KraussMaffei Expands Chinese Production

KraussMaffei, once the largest global producer of plastics processing machinery, will substantially increase its Chinese footprint under ChemChina, which acquired the iconic German company last year.

Capacity and employment at an existing plant in Haiyan, China will be increased over the next two years, a KM spokesperson told The Molding Blog.

The GX and MX series injection molding machines and the ZE Performance KM Berstorff twin extruder are now made in Haiyan.

Additionally, tire and rubber manufacturing operations of a sister Chinese company will be integrated at the Haiyan site.

KraussMaffei premiered a locally made GX press at the Chinaplas trade show in Shanghai last April. The company’s emphasis in China is on large machines (400 to 3200 tons of clamping force), avoiding competition with the lower priced Chinese-based machine manufacturers.

The GX series, with a dry cycle time of only 2.3 seconds, is described as the fastest two-platen injection molding machine in Asia, and targets applications in automotive, packaging and medical markets.

Christian Blatt, CEO of the KraussMaffei Group in China, said: “We want to better serve our customers in their partner network, since both mold makers in China as well as end customers of plastics processors are operating on increasingly tight schedules.”

Look for KM to accelerate design changes that make machines simpler to operate and maintain as a result of its growing Chinese presence.

ChemChina’s acquisition of KM helped stabilize the company’s at one-time shaky employment situation in Germany.  “The further improved access to the Chinese market will continue to generate growth through which existing jobs in Germany and Europe will be secured”, said Peter Krahl, Chairman of the works council of KraussMaffei. Horst Lischka, Company Representative of the IG Metall responsible for Munich and member of the Chairman’s Committee of the Supervisory Board of KraussMaffei, commented: “Under the new ownership, KraussMaffei is on a clear course. Most recently the 5,000th employee was hired. ChemChina is a reliable partner.”

Global employment grew 350 this year while revenue for fiscal 2016 rose 5 percent to 1.27 billion Euros and are expected to top 1.3 billion Euros in 2017.

Recently, ChemChina placed KM into its Qingdao Tianhua Institute of Chemistry Engineering Co. Ltd. Subsidiary, so that it could be quickly listed on the Shanghai stock exchange, giving the company improved access to Chinese capital.

“KraussMaffei’s business would make up about 85 percent of the listed company”, said CEO Frank Stieler, CEO. KM will still be based in Munich,

The Qingdao Tianhua Institute of Chemistry Engineering Co. Ltd. is currently listed on the Shanghai stock exchange under the ticker symbol 600579.SS. Trading has been halted for the past five months in accordance with Chinese regulation.

At Chinaplas, KM demonstrated a GX 450-3000 injection molding machine producing loading crates for fish with a shot weight of 240 g in a cycle time of approximately 11 seconds. Ability to produce thin walls will be one of the trump cards the company hopes to play in China.



Cost Synergies at DowDuPont: Are They Real?

As I’ve commented before, I have trouble understanding the DowDuPont merger. One problem area  is the promised $660 million in procurement savings.

In the first place, let’s be clear: the Dow and DuPont merger was totally driven by dissident shareholders who wanted to see improved financial performance from the iconic companies. Management fought these efforts. DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman lost her battle with activist investor Nelson Peltz and retired two years ago. A hedge fund led by Daniel Loeb pushed for a breakup of Dow.

Somehow the answer was an 800-pound gorilla consisting of Dow and Dupont with plans to break them into three companies. Activist funds were not happy with the plan and pushed for further breakup, with the result of a huge chunk of assets being reassigned two weeks after the creation of DowDupont Aug. 31.

DuPont’s renowned performance plastics business (DuPont after all created the nylon business) was based in Delaware up until Aug. 31, and then was part of the Michigan plastics group for two weeks, and then it was back in Delaware as part of a hodgepodge of Tyco-like specialty businesses after that. DuPont’s global-leading industrial biomaterials business also seemed lost in the shuffle.

One of the rationales for the creation of DowDupont was the opportunity to create synergies, both market and cost.

Cost synergies of $3 billion were promised

“We remain committed to our target of $3 billion, no change to that expectation,” CEO Ed Breen recently said on a conference call. “Our previously stated timeline still holds; we expect to reach a 70 percent run rate by the end of year one and 100 percent run rate by the end of year two.”  The savings’ breakout by division is $1.2 billion for material sciences, $800 million for specialty products, and $1 billion for Ag.

Almost one-third comes in headcount reduction, and based on the cuts I saw, they could have taken place without creating DowDupont. Some savings came from facility closures, also much of which could have happened regardless of a merger. 

A big chunk of savings ($660 million) is also projected to come from DowDupont’s $35 billion in combined procurement spend, which I also find difficult to understand. There are often opportunities to save when two companies merge by building large contracts on commonly purchased items. It’s a ton of work because most companies don’t manage procurement optimally. What you usually find are a mish mash of old contracts, old systems, mismatched engineering specifications, and a lot of  fiefdoms. Another consideration is that the way procurement departments account for savings is often  questionable. Even when verified by a finance official, I’m often left scratching my head.

More than 50 procurement teams are working globally at DowDupont to study contracts and identify opportunities for savings. That job usually takes a while, and is imperfect because of poor foundations of building common, easily groupable specifications.

And part of Breen’s promise to shareholders is that DowDupont will spin into three new companies within 18 to 24 months. How is there an advantage of combining the spends if there will be three different companies?

And meanwhile there are all the costs of integrating and reintegrating the components in the three divisions and companies. The IT work, the legal work…time and money. One of my favorite medical systems in Boston has been working on this for five years, and that’s without a merger.

Potential procurement savings have been used as a rationale to combine companies for many years. Big numbers are always thrown out in initial press releases. But I have never seen any follow-up on the extent any of these savings were ever achieved. There are some great pros, like DuPont CPO and author Shelley Stewart, working on the DowDuPont project, but supply management execs are often handed mission impossible

I sought input from an old friend and the person I respect the most in procurement research: Pierre Mitchell, Chief Research Officer and Managing Director at Azul Partners.

Pierre, who also provides commentary on the excellent web site told me in an email:

“I think these cost synergies are a bit meaningless.  Sure, many corporate projects will kick off to reduce costs (e.g., go back to suppliers for another pound of flesh), and mergers can indeed drive savings. However, the firms are so massive, there’s not too much ‘mega synergy’ left, and what’s left out of the story are the increased costs when the firms split.  I’ve dealt with many firms who’ve been spun out that have to rebuild their backoffices from scratch.  Sometimes that’s good and you can re-invent yourself a bit with clean sheet processes and systems (and shed your old SAP R/3 system or whatever).  I suspect the crop sciences folks will stand themselves up just fine here.  This deal is not about cost savings though, it’s about corporate engineering to peel off business to make them more focused (not necessarily a bad thing) and command a higher multiple – and “unlock” them from their larger legacy businesses – whether large hydrocarbon based supply chain or an amalgam of businesses like in the specialty chemicals business.”

Good insights.

North America ,

Dell Uses 1 Million Pounds of Recycled Carbon Fiber This Year

Global computer manufacturer Dell Technologies says it will use approximately 1 million pounds of recycled carbon fiber this year, more than double the volume from the previous two years—880,000 pounds.

The carbon fiber recycling program was announced in 2015 as part of the company’s 2020 Legacy of Good Plan, which includes using 100 million pounds of recycled-content plastic and other sustainable materials in its products.

Carbon fiber was first used in the Latitude 7440 and is now being used across the entire Latitude 5000 line (14 products to date). “We are looking to expand use beyond just Latitude into other notebook enclosures, where this material is best suited to be used  – which will lead to volume growth,” Stephanie Schafer, a senior engineer who heads Dell’s sustainability efforts, told The Molding Blog.

 In 2014, Dell became the first IT company to use UL-environment certified closed-loop recycled plastics in a computer when it launched the OptiPlex 3030 All-in-One desktop. Since then Dell has shipped 95 products with closed-loop recycled plastics.

Also as part of the 2020 program, Dell earlier this year shipped its first packaging diverted from becoming ocean waste. Recycled plastics are collected from waterways and beaches for use in the new packaging tray for the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. The ocean plastic is mixed (25 percent) with other recycled HDPE plastics (the remaining 75 percent) from sources like bottles and food storage containers.

Since 2008, Dell has included post-consumer recycled plastics in its desktops, and as of January 2017, reached its first 2020 goal of using 50 million pounds of recycled materials in its products.

For the carbon fiber initiative, Dell partnered with resin compounds’ supplier SABIC, which uses virgin and recycled polycarbonate in the carbon composite. SABIC sorts, chops and pelletizes off spec, excess, or scrap from carbon fiber manufacturing processes after it has been respooled and resized. The parts are produced by Dell’s existing injection molders.

Use of the carbon fiber fits into a trend toward lighter and thinner notebooks, Schafer said at a webinar today on “Closing the Circle in Manufacturing Through Eliminating Barriers to Using Recycled Content”. Schafer also said that potential use of PCR is limited in engineering applications because repeated histories compromise the mechanical properties of the compound.

The webinar,  part of a series, was organized by the North American Plastics Recycling Alliance (NAPRA) and  the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).  NAPRA membership includes PLASTICS and the American Chemistry Council.

Those organizations want manufacturers to significantly increase use of recycled plastics because of growing challenges, including low fossil fuel prices and China’s coming ban on plastics’ waste imports.

Carbon Fiber, Electronics, North America, Polycarbonate , , ,

Making Magnetic Molded Parts Faster, Cheaper

Two inventions point to new ways to create magnetic properties in molded plastic parts.

Sabic applied for a for a method of manufacturing a functionally graded part in which magnetic fields are applied within a mold to separated portions of a plastic compound containing a magnetic filler.

The magnetic filler comprises magnetic particles, magnetic fibers, iron, nickel, cobalt, ferrites, or/and rare earth magnets.

The inventors say that the invention overcomes cost and efficiency problems with currently used ways to make functionally graded magnetic parts.

In a separate patent application, two North Carolina inventors eliminated the in-mold magnets in an effort to create a less costly and faster approach to magnetic molding.

An electric current is applied to the mold while forming apart from polyamide and a metal to align the poles of the suspended metal in a single direction before the mixture has hardened. A magnetic field is then applied to the hardened mixture to provide the product with magnetic properties. The loading of ferrite particles is 30 to 33 percent.

In the magnetic plastic induction system, a DC transformer (206) applies a current to an injection mold (209), aligning the poles of barium ferrites particles loaded in polyamide. (USPTO)

Magnetic Material, North America

Kurz Eyes 3D Printing On Foil

German foil maker Kurz is developing a technology that will replace in-mold decorating (IMD) with 3D printing for specific applications that create a whole new look of customized decorated and functional plastic parts, including the  incorporation of electronics.

In the new Kurz approach,  decorative foil ply is clamped (or held with vacuum) to a support with a predefined surface geometry. The ply has a plastic-facing layer with a heat-activated adhesive. Plastic molding compound is applied by a robotically guided 3D print head.

The robot arm carries and guides the print head of the 3D printer to follow the contour of the curved surface.

As more plastic is applied dot-by-dot, the plastic is heated only slightly above its melting temperature, so that it solidifies immediately, eliminating the potential for running. “Thus, a high printing resolution can be achieved,” states the patent, which was published Nov. 14.

“Since the plastic molding compound is successively applied in small quantities, only minimal heating beyond the melting point of the plastic is necessary. In addition, the application of the plastic molding compound is performed in an unpressurized manner.”

As a result, “foil plies having sensitive decorative or functional elements can also be used, which would not survive the pressure and/or temperature conditions during injection molding.”

“The drop-by-drop or layer-by-layer application of the plastic molding compound additionally opens up significantly expanded design possibilities for the molded body in relation to injection molding…The properties of the plastic molding compound, for example, the color or the conductivity of the plastic molding compound, can be varied over the volume of the molded body, for example, to provide further decorative or functional structures inside the molded body.”

Advantages of the approach over insert injection molding include:

·         The opportunity for internal decorative or functional (such as magnetized)  features, including use of plastics with different optical properties,

·         The ability to customize each piece,

·         The ability to adapt to rapid design changes,

·         Elimination of tool cost, and

·         The ability to use sensitive electronic foils that would be destroyed by the high heat and pressure of injection molding.

The cons are also significant and will ensure the continued use of IMD for most production parts. They include higher cost and slower production speed.

Plastic (12) such as ABS, polycarbonate or ABS/PC is deposited by a printhead (3) on a foil ply 11, which is thick enough to overcome the inherent stairstep roughness of a 3D-printed object. The foil is supported by a polished substrate (5). (USPTO)

ABS, Additive manufacturing, Europe, In-mold labeling (IML), Polycarbonate , ,

Thermoplastics Break Out In 3D-Printed Autoclavable Tools

Additive Engineering Solutions of Akron Ohio has successfully printed autoclavable composite molding tools in 16 different thermoplastics using a Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine from Cincinnati Inc.

AES was formed two years ago as a spinoff from a metal-forming contract manufacturer. The company’s focus is on tool and mold production and says it can process almost all materials in pellet form that can be used in an injection molding machine.

“With our BAAM, we’re able to print parts at a scale of 12ft long, 5.5ft wide, and 6ft tall,” says Andrew Bader, a cofounder. “The pieces we print can also be bonded together to build even larger parts.”

The concept of printing autoclavable tools for the aircraft and other industries was demonstrated last year by a consortium headed by the Deposition Science and Technology group at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, Tennessee. Digital tool manufacturing reduces costs and leadtimes. Tools can be printed and machined in hours, compared to an average lead time of 14 weeks for conventional production methods. The tools were tested in Boeing autoclaves.

Vlastimil Kunc, who heads the research effort at ORNL, told The Molding Blog that there are several commercial sites using or testing polyphenylene sulfide and other materials for 350ºF cure cycle applications.

“Cincinnati Incorporated has printed in a variety of high temperature materials on our BAAM machine,” says Rick Neff, the company’s additive manufacturing products and sales manager. “We have used PPS and PEI both with carbon fiber reinforcing. There are seven other CI customers (besides Additive Engineering Solutions) using BAAM either for materials research or tooling applications. 

Techmer PM collaborated with ORNL and BASF to design two new, 3D-printable, engineering thermoplastic compounds – Electrafil PPS 3DP and Electrafil PPSU 3DP– for high-temperature autoclave tooling applications. They are provided in pellet form. Previous high-performance composites lacked adequate thermal capabilities.

Tom Drye, Techmer’s vice president for emerging markets and innovation, said that both compounds are optimized to withstand a 350°F, 100 psi autoclave cycle with minimal dimensional changes (CTE) through the cure cycle of the printed tools and parts. The composition and rheology of each have been developed for deposition rates exceeding 50 pounds/hour through a 1-inch extruder. He said the compounds are designed to tolerate process changes during long build times and extended residence times.

The materials also are fully recyclable, according to Drye. The molded parts, which can exceed 900 pounds each, often go through several iterations.

Drye told The Molding Blog in an email: “These new engineered plastic tools will replace expensive metal tooling used to make pre-preg composite parts used in aerospace, automotive, and other demanding applications such as: engine cowlings, interior cabin panels, trim tools, liftbacks, etc.  Major OEM’s are investing heavily into this technology to reduce costs, increase design freedom, and improve speed to market.”

A 3D-printed thermoplastic mold manufactured at ORNL withstood testing in an industrial autoclave. The concept is now being widely adopted. (ORNL)

Additive manufacturing, Aircraft, Engineering Thermoplastics, Molds & Moldmaking, North America, Polyphenylene sulfide , , ,

Medical Micro Is A Hot Business

Micro molding capabilities continue to grow among an elite supply base as demand accelerates at about 10 percent annually, more than triple overall American economic growth.

At the Compamed trade show in Germany, machine builder Wittmann Battenfeld is showing a micro filter made of polyacetal with an 80 µm grid and a part weight of 1.1 mg. The part, which is produced in a two-cavity mold with thee-platen injection, is manufactured on a MicroPower 15/10 with a clamping force of 150 kN. Target applications are micro pumps and inhalators.

In another development, MTD Micro Molding of Charlton, Massachusetts, is expanding its overmolding services capabilities with a new vertical injection molding machine.

Executive Vice President Gary Hulecki said that OEMs benefit from precision overmolding by improving shot-to-shot consistency and overall part quality for their medical device parts including catheter tips, suturing devices, sports medicine implants, and orthopedic devices where a PEEK polymer is molded over or through metal. A more unusual project was a five-piece micro assembly device overmolded with glass-filled liquid crystal polymer.

Founded in 1972, MTD Micro Molding has 13 molding presses and 31 employees.

Micro medical projects reported by veteran engineer Donna Bibber include:

·         3 micron molded channels in a glucose monitoring/delivery system,

·         A 5mm endoscope device with 22 parts in 1.5mm space, and

·         A 25 micro wall thickness Class III neuro implant.

Bibber is vice president of Isometric Medical Molding, New Richmond, Wisconsin, which, operates six Sodick two-stage plunger presses from 20 to 60 tons.

Another player, Accumold of Ankeny, Iowa, manufactures its own custom molding machines, including two-shot. Its smallest commercial part to date measures 800µm x 380µm x 360um. 144,000 parts weigh 1 oz. Handling of the microelectronics part is more of an issue than the molding.

Other American medical micro molders include SMC of Somerset, Wisconsin; BMP Medical of Gardner, Massachusetts; Precision Engineered Products of East Providence, Rhode Island;  the newly formed Spectrum Plastics Group of Alpharetta, Georgia; Phillips-Medisize (Molex) of Hudson, Wisconsin; Makuta Technics of Shelbyville, Indiana; American Precision Products of Huntsville, Alabama; and Rapidwerks of Pleasonton, California.

Actual micro molded parts are highly confidential. This micro filter for a show demonstration is made of POM with 80 µm grid. (Wittmann Battenfeld)

Medical, Micro Molding , ,

The Future of DuPont’s Global-Leading Bio Materials Looks Murky

As the DowDuPont saga unfolds, one of the more interesting story lines will be the fate of DuPont’s best-in-class biomaterials business, which began with a collaboration more than 10 years ago and evolved into a fascinating R&D effort to produce basic chemical building blocks from plants.

Today, its Bio-PDO propanediol and Sorona polymer operate manufacturing plants  in the US and China and have sales exceeding $250 million in more than 25 countries. That’s not bad for a startup biomaterials business in a time frame that saw a major global economic collapse  and weak oil prices.

The group is now investigating the commercialization of a completely new way to make high-performance polymers directly from sugar. This novel enzymatic process is said to closely mimic the way nature builds polymers like cellulose.

This type of work took place at  a company with deep pockets, a commitment to world-leading research, and a belief in making the world a better place. DuPont was one of the last relics of a deep American manufacturing commitment to corporate research. Think Bell Labs.  

Now great American companies from GE to DuPont are being ripped apart by aggressive minority investors who want companies built to produce maximum short-term profit. One of the last stalwarts, Procter & Gamble remains, but is under attack.

Dow and DuPont, which had significant synergy only in crop sciences, were forced together into DowDupont on Sept. 1 in what was clearly a poorly though-out exercise. Just 12 days after its formation, many businesses were spun out of a Dow-heavy group into one of the two Delaware-based divisions, one of which is a hodgepodge of specialty businesses including biomaterials. The goal is to spin the businesses into three separate companies within 18 months, led by the Dow group, which seems to be driving the bus.

The crop sciences group—the smallest of the three– will do fine, and may become a darling on the stock market. It may be branded as a DuPont company. The massive Dow business is an olefins-silicon behemoth that will ride the shale gas boom.

The Specialty Products Division includes:

  • Electronics & Imaging,
  • Industrial Biosciences,
  • Nutrition & Health,
  • Safety & Construction (Kevlar, Nomex, Tyvek, Styrofoam, and Corian brands),
  • Sustainable Solutions (management consulting), and
  • Transportation & Advanced Polymers. (Dow jettisoned Zytel, Hytrel and Delrin here 12 days after the merger took effect).

It’s hard to imagine that this grab-bag of businesses will make a coherent whole. It resembles the Tyco business formerly headed by cost-cutting specialist Edward Breen, who is now CEO of DowDuPont. Breen was brought in to break up DuPont.

Most of the businesses are very valuable, such as the performance plastics and construction brands,  and will find a home with no problem.

It’s harder to imagine the future of the biomaterials’ business, which will require forward thinking and deep pockets, both of which are in short supply today.


Bioplastics, Green, Management, North America

Where is Zytel Now? Back In Wilmington

DuPont’s Performance Plastics business is back in Wilmington, Delaware after a very brief 12 days as part of Dow’s Materials Sciences group in Midland, Michigan, where it clearly did not fit under the new DowDuPont, which is delighting stock investors and confusing everyone else.

Bowing to pressure from activist investors (and common sense), DowDuPont’s board announced that several businesses were reassigned from the group that will still be known as Dow to the awkwardly named and organized Specialty Products Division.

The reassigned groups are:

  • Dow’s Water and Process Solutions business,
  • Dow’s Pharma and Food Solutions business,
  • Dow’s Microbial Control business,
  • DuPont’s Performance Polymers business, and
  • Several silicones-based businesses aligned with applications in industrial LED, semiconductors, medical, as well as Molykote brand lubricants and Multibase, a  compounder.

 “Our DowDuPont Board is fully aligned and confident that these targeted portfolio adjustments are the right actions to take and will benefit all stakeholders over the long term,” said Andrew Liveris, executive chairman of DowDuPont. “They bear out the clear results of a significant comprehensive analysis the Dow and DuPont boards undertook over the past many months, which benefited from a fresh look provided by independent, third-party external advisors, in particular McKinsey & Company.

Capacity and technical advances continue for Zytel. Photo shows a Daimler engine bracket that was a finalist in the 2017 SPE Automotive design competition. (SPE Automotive)

Following the portfolio realignments, the three intended (interesting word choice) companies of DowDuPont are:

An agriculture company based in Wilmington that includes DuPont Pioneer, DuPont Crop Protection and Dow AgroSciences.

A materials science company based in Michigan focusing on packaging, infrastructure and consumer care.

A specialty products company with market-focused groups: Electronics & Imaging, Transportation & Advanced Polymers, Safety & Construction, and Nutrition & Biosciences.

Last week, DowDuPont Transportation & Advanced Polymers announced that it is increasing production capacity at its Belgium, site for DuPont  Zytel HTN high-performance polyamide resin used in the automotive, consumer and electronics markets.

“We continue to invest in our compounding capacity across regions to ensure we can meet the strong growth in demand for highly engineered specialty polymers such as PPAs,” said Richard Mayo, global business director for DowDuPont Transportation & Advanced Polymers. “Investing in this compounding capacity expansion, coupled with recent investments made in Germany and China, demonstrates the traction for our innovative materials and solutions tailored to meet the evolving and often challenging requirements of our customers, wherever they are in the world.”

How much longer will Zytel and DuPont’s other iconic performance plastics be based in Wilmington? They would seem to be a better fit in a company with a deep research and marketing bench in the plastics business.

And the biomaterials business? A topic for another day.

Management, North America

Two-Shot Molding Replaces In-Mold Decoration

Ford cut costs 30 percent by using an innovative two-shot injection molding approach for an interior decoration bezel on the 2018 Fiesta subcompact.

A three-dimensional decorative effect was achieved with a process that Ford describes as two-component reverse injection molding. A tinted polycarbonate is injected in a mold followed by pigmented ABS. The plastics are supplied by Lotte Advanced Materials, which built a compounding plant in 2010 in Tianjin, China. The toolmaker is JP Grosfilley SAS, a specialist in 2K molds based in Martignat, France. The moldmaker also has a location in Erie, Pennsylvania.

“This is the first time this process was used to achieve the 3-D visual effect (color and texture) for a part of this size and geometry,” Ford said in an entry for the SPE Automotive design competition, where it won a category award.

The previous process was IMD/IML/high gloss painting.

There was a 20 versus scrap reduction vs conventional two-layer high-gloss piano black appearance.


Two-shot process replaced in-mold decoration and painting, achieving a 30 percent cost savings. (SPE Automotive)


ABS, Design, Polycarbonate, Two-Shot