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Larry Wei, chairman of Taiwanese blow moulding equipment maker Fong Kee International Machinery
Taiwan’s large plastics and rubber machinery industry has seen exports drop by more than 10% since the beginning of 2015, as the slowdown in mainland China has taken a significant toll on the sector.
While China’s difficulties were acting as a drag, it wasn’t all bad news — Taiwan’s industry reported a significant increase in plastics machinery exports to the United States, which officials attributed to strength in manufacturing there.
At its 12 August news conference on the opening day of the Taipei Plas show, industry officials released statistics that point to struggles for Taiwan’s industry.
Plastics and rubber machinery exports for 2015 fell more than 10%, to $1.12bn (€1bn), and that trend continued through the first half of this year, with exports down a further 11% from what was already a tough 2015.
But there is some early evidence that things are turning around.
Alan Wang, chairman of the plastics and rubber machinery committee of the Taiwan Association of Machinery Industry, said that based on recent orders, officials believe the second half of the year will bring the industry back to growth.
Beyond the drop in exports to mainland China, Wang said the industry has been hurt by problems in the electronics and computer manufacturing industries, which are significant customers for Taiwan’s plastics industry.
Exports to China, which is Taiwan’s largest market, plummeted 37% in 2015, to $222m (€199m). That almost single-handedly accounted for Taiwan’s global drop last year.
Executives said Taiwanese manufacturers have been trying to diversify into other markets, including Southeast Asia. Vietnam is Taiwan’s second-largest plastics machinery export market, and shipments there rose 14% in 2015, to $122m (€109.2m).
Larry Wei, chairman of Taiwanese blow moulding equipment maker Fong Kee International Machinery, saw a silver lining in increased exports to the United States, which was Taiwan’s third-largest market.
“This not only suggests the US economy was on the mend, but indicates Taiwan’s plastics and rubber machinery had improved in terms of quality and functionality,” Wei said at the news conference.
Exports to the US jumped 67% last year, to $83.5m (€74.7m).
For other key markets, however, sales dropped. Exports to Taiwan’s fourth and fifth largest export markets, Indonesia and Thailand, each dropped more than 8%.
“Over the last two years, the global manufacturing business has suffered greatly from the economic downturn,” said Michael Wang, a vice chairman of TAMI’s plastics and rubber committee.
“The currency market has also become very volatile,” said Wang, who is also an executive in the Taiwan factory of Hong Kong-based machine maker Chen Hsong. “All of these have had a significant impact on Taiwan’s plastics and rubber machinery industry.”
According to TAMI statistics, Taiwan, which has a population roughly the same as Texas, is the sixth largest exporter of plastics and rubber machinery worldwide, behind Germany, China, Italy, Japan and the United States.
Designed as a beacon for environmental innovation in the UK, the building is focused on green technologies and sustainable construction
Hasco UK has relocated its warehousing to the company’s central storage operation, aligning its operational practices with its sister companies across Europe.
The mould-maker has transferred warehousing operations to its site in Luedenscheid, Germany.
Additionally in September, the firm will move its UK operation to a new site a few miles away – but still in Daventry.
The firm will operate from the iCon Environmental Innovation Centre, Daventry. Designed as a beacon for environmental innovation in the UK, the building is focused on green technologies and sustainable construction.
Hasco UK managing director, Neil Moseley, said: “Hasco currently has 100,000 live products, and as product ranges are extended and new products are introduced this number will grow further.
“Achieving effective delivery to meet customers’ demands requires stock. Achieving effective delivery to meet customers’ demands requires stock, and this strategic change creates around 30 times more product availability than we could previously accomplish.”
The building has a conference centre, a range of meeting rooms, exhibition space and onsite catering facilities.
“With the office ideally sized to meet our needs the move also offers us a number of other benefits,” Moseley added.
“The layout is more conducive to staff interaction and the low-carbon design of the iCon Centre show we are taking the environmental impact of our business seriously.”
Photo by Arburg GmbH + Co. KG Production at Arburg's headquarters in Lossburg, Germany.
During K 2016, Arburg GmbH + Co. KG will display 12 machines at its own traditional “lucky number” booth of Hall 13, Standard A13 — and a total of 27 exhibits.
The company from Lossburg, Germany, will show innovations in lightweight construction, liquid silicone rubber processing, packaging technology, medical, additive manufacturing and more.
But Michael Hehl said Arburg always keeps the wraps on some big announcements. “Anyone who is familiar with Arburg will know that you can always rely on us to produce a surprise and that we like to keep an ace up our sleeve. Things are no different in this important K year,” said Hehl, managing partner and spokesman for the Arburg management team.
Hehl said the Allrounder Golden Electric entry level machine series, which debuted in March, was the first product innovation for 2016, “but by no means the last.” Arburg will show a 470 Golden Electric press with a clamping force of 100 tonnes, moulding a technical part.
Arburg will showcase the Industry 4.0 concept, which ties all factory equipment and systems together in a fully automated fashion. In Düsseldorf, the company will link together a vertical Allrounder 375 V injection press, a Freeformer additive manufacturing machine, and automation to show the “smart factory” available today.
Turning to lightweighting, Arburg will demonstrate the Profoam physical foaming process used on conventional injection moulding machines, running an automotive application with a high-gloss finish, because of dynamic mould-temperature control.
Cube molding technology will be showcased on a packaging world premiere. And Arburg will produce a wristwatch by two-component molding of two different LSR materials, including assembly of the watch casing.
In a medical demonstration, a high-speed electric Allrounder 470 A will to high-speed moulding in a clean room.
At K, three Freeformers will be in action.
And Arburg, for the first time, will host a separate recruiting area where university graduates and skilled professionals can learn about job opportunities at Arburg.
The company’s US location, Arburg, is in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, US.
Sumitomo Demag managing director Nigel Flowers: "keep suppliers close".
Injection moulding machine manufacturer Sumitomo Demag has said the future for UK suppliers of plastic moulded components looks set to remain “buoyant”.
In a recent report prepared by the Automotive Council UK, annual output by UK vehicle makers is forecast to exceed two million units by 2020. Of all the components required for vehicle assembly, close to 80% could, in theory, be produced by UK suppliers, the organisation has suggested.
In addition, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has revealed that 1,420,636 new cars have been registered so far in 2016 – the best half-year performance ever recorded.
In all, demand for new cars was up 3.2% in the first half of 2016.
“There has been a definite trend among OEMs and vehicle makers to switch their procurement to domestic suppliers as it reduces supply chain risk and lead times,” said Sumitomo Demag managing director Nigel Flowers.
“From a quality and risk management perspective, it is safer to have your supplier close by. In recent years there’s been a significant amount of UK re-shoring in the injection moulded component sector.”
Photo by Automobili Lamborghini Automobili Lamborghini already uses carbon fiber in body parts. Now its new Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory is looking into using carbon inside the engine.
Carbon fibre body panels or trim pieces on a breathtakingly expensive supercar like a Lamborghini are old hat.
But carbon fiber connecting rods in the engine? Now that's exotic.
Such an advance is one of several carbon-based technologies Automobili Lamborghini is exploring at its new Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory in Seattle. The 8,000-square-foot shop opened last month, with Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali on hand for the ribbon cutting.
"These materials, this research, represents the future of our automotive vision," Domenicali told the gathered crowd.
That vision includes using carbon connectors rather than steel, cutting their weight between 40% and 50%. Using them in a V-12 engine would have many benefits, including noticeably improved power and acceleration.
Lamborghini's goal is to have the world's first production car with carbon connectors, the automaker's head of research and development, Maurizio Reggiani, told Automotive News, a sister publication of PNE.
"I [hope] that in one, one-and-a-half years, we are able to finish development and say this can be a part that can be in the future in the engine," Reggiani said. "I hope that we are able to have something in production soon."
Such a feature would be viable in the Aventador's successor, Reggiani confirmed. That car will be introduced in 2020 or 2021, Domenicali said.
The rods themselves are made from forged composite, a cornerstone of Lamborghini's Seattle outfit.
This technique moves beyond the traditional methods of using prepreg carbon fiber or resin transfer moulding.
Instead, forged composites simply take a premixed lump of carbon fibers and resin, drop it into a steel mold and apply heat and pressure. Three minutes later, a piece ready for finishing, a drastic reduction from the 12-hour and 3-hour cycle times of prepreg and RTM, respectively.
It was this construction method that Lamborghini used on 80% of its wild Sesto Elemento supercar in 2010.
While the bulk of Lamborghini's R&D is done back at home base in Sant'Agata, Italy, its nimble, six-person Seattle operation is there to "intercept new ideas and concepts," said Paolo Feraboli, director of the lab.
"What's unique about this facility is we go from making to testing to designing quickly," Feraboli said. "It's what we call a shrunk-down version of a company like Boeing."
Photo by RPC Bebo Winner of the SPE ETD food packaging category award: RPC Bebo produces the Veggiefresh margarine pack tub and lid in the IML-T process
At the sixth thermoformed parts competition held by SPE’s European Thermoforming Division, RPC Bebo Plastik, based in Germany, received the thin gauge food packaging award for the rectangular Veggiefresh IML-T margarine tubs and lids in PP. Jürgen Merbach of RPC Bebo Plastik said these went into production in April 2016.
The jury praised the application for premium tub and lid decoration with a 5-sided label used for tub sidewalls and bottom, and its utilisation of existing tools. The jury said this is “the way to beat injection moulding in high volume in-mould labelled tubs and lids”.
Bebo says IML-T for lids allows more precise label positioning than off?mould labelling, and that the same tooling can produce different lid weights.
In the heavy gauge vehicle/automotive category, Technoplast Industries, France, was awarded for the double-skin engine hood on the Manitou Maniscopic forklift handling vehicle. ABS/PMMA is used for the aesthetic outer surface and 15% glass fibre reinforced PA6 for the inner side. The GF-PA6 provides additional stiffness and chemical resistance against media to which the inner side is exposed.
Walter Pack, Spain, won the thin gauge vehicle/automotive award for a back-lit day&night effect door interior trim, thermoformed at high 100bar pressure with a 10-layer PC foil printed with multiple ink layers. The final complete trim part is obtained after UV curing by back injection moulding. Walther Pack had also submitted an emergency window for coaches.
Formplast in Sweden was awarded the heavy-gauge building award for the 1,000 x 1,500mm UV-stabilised PC roof dome it produces for Velux, on account of achieving high optical quality in normal positive thermoforming.
Among other parts submitted and displayed, two had already received innovation awards elsewhere. One of was the Champagne Pack from Top Clean Packaging in France, an item that won a “best design for end-of-life” category award in January at the first European Plastics Awards, arranged jointly by PlasticsEurope and SPE.
Aside from transport protection, the blue HDPE nesting pack can be used for bottle shelving. It extends the established Lo-G bottle packaging that won a thin gauge award at the 2014 SPE ETD parts competition for Protective Packaging Systems. Top Clean Packaging thermoforms the Champagne Pack in its Cartolux-Thiers, France, and Cartolux-Suzhou, China, plants.
A PVC medical diagnostic machine air cooling duct, displayed at SPE’s Sitges conference, is twin-sheet thermoformed by US company Profile Plastics in Lake Bluff, Illinois. It won a 2015 SPE gold thermoforming award in the US.
The part is thermoformed in 3.2mm thick Sekisui SPI Kydex T PVC sheet as left and right parts in temperature-controlled, machined aluminium, 2-cavity, female moulds to form each twin-sheet duct. The complex 3D close tolerance shape involves an inside?pinch design, makes full utilisation of restricted interior space and integrates a formed?in attachment flange.
Among other exhibits displayed in Sitges was an unusual Twister cup with a twisted shape that has been thermoformed by Jema MC, and the latest version of Cifra’s paint trays with removable layers for easy cleaning.
Magna T 200
Ferromatik UK together with Milacron showed the new Magna T Servo machine to the UK injection moulding market for the first time in June. A 50 tonne unit was on the Milacron stand at PDM Event 2016 on 14 and 15 June, organised by Plastics News Europe publisher Crain Communications.
The multi-purpose machine’s toggle mechanism is optimised for fast cycling and reduced platen deflection, and its servo motor design has increased reliability and lower maintenance costs, said Milacron.
The series is available from 50 to 550 tonnes clamp force, with ten machine sizes, ten injection units and screw diameters from 18mm to 100mm.
Ferromatik UK managing director, Graeme Padfield, said: “This machine series provides a high specification yet low cost proposition to the custom, medical, packaging and automotive market.”
In the US industry, more than 3,000 units have been installed since 2009, and now it has received CE Certification, the Magna T Servo is being made available in Europe.
Photo by Les Produits Plastitel Thermoformed "pods" used in Stryker Corp.'s Isolibrium patient bed won the Grand Prize at the Plastics for Life competition.
The use of thermoformed plastic products is set to rise markedly due to improved technologies, according to a US-based research firm.
BCC Research’s new report 'Thermoformed Plastics: Global Markets' revealed that in several key applications, thermoformed plastics are competing favourably with injection moulding and other plastic processes.
Thermoformed plastics are involved in several important applications such as rigid food and healthcare packaging, automotive, building products, appliances, and a wide array of consumer and industrial/commercial products. These plastics compete with injection-moulded and blow-moulded plastics along with non-plastic materials such as glass, paper and metals.
The global plastic thermoformed plastic market is expected to increase from 8.3 billion pounds in 2016 to 10.2 billion pounds by 2021, which corresponds with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3%.
Advances will be driven by above-average growth in tubs, cups, bowls and lids used in foodservice applications and the packaging of foods such as baked goods, frozen products, fresh produce, meat and dairy products. Opportunities in pharmaceutical blister packaging will also add to the market. Other end uses include cosmetics, toiletries, hardware, sporting goods, electronic products and consumer goods. The latter category includes appliances, lawn/garden equipment along with recreational and sports products.
Growth in appliance applications will be increased by the benefits of plastic sheet, which offers lower weight, moisture and corrosion resistance and excellent design flexibility. Yet, these applications will expand somewhat slowly due to increased appliance longevity.
Sheet demand in the auto sector will also increase, said the report, due to the need for lighter weight and fuel-efficient vehicles with instrument panels leading the way in auto interiors along with the potential of plastic windshields and windows. There has also been increased usage in several exterior auto parts as well.
The increasing use of thermoformed plastics, especially in the rigid packaging market led by the food industry, is a key market driver. These plastics also have significantly impacted several key markets as a means of replacing glass, metal and paper packaging in addition to blow-moulded and injection moulded plastics.
"In sectors such as food, medical and other packaging, moisture control is often critical and thermoformed products have been used with barrier films to provide excellent packaging materials," said BCC Research analyst Mel Schlechter.
"The concept of 'thinwalling' in many packaging applications has been another major driver for thermoformed packaging."
A 15-year legal battle that lasted more than a decade is now over, the long-time combatants, Husky Injection Molding Systems and Mold & Hotrunner Technology, announced 9 June.
Husky and MHT announced “a joint agreement to settle all pending disputes regarding issues concerning trade secrets,” according to a news release issued by the companies. “After many years of litigation, Husky and MHT have decided to amicably resolve any differences relating to this dispute. The terms of the settlement are confidential and both Husky and MHT look forward to closing this chapter to continue focusing on their respective businesses.”
The agreement came after “many months of discussions,” the statement said.
Husky is based in Bolton, Ontario, Canada. MHT is based in Hochheim, Germany.
Mold & Hotrunner Technology was founded in 1996 by former employees of Husky’s preform mold plant in Wiesbaden, Germany. Husky had closed the factory earlier that year and moved the mold operation into its manufacturing plant in Luxembourg.
Husky had claimed that MHT took secret Husky computer-aided-design files when it created its own preform moulds. MHT denied that.
Husky filed a lawsuit against MHT in 2001. The first court ruling in the legal skirmish came in 2003.
A Sacmi compression moulding machine
Italy-based Mitaca has, together with fellow Italian company Sacmi Group which makes equipment for plastics packaging, ceramics and food processing, worked on an investment project for the manufacture of high quality drinks pods.
This has resulted in Mitaca installing two Sacmi CCM compression presses and technology which, the companies state, will produce the best quality pods in the shortest time. The system allows control over every pod being manufactured and the technology sees plastic extrusion at lower fluidity indexes and at lower temperatures.
The machinery has led Mitaca to be able to gain a high productivity rate of around 600 pieces per minute.
It has also enabled the company to create lighter pods, weighing 2.15 grams. The Sacmi machine ensures improved thickness control of the pod bottom, allowing maximum repeatability over time and guaranteeing the hermetic seal of every single pod, states Sacami.
The Sacmi Group generated sales of €1.35bn in 2015.
Photo by PRW The event focused on soft touch, grained and other in-mould decorative finishes, as well as different processes to provide high gloss and scratch resistant surfaces.
The event focused on soft touch, grained and other in-mould decorative finishes, as well as different processes to provide high gloss and scratch resistant surfaces.
Emerging technologies for automotive interior applications geared discussions at an event at Engel UK last week.
More than 200 injection moulders and 50 representatives from co-host Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) were at Engel’s Warwick offices for a two-day event which focused on soft touch, grained and other in-mould decorative finishes, as well as different processes to provide high gloss and scratch resistant surfaces.
A fully electric Engel EM220 was shown together with a Hennecke Streamline PU dosing system running a Clearmelt application.
Engel UK managing director Graeme Herlihy said: “Motivated by the need for improved quality surfaces as well as cost down, Engel together with various partners, have given much attention to the development of new techniques for the manufacture of automotive interior parts with more and more attractive surfaces.
“But for these processes to reach a commercial reality, we need the original equipment manufacturer to be on board so that the surface fits to the whole cockpit interior.”
JLR lead engineer, materials engineering Ian Ray, said: “We at JLR are known for our high quality interiors and we need to hold on to this advantage in the market.
“Engel offers an impressive array of new processes for interior applications, and it is important that JLR has the option to be able to use such technologies in future platforms should the need arise.
“For these possibilities to be available to JLR we need the supply chain to embrace the techniques, and consequently I was happy to collaborate and partner with Engel in putting on this event to promote the technologies.”
Photo by Caroline Seidel Michael Wittmann at Fakuma.
Wittmann Battenfeld is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year — and officials are planning a celebration in Vienna in June.
The founder, Werner Wittmann, is an engineer-type who speaks several languages and enjoys going to China. In those four decades, he has led an expansion of his company from a maker of water-flow regulators for mold-chilling water, and mold temperature controllers.
Then came Wittmann robots, as the company bought a robot maker in 1983.
Through a series of acquisitions, Wittmann grew into a full-line manufacturer of auxiliary equipment.
Then in April 2008 came a blockbuster deal: Wittmann bought the Battenfeld injection moulding press business in Kottingbrunn, Austria. Battenfeld was insolvent, and a previous owner had closed a factory in Meinerzhagen, Germany, that made large-tonnage machines over 1,000 tonnes of clamping force.
Battenfeld had undergone a tumultuous few years, gone through several owners and faced lots of uncertainty. But Battenfeld played a key role in new developments in injection molding technology, as one of the European pioneers of important gas-assisted moulding, water-assist, all-electric machines, micromoulding and other innovations. The company also was an early machinery supplier to target injection molded polycarbonate car windows.
Ownership by Wittmann brought stability. And, as a family-owned business, Wittmann Battenfeld has a big advantage, according to Sonny Morneault, vice president of sales at the operation in Torrington, Connecticut, Wittmann Battenfeld Inc.
“There are many advantages, but I think the most important is the ability to be nimble,” Morneault said. “We're nimble and quick on our feet. That's an invaluable benefit, for sure.”
Werner Wittmann's sons, Michael and Thomas, play key roles. Michael, the CEO of Wittmann Battenfeld, has become the public face of the company. Michael also is general manager of the Wittmann Group, the sole owner of Wittmann Battenfeld. His brother Thomas Wittmann, who handles production operations, runs the company's manufacturing and assembly plant in the city of Mosonmagyaróvár, Hungary.
And Michael has a school-aged son who has started working in the factory.
A big recent move was Wittmann Battenfeld's 17,220-square-foot expansion in Kottingbrunn — so the company now can make bigger presses, up to 1,600 tonnes.
For Morneault, working at the family-owned Wittmann Battenfeld was refreshing after his job at Emerson Electric, a huge conglomerate, where he held engineering positions at the Branson Ultrasonics operation in Connecticut. He worked at Branson from 1989 until mid-2007, when he moved to Wittmann Battenfeld.
“You were literally just a number, and the customers were just number,” Morneault said of Emerson Electric. “They cared about one thing and that was profits. And for me to leave that company and go to a family-owned company was amazing.
Morneault thinks the company's business could double within the next 10 years. But during the inevitable twists and turns, top executives can answer employee questions.
“If we have an issue Michael is a phone call away, and does not have to consult any other shareholders to make major business decisions,” he said.