Gardner Takes Over NPE Dailies: A Changing of the Guard?

There may be an important changing of the guard at NPE2018, which will take place in Orlando, Florida May 7-11, 2018.

The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) announced yesterday that Gardner Business Media, publisher of Plastics Technology, MoldMaking Technology and other media, will be the official publisher of the NPE2018 Show Daily.

That will end a 27-year run for Crain’s Plastics News, which first published a show daily in competition with Modern Plastics in 1991, and then exclusively since 2000.

The change is interesting because PLASTICS (formerly the Society of the Plastics Industry) is a conservative organization that does not make changes lightly.

No one could claim that the show daily was wrested from Plastics News because of poor performance. Its show dailies both for the NPE and the K fairs were of consistently high quality, featuring excellent, fresh reporting by a very good editorial staff. And content was timely. Modern Plastics, the longtime industry leader, had gotten fat and lazy, often preprinting large sections of early show announcements.

It seems that Gardner put forth a first-class bid centered on its breadth of technical reporting and expertise as well as its experience in publishing a show daily at the giant IMTS show at McCormick Place. Its flagship plastics publication, Plastics Technology, has consistently emphasized technical and product news with excellent interpretation by industry mavens. That may be a better fit for many of the equipment exhibitors at the NPE. The focus at Plastics News was often corporate or business news, and not product news.

The PLASTICS official announcement hints at that.

PLASTICS President & CEO William R. Carteaux said: “We look forward to seeing how Gardner uses its technical expertise to capture the spirit of the show, and the spirit of the industry, in new and exciting ways with their singular vision for the show’s print and digital media.”

Rick Kline, Jr., president of Gardner Business Media, said: “We are very excited to be partnering with the PLASTICS team to deliver a one-of-a-kind Show Daily to the attendees of NPE2018. Gardner has a strong commitment to the plastics industry and to American manufacturing as a whole, and we look forward to highlighting the amazing technology and new products that exhibitors will have on display at the show.”

Don Loepp, the longtime head of editorial at Plastics News, provided this statement to The Molding Blog: “Plastics industry readers know we excel at covering NPE, we’ve been doing it since 1991 and we’ll do it again in 2018…Our dailies, at NPE and other trade shows, have eight times been honored with Azbee awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. That’s a competition where we go up against the best editorial work from all business-to-business journalism, not just the plastics industry. Even though we won’t be doing daily print issues at NPE2018, we’re already planning to cover the show the same way we always have, with a full editorial team and lots of digital products including breaking news stories and video.”

Jim Callari, editorial director and associate publisher of Plastics Technology, provided this comment to The Molding Blog: “Throughout its 64-year history, Plastics Technology has focused its editorial efforts on delivering unparalleled coverage of new technology—and how it can be deployed at plastics processing plants. The NPE Show Daily will bring that editorial expertise to attendees of NPE2018. Plastics Technology has assembled a powerhouse team of highly experienced editors who know the technology developments that are important to processors inside out. What’s more, as part of Gardner, we will also be tapping into the editorial know-how of sister brands MoldMaking Technology, Composites World, Automotive Design & Production, AutoBeat Daily, and Additive Manufacturing to provide complete coverage of all new technologies that will be exhibited. Gardner is no stranger to show dailies, having produced and delivered the IMTS Show Daily since 1994 for AMT-The Association for Manufacturing Technology. As part of our arrangement with PLASTICS, Gardner will also produce a half-day Additive Manufacturing workshop tentatively scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.” 

It’s not clear what all the issues were that factored into the decision to change NPE show publishers.

PLASTICS wanted the dailies to be branded as NPE dailies. Gardner agreed to that. It’s probable that some type of revenue sharing was involved.

Whatever, it’s an important change. First of all because it’s close to a million-dollar business. Also, it establishes significant exposure and credibility for the publisher. Modern Plastics was clearly the industry media leader when it published the show daily. That flipped to Plastics News by 2000.

Is Gardner now the plastics industry media leader? Maybe. I remember 17 years ago when Plastics Technology was an orphan ditched by VNU, which had purchased it from a private equity group.  Rick Kline took a flyer on PT as a way to hedge against continuing declines in the machine tool industry. Then he added Moldmaking Technology, composites publishing assets, industry conferences, and beefed up the editorial staff with a particular focus on improving digital properties.

It’s not clear if this development will have any bearing on who publishes the English K Show daily—another gem taken over by Plastics News when Modern Plastics collapsed.

Loepp comments: “The 2019 K Fair is more than two years away; it’s early in the planning process to discuss that project. But we will be doing show dailies at Fakuma in Germany and Plastimagen in Mexico later this year. This is the second time we’ve done dailies at Plastimagen, which are entirely in Spanish.”


Injection Molding

Metal 3D Printers Form Trade Group

The metal additive manufacturing industry is forming what is shaping up as a formidable trade group within the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF). It’s an interesting thrust for machinery producers and users, who have been part of several different organizations, such as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers where 3D plastics printing predominated.

An organizational meeting held in Las Vegas June 16 attracted 52 companies.  To date, twenty-one companies have applied for charter membership in the Association of Metal Additive Manufacturers (AMAM).

“These soon to be charter members recognize that metal AM represents a natural relationship to powder metallurgy (PM) technology and that MPIF is already well established as the organization representing the worldwide interests of virtually all facets of PM technology,” says James P. Adams, MPIF CEO.  

The additively manufactured fuel nozzle for the LEAP jet engine. (GE)

Adams continued: “Immediate needs facing the metal AM industry include establishing and sharing of best practices related to the safe operations of metal AM facilities; establishing an industrywide approach to metal AM marketing including an online media strategy; organizing of classroom and online educational programs to expand knowledge of metal AM’s key differentiators including design for AM shape capability, tool free manufacturing, mass customization, use of unique alloys, and design for metal AM microstructure; organizing of educational programs to train new metal AM technologists; take an active role in industry research with a focus on metal powders and new alloys to expand potential applications in the industry; collaboration with or without other standards development organization to prioritize and create key standards for metal AM final material properties and testing methodologies, and guidelines for machine installations, processing, design, and recycling; and collection and reporting of key commercial benchmark statistics within the metal AM industry.”

The MPIF has also been home for several years of a sub group involved with metal injection molding.

The MPIF did not release the names of any charter members, but a list of attendees at its annual meeting in Las Vegas was available on its web site. They included officials of 3D Systems (equipment), EOS (equipment), Stratasys (equipment), Formlabs (equipment), GE (equipment and parts) and Heraeus Additive (metal powders).

The equipment producers represent three metal additive manufacturing approaches: laser-based, electron-beam, and ink-jet processes (aka 3D printing). In addition to making parts captively, GE sells equipment from its acquisitions ArcamEBM and Concept Laser.

The MPIF says there are three well-known commercial PM applications for additive manufacturing: titanium medical implant parts, cobalt-chrome dental copings, and cobalt-chrome aircraft-engine nozzles made by GE at the rate of 40,000 annually. Rolls-Royce is also testing a prototype front bearing housing made from a titanium–aluminum alloy for its Trent XWB-97 engines.

A number of powder makers are working on qualifying gas- and water-atomized powders for AM.

GE Additive announced last week that it is creating the world’s largest laser-powder additive manufacturing machine. “The machine will 3D print aviation parts that are one meter in diameter, suitable for making jet engine structural components and parts for single-aisle aircraft,” said Mohammad Ehteshami, VP of GE Additive. “The machine will also be applicable for manufacturers in the automotive, power, and oil and gas industries.”

Additive manufacturing involves taking digital designs from software and building them layer by layer from metal or plastic powder. Additive components are often lighter, more durable and more efficient than traditional casting and forged parts because they can be made as one piece, requiring fewer welds, joints and assembly. Complex designs are possible.

Additive manufacturing

Medical Leads Steady MIM Growth

Innovative new designs continue to lead steady growth for the traditional metal injection molding (MIM) industry. The medical market is a strong performer, while firearms—the traditional leader—is down significantly so far this year. That’s according to the new annual report from the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF), which also released its design winners.

A MIM surgical keel punch made for Paragon Medical that functions as a broach to remove bone during knee surgery won the Grand Prize in the Medical/Dental. The part is molded net shape from 17-4 PH stainless steel The molder is the ARC Group Worldwide, Longmont, Colorado.

MIM broach cuts away bone during knee surgery. (MPIF)

U.S. MIM sales rose 10 percent in 2016 to an estimated range of $350 million to $400 million, according to the MPIF. That adds up to 3–3.85 million pounds of metal powder.

Stainless steels and low-alloy steel represent an estimated 83 percent of powders consumed. Other MIM materials include also used are titanium, tool steels, Inconel 625 and 718, and tungsten carbide.

The industry includes about 25–30 commercial job-shop parts makers and 15–18 captive operations making medical & dental and firearms for their own products.

Medical, Metal Injection Molding, North America ,

P&G Unit Unveils Dramatic Improvement in Mold Cooling

Procter & Gamble’s mold design and production subsidiary called Imflux received a patent this week on an evaporative cooling system using exotic fluids that dramatically cuts mold production costs while also improving part quality. Cooling fluid channels are confined to mold support plates.

Designed for Imflux’s low-pressure molding technology, the molds are made from some combination of aluminum and beryllium copper. The concept is not all new. An Australian company has been licensing an evaporative cooling approach for molds for more than10 years.

Baffles help improve cooling. (USPTO)

The lead inventor is Ralph Neufarth, who heads the R&D team at Imflux, which is located in Hamilton, Ohio and was spun out of P&G’s innovation labs in 2013. The company is highly secretive. Neufarth is a former P&G engineer and mold designer at Corning Precision Lens.

The patent claims that use of refrigerants such as CFCs can improve cooling versus liquid coolants as much as 500 times due to a phase change from liquid to gas when absorbing heat in the mold. Cooling lines are located farther from the mold cavity than in conventional mold designs, creating a more uniform heat experience for the part, according to the patent.

Simplified version of Imflux cooling approach. (USPTO)

Cooling/Heating, Molds & Moldmaking

BMW Invention Boosts Efficiency of Composite Molding

BMW is developing a roll-fed technology to produce thermoplastic composite parts that reduces costs and improves efficiencies.

In the new system, a roll of glass or carbon fiber mat is fed first into a heating unit where it is consolidated and then into a mold where it is cut off and then overmolded.

A recent patent application states: “The energy balance is improved since heating for consolidating, forming and the injection-molding process is necessary only once. The complicated handling devices in the case of a large number of, or large, organo sheets and the necessary higher manufacturing tolerances for consolidated organo sheet inlay parts can be eliminated.”

In Europe, thermoplastic composites are often called “organo” sheets.

European auto producers—more so than in the United States—are aggressively introducing thermoplastic composites to replace metal both for weight savings and the beneficial properties of the composites.

The patent application states: “In fabrics and crosslays, the fibers can also extend at right angles to one another, such that the mechanical properties of organo sheets, such as rigidity, strength and thermal expansion, can be defined better than in their metal precursors. In contrast to metal sheets, the tensile and compressive behavior and other mechanical and thermal properties are not isotropic.”

The thermoplastic composites also are also more corrosion resistant than steel.

New equipment required to implement the technology include: 

  • A receptacle for a roll on which a not yet consolidated endless organo sheet is wound;
  • A heating unit;
  • A gripper for drawing a front portion of an endless organo sheet from the roll and for introducing the front portion into the heating unit; and
  • A cutting unit which is arranged between the heating unit and the injection mold.

In the BMW invention, a roll of carbon or other type of fiber sheet (2) is pulled from a roll (3) into a heating station (5) and then pulled by a gripper and clamp (6) into an open injection mold, where it is overmolded with thermoplastic into a part (1). The invention eliminates complicated handling equipment and reduces energy use. (USPTO)

Automation/Robotics, Automotive, Carbon Composites, Europe, Insert Molding, Reinforcing Material , ,

Donald J. Trump– Good Or Bad For Plastics?

President Trump’s feared trade confrontation with Mexico has not happened and looks to be nowhere in sight. The American plastics industry has a large trade surplus with Mexico and has nothing to gain from a trade war with Mexico–or Canada or China for that matter.

While his planned pullout of the Paris Climate Accord is obviously a major error, its impact on plastics is only on the fringes. Possibly there will be less demand for plastics in wind turbines, but market forces are going to be more important than action by Trump.

On the other hand, his proposed protection of the American steel industry (which the business-friendly Wall Street Journal feels is stupid) may speed the substitution of plastics-for-steel, a trend already in full force and propelled by lightweighting, preferable properties of plastics (particularly corrosion resistance), and the design benefits of injection and blow molding. It should be noted that engineering plastics keep muscling up to compete in automotive applications. Note, for example,  the new high-heat, high-strength polyamides introduced at K2016 for steel-replacing under-the-hood automotive parts. For companies like DSM, it’s the future.

Following are some interesting points, including data from the lead editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Cold-rolled steel coil (the type of steel used for automotive body panels) is 34 percent more expensive than the same product made in China and 27 percent more than the Southern European equivalent. In other words, plastic parts are more cost competitive versus steel parts made in the U.S. than they are in China or Europe, on a relative basis. That’s thanks to the federal government, which has never shown support for the American plastics industry to anything like the extent it has shown to the steel industry for more than 50 years.

And that support has totally backfired on steel producers, who were often heavy handed in dealing with governments local and national.

Due in part to a long history of federal protection and  jawboning (starting with JFK against U.S. Steel in 1962), the American steel industry has become increasingly noncompetitive and is now dominated by steel made in electric furnaces that cannot compete against plastics for high-end engineering applications. The great names of American steelmaking are gone, except for USS, which is a shell of its former self and would have been wise to shift its business model to self-driving cars. Steel made by electric mini mills make up two-thirds of domestic production today compared to one-quarter in 1980.

The last great steelman in America was Edgar Speer, who told me it was his dream to build a new world-class fully integrated steel mill on Lake Erie in the late 1970s. Speer was replaced by finance man David Roderick who noted the mill would cost more than half of the company’s total capitalization at the time, and killed the project– with the board’s grateful blessing. Today the cost would by many, many multiples of the company’s capitalization.

Trump’s proposed duties (Bush also guilty here) would penalize car makers and other downstream consumers of steel, whom I imagine are stepping up plastic value engineering programs.




Injection Molding

3D Printer Creates In-Machine Castings

A Tennessee 3D printing startup is targeting a very specific production niche: cast plastic and metal parts in the 100 to 1000 volume range.

Collider Tech of Chattanooga, Tennessee, developed a 3D printer based on DLP lithography to produce “molds” made of photopolymer plastics that include “injection pipes” that perform like runners in an injection mold. The molds are then filled with casting plastics or metal which cure in the machine. The pieces are then moved to a water bath where the mold casing and pipes are removed.

Plastic roller made with Collider’ s Orchid 3D printer.

The process competes primarily against parts cast in silicon molds, and is said to have a cost advantage. I would assume that’s a cost advantage if you have to make a lot of different small-run cast parts over several years because you have to amortize the cost of the machine, which has not been disclosed. In some situations, the process may also compete against short run production services such as ProtoLabs, which uses aluminum molds to make parts from conventional thermoplastics.  

The production materials are urethane rubber, silicone, rigid polyurethane and flame-resistant polyurethane. The rigid PU could be used to make mechanical parts and the FR PU could be used to make interior aircraft parts.

The DLP process uses a digital projector screen to create a single image of each layer across a platform. Compared to the better known SLA process, DLP can achieve faster print times for some parts, as each entire layer is exposed at once. SLA can achieve tighter tolerances.

Build volume is 355 mm X 304 mm X 203 mm. Build speed is 36 cm/hour.

Machine shipments are still a year off, but beta manufacturing can be conducted at the company’s Chattanooga site. The process can also be used to make stainless steel and copper (heat sinks and custom valves) parts.

Additive manufacturing, Aircraft, Industrial, North America

Chrome Auto Plating Gains Despite Challenges

A dozen European companies are eyeing increased opportunity to plate injection molded plastic parts as car makers, particularly in Europe and Asia, are stepping up efforts to reduce weight with plastic-for-metal substitutions.

More than 26 interior and exterior parts are plated, particularly in high-end cars even though chromium is a known carcinogen and is listed as a hazardous air pollutant. It provides a mirror-like surface finish, good corrosion resistance and strong aesthetic appeal and substitutes are said to be inferior. Strict environmental rules are in place at plating operations.

The chrome plating process is highly complex and can consist of as many as 30 steps.

Plastic plating (sometimes called galvanizing) is also tricky because any type of surface blemish is magnified. Another challenge is OEM interest in using materials beyond standard ABS, which has been plated for more than 50 years. The butadiene helps in the plating process.

One increasingly used plastic is ABS/polycarbonate T65, which has high PC and low ABS content. Other examples of materials hard to galvanize are 30 percent glass-reinforced polyamide 6 and 50 percent glass-ball reinforced PA6. Sometimes two (2K)- and three (3K)-component moldings are selectively plated. Polyamide blended with 40 percent mineral filler has high tensile strength and is used for special applications such as interior door handles

Use of chromium as a plating agent is said to provide:

  • Excellent corrosion and chemical resistance;
  • Wear and abrasion resistance;
  • Very good adhesion;
  • A high-class surface with mirror-like reflection or aluminum-like matte surfaces; and
  • Hardness, scratch resistance.

Excellent interaction between the injection molding and galvanization processes is required for successful application of the surface finish to materials.

The process starts with etching with a chromic solution to remove the butadiene from the top of the substrate. That creates pits that act as anchor points for the subsequent nickel and other layers. During the electroplating process, chromium  is reduced to metallic chrome.

The European players are Gerhardi Kunststofftechnik GmbH, C. Hübner GmbH, BIA Kunststoff- und Galvanotechnik GmbH & Co KG, Heinze Gruppe GmbH, Bolta Werke GmbH, Boryszew Oberflächentechnik Deutschland GmbH, WAFA Germany GmbH, Aludec Galvanic s.a., C+C Krug GmbH, Fischer GmbH & Co. surface technologies KG, SAXONIA Galvanik GmbH, Karl Simon GmbH & Co. KG. They operate 22 sites in Germany, Spain, Slovakia,  and the Czech Republic.

At least one of the players integrates the process from design and toolmaking through injection molding and electroplating.

Boryszew Oberflächentechnik Deuschland of Prenzlau, Germany currently employs 348 workers and is planning to reach $38 million in sales in 2017. The company’s main market is Germany, but also exports to America and Asia. Boryszew Prenzlau realizes 90 percent of its sales with automotive parts for both interiors and exteriors of vehicles, such as decorative strips or door handles. Its main customer is the VW/Audi group.

Boryszew Oberflächentechnik Deutschland operates 25 injection molding machines with clamping forces ranging from 88 to 785 tons, 13 of which have come from Wittmann Battenfeld. The company also uses the Airmould internal gas pressure technology from Wittmann Battenfeld, since the weight of automotive components plays an important role. Variothermic technology from Wittmann Battenfeld is used for sensitive surfaces.

Injection molded, chrome-plated door handles embedded in a complex assembly. (Wittmann Battenfeld)

ABS, Automotive, Europe, Foam molding, Injection Molding, Molds & Moldmaking, Polyamides, Polycarbonate ,

New Eastman Cellulosic Alloy Targets PC, ABS

Eastman Chemical Co. announced development of an engineering bioplastic breakthrough in a press conference May 15 at Chinaplas.

Eastman Trēva is an interesting material, but the words breakthrough and bioplastic may be more appropriately placed within quotation marks. Its composition is about half cellulose and about half acetic acid and acetic anhydride, which are made from fossil fuels.

Eastman’s Tenite cellulosic plastics, made entirely from wood, were introduced in 1929, and are used in consumer product applications from radios and telephones, to toothbrushes and toys. They are said to have toughness, hardness, strength, surface gloss, clarity, chemical resistance, and “warmth to the touch”.

“Eastman leveraged nearly 100 years of cellulosic expertise in the design and testing of Trēva to meet the improved sustainability profile and performance needs of brands, fabricators, molders, and other companies across the value chain,” said Burt Capel, vice president and general manager of Eastman’s Specialty Plastics business unit.

It targets polycarbonate, PC/ABS, ABS, and acrylic and is described as competitively priced.

Potential applications include:

  • Eyeglass frames, wearable electronics, headphones, and many other personal devices that come in direct contact with the skin;
  • Electronic display applications, such as lenses and covers, that consumers need to see through;
  • Electronics, housings, intricate cosmetics cases, and other products with high design and complex specifications; and
  • Automotive interior components requiring chemical resistance and aesthetics.

“The materials have good clarity, but not the high clarity that you would see with Tritan, PC or acrylic,” says Kevin Duffy, manager of business development, advanced materials – Specialty Plastics at Eastman Chemical. “The transparency for the new Trēva grades is in the low-to-mid 80%’s.  Depending on thickness and optical requirements, this would be OK for many applications.” Some grades of PC are optically transparent.

Trēva’s HDT @ 0.455 Mpa is around 115º C. PC’s HDT ‎at 0.45 MPa: 140° C.

The new Eastman partially sustainable alloy may have an edge in flow, chemical resistance and haptics. It is also BPA free, although it’s not clear if that is significant for non food contact applications.  

It looks like an excellent candidate for niche applications such as eyeglass frames, depending on exact pricing.

New Eastman plastic features good flow, SCR and haptics versus PC. (Eastman Chemical)

ABS, Acrylic, Bioplastics, Consumer Goods, Design, Engineering Thermoplastics, Green, North America, Polycarbonate ,

3D-Printed Lattice Tooling Boosts Productivity

Using a grant from the Walmart Foundation to boost competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing, an Indiana academic research team has developed a new technology to aid in the design of plastic injection molds that can increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve product quality.

The technology uses applied mathematics and software development to optimally design 3D-printed injection molds with functionally graded internal lattice structure (Figure 1). The novel injection mold designs increase cooling efficiency and uniformity around the injected plastic part. The result is faster cooling and reduced stresses in the part, says Dr. Andres Tovar, who is heading up the project at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

“The idea of using water flowing through a metal grid to improve cooling is well known, as in a radiator,” says Dr. Tovar. “What we have contributed are the design optimization algorithms that specify the geometry of lattice within the injection mold so that the cooling properties are optimized and the cost of the 3D-printed tool is reduced without compromising strength.”

IUPUI was awarded a $291,202 grant from the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund in 2014 with the collaboration of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The project’s goal is to reduce the cost and increase the performance and versatility of U.S.-manufactured plastic injection tooling through experimentally supported, multi-scale, thermo-mechanical topology optimization methods and metal additive manufacturing (3D printing).

The IUPUI research team is comprised of five faculty from the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology: Andres Tovar (principal investigator), Hazim El-Mounayri, Jing Zhang, Doug Acheson, and Razi Nalim. The team currently partners with the additive manufacturing company 3D Parts Manufacturing (Indianapolis, IN). The team has also collaborated with the injection molding company Hewitt Molding Co. (Kokomo, IN).

IUPUI is using a test part provided by Hewitt, a Walmart supplier. The part is a complex cap made from polypropylene. Metal injection molds are now being 3D-printed for an industrial test study that will be conducted this summer to verify the concept. Results will be reported to Walmart and the U.S. injection molding community, in part through the Manufacturers’ Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP).

Dr. Tovar believes the lattice concept of conformal cooling could reduce costs 25 to 30 percent compared to current approaches to conformal cooling using channels through solid structures (Figure 2). Cooling cycle time improvements could be as much as 50 percent above the benefits already provided by traditional conformal cooling. There would also be savings in energy and reduced part waste. He feels the approach would be most useful to applications requiring repeatable tight tolerances.

The IUPUI team is still looking for additional financial partners.

Figure 1. The core plate of an injection mold with conformal cooling and lattice structure: A. Core plate formed by the 3D-printed unit core and frame; B. Metal 3D-printed unit core; C. Cross section of the unit core depicting optimized internal lattice structure. Source: Dr. Tovar’s Laboratory at IUPUI.

Figure 2: Core plate with various cooling systems: A. Traditional straight cooling; B. Conformal cooling; C. Conformal cooling with lattice structure; D. Lattice cooling. Source: Dr. Tovar, IUPUI.

Additive manufacturing, Cooling/Heating, Injection Molding ,