Timing is key for everything, and at that time, there wasn’t an association working with small to mid-sized processors,” explained Troy Nix, MAPP executive director. “It was the right time to open the lines of communication, deal with work force issues and help them to know their neighbors.” In 1997, the association was formally incorporated and, with three employees, the work of reaching out to suppliers and processors, primarily in the Midwest region, began. “Our focus was in getting people around a table to understand that we could really be something if we could stop looking at each other as competitors and instead see others who could help us survive,” said Nix. “If we hadn’t become an active member of the association, we wouldn’t be in the position we are in now as a company,” said Mike Walter, Met2Plastic, Chicago, Illinois. “The supplier network has helped us assess operational activity, and we’ve been able to use that as a guideline to change how we do things and make us more efficient internally.” “The relatively low entry cost drew me in and helped me better understand the vision and purpose of the association,” said Kelly Goodsel, Viking Plastics, Corry, Pennsylvania. “MAPP has provided direct benefits to my company in monetary discounts from suppliers and through the conferences and plant tours where I’ve been challenged to think bigger and better. MAPP exists to promote improvement, we’ve embraced that and we’ve seen multiple returns on our investment.” Today, MAPP celebrates its 20th anniversary, membership has grown far beyond those few people who gathered in a hotel meeting room in Indiana. More than 500 plastics processors gather each fall in Indianapolis for the annual Benchmarking & Best Practices Conference. Thirty to 50 attend quarterly plant tours held in molding facilities across the country. Plastics professionals with similar job functions devote an hour each quarter to a conference call where challenges directly related to their daily To Do lists are discussed and solutions are found. The association has become a living, breathing representation of the plastics processing industry. “We were so laser focused on making this work, there was no option to fail,” said Nix. “It shouldn’t have worked – it was horrible timing – but, the people who sat around that first meeting table had a vision. And, the organization is even more driven to succeed today, because we have so much more to lose.”

42 | plastics business • spring 2017

Celebrating 1996

Mid-America Plastics Partners, Inc. (MAPP) is incorporated in Indiana.


In January, MAPP accepts its first payment for membership dues.

Ryan Richey, Precision Plastics, Inc., Indiana As a 20-year member of MAPP, our company has grown alongside the association. The returns received from benchmarks, industry networking and processor support far exceed the costs.


MAPP holds its first Benchmarking & Best Practices Conference.

Lindsey Hahn, Metro Plastics Technologies, Indiana The impetus was to find a way individual companies could communicate on problem-solving and best practices, so we weren’t all out there on our own trying to solve the same issues.


MAPP passes the 100-member mark.

20 Years of 2006

MAPP changes its name to Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors.


MAPP exceeds 200 members.


MAPP celebrates its 20th anniversary! A new logo for the association is unveiled in January.


MAPP membership tops 300 people.


MAPP passes the 350-member mark.

Ben Harp, Polymer Conversions, New York MAPP has always been laser focused on creating value for like-minded plastics processors. When you gather a group of processors who want to excel and share, location no longer matters. Our name pulls us together and reflects our mission.

More than 500 people attend MAPP annual conference.

MAPP rolls out first issue of Plastics Business at NPE 2006.

Stu Kaplan, Makuta Technic, Indiana The magazine connects us — no matter the type of molding or our location — and gives us a way to see how other processors are tackling those operational issues we share.

More than 500 peop

le attended the 2015

Norm Forest, Dymotek, Connecticut MAPP’s success is measured by the success of its plastics processor members. The more engaged we are in sharing with and learning from those highly successful peers in our industry, the more success we will find.

MAPP Benchmarking

& Best Practices confe


www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 43


Connecting IQMS Users with Experts With roughly 40 percent of MAPP members utilizing IQMS ERP software, the association has decided to assist members in connecting with other users. To do so, MAPP’s staff has created an ever-evolving User Knowledge Matrix. The matrix, which lists current IQMS modules, is based on members’ self-reported knowledge of individual modules. A member seeking assistance in a specific module will be able to refer to the matrix, locate a member company or individual with a high level of expertise in that module and reach out for help. This matrix, which will be updated annually, will be available to all members who report their IQMS knowledge. For more information on the matrix or to be included, contact info@mappinc.com. Benchmarking Plastics Industry Benefits Packages For the first time in seven years, MAPP released its Health and Benefits Report. The report analyzes and highlights information on trends in health insurance and ancillary benefits. In addition, it showcases historical data on health and benefits trends, such as insurance premiums, drug coverage, vision and dental insurance, life insurance and company retirement plans. The overall objective is to provide company executives with a comprehensive overview of current benefits packages being offered within the plastics industry and to understand how their organization stacks up against industry norms. The report is available for purchase and download at www.mappinc.com/ plastics-information. Bringing Together EHS Leaders and Professionals July 19-20, 2017 Columbus, Ohio The 2017 Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Summit is designed to share best leadership and safety practices with industry professionals hoping to achieve world-class safety within their companies. This one-of-a-kind summit will focus on uniting manufacturing executives from across the United States to focus on best practices in environment, health and safety, along with enhancing leadership skills. Keynote speakers and safety-focused breakout sessions will showcase the following: • Attitude-Based Safety Culture • New OSHA Revisions in Walking and Working Surfaces • Machine Guarding • Interpreting Environmental Laws REACH and PROP 65 (Prop 65 isn't as bad as it sounds!) • NEW OSHA Regulations on Drug Testing After Incidents

44 | plastics business • spring 2017

• Rule Changes Under the New Administration • The OSHA Inspectors Visit: What You Can and Can’t Do Registration is open at www.mappinc.com. Learn How Plastics Companies are Managing Sales Staff MAPP recently published the Plastics Industry Sales Management Report. The report, based on a study of more than 150 plastics manufacturers, benchmarks how companies manage their sales staff and sales process. The report provides executives with data and information on training, sales staff size, methods of managing sales leads, internal and external commission structure, utilization of sales representatives and more. The report also breaks down information based on company size, process and location. To purchase and download this report, visit www.mappinc.com/plastics-information. 2017 Summer Plant Tour: Revere Plastics Systems Aug. 10, 2017 Clyde, Ohio MAPP’s final plant tour event of 2017 will be held at Revere Plastics Systems in Clyde, Ohio. The injection molding company combines the latest in plastic injection molding technology with a fleet of value-added services, from design optimization, prototyping and advanced engineering to bestin-class supply chain management. At this tour, attendees will have the opportunity to explore production operations and see how Revere’s associates have implemented a strong culture of engagement, continuous improvement and process excellence. To learn more and register, visit www.mappinc.com. Welcome New Members MAPP would like to welcome the following organizations to MAPP’s growing community of members: • A&E Plastics LLC, Elgin, Illinois • Augustine Plastics, Inc., Somerset, Pennsylvania • Echo Engineering and Production Supplies, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana • Engineered Medical Systems, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana • Mold Rite Inc., Woodinville, Washington • Phoenix Closures, Naperville, Illinois • PolyFlex Products, Inc., Farmington Hills, Michigan • Precision Molded Plastics, Upland, California • Rayconnect Inc., Rochester Hills, Michigan • Weidplas, Auburn, Alabama

MAPP Welcomes Sponsors: SYSCON-PlantStar and Precise Plastic Testing SYSCON-PlantStar is the leading provider of MES real-time data collecting and processing for the plastics industry. In today’s world of interconnectivity, companies need a system flexible and manageable enough to handle the islands of data and automation. Whether it’s real-time data from plastics machines, assembly, packaging or central water and material systems, PlantStar is powerful enough to fulfill all needs. PlantStar integrates with leading ERP systems and QC systems, helping satisfy strict data requirements for the automotive and medical industries. Operations in Europe and Asia can help organizations implement and manage systems in off-shore facilities.

2017 Benchmarking & Best Practices Conference An Uncharted Journey Oct. 11-13, 2017 Indianapolis, Indiana Don’t miss the best processor-focused conference in the industry. Registration opening soon. n

Precise Plastic Testing, Inc., located in St. Petersburg, Florida, is an innovative leader in advanced weathering techniques across many industries. Testing can be conducted using ISO, ASTM or SAE standards. The organization works closely with clients to develop test methodologies to simulate “real life” performance, with a primary focus to understand the effects of weather on plastic. The accelerated weathering test chambers expose specimens to approximately one year of normal outdoor exposure in as little as a month. Additionally, using a more intense UV source, the process can be accelerated even more. Precise Plastic Testing is on the forefront of developing new, innovative techniques that detect polymer deterioration earlier than ever before and employs many of the latest techniques to provide an accurate understanding of weather on polymers, including (but not limited to) microscopic images, specimen images, spectrophotometer evaluations, tensile testing, outdoor weathering and accelerated weathering. Save the Date! Upcoming MAPP Events Visit MAPP at the Plastics Industry Fly-In July 25-26, 2017 Washington, D.C. MAPP is proud to announce its support and sponsorship of the Plastics Industry Fly-In. MAPP is encouraging members and plastics organizations to come to Washington, D.C., this July and join colleagues in the plastics industry to provide members of Congress with the knowledge they need when considering policies that directly impact how our industry can continue to bring value and innovations to the nation. MAPP members receive a discount on this event. To learn more and register, visit the events calendar on the MAPP website, www.mappinc.com.

www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 45


Q&A: Developments in Plastics Decoration by Paul Uglum, technology advocate, fabrication engineering, Delphi

There are many reasons for plastic decoration and, to some extent, the term is a misnomer. We apply secondary operations to plastic parts to add value. That value can take the form of improving the appearance – and therefore increasing the desirability and perceived value – of an object, but it also can take to form of improved performance in the environment in which it will be used. So, the purpose of decoration should be to create a visually exciting object that both promotes the brand image of the company and creates a sense of value. Since plastic decoration is used in so many industries, ranging from plastic packaging and consumer products to telecommunications and automotive, the requirements for both appearance and function vary widely. Even with this variety underlying trends exist across the industry.


How do I find out what design trends are? So, how does one find out what the design trends are that drive decoration choices? This is not a small question since developing and implementing a decoration process involves a

46 | plastics business • spring 2017

significant investment in equipment and human capital. A wrong choice can consume resources and make it more difficult to compete. A first step is to know what is going on in the industry: the quote requests you receive, conferences and trade journals are a good starting point. Then, look to other industries. Beauty Packaging, Appliance Design, Ward’s Automotive and many other trade journals can give a more complete picture of what people want. Take a look at tradeshows, especially those that demonstrate concepts and new products. Auto shows and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) are good examples. Various color specialists put out pallets that define color trends. Some industries respond quickly to these, and others are more conservative and slower to adopt change. One caution though is page 48 u Bentley offers a vehicle with real stone trim. Photo courtesy of Bentley.

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that color has cultural meaning, so if your product is global it is important to understand regional preferences. Industrial designers tend to be very good sources of information because they have an understanding of both the past and current trends. In a recent issue of Appliance Design, Bill Dorr, director of industrial design at Design Concepts, published an article titled “Understanding and Using Emerging Aesthetic Design Trends.” It outlined a number of trends seen across many industries. Two were particularly interesting: Real Materialism and Organic Textures and Patterns. Real materialism is about the application of real wood, metal or carbon fiber instead of the substitutes because of the higher perceived value of actual materials.


How do I achieve real materialism in decorated plastic? There are characteristic and appearances of plastic by itself that are honest and fundamental characteristics of the material. High-gloss piano black would be an example of this. Beyond that, plastic often is the substrate for other materials.

Wood is a good example of how real materialism is finding a market. There are several reasons for this general trend toward “green” materials, and it can offer texture and has a high perceived value. So, how do you apply wood to plastic, and where is it used? Years ago, Yamaha developed a process laminating thin wood to metal, then forming and insert molding it. The wood surface then was sealed, stained and sanded, just like solid wood. It then was shaped with a plunge router. This technique was used in both instrument and high end automotive interior applications. Since then companies such as Quin and others have insert molded wood veneer with a clear plastic top layer. Others, for example, Mono, have both insert molded veneer with a backing and directly applied finished veneer to plastic. Real wood is finding its way into a wide range of applications in cosmetic packaging, cellphones and automotive. Other real material applications include insert molded metal first surfaces and leather. Both can be applied after molding and, in some cases, insert molded. Insert molding tends to be somewhat problematic, but it has been used for smaller parts such as key fobs, cameras and cellphones. Like leather, fabrics also can be in-molded. Some applications of real materials use more exotic or difficult-to-process options. Real cut crystal has been used

48 | plastics business • spring 2017

For some time, in applications ranging from telecommunications to automotive, soft-feel coatings have been perceived as adding significant value. in applications ranging from cosmetic packaging through automotive interiors. Real polished stone surfaces have been applied to interior surfaces on very high end vehicles, such as those from Bentley. It is clear that these processes are used because there is a market for real materials. Real carbon fiber is interesting since carbon fiber is usually used in a composite with a plastic resin. Most of the printed versions fail to look real since they lack the depth of image. Now some versions of imitation carbon fiber consist of dyed glass fiber imbedded in clear plastic that can be insert-molded for an appearance identical to carbon fiber. These materials have found use in cellphones and other weightsensitive applications but do not have have the advertising value of real carbon fiber.


How are texture, patterns and feel achieved in plastic decoration? Tactile and visual features add value to a part. For some time, in applications ranging from telecommunications to automotive markets, soft feel coatings have been perceived as adding significant value. The recent trend has been to improve the durability of these coatings to extend performance and life.

Texture is interesting because it has both visual and tactile characteristics. It is an area that has seen significant growth, both in desirability to consumers and in the range of manufacturing processes available. The explosion of new processes has been driven both by demand and by advances in technology. Ultra-fast laser pulse width has allowed direct texturing of tools. This has been used to apply very fine and reproducible textures and textures that can transition from one pattern to another. This was not possible, or at least not as repeatable, with chemically etched textures. Taiyo has taken advantage of this to make very intricate textures in plated plastic parts. They have developed backlit and non-backlit chrome appearances that were previously not possible.

Even coated (painted) surfaces are seeing an explosion of new techniques to apply textures. Tacia (Cubic) introduced a hydrographic (water dip process) coating capable of texture. Akzo Nobel has developed a printing and painting process capable of making intricate textures. Rayn Technologies has developed a process that allows laser texturing of painted or printed surfaces. Digital inkjet allows direct printing of patterns and textures to plastic substrates. In-mold decoration also has seen advances. The pressures involved in mold decoration can wash out printed textures. One solution to this is the three-dimension overlay method (TOM) developed by Fu-se Vacuum Forming of Japan. With this process, the applique is applied under low pressure, preserving the surface texture.

The next step is to spend some time learning the advantages and constraints of each process. Determine how well it fits into your plant and your manufacturing plans for the future. One thing is clear: Many more processes and technologies are available today than even as recently as two years ago. n Paul A. Uglum is a technology advocate, fabrication engineering, for Delphi, a global technology company for automotive and commercial vehicle markets delivering solutions that help make vehicles safe, green and connected. He also is the chair for SPE’s Decorating & Assembly Division. For more information, visit www.delphi.com. Reprinted with permission from Plastics Decorating.


How do I pick the best process for my product? Given the options, how do I pick the right one? The first step is to understand what your customer’s goals are. What appearance do they seek? What is the environment the decorated part needs to survive during use and to satisfy the customer?

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www.plasticsbusinessmag.com | 49

Call for Nominations • Most Innovative Use of Plastics Awards • Hall of Fame Award Go to www.speautomotive.com to submit nominations and get more information. For more information on the Society of Plastics Engineers, visit www.4spe.org.

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The Automotive Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE®) is announcing a “Call for Nominations” for its 47th-annual Automotive Innovation Awards Gala, the oldest and largest recognition event in the automotive and plastics industries. This year’s Awards Gala will be held Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at the Burton Manor in Livonia, Mich. Winning part nominations (due by September, 13, 2017) in 9 different categories, and the teams that developed them, will be honored with a Most Innovative Use of Plastics award. A Grand Award will be presented to the winning team from all category award winners. An application that has been in continuous use for 15 years or more, and has made a significant and lasting contribution to the application of plastics in automotive vehicles, (nominations due by May 31, 2017) will be honored with a Hall of Fame award. Innovative Part Competition Categories: • Aftermarket • Hall of Fame • Body Exterior • Materials • Body Interior • Process, Assembly & • Chassis/Hardware Enabling Technologies • Electrical Systems • Powertrain • Environmental • Safety

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Liquid Color for Plastics: Friend or Foe? by Nick Sotos, iD Additives, Inc.

In the early 1980s, liquid color acquired a reputation as an unreliable method of coloring thermoplastics, primarily due to the lack of technology involving the carrier and delivery systems. Together with a limited supply base that was largely familiar with manufacturing dry powder and pellet concentrates, liquid color suppliers did not fully cultivate their product or the service required to introduce it to an industry that was starving for new technology – even though it provided an opportunity to reduce cost and improve product quality. Advances in technology Since those archaic times – often referred to as the “dark days of liquid color” – advancements have been made not only in carrier technology and delivery systems, but also in how the conversion of liquid color is implemented. Liquid color liquid is pumped into the processing machinery – whether injection molding, blow molding or extrusion – from the product container through a liquid metering pump and into the inter-mixer or directly into the feed throat of the hopper. Today’s gravimetric delivery systems are much more precise, and advancements have been made in metering pumps, mixers and premixers, bucket tumblers and agitators, pump carts, tote delivery systems, adapters, plates and injection nozzles. In addition to equipment modifications, changes have been implemented in the carrier with which the liquid colorant is mixed. The carriers are more compatible with resin systems, are easier to clean and maintain heat stability without separation. As the technology has changed to eliminate concerns from the “dark days,” liquid color has seen a surge into new market segments of the plastics industry, from PET bottles, caps and closures to automotive, appliance and cosmetics. Advancements in liquid carrier technology also have found application in the additives side of the plastics industry. Allowing higher component loadings and delivering more evenly dispersed particles in the final application provide advantages over traditional pellet concentrates. Additives such as foaming agents, nucleating and clarifying agents can be delivered in very precise doses to improve both process and part aesthetics. Benefits of liquid colors and additives Like any other process improvement, implementing liquid color requires a culture that desires change and handles developments with an organized approach. Because many processors are already

How is Liquid Color Introduced at the Processor? Resin and liquid color are blended in the inter-mixer and dropped into the feed throat. Optional equipment

Hopper Inter-mixer Liquid metering Pump

Liquid color is metered from the container to the inter-mixer.

Product container

familiar with handling conventional pellet concentrates, liquid color can be viewed as an unnecessary change to the process. And, if by chance there is some history that reminds employees of the “dark days,” there may be obstacles to overcome before any consideration is given to the many benefits of change. Benefits for liquid color include decreased cycle times and environmentally friendly systems. Liquid colors typically allow higher pigment loadings than in typical concentrates, which means less color is required. This, in turn, lowers color costs for the processor. Inventory space is reduced, since liquid color packaging is much more compact than pelletized colorants, and manual labor also sees a reduction, as liquid color delivery equipment eliminates the blending process. In addition, the packaging of liquid color has been perfected to provide a close-looped system that allows the color to be conveyed to the process equipment without exposure. These delivery systems are precise, easy to use and relatively inexpensive in comparison with the traditional pellet concentrate feeder. Processors often find more homogenous color with liquid, since liquid color can be metered and dosed much more effectively into the plastic melt stream, allowing for better color dispersion and improved part-topart consistency. All that said, liquid color is an option for any plastic processor – injection molder, blow molder or extruder – with the desire to implement a change in the process and a culture that will deliver a plan for improvement. n Nick Sotos is founder and president of iD Additives, Inc., LaGrange, Illinois. The company offers lines of foaming agents, liquid systems, purging compounds and additives that will fulfill a majority of customers' needs. For any additional needs, custom products can be quickly designed. Coupling foaming agent technology with other additive and colorant needs allows iD Additives to offer a costeffective “One Pellet Solution” for its customers’ additive needs. For more information, visit www.idadditives.com.

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Outlook: Shifting from Populism to Pragmatism by Chris Kuehl, managing director, Armada Corporate Intelligence

The Trump campaign was a mystery from the very beginning. Pundits did not give this effort much of a chance and assumed that it would fade as soon as voters started to make real choices. Obviously, this didn’t happen. The problem for many analysts was that Trump had no real track record as far as politics or governance were concerned. It was not all that clear what he would do once in office, and positions tended to shift as the campaign demanded. This was a populist insurgency – driven by voter anger and frustration – as opposed to a distinct set of policy prescriptions. The people who surrounded Trump were generally just as new to governing as Trump. The assumption was that the Trump team would evolve over time, but nobody really had a sense as to how this would take place. Now that evolution has started to take shape, and it seems that pragmatism slowly is overtaking populism. This will doubtless be frustrating for some of those core supporters who assumed government would be fundamentally altered, but this transition has been welcomed in the business community and has added somewhat to the confidence levels that had been noted at the start of Trump’s term.

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One of the key differences between the campaign and the presidency thus far is that the advisers have changed – at least, some of them. The emerging inner circle is far more corporateand business-oriented than was the inner circle during the race. The voices catching the ear of the president are pursuing a far less radical agenda and look a great deal more like the traditional base of the GOP. They have been far less antagonistic toward trade and far more supportive of agreements such as NAFTA. There has been a reversal as far as support for NATO and the Export-Import Bank, and suddenly there has been far less criticism of China and even Mexico. This doesn’t mean that all of the populist messages have been abandoned, and many likely will remain part of the White House strategy, but when it comes to the day-to-day of governing, there is more reliance on those who have been around longer – and with that comes more trust in the overall business community. Three areas that have changed more radically than others include China policy, position on NATO and what to do with NAFTA

and overall trade policy. Throughout the campaign, China was positioned as enemy number one. The country was held responsible for the decline of manufacturing jobs and the loss of US competitiveness and now would be dealt with severely. China was going to be labeled as a currency manipulator, and the US would impose everything from tariffs to legal restrictions to blunt exports from China. Today, most of those policies have been abandoned, and China has returned to its former status as partial ally. The fact is that China is vastly important to the US business community and is needed to put the brakes on North Korea. The Chinese never assumed the rhetoric was real and patiently waited for Trump to come around. With the advice of his team, Trump has returned to the positions the US pursued toward China under Obama, Bush and before. The relationship between China and the US has always been complex, as each country needs the other – and deeply resents that dependence at times. Both China and the US have their nationalists who resent the impact of the other country. The US resents the import surge that has driven many manufacturers out or forced them to relocate. The Chinese resent their dependence on the US to buy these products and chafe at the demands made by US buyers. The Chinese would like nothing more than to ignore the US in pursuit of its regional ambitions, but the Chinese are in no position to ignore the country that buys $350 billion of the country’s exports. For those who are counting, that is almost a quarter of the total Chinese GDP. A second major change is seen regarding NATO. During the campaign, Trump asserted the alliance was obsolete and that the US should no longer finance it. The policy was connected to the assertion that Europe had not being paying its fair share and owed the US money. This position was roundly criticized in Europe and stressed relations with several key US allies. That stance now has been softened, and NATO is back in the good graces of the US. It was made apparent by Trump’s military advisers that the US could not do what it wanted in the rest of the world without the support of these allies, and the criticism has been replaced by praise.

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NATO no longer is focused on the threat from the USSR. Its mission is far more complex, and troops have been engaged in every US conflict of the last 20 or 30 years. Its role in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria can’t be overlooked, and it has been engaged in Libya, Ukraine and many other hot spots. The generals who now advise Trump have urged a far more cooperative tone. The third major shift has involved trade policy. The Trump of the campaign trail was a classic populist, supportive of page 54 u

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an isolationist stance that was based on strict protectionism. That stance has been changing by the day, as there has been more reliance on pro-trade advisers as well as congressional leaders who favor expanded trade. The promised changes to NAFTA are now likely to be minor, and the White House position on the Ex-Im Bank has shifted toward support. The US seems willing to pursue trade pacts again, but more attention will be paid to the economic implications than to the political motivations. The bottom line is that many are making the case that the US benefits from free trade more than most nations – after all, exports account for 14 percent of the total GDP of the country.

more provisions favor America, but it is clear that a fullfledged protectionist approach is now off the table. n Chris Kuehl is managing director of Armada Corporate Intelligence. Founded by Keith Prather and Chris Kuehl in January 2001, Armada began as a competitive intelligence firm, grounded in the discipline of gathering, analyzing and disseminating intelligence. Today, Armada executives function as trusted strategic advisers to business executives, merging fundamental roots in corporate intelligence gathering, economic forecasting and strategy development. Armada focuses on the market forces bearing down on organizations. For more information, visit www.armada-intel.com.

Trade pacts that were far more political than economic in nature have been dismissed – as was the case with the Trans Pacific Partnership. But, pacts like NAFTA have been looked at more closely to realize what they have meant for the US. The fact is that every trade agreement will have provisions that benefit the US and provisions that benefit the other trade partner. It doesn’t hurt that the US is looking to ensure that

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Strategic Planning Rarely is success stumbled upon by accident. Instead, it’s the result of careful, focused planning that identifies direction, market and strategies to achieve goals that also have been deliberately set. How many plastics processors today are taking the time to study, assess and understand their companies’ strategic plans? And, how many are expending the effort necessary to update those plans and ensure their companies are on track? These six books contain advice on reacting with agility to market shifts, evaluating new customer sources, applying game theory to decision-making and laying out a roadmap for a strategic plan that places business owners in a position to win. Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant Authors: W. Chan Kim and Renée A. Mauborgne Released: Feb 3, 2005, Updated 2014

In this perennial bestseller, embraced by organizations and industries worldwide, globally preeminent management thinkers W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne challenge everything you thought you knew about the requirements for strategic success. Recognized as one of the most iconic and impactful strategy books ever written, Blue Ocean Strategy, now updated with fresh content from the authors, argues that cutthroat competition results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool. Based on a study of 150 strategic moves (spanning more than 100 years across 30 industries), the authors argue that lasting success comes not from battling competitors but from creating “blue oceans” – untapped new market spaces ripe for growth. Blue Ocean Strategy presents a systematic approach to making the competition irrelevant and outlines principles and tools any organization can use to create and capture its own blue oceans.

The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life

Authors: Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff Released: Jan. 4, 2010 Game theory means rigorous strategic thinking. It’s the art of anticipating your opponent’s next moves, knowing full well that your rival is

56 | plastics business • spring 2017

trying to do the same thing to you. Though parts of game theory involve simple common sense, much is counterintuitive, and it can only be mastered by developing a new way of seeing the world. Using a diverse array of rich case studies – from pop culture, TV, movies, sports, politics and history – the authors show how nearly every business and personal interaction has a game-theory component to it. Mastering game theory will make you more successful in business and life, and this lively book is the key to that mastery.

The Agility Shift

Author: Pamela Meyer Released: Sept. 29, 2015 The Agility Shift shows business leaders exactly how to make the radical mindset and strategy shift necessary to create an agile, entrepreneurial organization that can innovate and thrive in complex, ever-changing contexts. As author Pamela Meyer explains, there is much more involved than a reconfiguration of the org chart and job descriptions. It requires relinquishing the illusion of control at the very foundation of most management training and business practice. Despite most leaders' approaches, "Agility is not simply accelerated planning." Unlike many agility books on the market, The Agility Shift provides specific, actionable strategies and tactics for leaders at all levels of the organization to put into practice immediately to improve agility and achieve results.

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works Authors: A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin Released: Feb. 5, 2013

Strategy is not complex. But, it is hard. It’s hard because it forces people and

organizations to make specific choices about their future – something that doesn’t happen in most companies. Now two of today’s best-known business thinkers get to the heart of strategy – explaining what it’s for, how to think about it, why you need it and how to get it done. And, they use one of the most successful corporate turnarounds of the past century, which they achieved together, to prove their point. A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, in close partnership with strategic adviser Roger Martin, doubled P&G’s sales, quadrupled its profits and increased its market value by more than $100 billion in just 10 years. Now, drawn from their years of experience at P&G and the Rotman School of Management, where Martin is dean, this book shows how leaders in organizations of all sizes can guide everyday actions with larger strategic goals built around the clear, essential elements that determine business success – where to play and how to win.

The award-winning Strategy-In-Action shows, through cuttingedge research and compelling cases, how companies ended the long-standing divorce between planners and implementers. One saved $200 million from people power and another made €74 million from innovation. CEOs, senior managers and strategists will find a systematic, seven-step roadmap for winning strategies: how to build alignment among multiple stakeholders; get intelligence from far-flung locations; stand in the future while respecting the past; give voice to dissenters and maximize ownership; build a mindset of accountability, leadership and entrepreneurship; produce quick wins and screen out losers efficiently; and get dynamic feedback from the action. n Book summaries provided by the publishing entity.

Strategic Planning: As Simple as A, B, C Author: David R. McClean Released: Jan. 12, 2015

If your organization wants to get better at strategic planning, you could hire expensive consultants eager to charge you as much as they can. Or you could demystify the process by reading this guidebook written by an accomplished businessman and former military strategic planner who explains that strategic planning means doing the right things, which is much different than doing things right. Col. David R. McClean (USA, Ret) provides a phased approach with clear and concise advice so you can improve your strategic planning and increase growth. Whether you own a corner sandwich shop or manage a megabank, you can conduct an organization assessment to develop a comprehensive strategic plan, select and lead strategic planning teams, communicate with colleagues and business partners, and analyze and execute an effective implementation plan.

Strategy-In-Action: Marrying Planning, People and Performance Authors: Thomas D. Zweifel and Edward J. Borey Released: Jan. 3, 2014

Traditional strategic planning no longer guarantees success. Rapid change and uncertainty, globalization and new technologies, flatter hierarchies and empowered consumers call for a new approach.

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SUPPLIER DIRECTORY Additive Manufacturing

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Energy Strategy Constellation www.constellation.com/betterway Page 49

Equipment/ Auxiliary Suppliers Conair www.conairgroup.com/protect Back cover Frigel www.frigel.com Page 24 Novatec www.novatec.com Pages 30-31 Progressive Components www.procomps.com/z-series Page 15

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MRO Supplies Grainger www.grainger.com Inside back cover

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Amco Polymers www.amcopolymers.com Page 27 Chase Plastics www.chaseplastics.com Page 34 M. Holland www.mholland.com Page 41 Polymer Technology & Services www.ptsllc.com Page 11 PolySource www.PolySource.net Page 23

Training Paulson Training Programs, Inc. www.paulsontraining.com/MAPP Page 13

IQMS www.iqms.com Page 3 RJG, Inc. www.rjginc.com/copilot Page 47

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Process Monitoring

VIVE – Marketing for Manufacturers www.vive4mfg.com/inthewild Page 20

Wittmann Battenfeld www.wittmann-group.com Page 35

ChemTrend www.chemtrend.com Page 7

Syscon International www.syscon-intl.com Page 45

Purging Compounds ASACLEAN/Sun Plastech Inc. www.asaclean.com Inside front cover

Plastics Business Spring 2017

Strategies for Today’s Plastics Processors

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Plastics Business - Spring 2017  

Plastics Business - Spring 2017