Plastics Decorating October/November 2020

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In-Mold Decorating to Expand Industry Outlook: 2021 and Beyond Preventing Decorated Surface Failures UV LED Curing for Hardcoats

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October/November 2020


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Ask the Expert

In-Mold Decorating Continues to Expand

Despite a slow start in the US, in-mold decorating/labeling has found its place with molders and decorators and will continue to expand in the future.


UV LED Curing for Surface Hardcoats

Providing a high level of physical protection and enhancement, UV curing can be utilized in numerous plastics decorating processes.


2021 and Beyond – The Industry Looks Ahead

As 2020 draws to a close, the industry looks to the new year with optimism.


Going Virtual During COVID

As companies adjust to the “next normal,” incorporating more virtual communication has been and will continue to be vital.


A Short Guide to Laser Welding Plastics

An attractive tool for joining molded plastics, laser welding can be suitable for a wide variety of polymer products.


Failures and Prevention: Chemical Attacks of Decorated Plastic Surfaces When decorating plastic parts, unexpected field failures can occur for a number of reasons, from the design to the substrate.

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The Five Myths of Business Strategy

In the drive toward success, strategic thinking is the most important leadership skill.


Improving Polymer Adhesion: Advancements for Low Surface Energy Plastics Applications For improved adhesion, it is worth considering new flame treatments for tough-to-adhere polymers.

DEPARTMENTS Viewpoint...........................................................................6 Association.......................................................................17 Process Highlight............................................................18

Tech Watch......................................................................37 (Tapematic’s PST Line)


(In-Mold Decorating/In-Mold Labeling)


Application (KURZ).......................................................20

Supplier Quick Links......................................................54


Read the latest articles from Plastics Decorating or download a digital edition at

October/November 2020 5



s we get closer to the end of 2020 and begin looking at 2021, the global pandemic still looms large. Glimmers of hope are on the horizon as we get closer to an approved COVID-19 vaccine, and headway is being made with new treatment protocols. In addition, I recently heard encouraging news from a somewhat unlikely source – an economist!

Chris Kuehl is the managing director of Armada Corporate Intelligence. Occasionally featured in this magazine and many others, Chris recently presented at a conference I (virtually) attended. Among the nuggets he shared: If we look ahead to the end of 2021, a conservative economic analytical group is predicting 4% growth – 4% would be almost a point and a half faster than what we experienced in 2019. To get us there, some economists are now predicting a “K”-shaped recovery, where some sectors (such as manufacturing) recover more quickly and a secondary recovery will happen for service sectors a little later. Chris also tackled the reshoring issue, predicting that we will see increased reshoring in North America, due to factors such as a desire to diversify supply bases, unreliability of ocean cargo and increased transportation costs. All of this is good news for companies with capacity here in the US. In this issue, you will find additional info about market predictions for 2021, along with articles related to the continued growth of in-mold decorating in the US, adapting to more virtual tools and communications methods to keep up with clients during the pandemic, anticipating and avoiding decorated surface failures and much more. Although the shift to virtual events is keeping the information flowing at this critical time when plastics businesses are adapting quickly to changing market conditions, I can’t wait to see everyone again in 2021. With luck, we’ll be in Orlando at NPE 2021 in just a few short months!

Dianna Brodine, managing editor,

ISSN: 1536-9870

October/November 2020

Published by: Peterson Publications, Inc.

2150 SW Westport Dr., Suite 101 Topeka, KS 66614 (785) 271-5801

Website: Email: Editor-in-Chief Art Director Jeff Peterson Becky Arensdorf Managing Editor Graphic Designer Dianna Brodine Kelly Adams Editor Online Director Brittany Willes Mikell Burr Assistant Editors Vice President Nancy Cates Gayla Peterson Lara Copeland Circulation Manager Liz Stevens Brenda Schell Technical Editor Scott Sabreen, The Sabreen Group Plastics Decorating is published quarterly. All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in any manner without written consent from the publisher.

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Beautiful Graphics for Cosmetic Products at Market-Leading Speed CER announces the North American launch of the popular Ultimax-2M2N hot stamp / heat transfer machine for cosmetic applications such as lipsticks, jars, caps, and airless pumps. The system features a throughput of up to 7,000 units per hour, which is 15% higher than available competing models.

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A resource sponsored by SPE’s Decorating & Assembly Division

In-Mold Decorating Continues to Expand


espite its slow growth in the US, in-mold decorating and labeling processes have proven themselves to be popular with plastics decorators and molders. Plastics Decorating recently sat down with Dave Schoofs, business and product development at Central Decal, to discuss the ways in which IMD/IML has made an impact, how molders can best make use of the technology, and how IMD will continue to be utilized in the future, especially when it comes to hot-button issues like sustainability.

In-mold decorating and labeling have been popular processes in Europe and other countries but have seen slower adoption in the States. Will IMD continue to grow in the US? IMD has expanded the boundaries of design, functionality, performance and user interface and continues to expand globally for injection and blow molding. Fior Markets research recently projected growth of “$5.56 billion USD in 2018 to $8.78 billion USD by 2026, or 5.9% CAGR for the period 2019 to 2026.” Significant growth is within food and beverage packaging, which accounts for over 40% of all IMD applications. Based on 2016 statistics, the European Union accounts for more than 60% of the total IMD market followed by 22% in North America and 11% in Asia. Even with the recent 3% to 5% annual growth for the past four years in Asia and North America, the EU dominates in the use of IMD.

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Package sustainability of fast-moving consumer goods is responsible for the growth of IML in the EU, as compared to North America and Asia. For durable goods, reliability, design and integrated user interface drive growth of IMD in the EU, as compared to North America and Asia, where the manufacturing/ distribution sales channel price pressures have been found to negatively impact and restrain the growth of IMD in certain markets; however, there are growth opportunities that value IMD. In the near future, I anticipate we will experience greater growth of IMD in North America and Asia in response to sustainability regulations and evolving consumer demand for increased functionality, stylized designs and performance. What is influencing the use of IMD on durable goods? Design trends that incorporate full-color, multifunction touchscreens and capacitive switches are displacing traditional mechanical and resistive touch UI with IMD-FIM (film insert molding) on auto and appliance applications. The large displays typically require a protective plastic layer and a decorated 3D bezel that is a great fit for a formed IMD-FIM. There also is a greater demand for multiple graphic variations and leveraging tooling across multiple product lines. IMD-FIM is a perfect Figure 1. IMD-FIM is used to decorate an appliance user interface.

fit, with rapid changeover from one image to another. In-mold electronics (IME) appears also to be growing more rapidly in the EU than North America and Asia. As the IME technology matures, the use of this application will continue to grow. Why is IML a popular choice when decorating plastic containers and other products? Packaging is an ideal fit for IML and is growing in response to sustainability and the logistics/POS energy efficiency demands. Plastics simply do not biodegrade to any significant degree in landfills and account for nearly 20% of litter. Sustainability will drive greater use of IML in our throwaway society. The redesign of packaging to reduce cubic space of the package is a perfect opportunity to incorporate IML. Thin wall packaging using like-resin IMLs are easily repurposed. Shrink sleeves and PSA labels require special recycling processes. Depending on the type and specific density of label or shrink sleeve, the package may be lost in the recycling process and end up in a landfill. What are some of the challenges of IMD/IML? What must an injection molder put in place before considering the addition of IMD? There is a common misconception among molders that IMD is simply placing a graphic in the tool and shooting resin, and if it

doesn’t work, the problem is the IMD insert. To be successful with IMD, the molder must be willing to make an investment in equipment, R&D and intellectual property (IP). For example: an initial equipment investment for a robot in the $90K range. Next plan $20K+ for the end-of-arm tooling (EOAT) and nest specific to the shape of the insert and tool geometry. EOAT becomes more complex with multiple inserts and with multiple cavities. The speed and repeatability of the IMD placement is very critical, especially for high-speed molding of packaging. As for IP, molders need to develop a good understanding of how tool/gate design and cycle are impacted by size, shape and location of the decoration, resin type, flow front, cycle temperatures, wall thickness, flow/fill, knit lines and surface finish. The molder also needs to determine how to hold the IMD in correct placement with static, vacuum or friction fit. If planning to use IMD-F, the molder needs to work closely with the foil supplier to develop this capability. IMD-F requires custom tooling and a feed system for the continuous roll of foil.


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Robotics and EOAT may be required to handle the decorated plastic part after ejection. What IMD/IML challenges exists for the end customer? Molding and traditional decorating methods are well understood by the end customer. IMD typically improves durability and, Figure 2. Outdoor weatherable IMD-FIM with a high-resolution image depending on volume, can be a lower cost option; however, it may require additional engineering and tooling use of metallics), textures/finishes and assembly take time to to implement vs. traditional decorating methods. Common determine how to best to decorate a product. challenges include: IML outperforms labels on applications where there is a regular • Don’t assume two similar IMD programs will perform exposure to liquids such as chemicals and detergents. Shampoo the same. Subtle differences can present unique containers were one of the first packages using IML because of challenges. the type of image and environment. The decoration must flex • IML, IMD-F and IMD-FIM present unique with the container when squeezed. IML also is ideal for FDAcapabilities and quality challenges. approved direct food contact including decorated plates and • Engage the molder, robot, EOAT/nest and IMD cups. These also can include specialty films, such as lenticular supplier from concept through mass production. As an and metallized films. IMD supplier, it is not uncommon to encounter tool and EOAT designs at pilot runs that negatively impact What's next for IMD? the IMD and total yield. I anticipate IMD will continue to grow. The growth of IMD over • Test and validate assumptions early and then sample in the past 30+ years is a direct result of creativity, the desire to the production work cell prior to production. incorporate a design, improve margins and product durability by • The IMD changes during the molding process. challenging traditional decorating mindset. IMD is not limited Validate the performance of the IMD with by the end product. IMD applications that come to mind include Weatherometer (UVA or UVB), Xenon, humidity, golf clubs, auto interior/radio/PRNDL/speedo, wash machines, abrasion, chemical, adhesion, temperature or handheld electronics, glucose meters, bottles, lawn mowers, tools, environmental cycle testing. backboards, cups and plates, dustpans, hydroplanes, recycling • The printed ink and clears must withstand cracking, containers, yogurt cups, 3D brandmarks and many more. washout, discoloration and delamination during molding. Confirm that the IMD will not discolor, The willingness to invest in the development of cost-effective crack or oxidize in the final application. solutions in response to sustainability requirements, the value • Is the IMD base material appropriate and processed of functionality/design and improved durability will drive the correctly for the application? Materials such as growth of IMD. n spun woven materials are a natural sponge and have catastrophic failure if not processed properly. Dave Schoofs has nearly 40 years of • Validate the IMD for consistency and reliability to experience providing durable graphics ensure low PPM. to a wide variety of markets including automotive, appliance, lawn and What projects/applications make the most sense for garden, sporting goods and handheld in-mold decorating/labeling? How is IML impacted by electronics. His current responsibilities changes in product design? include supporting business and product IMD, direct printing, pad printing, paint/laser etch and adhesive development. For more information, backed graphic each have unique capabilities and limitations. contact or Schoofs Product shape, volume, functionality, durability requirements, visit volume/price expectations, type of image (number of colors,

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UV LED Curing for Surface Hardcoats by Jennifer Heathcote, business development manager, GEW, Inc.


ptically transparent UV-cured hardcoats, topcoats, overcoats and clearcoats are utilized in numerous plastics decorating processes. As the descriptors suggest, these coatings tend to be clear but also can be tinted or formulated with other visual additives, are applied to the outermost surface of manufactured parts, and serve to provide a high level of physical protection and/or aesthetic enhancement to the primary goods being manufactured. Examples of plastic decorating processes that incorporate UV-cured hardcoats include physical vapor deposition (PVD), in-mold decorating (IMD), in-mold labeling (IML) and finishing. In PVD processes, metal is vaporized and condensed onto plastic surfaces in very thin layers to produce visually flawless metallized effects. The metal is then protected with a UVcured clearcoat. For injection and blow molding applications, preprinted thermoformed sheets or flexible film appliquĂŠs are inserted into the tooling of in-mold machines that enable preprinted decorative graphics to be directly molded into the surface of plastic components. One side of the printed material often includes a previously cured UV topcoat or is UV-cured after thermoforming and before molding. In finishing processes involving 3D parts, manufacturers spray, dip, flow or vacuum coat protective UV-curable coatings directly onto formed items, which are immediately cured inline. UV topcoats are instrumental in upstream processes, where they are applied to the surfaces of rolls of raw polymer film utilizing various web coating application technologies. These UV-cured films are incorporated into downstream print and molding processes and/or applied to the surfaces of other manufactured items.

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P r o d u c t d e s ig n e r s f i n d U V- cu red coat i ngs a p p e a l i n g fo r s e ve r a l reasons. First, UV coatings enable lightweight plastic parts to be produced with hard and durable outer finishes that can survive handling, filling, assembling, shipping, long term use and exposure to harsh conditions. It also means that inexpensive plastic materials can be used to create visually appealing items perceived to be of much greater value. This is possible because printing and decorating processes have been perfected to disguise plastic surfaces so that they appear metallic; exhibit a wood grain or other natural material composition; or display colorful printed graphics, logos, text and symbolic operator interface guidance. With UV-cured coatings, it is even possible to incorporate added functionality such as the ability for surfaces to be easily Figure 1. GEW LeoLED UV LED curing system

cleaned; provide antimicrobial capabilities; resist scratching, abrasion, marring, water and chemicals; enhance reflection or reduce glare; and improve weatherability. A wide range of plastic goods manufactured for automotive, household and industrial uses require UV-curable hardcoats fo r t h e a fo r e m e n t i o n e d reasons. Examples include gas station pump panels; membrane switches; t ouch sc r e e n s; ele c t ron ic signature pads; natural and backlit advertisement, solar, and architectural panels; automotive interior trim and external assemblies; rigid cosmetic packaging; embellishments and hardware fixtures; medical devices, home interior and lawn Figure 2. Spectral output of mercury vapor vs. UV LED and garden equipment panels and assemblies; mobile phones and accessories; lighting louvers; While UV LED curing technology is not yet ready for most polarized sun and safety glasses; LCD displays for televisions, hardcoat applications due to 1) lack of UVC LEDs, 2) oxygen inhibition at the surface, and 3) insufficient irradiance at greater smartphones, laptops and tablets; and others. working distances, development activity is increasing in this UV-curable polymer coatings are typically applied in a liquid- space and will drive viability and adoption in the future. like state and immediately transformed into a crosslinked solid upon exposure to ultraviolet light. UV curing is a UV spectral output photopolymerization process in which ultraviolet energy Ultraviolet wavelengths between 200 and 450 nm are drives chemical crosslinking reactions in specially formulated fundamental to UV curing and commonly segmented as: materials. Exposure to UV energy creates incredibly strong • UVC (200 to 280 nm) molecular bonds within polymer resins in less than a second. • UVB (280 to 315 nm) These bonds are instrumental in generating the surface • UVA (315 to 400 nm) properties characteristic of hardcoats. From a processing • UVV (400 to 450 nm) perspective, UV curing provides the necessary energy to crosslink coatings without transferring excessive thermal heat, which can melt or warp the underlying plastic components. Of these four segments, UVC produces the shortest and UV-cured coatings also have the advantage of being able to greatest energy wavelengths while UVV produces the longest and lowest energy wavelengths. UVC wavelengths tend to adhere to an extensive range of materials. be absorbed at the surface of coatings while UVA and UVV Historically, medium-pressure mercury vapor lamps, including wavelengths penetrate much deeper. Medium-pressure mercury both electrode arc and microwave, have been used for curing vapor lamps are broad-spectrum and emit all four wavelengths, UV hardcoats. Users of hardcoats have been closely watching as well as visible and infrared. By comparison, UV LED the progress UV LED curing has made in structural bonding curing lamps are concentrated within longer UVA and UVV adhesives, fiber optic coatings, printing inks, pressure wavelengths between 365 and 405 nm, with recent development sensitive adhesives and graphics coatings. As a result, plastics in UVC occurring between 275 and 285 nm. A comparison of manufacturers are anxiously anticipating the availability of a mercury vapor lamp to UV LEDs is illustrated in Figure 2. UV LED-curable surface coatings for their own processes and are increasingly asking material and equipment suppliers for updates on UV LED hardcoat options. 

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Figure 3. Oxygen inhibition and UV wavelength penetration

Highly functional industrial coatings predominantly rely on photoinititators that efficiently absorb UV irradiance between 220 and 260 nm also while reacting a bit to longer UVC and UVB wavelengths. As a result, the primary challenge delaying UV LED curing of hardcoats is a mismatch between long UVA wavelengths emitted by commercial UV LEDs and the chemistry’s need for short UVC wavelengths. In non-hardcoat markets presently using UV LEDs to cure inks, coatings and adhesives, formulators use specific photoinitiators that react to longer UVA wavelengths. Since longer wavelength absorbing photoinitiators tend to yellow when exposed to UV energy, formulators must mask the yellowing with pigments or blend various photoinitiators with other chemistry in ways that minimize yellowing. This was not initially straightforward, but ongoing development has successfully led to clear over print varnishes (OPVs) for graphics coatings that cure with LED at competitive line speeds, are acceptably non-yellowing and provide enough protection for many printed labels and some packaging. Unfortunately, the inability to use preferable photoinitiators that react to UVC means that many of the more durable properties delivered by hardcoats are simply not possible with longer wavelength LEDs today. Surface cure and oxygen inhibition When photoinitiators absorb ultraviolet wavelengths, they create free radicals (R•) as illustrated in Figure 3. Free radicals drive crosslinking by bonding with resin molecules to create long continuous polymer chains. Oxygen inhibition occurs when oxygen (O2) molecules in the air interfere with this process. This interference is generally limited to the surface of the coating, where it weakens free radicals and reduces their overall concentration. Formulations sensitive to

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oxygen inhibition tend to have incomplete polymerization near the top surface that results in a sticky, tacky or greasy feeling. For many mercury vapor curing applications, the presence of UVC wavelengths is enough to counter oxygen inhibition. Since UVC wavelengths are higher in energy and easily absorbed by free radical generating photoinitiators near the surface, they can often produce enough free radicals to offset what is lost to oxygen. In applications that use UVA LED curing today, formulators initially struggled with oxygen inhibition. This issue was not overcome until UVA LED irradiance values increased to levels that could outpace oxygen inhibition at the surface, despite not being the ideal wavelength. Irradiance (W/cm2) is the power or rate of energy delivery per area. Over the last 20 years, UVA LED irradiance has increased from less than 0.5 W/cm2 to as much as 20 and even 30 Watts/cm2 today. In general, it is possible to drive irradiance to greater levels with UV LEDs than mercury lamps, as illustrated by the chart in Figure 2; however, once UV output surpasses the minimum threshold irradiance needed to initiate the reaction and offset oxygen inhibition, energy density (J/cm2), which is the total delivered energy over time, has a greater impact on cure. Irradiance at greater working distances For three-dimensional parts with drastic or deep part profiles, another challenge for surface hardcoats is the magnitude of the irradiance. UV curing requires direct line of sight between the lamp head and all facets of the cure surface. For webs and flat part profiles, this is not an issue. As part shapes become more complicated, however, lamp heads must be positioned further from part surfaces to provide suitable clearance. Multiple lamp heads positioned at various angles also are sometimes necessary to provide full UV coverage to 3D parts.

Mercury vapor lamps used in part finishing and on web coating applications that experience web flutter and bounce in front of curing lamps often have a 50 mm (2-inch) focal length. This concentrates ultraviolet energy in front of the lamp head by the specified focal distance. By comparison, UV LED curing systems, as shown in Figure 1, are a flat matrix of diodes where the greatest irradiance occurs near the lamp emitting window, and for conventional systems utilized in web applications where web tension and curing on rollers eliminates flutter, GEW electrode arc lamp systems utilize a 3 mm (0.12-inch) focal length. UV LED output is emitted from flat emitting windows at a typical beam angle of 120°. As rays travel away from LED lamp heads, they diverge. The spreading out of rays reduces UV concentration and ultimately decreases the magnitude of the irradiance arriving at the cure surface. A minimum threshold irradiance required by the formulation is necessary to generate free radicals and drive crosslinking. While commercial UV LEDs have considerably higher peak irradiance values than mercury vapor, the magnitude rapidly diminishes with increasing distance. There are always

UV curing requires direct line of sight between the lamp head and all facets of the cure surface. For webs and flat part profiles, this is not an issue. As part shapes become more complicated, however, lamp heads must be positioned further from part surfaces to provide suitable clearance. exceptions, but most commercial UV LED curing applications are designed to keep the UV LED lamp head as close to the web or part surface as possible for this reason. In other cases, chemistry is designed to react to a lower irradiance or reflectors and optics are incorporated to collimate or direct the light across a greater distance.

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Status of UVC LEDs From an electronics fabrication perspective, the most promising LED wavelengths within the UVC band lie between 275 and 285 nm. While this is outside the preferred 220 to 260 nm range for hardcoat chemistry, prototype curing systems are currently emitting up to 4 Watts/cm2.

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This is considerably higher than mercury vapor UVC irradiance. That said, this peak irradiance is measured at the lamp head and will fall to much lower levels at distances of 25 to 100 mm (1 to 4 inches). In addition, short wavelength UVC LEDs do not yet satisfy cost, reliability and life requirements. It is important to note that UVA LEDs suffered through these same challenges 15 years ago, all of which were overcome through persistent innovation and development. Over the next 5 to 10 years, it is anticipated that UVC LEDs will follow a similar development path to what UVA LEDs experienced over the previous 15 years. As both UV LED curing systems and UV LED chemistry continue to evolve, they will become increasingly more compatible with surface hardcoats and plastic decorating processes. This means that users of hardcoats will eventually reap the many benefits of UV LED curing technology, including longer source life, improved process control and reduced heat transfer to parts. Until then, mercury vapor lamps and hybrid Arc/LED solutions are the preferred curing source for UV hardcoats. Current users, however, are strongly encouraged to continue communicating interest in UV LED coating technology to suppliers, as market demand is a critical factor in how management teams allocate R&D resources. n Jennifer Heathcote is a subject matter expert on mercury vapor UV curing systems and UV LED technology as well as the use of UV curing across a broad range of graphic arts, product decorating and industrial applications. She is business development manager at GEW, Inc., and can be reached at jheathcote@


For more in-depth information on UV LED curing, view Jennifer Heathcote’s webinar, “An Introduction to UV LED Curing for Plastics,” at

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ASSOCIATION Letter from the Chair

We are all working in the new virtual world now. From conferences and tradeshows to customer meetings, we are all becoming experts at using Zoom, GoToMeeting or some other similar platform. It will be very interesting, once we work through the pandemic, to see how much of the virtual communication will remain part of our everyday lives. I certainly believe we will find ourselves having meetings and doing business more and more virtually. However, I also believe strongly that in-person conferences and tradeshows will make a fast comeback when this all subsides. Human nature drives us to want to have in-person interaction, and there will be a place for in-person events for sure. When? That is something we still don’t know. SPE is planning to have ANTEC® 2021 be a hybrid event with in-person programming scheduled March 21-23 in Denver, Colorado, and virtual programming to take place March 29-April 9. To see more details on ANTEC, visit Paul Uglum is our

Decorating & Assembly Division Chair for ANTEC, and we are planning to sponsor at least one session of papers. If you are interested in presenting (most likely virtual), please contact Paul at Our SPE Decorating & Assembly Division is currently exploring an in-person Topical Conference of some type next fall. It will have been more than two years since we have sponsored a TopCon by then, and we are hoping it will work out for us to host one. We are planning the details now and will announce our plans by the beginning of the year. Let’s all hope by early spring we are seeing many things back to normal. I think it is very important for our well being as well as our businesses. I will plan to see many of our SPE members and Plastics Decorating readers this spring at either ANTEC or NPE in May. I am very much looking forward to that inperson interaction (masks or not). I hope everyone stays safe, and I look forward to seeing you in 2021. Jeff Peterson President, Peterson Publications, Inc. Chair, SPE Decorating & Assembly Div.


SPE to Present ANTEC® 2021 as Hybrid Event The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) has announced that ANTEC 2021 will be presented as a Hybrid Edition composed of live, real-time remote and on-demand components. Here is a rundown of what is expected: • ANTEC® Live is tentatively scheduled as an in-person event taking place in Denver, Colorado, March 21-23. Schedule and speakers will be confirmed shortly. • ANTEC® Virtual, slated for March 29-April 9, will offer real-time, remote presentations occurring over 10 days with 20 technical tracks. Additionally, ANTEC® will include International Spotlights with real-time global presentations broadcast online from various regions including Asia, India, Australia/New Zealand, Europe and the Middle East. Dates for International Spotlights will be forthcoming. • ANTEC® On-demand will encompass additional paper/presentations recorded without a live audience but will be available to all ANTEC® registered attendees.

Become a member of SPE’s Decorating & Assembly Division

Full program and ANTEC® activities will be publicized soon. To learn more, visit and click on Events. n

Access to 25,000 technical papers and presentations Discounts on SPE conferences Network with 15,000 members around the world Online access to THE CHAIN, a networking platform specifically for the plastics industry

October/November 2020 17


In-Mold Decorating/In-Mold Labeling Central Decal 800.869.7654 Central Decal, Burr Ridge, Illinois, provides IMD/IML inserts with bright whites, safety colors, mirror, metallics and simulated stainless finishes engineered specific to the part geometry and IML location(s), as well as the gate, tool and EOAT design for injection and blow molding of PP, PE, PS, PMMA, PC, ABS, PET and SAN resins to optimize yield, aesthetic, performance and budgetary requirements for applications throughout North America. CreaprintUSA Corp. 786.369.7398 CreaprintUSA, Miami, Florida, focuses exclusively on providing IML labels for a wide range of materials including PP, PE, PS, PMMA, PC, ABS, PET, PVC and PLA and for production processes like injection and blow molding, as well as thermoforming. CreaprintUSA has more than 20 years of experience manufacturing IML labels for foodstuffs, paint and chemicals packaging; child houseware, home storage and decoration; cosmetics and childcare; advertising products; plastic furniture, toys and automotive parts; electric and electronic devices; and agricultural and gardening products.

DuraTech Industries 608.781.2570 or 800.451.9503 DuraTech Industries, La Crosse, Wisconsin, offers in-mold electronics (IME), combining printed graphics, printed electronic traces and injection molding. The result is a costeffective plastic part with integrated circuitry. Printed electronics and components are encapsulated in resin, protecting them

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from the environment. Products that need thorough cleaning, with no cracks and crevices around switches or buttons for dirt and bacteria to hide, are ideal IME candidates. Reduced electronics weight by 70% and assembly depth by up to 90% create tremendous opportunities for designers and engineers. There are no moving parts to fail. Haptics can be added to enhance the user interface.

KURZ 704.927.3700 KURZ developed an HMI concept panel with a forward-looking design that demonstrates technical possibilities. This high-end plastic component was realized in collaboration with KURZ subsidiaries and partners. The HMI concept panel exhibits a seamless decorated surface under which diverse functions and light elements are concealed. The panel is equipped with a capacitive touchscreen and a touch panel. The central operating element of the instrument panel is a touchscreen with multi-touch function and supplementary touch buttons. The touch panel is used to control a backlighting function that is integrated into the design and produces an interplay of illuminated and non-illuminated elements. This will be on display and demonstrated at NPE 2021.

Marabu North America 843.886.0094 Marabu North America, Charleston, South Carolina, introduced the 3087 series of inks, its new generation solvent-based screen printing series for FIM (film insert molding). Developed in its

in-house technical FIM center in Germany, 3087 inks offer excellent printing results, forming and bonding to PC for automotive and adjacent industries. With a solution for in-mold electronics (IME) in mind, one of the first products is a carbonfree black with a high resistance value. It has shown good compatibility with formable conductive silver pastes for IME application. First samples available now include 3087-181 nonconductive black, 180 opaque black, 970 white and 910 clear. Nazdar Ink Technologies 913.422.1888 Shawnee, Kansas-based Nazdar Ink’s 8400 series CVIM conventional i nser t mold decorati ng screen ink has been formulated to meet requirements of the insert mold decorating (IMD) process. The 8400 series has flexibility for forming and post-form trimming, resistance to wash out during the molding process and adhesion to polycarbonate injection mold resin. Overprinting the 8400 with the 8449 Tie-Coat conventional screen ink promotes adhesion to other injection resins such as ABS, PMMA and PVC. The 8400 (with adhesion promoter) is for second surface printing on polycarbonate, polycarbonate blend or pretreated polyester films that will be formed then molded in the insert mold decorating process. North Pacific International, Inc. 909.628.2224 The roll-to-roll in-mold decorating system from North Pacific International, Inc., Chino, California, is for decorating a plastic i njectionmolded part while it is still being formed in the mold. This system will help transfer remarkable looks and effects along with protective topcoats, all in one shot. It can add g raph ics on i r reg ula r surfaces and complex geometries. This turnkey system will enable molders with little to no experience to begin production and compete in this highly demanding market. NPI will provide the feeding unit, mold, foil, installation, training and on-site support for a plastic molding machine. Proell, Inc. 630.587.2300 Proell, Inc., St. Charles, Illinois, offers the IMD/FIM ink system NORIPHANŽ HTR N, a formable, backmoldable and

solvent-based one-component screen printing ink for film insert molding technology. Besides the established standard silver colors (770, 782, 790), new metallic shades with special features have been created. Ten shiny silver color shades have been printed on Proell’s new color chart. Among them are a nonconductive silver, a silver with improved climate stability and an opaque high gloss silver, as well as bluish and dark chrome silver color shades. Serigraph 262.335.7200 Serigraph, West Bend, Wisconsin, offers a variety of in-mold label (IML) decorated parts. Through the use of its Arburg 110 ton injection molding press, plastic parts can be decorated in the mold with a decorated applique that is placed in the mold tool before injecting the plastic. The hot plastic and applique create a bond with each other, and the part comes out of the molding machine fully decorated. This process is a great way to make parts with durable, long-lasting decoration. It also eliminates a secondary decorating process, saving production time and costs. Yupo Corporation 757.312.9876 Yupo Cor por at ion, Chesapea ke, Virginia, offers YUPO IML synthetic substrates that possess the attributes designers and manufacturers require for extraordinary results. These substrates are super smooth, print consistently, are tear-proof and wipe clean. YUPO IML can be printed with fluorescent and metallic inks, foil stamped, metallized, coated, spot-coated or crafted using any other converting option desired. There are many IML grades to choose from, and Yupo Corporation is always testing new grades that will provide better levels of sustainability. n

October/November 2020 19


Diverse Designs – KURZ Designs Human-Machine Interface Concept Article provided courtesy of KURZ Transfer Products


roduced by means of the in-mold decoration (IMD) process, KURZ Transfer Products, Huntersville, North Carolina, has designed a humanmachine interface (HMI) concept for an automotive display panel. The special feature of the HMI instrument panel is its almost one meter wide single-image design. The panel presents a detail-rich surface design into which touch and light functions have been embedded. "KURZ’ mission is to create exceptional quality products that bring consumer excitement and choice to decorative solutions,” remarked Scott Tacosik, director of sales – business area plastics. “This HMI concept is an excellent representation of Smart Surface solutions offered by KURZ showing decoration, function and integration.”

The automotive HMI instrument panel exhibits a solid, seamless surface. Whereas mostly small design elements are used in the automotive sector, a more striking, larger, nature-oriented design named Fading Lines was developed for this panel. The distinctive design progresses from a gentle gradient to a high-gloss black piano dead front surface. The flowing transitions give the Fading Lines design a dynamic appearance. Besides the unusual surface design, the geometry of the component also exhibits a special characteristic. The display area of the component transitions into the operating panel in an organic curve. This accentuates the operating area, and the curved geometry acts as a tactile aid. Diverse touch functions under a seamless surface The central operating element of the instrument panel is a touchscreen with multi-touch function and supplementary touch buttons. In addition to this, the panel contains touch controls for turning on mood-setting ambient lighting. These touch controls are only visible when the panel is backlit; when the illumination is deactivated, the surface appears solid and opaque. The diverse functions are controlled via several sensors that have been integrated into the instrument panel using a variety of processes. The detailed surface design of the instrument panel measuring almost one meter in length was created as a single image using

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the IMD process during injection molding. The sensor for the multi-touch panel was integrated into the rear by IML during the same injection molding cycle. In addition, the instrument panel was equipped with a proximity sensor below the display that was applied by lamination. The sensor for the light-regulating touch controls was integrated by functional foil bonding (FFB). The patent-pending FFB process from KURZ enables sensors to be fully mechanically and cost-efficiently integrated into plastic parts. Design, function and integration from a single source The individual elements of the overall HMI concept were all developed within the KURZ Group. The design of the human-machine interface was implemented by KURZ Digital Solutions. The component geometry, the user interface and the partially backlightable IMD coating was designed and produced by the parent company. The sensor technology for the FFBand IML-capable touch sensors was supplied by the KURZ subsidiary PolyIC. The process technology for FFB integration comes from the stamping machine manufacturer Baier. “Our award-winning HMI concept combines the forwardlooking Fading Lines design with sophisticated functionality. That we were able to develop all components in-house in a collaborative effort is a significant success factor for us and is reflected in the cohesiveness of the surface design,” explained Alisa Schäfer, a designer at KURZ. The HMI concept received the Red Dot Award for good design in the product design competition and in the automotive category. “With so much new product innovation happening across the industry, we're excited to be recognized by the prestigious Red Dot design award and hear the overwhelming positive reaction from our customers and the market,” said Tacosik. n

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2021 and Beyond – The Industry Looks Ahead by Brittany Willes, editor, Plastics Decorating


o say the least, 2020 has been a strange and challenging time. The plastics industry, like many others, has suffered its share of setbacks. According to a report by Business Wire, “The global plastic products market is expected to decline from $1008.5 billion in 2019 to $987 billion in 2020 … The decline is mainly due to economic slowdown across countries owing to the COVID-19 outbreak and the measures to contain it.”

As part of its efforts, the company has been working to improve its social media activities, as well as exploring other digital tools with which to offer customers more information. The result is that clients are able to make more use of the company’s contract decorating department for high quality digital printing with no investment at all. “Thus, our clients can make the call as to when the time is right to invest in their own equipment,” Kammann said.

Despite the unexpected downturn, however, there is reason for plastics molders and decorators to look to the coming year with optimism. “The market is then expected to recover and grow at a CAGR of 8% from 2021 and reach $1201 billion in 2023” (Business Wire). While the market is expected to recover beginning next year, that doesn’t mean it won’t be without continued challenges.

Digital Decorations is not the only company working to find a new normal amid the challenges of COVID. Engineered Printing Solutions has likewise had to reimagine its usual business strategies.

“With COVID-19, the biggest challenge is the lack of faceto-face interaction,” remarked Michael Kammann, marketing director for Digital Decorations, LLC. “As our products are not as simple or well known as a pressure sensitive label, we rely a lot on direct communication to explain what we do and how to benefit from this. It is especially challenging given most tradeshows are currently being cancelled or postponed.” The lack of in-person interaction has been a struggle for many companies. As a result, many – including Digital Decorations – are having to find alternate means of connecting with customers. “Even though the traditional communication channels are closed, we will keep offering our services as they are but with an even higher focus on digital communication and flexibility,” Kammann explained.

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“Since many of our products represent a significant capital investment for our customers, our challenge is always to make the case for them doing so,” said Marketing Manager Peter Baldwin. “The challenge is greater when the economic forecast is murky. Assuming the pandemic has a vaccine solution somewhat early in the year, the influx of pent-up demand could put us into a short-term position of chaos.” As such, Engineered Printing has taken steps administrators hope will mitigate some of that potential chaos. “Internally, we are taking the opportunity – albeit with a little risk – to prebuild standard machines to cut lead and delivery times by 50%,” said Baldwin. “As order volume spikes up, we will be in a position to fulfill orders promptly and smooth out the production bottlenecks.” Working ahead is not the only measure the company has taken. “As a manufacturing company, we feel we have created the

appropriate balance between on-site and remote work,” Baldwin continued. “All meetings are virtual, masks are mandatory and available for all, as well as hand sanitizer available at locations throughout our facility.” By creating an environment combining working from home where possible and engaging in low-density in-person employment where not possible, Engineered Printing has been able to retain its full complement of approximately 80 employees – an impressive achievement. Despite the continuing pandemic-related challenges, increased opportunities for plastic products and packaging is predicted for the coming year. According to a Market Analyst Report by Grand View Research, “In terms of revenue, packaging dominated the market with a share of 36.5% in 2019…The impact of coronavirus pandemic on the packaging industry is expected to remain moderate over the forecast period. The demand for packaging for healthcare products, groceries and e-commerce transportation is expected to increase sharply.” Industry veterans are likewise optimistic about potential opportunities in the new year. “We see great opportunity for growth and demand for smaller quantities and fast turnaround,” said Kammann. “Luckily this is something we have been focusing on since day one. Thus, we will keep our focus on the products that we know best. Furthermore, we will be offering new heat transfer equipment for the cosmetics industry to decorate cosmetic tubes, airless dispenser and other mandrel carrier products.” “We see the greatest opportunities in growing our customer base due to competitive shrink and offering new products that are better than ‘me-toos’ offered by our competition,” said Baldwin. “We see opportunity in the continuation of building bespoke/custom machines that turn into standard models for specific applications and industries. We have always felt that our products are a good investment, or else we wouldn’t be in this business. As part manufacturers reexamine their global supply

chains in light of interruptions brought on by the pandemic, we feel that – as an American manufacturer – our value proposition is only increased.” While there is potential for growth in the new year, the sting of COVID will no doubt continue to be felt long after the threat is over. The industry will have to continue to change and evolve as society adjusts to new ways of conducting business. “The biggest impact will be in the way we communicate to our clients,” said Kammann. “Both on the social and business level. The use of digital meetings with tools like Zoom, Skype or Teams will be something we have to continue to implement. Furthermore, it’s possible tradeshows will never recover to the size they had before, making it even more important to improve sales and customer service in a more digital world.” “There will be consolidation/shrinkage as well as the diminishment of certain industries, such as ad specialty, which could be offset by increased opportunities in medical and safety,” said Baldwin. “We also see more companies adopting automation in their production process.” No matter what the coming months might bring, one thing is sure: The plastics industry will continue to play an essential role. While some traditional doors may be closing, new ones will open – leading to new opportunities and new ways for plastics to shape the market. n References “Global Plastic Products Market Set to See a Resurgence from 2021 Post COVID-19 Impacts.” “Plastic Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product (PE, PP, PU, PVC, PET, Polystyrene, ABS, PBT, PPO, Epoxy Polymers, LCP, PC, Polyamide), By Application, By Region, and Segment Forecasts, 2020-2027.”

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Going Virtual During COVID by Jessica Makrinos, marketing manager, Inkcups


n a time when travel is banned, face-to-face contact is limited and the world is put on hold, businesses are working harder than ever to ensure they are positively progressing. For many companies, especially those that manufacture and sell industrial printing equipment and supplies, connecting with customers is key. Many of these companies rely on inperson visits and tradeshows to present their new products and solutions. Simply buying online is sometimes not an option. For this reason, many companies are looking for innovative ways to accomplish this goal without the risk of exposure. During this time, companies have reevaluated their operations and have taken the obvious route: going digital. Going digital refers to moving from in-person contact to online. Service calls have moved from in-person visits to video conferencing technology via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Machine sales and demos also have moved to online media, as well as virtual tradeshows, where companies have guest speakers in combination with machine demonstrations.

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Aside from real-time interaction, video in general has boomed. Showcasing more detailed product videos, rather than generalized media is, proving to be especially important during this time. Social media have continued to show a strong presence, as companies typically use these connections to keep the customer informed on business updates or events advertising. The challenges and benefits of going digital Of course, there are many risks with virtual interaction, but there also are many benefits. To start with the obvious, there is always a risk of connection issues. Whether it is on the company’s side or the customer’s side, frustration does arise when the connection is not crisp and clean. During a live webinar, this is detrimental. Spending so much time planning, working on presentations and videos, and having this happen is a marketer’s nightmare – especially because there is little that can be done about it.

Another obvious risk is being hacked (everyone has heard about the debacle with public Zoom meetings). This leads into another point, which surrounds the learning curve around this technology. It is not so much a risk, as it is the difficulty in working on some of these platforms right away – especially for individuals who are not the most technologysavvy. In this case, having a professional take over the duties is the best and fastest way to success. Finally, there is an art to finding the perfect mix of video vs. discussion, short webinar vs. a longer webinar. It is always great to get feedback from the audience. Bonus: This is also an excellent way to get material for the next webinar. As for the benefits, companies can get in front of a customer at any time, anywhere. Instead of having to jump on a plane or drive hours, simply log into a meeting with a customer and easily chat, show the machine and discuss necessary topics – all from the safety of the office. While this does not completely replace the much-needed face-to-face contact, more and more people are becoming accustomed to this way of business. This more modernized approach is the future of this industry and will continue to be a huge asset. How to get started To start out, going with what you know is the best route. Since companies needed to adjust so quickly, not many had time to search for the perfect video conferencing software or the best way to connect. While the technology used may not be the most customizable software out there, having something is better than nothing. For example, there are out-of-the-box solutions, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, that can easily allow individuals to connect with a small learning curve. Once it becomes necessary to customize screens and add more functionalities, things may start to get a bit complex. Next, it is important to get ideas from other companies. Whether it be from friends, families or even customers, knowledge is power, and the more questions asked, the more ideas will start flowing. Referrals are the best way to narrow down the decision. Finally, always evaluate. After every online session, not only should companies evaluate how many visitors and the overall content of the presentation, they should also note connection drops and improvements to the way in which the presentation was conducted. This also goes for digital service calls. For example, if the camera constantly needed to be readjusted, there are possibly other ways to perform the service call. Perhaps having someone else hold the camera or having a head camera would benefit this situation. All in all, always strive for improvement.

Adjustment to the next normal Some companies, like Inkcups, have seen much success with video conferencing for machine demonstrations and service calls. The customers appreciate the fact that these technicians are willing to spend all day with them to answer any questions they have about their machine. There is emphasis on their machine because there is a greater difference between hands-on training in a training facility vs. a customer using what they have currently in production. The customer is solely responsible for the next step. There is no tech there to take over, which improves learning. In addition to this learning experience, having clear documentation for each machine is key. Companies also are bettering their capabilities for machine demos for new customers. For example, technicians can receive the customer’s sample in-house, along with the provided artwork and will print the product in real-time. The customer gets to observe their product being printed and then will be shipped the product once it is done. Finally, companies are gearing up to provide an inside look into their machines. For instance, starting with a Tagless Virtual Trade Show, Inkcups will provide a basic overview of the industry, demonstrations of the most popular Tagless printers and then dive deeper into the benefits of Tagless printing. The future of connection While COVID limitations will not be around forever, the way companies do business now and into the future has changed. Pushing companies to have to adjust to this “next normal” will benefit everyone in the long run. Just because more people will feel comfortable traveling and tradeshows will commence does not mean that businesses will stop connecting digitally. If the customer is comfortable with traveling, but their schedule is packed for the next few weeks, a salesperson can jump on a video conferencing call and have a meeting. Although this situation altered every single company, it also has better prepared every company for the uncertainty that could arise at any time. n Inkcups is a leading supplier and manufacturer of digital inkjet equipment, pad printing equipment, laser platemakers and corresponding supplies, with direct sales, technical support and warehouse locations in the US, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Hong Kong and other global locations. Inkcups manufactures high-quality industrial machines for Makrinos a wide range of industries including apparel, drinkware, promotional, electronic, medical, sporting goods and automotive markets. For more information, visit

October/November 2020 27


A Short Guide to Laser Welding Plastics by Ian Jones, manager, Laserweld Plastics Ltd


asers are attractive tools for joining sheet, film and molded thermoplastics and textiles. Their features allow for a precise, yet rapid, delivery of a controlled amount of energy exactly to the point where it is required. Lasers are available with outputs covering a range of wavelengths, which has a large bearing on the interaction of the light with plastic materials. The nature of the process used is varied depending on the type, thickness and additives in the plastics. Complex forms can be welded using high resolution positioning and welds from less than 100 ¾m wide. This makes them suitable in a wide variety of applications including catheters, microfluidic devices, tubing, packaging, electronic cases and inflatable devices by using different material handling equipment. Plastic types Thermoplastics are polymer materials made from long chain molecules that, above a certain temperature, can be reshaped or welded. Unlike thermoset polymers, the molecular chains in thermoplastics are not cross-linked and do not have a rigid network. At high temperature the molecules are free to move and the material flows as a liquid. Industrial plastics have melting or softening temperatures in the range of 120 to 343°C.

}* * Melt zone 0.36 mm deep Figure 1. Laser transmission weld in polypropylene showing the melt zone evenly affecting the carbon black filled and unpigmented layers, indicating that all the remaining energy is absorbed immediately at the surface of the black material. Image courtesy of TWI.

Thermoplastics may be split into semi-crystalline (milky appearance) and amorphous (glassy) types. Semi-crystalline types are a mixture of small crystallites surrounded by amorphous material. The crystallites scatter light, giving rise to their outward appearance, and limit the transmission of laser radiation. This in turn limits the maximum thickness that may be transmission laser welded. Some plastics can be made in both types, but generally this is not the case. Plastics such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), nylon (PA) and polyetheretherketone (PEEK) are semi-crystalline. Polycarbonate (PC), polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and polystyrene (PS) are amorphous. Laser types and their interaction with plastics The different applications possible with each laser type are very dependent on the wavelength of light produced, which dictates the form of energy absorption in the plastic. The most common form of laser welding is the transmission method, in which the beam is delivered through the upper part to the surface of the lower part where heating and melting take place. The differential heating is controlled using laser absorbing additives or coatings at the lower part. A laser with a wavelength in the range 750 to 1500 nm is used, and this may be provided by diode, fibre and Nd:YAG laser types. In general, this wavelength of radiation is absorbed far less

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Figure 2. Diagram of transmission laser welding using IR absorber at the joint interface

Figure 3. Containers welded in clear PMMA made with IR absorber.

readily in plastics than UV or mid-IR radiation. The degree of energy absorption in this range depends largely on the presence of additives in the plastics and whether the plastic is semi-crystalline or amorphous (glassy). If no fillers or pigments are present in the plastic, the laser will penetrate a few millimeters into semi-crystalline plastics and is hardly attenuated at all in amorphous plastics. The absorption can be increased by means of additives such as pigments or fillers, especially carbon black pigment. The absorption of radiation by natural unpigmented plastics increases from 1.6 µm wavelength upward until there is strong absorption for IR wavelengths longer than 5 µm. At a wavelength of 2 µm, which may be provided by a fiber laser or Holmium:YAG laser, the energy from the beam is deposited in the top few millimeters of all plastics (semi-crystalline or amorphous). Welding is possible in sheet up to a few millimeters thick without the need for additional absorbers. This is termed direct laser welding because the beam is not transmitted through an upper part to the joint line. Direct laser welding is not yet widely applied for joining plastics but has potential for wider use. The CO2 laser is a well-established materials processing tool, commonly used for cutting plastics in film, sheet and fabric form. The CO2 laser radiation (10.6 µm wavelength) is rapidly absorbed in the surface layers of all plastics. The energy is delivered as heat in the first 0.2 mm of plastic to which the laser is directed. This leads to rapid heating, and very rapid weld processing of thin plastic film is possible – even with fairly modest laser powers (<1000 W). Welding speeds in excess of 1000 m/min have been demonstrated.

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Transmission laser welding When first being reported in 1985, transmission laser welding was carried out with an infrared transmissive plastic material for the upper section and a carbon black loaded plastic for the lower layer. The carbon black absorbs and heats in the laser beam to generate a weld at the interface between the two pieces. The process is limited by the fact that one side of the component has to be black but is still the most common application of the process. The upper part must transmit a proportion of the laser energy (more that 10% is usually enough), so that heating preferentially takes place at the surface of the lower part rather than at the upper surface of the top part. An example magnified at the joint interface can be seen in Figure 1. This image, with an almost equal melt depth in the two materials, shows that heating is developed very locally at the black surface. The black surface acts as a heating element within the part and provides for rapid processing, minimal thermal damage of surrounding components and minimal distortion or contamination at the joint. The advent of alternative absorbers for laser welding in 1998 allowed the joint to have much less visible color. One example is called Clearweld. It is an infrared absorbing dye, much like other visibly colored dyes. It can be applied as a coating (by spraying, printing, pad, needle or pen) at the joint line or added to the lower part (Figure 2). An example of a welded product made by applying absorber to the joint surface between two transparent parts of PMMA can be seen in Figure 3. Nearly all color combinations can now be welded using transmission laser welding. The main problems arise with heavily filled plastics, where the upper part will not allow the beam to pass through to the joint. In these cases, the filler must be reduced or changed in particle size to reduce scattering, or another welding process should be considered. Textiles The application to textiles is very interesting. The process also offers a new method of welding textiles that melts only the joint surfaces, not the outer surfaces of the material. In that way, a proportion of the fibers remain unmelted, and the strength – and often flexibility – of the fabric may be retained at the seam. Figure 4 shows a design for a waterproof jacket in which continuous and hermetic overlap welds are made in waterproof fabric laminate. The potential therefore arises for further automation of garment manufacturing for waterproof clothing, personal protective clothing and other textile products. The process also has been extended to joining of fiber reinforced polymer composites. The composite matrix is heated and melted by the laser source, while the fiber reinforcement remains unaffected by the process. Transmission laser welding can be applied to composite materials with glass or polymer fiber reinforcement and matrices that do not have high filler content. Where carbon fiber is used or the matrix is black or heavily filled, an alternative process not requiring the beam to pass through the part is used. This is direct laser welding.

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Direct laser welding Where the laser energy is not transmitted, either through choice of radiation wavelength or due to the materials selected, melting starts at the upper surface of the plastic. This is described as direct laser welding. The CO2 laser was first used for this process, and welding of thin film is possible at very high speeds. Welding has been demonstrated with a range of plastic films at speeds of up to 1200 m / min. A simultaneous cut/ seal also may be carried out Figure 4. Design for a for packaging or bag making waterproof jacket that has purposes by controlling the laser-welded seams that are laser beam power distribution more effective as a water to cut two films in contact barrier than the alternative while leaving a welded region stitched and taped seams at the edge of the cut. For plastics with thicknesses in the range 0.2 to 5 mm, a source with 2 to 3 µm wavelength may be used to make conventional butt joints. There is no need for additional absorber, but the plastic transmission properties must be controlled to ensure consistent welding takes place. Summary Polymer products can be laser welded using a variety of process mechanisms (matching materials with radiation wavelengths), and alternative equipment configuration such as gantry, robotic, scanner or fixed array energy delivery produce precise heating and localized melting. The welds are completed rapidly, with high strength and good appearance. The welding process is efficiently achieved using the very compact diode and fiber laser sources and lends itself easily to high levels of automation. Applications of this technology exist for a wide variety of industry sectors and product types. n Ian Jones has more than 30 years’ experience in laser processing applications and development studies, including development of high-power laser welding of metals and non-metals. He co-invented and developed the Clearweld® laser welding process for plastics. For more information, visit


PRODUCT AMADA Announces Laser Workstations AMADA WELD TECH Inc., Monrovia, California, has announced the WL-300A laser processing workstation, configured for nanosecond pulsed fiber laser applications. Typical applications include marking of metals and select plastics particularly for medical, electronic components, battery and aerospace applications. This workstation is a larger version of the LMWS laser marker workstation that is designed to accommodate larger par ts. For more infor mation, visit Emerson’s New Laser Welder Enhances Manufacturing Capabilities Emerson, St. Louis, Missouri, launched a new laser welder platform that provides greater production capability without compromising product quality or performance. The Branson™ GL-300 is a highly flexible, quasi-simultaneous plastic joining solution, designed to deliver efficient high-quality welds in a wide range of applications and help manufacturers to increase production efficiency. The Branson GL platform combines efficient and accurate welds with cost-effective and easyto-change tooling that enables faster set-up and adjustment for changing product specifications. It includes a scanning system, easy-to-use HMI, large (300 mm x 300 mm) weld area, multiple weld modes, variable spot size as low as 0.5 mm and an adjustable laser power source height. For more information, visit

CTI’s Color-Change Solvent Technology Drives Cup Innovations Specialty inks – popular for driving interest on packaging for beer, soda and candy – are now feasible for fountain cups as a result of an invention by Chromatic Technologies Inc. (CTI), Colorado Springs, Colorado. CTI has invented a new suite of color-change technologies using solvent inks, including thermochromic (temperature-activated), photochromic (sunlightactivated), glow-in-the-dark and reveal technology. The new solvent-specialty inks eliminate the operational hurdles of water-based inks. For more information, visit

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Boston Industrial Solutions Unveils Natron™ PP Primer Boston Industrial Solutions, Inc., Woburn, Massachusetts, has introduced a one-component polypropylene adhesive primer. The Natron™ PP Primer is formulated for UV inkjet printing, pad printing and screenprinting applications. This primer works on difficult-to-bond low surface energy plastics such as polypropylene, polyethylene, etc. The Natron™ PP Primer for inkjet printing has gone through rigorous testing to ensure perfect adhesion onto difficultto-print rubber and plastic substrates. This UV inkjet high-performance primer features a sweet smell compared to other primers, improved surface finish and print quality, extremely fast drying time – less than five seconds – applicability on many substrates (plastics, rubber, silicone, some powder coated metals and glass) and availability in 8 ounce, one quart and one gallon containers. For more information, visit

Simco-Ion Announces Web Cleaning Virtual Checkup Simco-Ion, Hatfield, Pennsylvania, has announced the newest offering in its virtual checkup program: web cleaning. The web cleaning virtual checkup is a no-obligation meeting that will allow prospects and existing customers the chance to have a web cleaning expert analyze production lines and offer recommendations for improvements. Contamination on material can pose a serious threat to the quality and appearance of an end product. The addition of highperformance contact cleaning or noncontact web cleaning can dramatically improve yields, reduce waste, increase run time and increase quality, leading to greater profitability. Web cleaning experts will determine mounting locations, identify preventive maintenance and perform a contamination audit of existing machinery. For more information, visit Mactac® Launches MacBond® FBR899 Series Tapes Mactac® Industrial Tapes, Stow, Ohio, has launched the MacBond® FBR899 series, a versatile line of industrial tapes



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designed to adhere to nearly any and every surface. The product line features Mactac’s workhorse MacBond FBR899 adhesive. MacBond FBR899 offers the highest-tack rubber available, as well as an excellent blend of adhesion and peel. It has low-surface energy (LSE) performance and superior adhesion to most open- and closed-cell foams, as well as corrugated materials. Additionally, it forms aggressive bonds to textiles and textured surfaces. MacBond FBR899 series tapes are offered in transfer adhesive and double-coated film form with a 0.5-mil PET carrier. For more information, visit Colors & Effects® Promotes Pigments for Compostable Plastics and Printing Inks To support the creation of colored compostable products, the Colors & Effects® brand promotes a special pigment portfolio for compostable plastics and printing inks. The selection is based on the evaluation of the pigment composition according to the requirements of EN 13432, the European standard for industrial composting. The regulation EN 13432 treats pigments as additives and, as such, they are obliged not to hinder the industrial composting process. Due to the company’s long-term experience with purity limits for sensitive applications like food contact materials or toys,

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it has built up a comprehensive pigment portfolio with especially high purity standards. For more information, visit Inkcups Unveils Transparent Pin Curing for Helix® Printers Printing industry supplier and manufacturer Inkcups, Danvers, Massachusetts, has released a new feature for Helix® digital cylinder printers: Transparent Pin Curing (TPC). TPC enables UV inkjet printing on clear products without the need to a dd a U V-block i ng age nt i nt o t he ve ssel. Traditionally, UV inkjet printing on clear vessels requires a stuffing agent (a “foxtail”) to block the UV energy from curing the ink and damaging the print heads. With this new patent-pending technology, containers remain uncontaminated and sterile on the inside and print head life is protected. The proprietary TPC system is available as a field-upgradable retrofit for existing Helix® printers or on new Helix® machines. The TPC system feature is engineered and manufactured in the US and available for order now. For more information, visit Emerson Launches Heat Staking Technology to Meet Growing Demand for Complex Plastic Parts Technology and engineering company Emerson, St. Louis, Missouri, has introduced new heat staking technology to give manufacturers greater design freedom by enabling them to join more complex, delicate and sensitive components to plastic moldings. Using a pulse staking technology that optimizes the heat staking process, t he Br a n son™ GPX platfor m produces high-quality joins, superior product aesthetics and energy savings. The Branson GPX platform uses PulseStaker technology to provide instantaneous heating and cooling, with adjustable cycle times. The process creates no particulates or burn marks and enables more delicate and sensitive parts, such as those with embedded electronics, to be joined with consistently high-performance finishes. The advanced technology is suitable for all heat staking applications, including those with thermoplastic materials and metallized coated parts. For more information, visit n


Tapematic’s PST Line by Lara Copeland, writer, Plastics Decorating


apematic, based in Ornago, MB, in Italy, with a sales and support office in Orlando, Florida, designs and builds inhouse novel and high-quality industrial machinery. For the past decade, Tapematic has specialized in the manufacture of UV varnish/painting and metallization equipment, focusing specifically on the packaging for cosmetics, spirits, pharmaceuticals and automotive applications. The unique PST system has become the core business. To complement its established line of equipment called the PST Line I, which was first presented in 2010, the latest model was introduced in the second half of 2018: the PST Line II. The PST Line concept consists of several modules integrated and dependent on the specific customer’s requirement. Supported by Tapematic technicians and an experienced engineering team, clients can customize the line according to their precise needs and requirements, including stations for either manual or automatic loading and unloading, cleaning and pretreatment areas, primer application, UV base coating, sputtering and UV top coating, with the further possibility of inline decoration modules. Both PST lines use the same technology and differ only in the size of the workpieces they can handle. The PST Line I machines are the smallest ones of Tapematic’s whole range. It can process up to four workpieces with a maximum diameter of 56 mm and a height of 90 mm, or eight workpieces with a maximum diameter of 28 mm and a height of 60 mm. This guarantees a productivity rate of 2,000 or 4,000 parts/hour. The PST Line II series, on the other hand, is characterized by a larger footprint and a productivity rate that can reach 7,800 parts/hour, treating up to 13 components up to 102 mm in diameter and 130 mm in height. The PST Line offers a new automated approach to UV varnish/ painting and vacuum metallization. High solid UV curable varnish/paints are the new standard but slightly more expensive.

Traditional, always-on spraying techniques use up to 80% more varnish/paint. The PST Line II can paint/coat each 3D object individually with minimum waste. With no more wasteful batch testing where thousands of pieces are tested simultaneously, operators can refine the process configuration for new items during the setup phase. Each module can be setup, monitored and refined with the userfriendly touchscreen interface. New items also can be setup quickly and easily, and configurations can be stored for instant recall, which delivers major economies in cost and speed. Lower energy consumption than traditional lines and less varnish/paint are features that made PST Line II extremely efficient. There is no toxic wastewater to process after spraying or other unnecessary waste products, and no chrome derivatives are used in the metallization process. Technical details The PST Line II – Inline 3D Sputtering Coating System handles substrate material ABS, PE, HDPE, PC, PS, PA, PET, PVC, SAN, PPA, PP, PMMA, POM, glass and metal. It treats substrates up to 102 x 130 mm with custom dimensions upon request. Weighing 17,000 kg, it measures 5,000 x 19,000 x 2,100 mm with a yield of 95%. n

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Failures and Prevention: Chemical Attacks of Decorated Plastic Surfaces by Paul Uglum, president, Uglum Consulting, LLC


lastic parts are decorated for many reasons and using many differing techniques. Parts can be decorated to achieve specific aesthetics and appearances, to provide uniform appearances across various substrates, to apply graphics and to achieve specific functional or tactile results. Coatings also are applied to protect the substrates from one or more failure modes and to increase the durability of the part. Understandably, it is disappointing to then experience field failures of the coating or of the part as a whole.

Failures can be formula-related, design-related, substraterelated and/or process-related. Because of this, great care is taken in the development, selection and testing of plastic decoration to ensure the products will meet all of the expectations, including long life without failure. Even with all of the preparation and testing, unexpected field failures can occur.

Figure 1. Examples of paint swelling and delamination after chemical exposure

Entire books have been written about the testing of decorated plastics and the analysis of failures. One of the significant causes of failures is exposure to various chemicals in the environment. These occur on purpose – with cleaning, by accident – with spills and inadvertently – by the transfer of personal care products during the handling and operation of the product. The susceptibility of specific decoration chemistries, quantity of exposure, length of exposure and surrounding environmental conditions all have some impact on the outcome. All of these are considered in the design and development of products, so it is worth looking at why this effort sometimes fails to ensure durability in the field. Failures can result from single overstress conditions that exceed the ability of the decoration to resist that stress. They also can occur from cumulative damage as a result of multiple exposures over time. In addition to the primary active components in commercial disinfecting and personal care products, it is common for the products to contain a complex mixture of additional chemicals. Unfortunately, these mixtures can be much more aggressive to plastic decoration and plastics than just the primary active components. These additives attack the surface, hold the active chemicals on the surface and often enable them to better penetrate the coating.

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Figure 2. Examples of physical damage after paint softening

Figure 3. Examples of loss of adhesion after chemical exposure

Since this is an environmental stress, any surface exposed to contact with the chemical stress is at risk. In its simplest form, decorated plastic consists of a plastic substrate with one layer of applied material on the plastic. Many forms of decoration are multi-layered, and interlayer adhesion and effects also must be considered. In the case of coatings, it is worth understanding what effects chemical exposure can have on the coating. There are several potential outcomes of chemical exposure. Ideally there is no noticeable change in the decoration or its performance. Unfortunately, a number of undesirable outcomes can occur. The most common damage is softening, which makes the decoration more susceptible to physical damage or swelling with the potential of delamination with bubbling or wrinkling of the coating. The damage can be relatively mild and reversable when the chemical evaporates. Unpublished studies show that even when the apparent exposure is reversable, there can be a significant reduction in the adhesive strength of the bond between the coating and the substrate. Some chemicals can penetrate the coating without visibly damaging the coating and attack the substrate below either by stress relieving the plastic or by causing chain scission or swelling. Chemical exposure can infrequently cause the coating to become embrittled or friable with or without adhesion failures.

Two of the drivers for unanticipated chemical exposure are people’s changing behaviors, based on real or perceived risk, and innovations in products that result in the introduction of new chemicals or collection of chemicals into the environment. Both are currently occurring in three significant areas: cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces due to the coronavirus; sunscreens formulated to prevent skin cancer; and insect repellents formulated to prevent various insect-borne diseases. Cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting The COVID-19 pandemic, along with surrounding governmental recommendation and extensive press coverage, has resulted in a significant increase in both the frequency and the variety of cleaning and disinfecting. This is a significant change in behavior and can be expected to increase the failures for decorated surfaces that are not sufficiently robust. Most of the contact is direct exposure from sprays and wipes. As with any commercial product there are many and varied active ingredients. Typical active ingredients include ethanol, isopropanol, quaternary ammonium, citric acid, phenol and others. A typical wipe has many components, beyond alkyl

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dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride and ethanol, there are stabilizers and fragrances, so 10 chemicals can be expected in any given formulation. Sprays can easily contain up to 18 chemicals. Labels can be helpful in understanding just what is in any given formulation. With hand sanitizers, exposure is due to handling transfer. The World Health Organization recommends 80% ethanol or 75% isopropanol for hand cleaners. Looking at one typical hand sanitizer’s ingredient list shows 12 chemicals. Since hand sanitizers tend to dry skin, many formulas include various moisturizers. The Environmental Protection Agency lists approved disinfectants for use against COVID-19, which is searchable or can be downloaded as a PDF. Many of these may not be appropriate for decorated surfaces, but it will give a useful reference as to what is available and may be used. In addition to those that are safe and effective, the EPA also provides lists of those that are ineffective or dangerous. Over 203 formulations have been found to contain methanol at levels up to 80% and should be avoided. It is reasonable to expect that a variety of approved and unapproved products will be used to clean and disinfect surfaces and that, in some cases, this will lead to damage of the decorated surface or the underlying substrate. Finally, there is some interest in surface disinfectants than provide a residual ongoing protection. The EPA has granted limited approval to airlines to a product containing a quaternary ammonium organosilane compound that binds to the surface, thereby producing a residual disinfection activity.

Figure 4. Various EPA-approved insect repellants

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Insect repellents (and insecticides) Diseases from infected mosquitoes, ticks and fleas have tripled in the past 15 years. It was not too long ago that Zika, a mosquito-borne disease that causes birth defects, received significant public attention. Tick-borne diseases also have been problematic. Lyme is the best known, but many others – including alpha-gal syndrome, which causes an allergic reaction to red meat – are increasing as well. With the rise in insect-borne diseases, there is increased use of repellents and insecticides. Surface exposure to insect repellents usually results from transfer from handling or from overspray. Unfortunately, the chemical structure of the various approved repellents differs significantly, so each must be tested. A study of the impact of approved insect repellants found that DEET is currently the most damaging to plastic decoration and to plastics, but some other formulations contain up to 12 compounds – these also can be damaging to plastics. Insect repellents are regulated by the EPA. One newly approved repellent is nootkatone, a chemical found in cedar trees. It needs to be assessed to determine its impact on plastics. It has not been commercialized yet, but testing seems to indicate it is more effective than DEET, so it likely will see significant use at some point. Sunscreens Sunscreens, important in the prevention of skin cancer, are included because they remain a very dynamic area with a high rate of change in formulations. In the US, sunscreen is classified

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Figure 5. FDA-approved active sunscreen ingredients

as a drug and controlled by the FDA. As a result, approval has been slow, and Europe is leading the way with the introduction of new formulations. The primary components vary between countries, as does the percentage allowed. Tinosorb S, bemotrizinol, is very popular in Europe but not approved in the US. The good news is that the chemical structures of the active UV absorbers are similar, and that exposure again results primarily for handling transfer or inadvertent spilling or overspray (Figure 5). Octinoxate and Oxybenzone are common UV absorbers but are now banned in Hawaii, Key West and other locations because of damage to coral reefs and the potential to affect fish. Oxybenzone and other active UV absorbers were approved before it was found they absorbed into the skin and can linger in the body for many days. This has resulted in increased study to find potentially safer formulations. The move toward physical sunscreens, such as zinc oxide, still requires a complex chemical mix, including dispersants and emollients to formulate effective sunscreens.

encounter in the field. It is important to know what is new and what products are in the process of changing. Knowing what is in the most probable products with which the surface will come into contact is not easy. With over 70,000 personal care products on the market, there are a wide range of formulations in the field. Do not rely on safety data sheets alone, since they focus only on materials considered hazardous and how to handle them. Some chemicals considered safe for humans are not so safe for plastics or paints. It is often better to look at labels and follow groups and organizations that formulate or analyze consumer products. For example, look at groups like the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group that does significant work identifying the contents of commercial products and identifying which components may be of risk to consumers. Trade journals from cosmetics and toiletries, personal care magazines, household and the personal products industry (HAPPI) all provide information on what chemicals are being used and why. Actively seek out damaged parts and analyze returned parts to understand the mechanisms and causes of damage occurring in the field. First, visually examine the part to determine the nature of the failure and then use analytical methods such as IR, head space gas chromatography with SIMS to identify the potential cause of the damage. Make sure testing matches the real-world risk. Don’t just look at the active agents – look at the entire product to which the decoration is likely to be exposed. Synergistic effects can be significant. Consider the frequency of exposure and select the most aggressive member of the family of formulas to use in testing.

Strategies for testing range from testing using the active UV agents only, having a set commercial blend manufactured and sold as a standard, or testing with a specific manufacturer’s product at a given SPF level. Each has some limits. Using only the active agents misses the effect of other components. Using a set blend provides uniformity in testing but needs to be reviewed frequently to ensure it is up to date. Finally, choosing a set manufacturer’s product gives a potentially inconsistent stress since the formulation changes over time; this year’s formulation may not be the same as last year’s. Because the formulas and approvals are so dynamic, it is important to keep a close watch on just what is being commercialized.

In general, if it can be done without compromising other requirements, highly cross-linked coatings with low surface energy are the best to provide enhanced chemical resistance and reduced exposure. Designs should be selected to prevent penetration of solvents beyond the protected surface and to make them easy to clean and to prevent pooling of any potentially damaging solvent on the surface of the parts.

The next potential damage vector is anti-aging products. A recent survey found that 62% of Americans use anti-aging products as a part of their daily skin care while only 11% use sunscreen daily.

Paul Uglum has 43 years’ experience in various aspects of plastic materials, plastic decoration, joining and failure analysis. He owns Uglum Consulting, LLC, working in the areas of plastic decoration and optical bonding. For more information, send comments and questions to

What can be done to minimize risk? First of all, be informed and aware of trends that drive behavior, as well as knowledgeable about advances in products parts may

42 October/November 2020

Don’t be afraid to change when field results and testing indicate that a change to a more robust solution is needed. Understanding the risks but making no decision is a decision and can lead to substantial warranty costs. n


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The Five Myths of Business Strategy by Rich Horwath, CEO, Strategic Thinking Institute


onsider some of the most popular myths: Lightning never strikes the same place twice. (It does.) There is no gravity in space. (There is … just less.) Pigeons blow up if fed uncooked rice. (They don’t.) Which myths or half-truths have permeated your organization, and what effect have they had on your business? Running a business on myths, flawed business principles and baseless assumptions creates needless confusion and a lack of strategic direction. A study of 10,000 senior executives showed that the most important leadership behavior critical to company success – according to 97% of respondees – is strategic thinking. Good strategy is at the core of any organization’s success, and it’s important to understand the strategy myths that may be holding your team back from reaching greater levels of success. Myth #1: Strategy comes from somebody else. “We get our strategy from the brand team/upper management.” This is a common refrain when managers in other functional areas are asked who develops strategy. It’s also wrong. The strategy that you execute should be your own strategy. Why? Because each group’s resources are going to be different. For instance, the sales team has different resources – time, talent and budget – than the marketing team, the IT team or

44 October/November 2020

the HR team. How they allocate those resources determines their real-world strategy. It’s important to understand company, product and other functional group strategies to ensure that your strategies are in alignment. However, their strategies are not a replacement for your strategies. Myth Buster: Identify the corporate strategies, product strategies, functional group strategies and your strategies. Seek alignment. Myth #2: Strategy is a once-a-year process. In a recent webinar presented to more than 300 CEOs entitled, “Is Your Organization Strategic?” the question was posed: “How often do you and your team meet to update your strategies?” The percentage of CEOs who meet with their teams to assess and calibrate strategies more frequently than four times a year is only 16.9%, with nearly 50% indicating their teams meet once per year or “we don’t meet at all to discuss strategy.” A study of more than 200 large companies showed that the No. 1 driver of revenue growth is the reallocation of resources throughout the year from underperforming areas to areas with greater potential. Strategy is the primary vehicle for making these vital resource reallocation decisions, but as the survey showed, most leaders aren’t putting themselves or their teams

in a position to succeed. If strategy in your organization is an annual event, you will not achieve sustained success. Myth Buster: Conduct a monthly strategy tune-up when groups at all levels meet for one to two hours to review and calibrate their strategies. Myth #3: Execution of strategy is more important than the strategy itself. A landmark 25-year study of 750 bankruptcies showed that the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy was flawed strategy, not poor execution. You can have the most skilled driver and highestperformance Ferrari in the world (great execution), but if you’re driving that Ferrari on a road headed over a cliff (poor strategic direction) – you’re finished. A sure sign of a needlessly myopic view is that everything is an “either or,” rather than allowing for “and.” Strategy and execution are both important, but make no mistake: All great businesses begin with an insightful strategy. Myth Buster: Take time to create differentiated strategy built on insights that lead to unique customer value, and then shape an execution plan that includes roles, responsibilities, communication vehicles, time frames and metrics. Myth #4: Strategy is about being better than the competition. Your products and services are not better than those of your competitors. Why? Because “better” is subjective. Is blueberry pie better than banana cream pie? It depends who you ask. “Is our product better than the competitor’s product?” is the wrong question. The real question is, “How is our product different than the competitor’s product in ways that customers value?” Attempting to be better than the competition leads to a race of “best practices,” which results in competitive convergence. Doing the same things in the same ways as competitors, only trying to do them a little faster or better, blurs the line of value between your company and competitors. Remember that competitive advantage is defined as “providing superior value to customers” – not “beating the competition by being better.” Myth Buster: Identify your differentiated value to specific customer groups by writing out your value proposition in one sentence.

If left unchecked, strategy myths can cause you and your business to fail. Arm your team with the strategy myth busters, and your business will soar higher than a pigeon with a belly full of uncooked rice. of…?” Mission is your current purpose, and vision is your future purpose (or aspirational end game). Goals are what you are trying to achieve, and strategy is how you will allocate resources to achieve your goals. Misusing business terms on a regular basis is like a physicist randomly interchanging an element’s chemical structure from the Periodic Table. You can say that the chemical structure of hydrogen is the chemical structure for gold, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct. Starting with an inexact statement of strategy will derail all of the other aspects of your planning and turn your business into the equivalent of the grammar school volcano science project with red-dyed vinegar and too much baking soda. Myth Buster: Clearly distinguish your goals, strategies, mission and vision from one another. If left unchecked, strategy myths can cause you and your business to fail. Arm your team with the strategy myth busters, and your business will soar higher than a pigeon with a belly full of uncooked rice. n Rich Horwath is a New York Times bestselling author on strategy, including his most recent book, StrategyMan vs. The Anti-Strategy Squad: Using Strategic Thinking to Defeat Bad Strategy and Save Your Plan. As CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute, he has helped more than 100,000 managers develop their strategy skills through live workshops Horwath and virtual training programs. Horwath is a strategy facilitator, keynote speaker, and creator of more than 200 resources on strategic thinking. To learn more, visit

Myth #5: Strategy is the same as mission, vision or goals. Since strategy is an abstract concept, it often is interchanged with the terms vision, mission and goals. How many times have you seen or heard a strategy that is “to be No. 1,” “to be the market leader,” or “to become the premier provider

October/November 2020 45

INDUSTRY Mimaki Refines Operations in Northeast Region Mimaki USA, Suwanee, Georgia, announced a strategic change in Northeast business focus. Mimaki USA has consolidated its Northeast presence by closing the Boston area office and expanding sales, support and applications capabilities at the Rockaway, New Jersey, Technology Center. Supporting and enabling the adoption of digital print technology through education, localized service and ongoing development of a value-added Northeast dealer network is central to the Mimaki USA ideology. To support this, the company has continued to invest in regional technology centers across the Americas. For more information, visit ANTEC® 2021 Issues Call for Technical Papers SPE, Danbury, Connecticut, has announced its Call for Technical Papers for ANTEC® 2021. ANTEC® attracts more than 3,000 plastics professionals from around the world with job functions encompassing managers, engineers, research and development, academia, operations and consulting. Technical papers submitted for consideration for presentation at ANTEC® 2021 will focus on the latest in industrial, national laboratory and academic work. Papers will share findings in polymer research or new and improved products and technologies. The technical paper submission deadline is Nov. 15, 2020. For information about submitting a technical paper into ANTEC® 2021, as well as a full range of paper submission topics, visit

IDS sales representative Robbie Kidd with UCPS staff

Innovative Digital Systems Donates Masks to Public Schools Digital printing equipment, ink and supplies provider Innovative Digital Systems/ of Indian Trail, North Carolina, recently presented Union County Public Schools (UCPS) based in Monroe, North Carolina, with a donation of 10,000 ProTekAll three-ply masks to help protect

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teachers and students this school year. For more information, visit Infinity® Foils, Inc. Announces Partnership with Foilsource Infinity® Foils, Inc., Lenexa, Kansas, has reached an agreement with Mike Dolan, the owner of Foilsource, a foil supplier in Southold, New York, to help transition the business over to Infinity® Foils, Inc. The relocation of Foilsource’s inventory and reassignment of customers has recently been completed and moved to Infinity ® Foils, Inc. Dolan will remain in the industry throughout 2020 in a sales role to support his customers and their move to Infinity ® Foils, Inc. Going forward, all orders for Foilsource products will be handled directly by Infinity® Foils, Inc. For more information, visit Ceresana Examines World Market for Pigments Market research institute Ceresana, Konstanz, Germany, has authored a report examining the global market for pigments. Chapter One provides an overview and analysis of the global pigment market – including forecasts up to 2027: the development of revenues, demand and production is discussed for each region of the world. The demand figures are divided into the various pigment types. Chapter Two analyzes 31 countries in detail: demand, export, import, production and revenues. The market data on consumption volumes per country are divided by the individual pigment types and areas of application. Chapter Three provides useful company profiles of the 103 most important pigment manufacturers. It is structured according to contact details, revenues, profit, product portfolio, production facilities and profile summary. For more information, visit Manufacturing Event Announces New 2021 Date The combined manufacturing event – composed of Automation Technology West (ATX), Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West, Pacific Design & Manufacturing (D&M), PLASTEC West and WestPack – has announced that the 2021 edition of the conference and exhibition, typically held in February, will be held Aug. 10-12, 2021, at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. In the interim, Informa Markets – Engineering will bring together the manufacturing community in late November for Virtual Engineering Week, five days in a virtual setting featuring networking, education, buyer and seller sourcing. Combining the power and reach of regional venues – Anaheim, Minneapolis, Montreal and New York – the all-new digital event will span an international reach. For more information, visit

Colors & Effects® Improves Online Service Platform Colorants and effect pigments company Colors & Effects®, Ludwigshafen, Germany, has improved its Online Service Platform by offering three new user-friendly functionalities in the products area of the site: Product Comparison, MySheets and Sample Request. The Product Comparison feature allows users to evaluate multiple products side-by-side to help them find the pigments that best suit their business needs. With MySheets, customers can “favorite” products to create a personalized library of product documentation that can be accessed through their user dashboard. Sample Requests for pigments of interest can be completed conveniently through the platform. The Online Service Platform encompasses the brand’s corporate website and Pigment Finder, a product catalogue tool, which is now located under the Products area. For more information, visit Rinco Ultrasonics Expands Tooling Capabilities Rinco Ultrasonics, a global manufacturer of ultrasonic welding equipment, has announced an expansion of its tooling capabilities for ultrasonic welding at its US manufacturing headquarters in Danbury, Connecticut. The company has invested to add 4,000 sq. ft. to its operations, hire three new employees and purchase key machinery and equipment. With this expansion, in

response to growing demand for faster deliveries and complex welding applications, Rinco has brought ultrasonic tooling in-house. Rinco took over existing space at its Danbury site to accommodate raw materials and new equipment. The company purchased a Haas CNC milling center, a Trak lathe and several Trak K3 knee mills. New personnel include two full-time machinists and one full-time design engineer. For more information, visit LogoJET Opens Office in Minneapolis LogoJET, Lafayette, Louisiana, a supplier of direct-to-substrate, light industrial inkjet printing equipment with printer and ink solutions to print on a wide variety of substrates such as wood, metals and plastics, has announced the opening of its newest office in Minneapolis as a regional sales and support office. The office will be the hub for LogoJET sales and service throughout the Midwest and is equipped with printers to demonstrate UV printing. For more information, visit n

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Improving Polymer Adhesion: Advancements for Low Surface Energy Plastics Applications by Scott R. Sabreen, president, The Sabreen Group


any polymers are inherently hydrophobic, lowsurface energy substrates that do not adhere well to like or dissimilar materials. Surface modif ication methods are proven to solve most adhesion problems. Traditional methods include electrical (corona) discharge, f lame plasma, atmospheric plasma, cold-gas plasma and UV radiationozone. Su r face oxidation pretreatment of polymeric surfaces introduces polar reactive groups that improve s u r fa ce -f r e e e ne rg y a nd consequently the wettability and bond abilit y of these surfaces. A newer method, ÂŽ PYROSILÂŽ flame treatment, Figure 1. The PYROSIL process hereafter referred to as process or treatment, is rapidly emerging as an effective process for Due to the brief flame-substrate interaction, the process can be improving adhesion on tough-to-adhere polymers. used on temperature-sensitive plastics materials. This treatment is a surface modification technique that deposits an amorphous silicon dioxide (SiO2) layer on a substrate surface via combustion chemical vapor deposition (CCVD). The equipment and processes were developed in the 1980s, leading to the first successful commercialization of the technology used to increase bonding with adhesives. By means of flame pyrolysis, a thin layer (5-100 nm) of highly reactive and hydrophobic silicone oxide can be achieved on the substrate. Consequently, a defined hydrophilic surface is built due to the high density of Si-OH groups on the surface of the deposited SiO2 particles and nanoscale roughness. Silicon-containing films find many applications for polymers, glass, ceramics and metals. In the process, the product to be treated is fed through a laminar gas flame, doped with a silicon-containing precursor material, in a manner similar to traditional flame treatment (Figure 1).

48 October/November 2020

CCVD is a chemical process by which thin-film coatings are deposited onto substrates in the open atmosphere. In the CCVD process, a precursor compound is added to the burning gas. The flame is moved closely above the surface to be coated. The high energy within the flame converts the precursors into highly reactive intermediates that readily react with the substrate, forming a firmly adhering deposit. The microstructure and thickness of the deposited layer are controlled by process parameters including speed of substrate or flame, number of passes, substrate temperature and distance between flame and substrate. Silicon dioxide layers are the most commonly deposited layers. Freshly deposited layers are highly reactive and can serve as adhesion-promoting layers for polymer coatings and bonding. Compared with flame treatment This process and traditional flame plasma treatment have

methods for SiO2 thin-film deposition is plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD), which is performed in remote chambers under vacuum low-pressure glow discharge plasma. As the name implies, the process is a chemical vapor deposition vs. CCVD, a combustion vapor deposition. PECVD is conducted at lower temperature than standard chemical vapor deposition and is more versatile in producing many different types of film deposition coatings and functionalized surfaces.

Figure 2. Traditional flame pretreatment (left), PYROSIL® flame (right)

process similarities, but the flame chemistry and surface functionality mechanisms are different1. Both methods are gas-phase surface oxidation processes in which the combustion of a hydrocarbon fuel, under controlled conditions, generates the flame plasma that modifies the substrate surface. Premixed laminar f lames produce an exothermic reaction. The treatment flame is pinkish in color, while the traditional flame treatment is bluish in color (Figure 2). The main difference is that this process produces SiO2 and flame treatment does not. Consequently, a defined hydrophilic surface is built due to the high density of Si-OH groups on the surface of the deposited SiO2 particles. Similar combustion equipment, ribbon burners and process set-up/control are utilized. The three main process control variables are flame chemistry, distance of the substrate from the flame and dwell time of treatment. Treatment must take place in the main reaction luminous zone or oxidizing1.

The major drawbacks are offline batch operations and high equipment/consumable costs. This process is conducted at ambient conditions, ideal for cost effective inline operations2. Research study: Bonding of low surface energy thermoplastics There are extensive research studies documenting this process. One study conducted by V. Seitz et. al compares atmospheric pressure plasma jet (APPJ) and a PYROSIL® flame for improved bonded strength on thermoplastics polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), polyetheretherketone (PEEK) and polyphenylene sulfide (PPS)3. This study explains lower contact angles were

IMD/IML solutions

For this treatment, one equation for the combustion of organosilicon compound tetramethysilane “TMS” and the formation of SiO2 is: Si(CH3)4 + 13 O2 + C3H8 → SiO2 + 10 H2O + 7 CO2 For natural gas f lame treatment, the following equation describes the combustion reaction: CH4 + 2O2 + 8N2 → CO2 2H2O + 8N2 Both combustion reactions produce CO2 and H2O water byproducts. Compared with cold-gas plasma Prior to the invention of this process, one of the most practiced

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October/November 2020 49

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Diagram 1. Surface treatment of a thermoplastic material by APPJ. Different functional groups are integrated into the polymer surface from the surrounding air.

Diagram 2. Formation of the process layer via combustion chemical vapor deposition (CCVD). An SiOx layer is deposited from a flame pyrolysis of a silicon-containing precursor.

achieved using the treatment and verified with photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), 90°– peel test data, and surface analysis.

produces a thin SiOx-layer of some nm thickness on the polymer surface.

Chemical composition of treated surfaces See Diagrams 1 and 2.

The wetting behavior of this layer with contact angles between 10.1° (PBT) and 24.0° (PPS) indicates the formation of a high amount of hydrophilic silanol groups, which have a high polarity compared to the nonpolar thermoplastics.

Contact angle (CA) measurement Water contact angles were measured on reference samples and after different surface treatments (Figure 3). The untreated thermoplastics exhibited a mainly hydrophobic behavior, as measured contact angles ranged between 86.2° (PBT) and 104.0° (PPS). Plasma treatment, as well as the process flame, had a significant influence on the wetting behavior of all tested thermoplastics leading to a clear decrease of the contact angle. For PBT, the contact angle decreased to 29.0° (plasma) and 10.1° (the new process). The hydrophilization of PEEK surfaces (reference 91.6°) was even higher, resulting in water contact angles of 17.7° (plasma) and 10.5° (new process). For PPS, which offers the highest contact angles of the tested polymers, contact angles of 30.3° after atmospheric plasma treatment and 24.0° after the flame treatment were measured. The contact angle measurement confirms a hydrophilization of the thermoplastic surfaces by APPJ and the treatment flame as a significant decrease in water contact angle occurs. This improvement in wetting behavior is induced by the formation of functional groups on the polymer surface. The plasma treatment utilizes ambient air as a process gas, so oxygen and nitrogen containing groups are created on the surface. These polar groups improve the wetting behavior by water and the contact angle decreases. The process flame

50 October/November 2020

In the CCVD process, a precursor compound is added to the burning gas. ... The high energy within the flame converts the precursors into highly reactive intermediates that readily react with the substrate. The XPS survey spectrum of the process-treated PEEK samples shows appearance of the Si2s and Si2p peaks, which is evidence for the deposition of a silica-containing layer on the thermoplastic surface, as untreated samples do not show these peaks. On PPS surfaces, a clear increase in Si can be observed on the treatment samples compared to the reference sample. Moreover, a remarkable increase of oxygen can be observed on both PEEK and PPS treated surfaces, which is also a result of SiOx deposition. Atomic force microscopy (AFM, Figure 4) shows an SiO2 deposition layer, which increases mechanical adhesion via micro-texture4.

Conclusion This treatment is a process for improving adhesion on polymers, glass and metals and is suited for treating large, molded surface areas with contours and flat blown films. Automated systems are highly effective and easily integrated. Unlike other gas-phase surface oxidation methods, This treatment (CCVD) is a chemical process by which thinfilm SiO2 coatings are deposited onto substrates in the open atmosphere. PYROSIL ® and traditional f lame treatment have process similarities, but the flame chemistry and surface functionality mechanism are different. Combustion system design, including all components, is critical for optimal treatment. Minimal set-up changes can result in adhesion bonding results. It is important to state that, although generally valid, the concepts outlined in this paper may not apply in every application. Some aspects may require individual examination.

Figure 3. Comparative water contact angles PBT, PEEK and PPS

References 1. Sabreen, S. Flame plasma surface modification of polymers for adhesion bonding: process control, equipment and applications. Plastics Decorating magazine July/August 2020. 2. Sabreen, S. Cold Gas Plasma Surface Modification – Optimize Plastics Bonding Adhesion. Plastics Decorating magazi ne Januar y/ February 2010. 3. Seitz V., K. Arzt, Mahnel S., Rapp C., Schwaminger S., Hoffstetter M., Wintermantel E., (2015). Improvement Figure 4. SiO2 deposition layer giving rise to micro-texture mechanical adhesion of adhesion strength of self-adhesive silicone rubber on thermoplastic substrates – comparison of pretreatments, adhesion bonding, inkjet an atmospheric pressure plasma jet and a PYROSIL® flame. printing, laser marking, decorating International Journal of Adhesion & Adhesives, Volume 66. and finishing and product security. Sabreen has been developing pioneering 4. AST/SURA Instruments PYROSIL® Brochure. A technology technologies and solving manufacturing with a broad range of applications, 2004. problems for more than 30 years. He can be contacted at 972.820.6777 or by Scott R. Sabreen is founder and president of The Sabreen visiting Group, Inc., an engineering consulting company specializing Sabreen in secondary plastics manufacturing processes – surface

October/November 2020 51


The Sabreen Group is an engineering consulting company specializing in secondary plastics manufacturing operations. When Failure Is Not An Option – Since 1992, SABREEN has solved critical plastics problems for over 440 companies in 33 countries. We have earned a reputation of excellence for our rapid response and detailed problem-solving. Many of today’s most recognizable products are manufactured using SABREEN’s game-changing technologies. SABREEN’s engineering contributed to the award winning Ortho Pharmaceutical Personal Pak Contraception Case inducted into the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.



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SUPPLIER QUICK LINKS Decals/Labels Central Decal Page 49

Decorating Services Comdec Decorating Division Page 53 Digital Decorations LLC Page 53

Digital Inkjet Equipment & Supplies

Hot Stamping Foils/ Heat Transfers CDigital Page 35 Custom Foils Company Page 6 Kurz Transfer Products, L.P. Page 21 North Pacific International, Inc. Page 3

Engineered Printing Solutions Back cover

Webtech, Inc. Page 47

Inkcups Pages 28-29

In-Mold Decorating/ Labeling

Standard Machines, Inc./ Comdec, Inc. Page 25 Tapematic Inside back cover

Hot Stamping/ Heat Transfer Equipment IDS Division (CER) Page 7 IDS Division (United Silicone) Page 7 North Pacific International, Inc. Page 3

Hot Stamping Dies/ Tooling Die Stampco Inc. Page 16 h+m USA Page 39 IDS Division (United Silicone) Page 7

Central Decal Page 49 Kurz Transfer Products, L.P. Page 21 North Pacific International, Inc. Page 3 Yupo Page 11

Laser Marking Sabreen Group, Inc., The Page 52 Tapematic Inside back cover

Pad Printing Equipment & Supplies Diversified Printing Techniques Inside front cover

Inkcups Pages 28-29 Kent Pad Printer Canada Inc. Page 33

Paint/Coatings Equipment Tapematic Inside back cover

Printing Inks Comdec, Inc. (Ruco) Page 24

Tradeshows/ Associations/ Publications NPE2021 Page 43 Plastics Decorating magazine Page 36 SPE’s Decorating & Assembly Division Page 17

Marabu North America Page 9 Proell, Inc. Page 41

Screen Printing Equipment & Supplies Diversified Printing Techniques Inside front cover GPE ARDENGHI Page 15 Inkcups Pages 28-29 Kent Pad Printer Canada Inc. Page 33

Surface Treatment Diversified Printing Techniques Inside front cover Tapematic Inside back cover

Engineered Printing Solutions Back cover IDS Division (ITW TransTech) Page 7

Schwerdtle Page 31

54 October/November 2020

A guide to this issue’s Plastics Decorating advertisers.


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