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Articles from 2018 In May


Trump tariffs put U.S. plastics companies at risk, says industry association

Trump tariffs put U.S. plastics companies at risk, says industry association

trade war buttonThe response to the Trump administration’s announcement today that it would go forward with imposing tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Canada, the European Union and Mexico was swift and often harsh.

Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb) called it a “dumb” move. Republican governor of Ohio John Kasich asked on Twitter, “By imposing damaging tariffs, do we really want to treat our allies like enemies? That’s not how America leads.” And from that paragon of politeness to our north, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the tariffs “totally unacceptable.” Referencing the Trump administration’s justification that the tariffs amounted to a national security measure, Trudeau added, “Canadians have served alongside Americans in two world wars and in Korea. From the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, we have fought and died together." Considering Canada a “national security threat to the United States is inconceivable," he added.

The U.S. plastics industry also has a dog in this fight because it relies on steel and aluminum to manufacture goods. In a statement made public today, William R. Carteaux, President and CEO of the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS; Washington, DC), called on President Trump to reconsider this “dangerous, disruptive approach to trade policy.”

“The Trump Administration’s decision today to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Mexico, Canada and the EU—America’s strongest trading partners—will benefit America’s trade rivals and cost American jobs, plain and simple,” said Carteaux.

Carteaux noted that injection molds made out of steel and aluminum are used by U.S. companies to shape raw plastic materials into consumer products. “The steel used by many mold builders comes from the EU, because it cannot be sourced in the U.S. These tariffs could quite simply put these companies at risk of going out of business, all while increasing costs that will be felt throughout the domestic supply chain,” he said.

There are roughly 140,000 people employed in the U.S. steel industry, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, and approximately 160,000 people work in the U.S. aluminum industry, according to the Aluminum Association. By contrast, the plastics industry accounts for about 1 million jobs, according to PLASTICS.

In his statement, Carteaux argues that American manufacturers need stable, consistent trade policies and should not have to suffer constraints due to a trade war. “These tariffs will erode the manufacturing sector’s ability to grow, create jobs and, perhaps even worse, they threaten to poison the well for NAFTA negotiations and more positive trade talks in the future.”

As many others have pointed out, pursuing trade policies on an isolated transactional basis could have profound unintended consequences in many other areas of foreign policy. But the three-dimensional chess that is geopolitics appears to be absent from these decisions.

Carteaux concludes his statement by urging “President Trump and his administration to reconsider this dangerous, disruptive approach to trade policy and to work collaboratively to deliver real benefits to American manufacturers and the families and communities that depend on them.”

Finding the Best Battery for Your Device MichalJamaro/Pixabay

Finding the Best Battery for Your Device

When it comes to exciting new developments in medtech, you might not need to look much further than battery technologies. The demand for battery technologies may have always been high, but the diversity in the type of batteries on the market continues to expand as innovative new developments require more than just your standard double A.

Whether it’s a flexible battery for a wearable device, or a biocompatible battery that can power new implantable devices, emerging technologies require much more than just power from their batteries. The importance of finding the right battery technology for your device can literally make the difference between success and failure — so much so that battery solutions have begun to shape the design, performance, and reliability of a device.

So what kind of battery does your design require? That’s the question Michael Xie will be addressing at next month’s MD&M East 2018 conference in New York, where he’ll be giving a talk on the topic of “How to Get the Best Battery Solution for Your Products.”

Michael Xie is the CEO and founder of PHD Energy Inc., a company that specializes in providing the best in battery services and solutions. Xie got his Ph.D. on battery technology before spending three years working with John Goodenough, known as the “father of the Lithium ion battery”, on advanced Li-ion battery material research and development.

Xie founded PHD Energy Inc. in an effort to provide companies and device developers with the most suitable battery products and solutions on the market. He’s worked with Fortune 500 companies and innovative new startups to provide battery solutions in both the industrial and medical technology fields.

Given his vast experience on all things battery, we thought we’d sit down with Xie ahead of his MD&M East talk to chat about the role batteries play in the design of new medtech devices, and maybe score a few tips for device makers on how to match the ideal battery technology with your new device.

MD+DI: For starters, can you talk a little about the importance of batteries in the field medical device technologies? How important are they to the industry?

Xie: Battery technologies have a big impact on the products they power in terms of running time, safety, reliability, as well as working temperature range, lightness, etc. With new electronics technology emerging, batteries are getting more and more important to medical devices and products. Same as consumer electronics, medical devices and products are getting more complicated, having more functions, and consuming more power. On the other hand, the consumers and users want the products to be small, light as possible, and to last longer while also becoming more reliable and safer. To achieve all of these goals, these products will require a better battery.

MD+DI: What role do batteries play when it comes to the design concept of medical device technologies? Is it becoming easier to incorporate battery technology into next-gen devices, or more difficult?

Xie: The role for batteries in the design of medical devices is getting stronger and stronger, mainly due to the new technologies emerging and the requirements from the end consumers. When you ask for smaller, lighter, but more powerful, long-lasting products, then you need a better battery design for these devices.

At the same time, with battery technology evolving — roughly 8% to 10% every year for Lithium-ion batteries — we also have the manufacturing flexibility and capability improving every year. We can now make ultra-thin (0.5mm) shaped batteries, as well as batteries with cutting edge performance like fast charging, wide temperature ranges etc. With these developments, it is becoming much easier to incorporate new battery technologies into next-gen devices. You just need to work with a trustworthy and reliable partner on battery solutions and products.

MD+DI: What are some of the state-of-the-art battery technologies that you’re keeping an eye on in the world of medtech? What are some novels ways that these technologies could be used?

Xie: It is really challenging for the market to adapt a new battery technology. There is a huge gap between the research and design in a lab, and the commercially mass production of the technology. One of a few state-of-the-art battery technologies that has our attention is the All Solid-State Lithium battery. This battery is assumed to be safe, no risk of leakage, and flexible. This should finally enable some new products and technologies in the medical field.

MD+DI: With battery technologies constantly evolving, how do you go about determining which battery chemistry is a good fit for a design or product? What tips would you give developers facing this question?

Xie: Well, some bad news for new battery technologies is that it is extremely difficult to make a new battery technology that is ready for the mass market. It’s been over 150 years since the first generation of lead-acid batteries, and there have been only a few new battery chemistries since that first development 150 years ago. With that in mind, I don’t think new developers necessarily need to worry about missing any new emerging battery technology.

What they need to do, is come to understand better the current battery chemistries available in the industry, and partner with someone who really knows the industry and can provide them with the best technical support, as well as guidance on battery design, technology, and products. There will be a lot of metrics and features that determine a battery chemistry for one given design. We have a whitepaper and a design guideline that developers can consult for these questions.

MD+DI: In a similar vein, what key metrics do you consider when determining battery design, and how do you ultimately qualify a specific battery solution?

Xie: The key metrics vary a lot for different applications. Some may ask for extreme low temperature, while others ask for a fast charge or a challenging shape and dimension. It’s important to first understand the capability and limitation for a given battery chemistry. And again, you need to make sure the partner or battery factory you are working with is trustworthy and understands what you need, and that they value quality and reliability. To qualify a battery solution, you need to audit the factory, test the battery, and certify its quality.

MD+DI: How do you see battery technologies evolving over the course of the next 5-10 years, and where do you think they’ll have the biggest impact in medtech (e.g. wearable, implantable devices, etc.)?

Xie: 5-10 years out is too long to predict, but there are some potentially possible technologies that might be able to come true from the theory and lab. Within 5 years, it is very unlikely to have some new rechargeable battery chemistry that will come along and challenge the Lithium ion battery — but I think the 8-10% improving of battery technologies could have a big impact on wearable and portable medical devices.

MD+DI: Finally, in a similar vein, what role do you think battery technologies will play in the development of new medical device technologies in the near future? Do you think developing next-gen battery technologies will be just as transformative as the new devices they power?

Xie: I would say the role of battery technologies in medical devices will likely not change dramatically within the next 5 years or so. It will be hard to predict further out than that. I will admit I’m more of a pessimist when it comes to new battery technologies, as there are just too many factors at play to bring one new technology into the market, especially when you consider the big picture of the whole history of battery technologies — but we shall see.

JC Medical Becoming Serious Challenger in TAVR Fray Courtesy of JC Medical

JC Medical Becoming Serious Challenger in TAVR Fray

Edwards Lifesciences and Medtronic have been at the forefront of the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) market for a few years now. However, as time goes on, the two companies are facing increasing competition from a  number of challengers. These companies aren’t necessarily new – but they have passed the test of time to put them on the field of being relevant in the market.

The latest company to show margins of success is privately held firm, JC Medical, which was formed in 2009. On Thursday, the Burlingame, CA-based company said it had treated the first patient with the J-Valve TF System for aortic regurgitation. (It should be pointed out that JC Medical refers to the space as the transcatheter aortic valve implantation market (TAVI) as opposed to TAVR.)

The first patient was treated at St. Paul’s Hospital – Vancouver, Canada by John Webb, MD, FACC, FSCAI, Director of Interventional Cardiology.

“We have successfully treated more than 10 patients with the Transapical J-Valve who had no other option because of many co-morbidities,” said Dr. Jian Ye, cardiac surgeon and director of Cardiac Surgery Research at St. Paul’s Hospital, who assisted Webb in this case. “Therefore, we felt very comfortable with the J-Valve and are happy to see that there is now a Transfemoral option for these very sick patients.”

Dennis McMahon, MD, director of Clinical Affairs at JC Medical said the technology has a significant advantage over other technologies in the space.

“What our device is unique for is it's ability to treat aortic regurgitation. All other devices both in Europe and the U.S. are contraindicated for treating aortic regurgitation,” McMahon, told MD+DI. “It’s a smaller patient population, but it is still pretty significant.”

The firm noted that failing aortic valves make up a significant portion of patients with heart failure, a major public health problem with a prevalence of more than 1.5 million in the U.S. and over 18 million worldwide. The company’s device does not have an FDA nod or a CE Mark but has garnered approval in China for stenosis and regurgitation.

“We have been in active talks with FDA, so we plan to have an early feasibility study [later this] year - to have more patients implanted so that [we] can start the clinical trials in the U.S.,” Chris Yang, co-founder and COO of JC Medical told MD+DI. “Following that we will spend the next year or so to [conduct] the pivotal trial.”

Lay of the Land

Edwards is often called the undisputed pioneer of TAVR and has been involved in many of the key moments in the market’s history . The Irvine, CA-based company received a nod from FDA for its Sapien Valve in 2011. Dublin-based Medtronic was second to market in the U.S. having gained entry to TAVR through its acquisition of CoreValve for $700 million plus milestones in 2009.

In addition to Edwards and Medtronic, there are other relatively smaller companies competing that have been making significant noise in the space.

In April, Munich, Germany-based Jenavalve’s CEO, Victoria Carr-Brendel spoke to MD+DI about the successful enrollment in a CE mark study of its second generation TAVR device. Brendl said the company will submit for CE mark sometime in the second quarter of 2018 and could gain approval by the third quarter.

Prior to Jenavalve’s announcement – Colibri Heart Valve LLC, another smaller competitor in the space spoke to MD+DI regarding plans in the TAVR market. The Broomfield, CO-based firm announced it had started a feasibility study of a second generation TAVR device.

Spinoff Market

The growth of TAVR has also led to the growth of the embolization protection market.

Claret Medical and Keystone Heart both have embolic protection devices on the market. However, Santa Rosa, CA-based Claret Medical is the only company to have both CE mark and an FDA nod for embolic protection technology aimed at TAVR.

Santa Cruz, CA-based Emboline recently raised $10 million in a series B round to help it get onto the market in Europe. The company's Emboliner is a cylindrical mesh filter that completely lines the aorta. The design allows the device to have more reliable positioning across the cerebral vessels and is simple to put in, the company said.

Will CMS Reverse Its Stance on LivaNova's VNS for Depression? Pixabay/3DMAN_EU

Will CMS Reverse Its Stance on LivaNova's VNS for Depression?

A device that previously received an unfavorable coverage decision for treatment-resistant depression from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will get a second shot after more than a decade.

CMS said it will reconsider its national coverage determination for LivaNova's Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Therapy for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). LivaNova's implantable VNS devices are FDA approved for both drug-resistant epilepsy and treatment-resistant depression, but CMS currently only covers VNS for drug-resistant epilepsy.

Although the outcome of the reconsideration process remains to be seen. At least two analysts think the agency will most likely provide coverage with evidence development, which would make VNS available to patients enrolled in a registry.

London-based LivaNova said it has been engaged with CMS on this issue and submitted a letter requesting a formal reconsideration of the coverage decision.

"The company is encouraged that CMS has taken this initial step, which may provide access to this important therapy for TRD that has been a Medicare non-covered indication for more than a decade. A change in the Medicare coverage status of VNS Therapy for TRD that ensures adequate patient access to this important therapy would be a positive outcome for patients and physicians."

VNS is a type of brain stimulation therapy that uses a small battery-powered generator, similar to a pacemaker, to send mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain. An external device programs and adjusts the timing and intensity of these pulses from the implanted device.

In 2007, CMS was asked to reconsider its coverage for VNS Therapy and, at that time, the agency determined that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that VNS was reasonable and necessary for treatment-resistant depression.

CMS posted a national coverage analysis tracking sheet with a 30-day public comment period that ends June 29. LivaNova said a significant body of evidence has emerged showing that the addition of VNS Therapy is effective in reducing symptoms in patients with TRD.

Jason Mills, a medtech analyst at Canaccord Genuity, said CMS' decision to reconsider coverage for the therapy is a positive development for LivaNova's neuromodulation franchise.

"In light of delays or tepid progress with respect to other early-stage, promising products in their longterm pipeline ... VNS for TRD now represents a clear and present opportunity for the company to drive faster organic revenue and operating earnings growth within the next 18 months," Mills wrote in a report.

If CMS does provide some form of coverage for the TRD indication as early as the second quarter of next year, Mills said the decision could "change the calculus for investors."

However, Mills also advised investors to be patient and to look more thoroughly into the national coverage analysis process, and the various outcomes that are possible. He noted that coverage with evidence development seems more likely than a full reversal of the agency's earlier decision.

Universal Robots’ Esben Østergaard receives automation industry’s highest honor

Universal Robots’ Esben Østergaard receives automation industry’s highest honor

Denmark’s Universal Robots (UR; Odense) played an instrumental role in the development of collaborative robots, commonly called cobots, which have transformed the industrial automation landscape in a few short years. The company’s Chief Technology Officer Esben Østergaard was a pioneer in this field, and his contribution was recognized this month when the Robotics Industry Association (Ann Arbor, MI) awarded him the Engelberger Robotics Award, which has been called the Nobel prize of robotics.

Universal Robots' Chief Technology Officer Esben Østergaard
Esben Østergaard, Chief Technology Officer at Universal Robots, is the youngest recipient of the Engelberger Robotics Award in the program's history.

Universal Robots is credited with launching in 2008 the world’s first commercially viable robot able to operate safely outside enclosures. The concept was not an easy sell at the time, but Østergaard and his team prevailed by developing a lightweight robot that was easy to use and did not raise safety concerns in the workplace. Programming via an intuitive tablet interface enabled users with no previous programming experience to quickly set up and operate the UR robots. Today, Universal Robots reportedly has a 58% share of all cobots sold worldwide; the company posted a stunning 72% growth rate in 2017.

Universal Robots is exhibiting in booth 2303 at the co-located PLASTEC East and Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) East, part of the largest advanced design and manufacturing trade show and conference on the East Coast. The event comes to New York from June 12 to 14, 2018. Register now!

“I’m deeply honored to win the award named after Joseph Engelberger, who revolutionized industrial manufacturing with robotics,” said the 44-year-old Østergaard, the youngest recipient of the award in the program's history. “Engelberger’s view that a robot should be able to handle a range of tasks in a factory aligns with Universal Robots’ core mission, and I’m a great admirer of his work.”

Østergaard and his team notably developed force and safety control features, which ensure that if the robot risks coming into physical contact with a human, it automatically stops operating to prevent bodily harm. These features have eliminated the need for safety cages in a vast majority of UR robot applications currently installed and remain a trailblazer for the “collaborative robot” concept, said UR.

But safety is just “the cost of entry” into the cobot market, said Engelberger, who has larger ambitions. “We want to place control of factory automation back into the hands of operators—instead of replacing people, we want to give them a tool to do their work more efficiently. We want to remove them from working like robots to becoming robot programmers and handling more value-added tasks.”

“This redeployment of human creativity interspersed with the robot’s repeatability addresses the market evolvement and customer requirements demanding a high degree of product individualization. It’s a qualitative change both in the products made and for the people making them,” said Østergaard.

Østergaard will accept the award at a ceremony on June 20 at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany, as part of Automatica and the International Symposium on Robotics.

Kraiburg TPE develops custom-engineered thermoplastic elastomers with renewable raw materials

Kraiburg TPE develops custom-engineered thermoplastic elastomers with renewable raw materials

Kraiburg TPEClimate change, finite oil resources and environmentally sensitive customers are leading materials manufacturers and users to turn to renewable and bio-based solutions. By developing customer- and application-specific compounds using renewable raw materials, Kraiburg TPE (Waldkraiburg, Germany) aims to meet the growing demand for environmentally friendly and sustainable thermoplastic elastomers in a meaningful way.

Kraiburg TPE recommends caution when using the term bio-based, as it is a broad term that is not synonymous with sustainable in the sense of a strategy for saving resources and protecting the environment, said the company. Even renewable raw materials have carbon footprints, as well as “water footprints that can have an impact on the environmental balance, depending on their provenance and the way they are grown.” Factors that play a decisive role in this regard include irrigation, fertilizers, energy for transportation and energy consumed for reprocessing.

“Part of the challenge involves taking into account the environmental balance of the materials’ whole life cycles, including their impact on ecosystems and people’s health,” emphasized Kraiburg TPE CEO Franz Hinterecker. “It has also become apparent that what our customers expect from the properties of ‘bio-materials’ varies widely depending on the application. At the same time, we have to meet strict criteria regarding the materials’ conformity and performance.”

In its code of conduct, Kraiburg TPE has committed itself to sustainable business operations and to protecting soil, water, air and biological diversity. Environmentally harmful impacts are to be prevented by appropriate environmental protection measures, and resources are to be conserved. Based on these principles, Kraiburg TPE’s modular system makes it possible to develop customer-specific materials with different proportions of renewable raw materials. Typical performance characteristics include mechanical properties such as tensile strength and elongation, as well as processability, heat resistance and adhesion to ABS/PC or PP and PE, for example. The requirements are determined in close collaboration with each customer and translated into a sustainable and cost-effective solution by its developers, said Kraiburg TPE.

It is technically possible to produce bio-based materials with very high proportions of renewable raw materials. However, these materials usually suffer from high raw material costs, while providing only limited mechanical properties. Kraiburg TPE’s modular system reportedly resolves this contradiction almost completely by following a new, innovative approach.

The initial pilot projects are showing a trend toward bio-based, certifiable proportions of 20% and more. Their potential use extends to all TPE applications in the consumer, industrial and automotive markets. Examples range from toothbrushes and hypoallergenic elastic watch straps to fender gaskets.

“The approach we’re taking is being well received particularly by customers who are looking for sustainable solutions [as well as] cost effectiveness and performance,” Hinterecker added.

NPE2018 watch (literally) and 4 more cool things from the show

NPE2018 watch (literally) and 4 more cool things from the show

NPE Arburg line

PlasticsToday reported on 5 cool things we saw during the 5-day run of NPE2018 (those links are found at the end of this report), which covered 1.2-million square feet of exhibition space for 2,180 exhibitors. Because there was so much in Orlando to draw from, our reports barely scratched the surface of what we saw as cool. 

Which brings us to this sequel that supplements the original quintet of cool with five more worth pointing out that are just as innovative, based on my 30 years’ experience as a packaging reporter.

In short, largest-in-history NPE NPE2018 was awesome and overwhelming, everything anyone could want in a tradeshow.

NPE Arburg watchOur cool sequel starts with a booth that literally stopped attendees in their tracks and compelled them to stand dozens deep in line for about 30 minutes (photo above).

What was worth that kind of wait that drew many hundreds of visitors to the booth of Arburg (Lossburg, Germany)? It was the incentive for them to receive a souvenir watch assembled before their eyes by a robotics-driven work cell that itself helped pass the time in line.

The demo was an example of Industry 4.0 for the individualized automated production of single-unit batches by an electric two-component Allrounder 570 A that produced two, two-color wrist straps molded from Liquid Silicone Rubber. Thanks to the Multilift V 15 linear robotic system and an assembly station, the watches were complete with housing and fastening and ready to use in 70 seconds. Besides watches, the system is appropriate for packaging, medicine and additive manufacturing.

Ironically, I didn’t have time to wait in line for a watch as my natural curiosity and the fact that there were so many dozens of aisles to explore beckoned me more.

It wasn’t the only attention-getter in the booth: A separate line formed on another side of the packed and expansive booth where visitors could walk away with a molded and assembled small folding stepstool.

At a show of this magnitude, getting attention amid the considerable “noise” meant going way over the top. I’m sure there was more to see here, too, but it was time to move on.

EastPack 2018 held June 12-14 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City offers the latest in manufacturing and automation, a dedicated 3D Printing Zone, hundreds of exhibitors and a jam-packed 3-day packaging conference. For more information, visit the EastPack website.

Next: The incredible waste-reducing additive

EasyPour ASchulman booth display

A. Schulman (Fairlawn, OH) specializes in functional additives for value-added packaging, and that is as true of its latest innovation as any: Polybatch EasyPour masterbatch. The product enhances customer experience and improves dispensing from stand up pouches and other packaging formats and directly addresses the challenge of product and food waste. The additive influences the inner surface properties of polymers to enable the contents to pour more smoothly, and is applicable for both flexible and rigid multilayer constructions.

My initial impression when chatting with Chris Kerscher, the company’s market development manager for packaging, was that it sounded akin to LiquiGlide (see LiquiGlide slips into higher commercialization gear, published June 2017). A key difference is Polybatch EasyPour uses different chemistry and is added prior to extrusion where it becomes part of the polymer makeup rather than a coating like LiquiGlide, which requires a secondary step to apply.

A. Schulman supplies Polybatch EasyPour as a pelletized, additive masterbatch.  “Typical use rates are less than 10% by weight and can vary depending on formulation and performance requirements,” Kerscher points out.

He notes that the FDA-cleared material is scalable, “applicable from sachets to refill pouches to bag-in-box films to bulk IBC bins.”

It’s appropriate for use across the spectrum of packaged products from household items including soaps and detergents to personal care products to foods and beverages. When asked to identify where he felt the initial applications may be headed, Kerscher anticipates that to be in foodservice packaging.

“Either restaurant/catering markets that include products such as ketchup, peanut butter and sauces or for bulk processing of industrial food ingredients,” he responded. “Interest is also strong in consumer applications such as liquid refill pouches for soap and detergents.”

Next: An ultra-light-weighted hologram bottle

NPE KHS hologram bottle

When vendors have important news to share at a major tradeshow, they have a number of options, but KHS Group (Hamburg, Germany) decided to go the rarely-taken holographic route. And it worked because as I scoured the show aisles for new and innovative products the display specifically got me to step into the booth to watch a projected 3D holographic video presented on a small stage inside a display cabinet.

It was a riveting and edutaining holographic infomercial of a revolutionary PET water bottle, Factor 100, in development jointly with preform-making machinery supplier Husky Injection Molding Systems (Bolton, Ontario). The name references the fact that the weight of the 500-mL bottle is a meager 5 grams. The video pointed to the amazing leafcutter ant, which can carry nearly 50x its weight, which is only half the capability of the even more amazing Factor 100 bottle.

That yields a dramatic 30% material reduction from the previous lightest weight bottle for this volume, and makes it a double win for brands and the environment, with as much a material-saving sustainability improvement as it is a cost savings.

Preform and bottle molding require extremely precise distribution of the PET with optimum stretching. KHS notes that the bottle’s grip is optimized and the sophisticated geometry was derived from virtual prototypes.

I asked the company’s product manager Arne Wiese, “Doesn’t this degree of thinwalling make it more of a pouch than a bottle?” His response:  “The bottle is actually thinner than a pouch, but the special support rings designed in the mold give it structural strength.”

That fact was as amazing as the hologram. Wiese said that the bottle and design needed to be further top-strengthened to allow the filled bottles to be stacked six high “without losing the sustainability benefits.” With major companies indicating a “high interested” in the development, Wiese expects a “technical solution” to the above challenge in 2018.

Next: Breakthrough booths including the world’s first (and only) made of 100% in-mold labeling materials.

NPE Creaprint IML booth

 

We usually don’t report on booths, but this was not your typical tradeshow and these two examples were highly unusual booths. Both were distinctive and impressive due to the layout, design and/or materials that tied directly to the exhibitor’s proposition.

One was the World’s First Booth Made 100% using In-mold Labeling (IML) technology,  done by IML specialist Creaprint USA (Miami). The entire 30ft x 30ft booth including flooring, walls, tables and chairs was IML. The concept was executed so thoroughly seamlessly it came across as an amazing over-the-top integration of branding and NPE presence.

According to Creaprint’s Ignacio Guillem Pico, ceo, it took three months’ development to source, execute and bring all these diverse and unusual IML elements together.

NPE Creaprint chair and floorFloor and walls were sourced in the United States, he told PlasticsToday, and the chairs were sourced from Europe. Because it would have to withstand a lot of foot traffic, “the flooring took extra consideration and was the most complicated,” Pico explained, “and required a strong, scratch-resistant 100-micron label.”

From among a wide range of IML markets that include food containers, electrical and medical parts and household items, Pico said “IML is growing more in packaging than other applications.”

And yes, the booth displayed plenty of IML packaging and products, including a child’s plastic motorcycle; the decoration was provided by an impressively single large IML label that followed the contours of the molded toy.

One other vendor also similarly impressed me as creatively marrying branding with the booth’s physical makeup as well, and could be noticed from a distance.

Next: The dramatic molecular matrix

NPE Tosaf booth wide

The goal of Tosaf (Tnuvot Industrial Zone, Israel) for NPE2018 was to introduce the company to the American market as one of the leading global masterbatch producers, with a new state-of-the-art plant in Bessemer City, NC.

And it did so with a dramatic booth design that could be seen from several aisles away: An artistically captivating “molecular lattice” that extended from waist level to the girders above the booth as a kind of virtual wall. The matrix, which changed in perspective as you walked around and through the booth, pointed to the molecules of the company’s plastics additives and tied to the supplier’s dot-pattern branding via textured brochures and more.

NPE Tosaf view looking upIt may have been the most unique of thousands of booths I've seen over the years.

The molecules were soft, blue rubber balls 2.5-inches in diameter and imprinted with the company logo. I learned from global communications manager Ronit Segal Hayoon that 2,816 of them were strung on 330 nylon cords to create the 20x30-foot booth’s striking molecular look. Designed, manufactured and assembled in Israel over a five-day period, it was the first time Tosaf has used this booth setup.

According to the company, “we’ve had a lot of great feedback about the booth. It creates a wall without having a wall.”

The company provides additive and color solutions for film and packaging as well as agriculture and construction.

For more cool things from Orlando, here’s a summary of the daily compilation of the 5 coolest thing at NPE2018 we saw on…

Day 1 A large cutaway filter built entirely of the iconic plastic bricks

Day 2 3D-printed mask sleeved over a limited-edition PepsiCo Black Panther can

Day 3 Large, 3D-printed aerodynamic roof fairing that could be viewed using AR

Day 4 Color-changing thermochromic PET bottles

Day 5 Shell Polymers makes a big splash

Also visit PlasticsToday’s NPE2018 news page.

 

Conference explores new metal replacement opportunities in automotive and electronics applications

Conference explores new metal replacement opportunities in automotive and electronics applications

Conductive Plastics conferenceTaking place at the Austria Trend Hotel Savoyen in Vienna on Nov. 6 and 7, 2018, the Conductive Plastics 2018 conference, organized by AMI (Bristol, UK), will explore developments in electrically and thermally conductive polymers for emerging applications in autonomous vehicles, smart devices and LED lighting.

In the automotive sector, the market for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) is growing at almost 50% a year and could be worth as much as $132 billion by 2026, according to ABI Research. However, implementing safety-critical technologies such as pedestrian detection and collision avoidance means developing robust and affordable electronics. 

Meanwhile, smart devices continue to penetrate every area of modern life. Growth in smart home devices alone is running at more than 18% annually, according to International Data Corp., but maintaining these growth forecasts assumes ongoing success in reducing cost, improving durability and simplifying manufacturing. 

Electrically and thermally conductive plastics will be among the technologies enabling these future markets to develop. The ability to deliver plastics that meet these new application demands will result in a host of new material replacement opportunities for plastics conversion from both metal and ceramics. Conductive Plastics 2018 will examine the latest innovations in the development, processing and application of all types of conductive plastics, reviewing their potential in fast growing markets.

The two-day programme will commence with Dr. Tamim P. Sidiki of DSM Engineering Plastics discussing conductive plastics in automotive electronics. The rest of day one will include sessions on modifying electrical conductivity and enhancing thermal conductivity.

On day two, a session on electrically conductive applications will feature a paper from Dimitri Rosseaux of Total Research and Technology FELUY on carbon nanotubes for industrial ATEX applications.

Energy innovation, advanced manufacturing is putting Pittsburgh on path to prosperity

Energy innovation, advanced manufacturing is putting Pittsburgh on path to prosperity

Shell cracker construction
Construction of the Shell cracker plant in Beaver, PA, as of November 2017. Image courtesy Shell Chemical.

Having never been to Pittsburgh, I wasn’t sure what to expect when the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development invited me and a handful of other journalists on a press trip last month. I knew that the city’s steel- and coal-fueled past, which brought prosperity but at a considerable human and environmental cost, was a dim memory. I didn’t have a notion of what the city and environs looked like today or if there was a blueprint for the future. By the end of a whirlwind three-day tour visiting businesses and universities and conversing with local and regional officials, it was clear to me that the best may be yet to come for Pittsburgh and, indeed, western Pennsylvania. Part of that future is being built in Beaver, a few miles northwest of Pittsburgh, where Shell Chemical is constructing a massive $6 billion ethylene cracker plant that taps into the Marcellus shale formation. Alongside that project, a concerted effort by public officials, industrial leaders and academic institutions to promote advanced manufacturing and energy innovation is also leading the way to a cleaner, brighter future.

Sharing the shale

Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia all own a piece of the Marcellus and Uttica shales that hold massive deposits of oil and natural gas. The governors of those states have formed the Tri-State Shale Coalition to develop a petrochemical hub that can compete with the Gulf Coast. Inevitably, there is competition among the neighboring states to lure investment dollars, but the breadth of the shale reserves argue for a more collaborative approach, according to the coalition.

Noting that the natural resource doesn’t stay within state lines, “we don’t want to be competing with each other,” said Denise Brinley, Senior Energy Adviser for the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. “Our biggest competitor is the Gulf Coast, not neighboring states.” Still, Pennsylvania has pulled ahead in the regional race, with Royal Dutch Shell investing $6 billion to build the ethane cracker. Ohio may be nipping at its heels: There are reports that PTT Global Chemical is considering building a cracker plant there that would call for a $10 billion investment.

A key objective of the regional partners is to parlay the cracker plants and gas extraction into infrastructure improvements, regional job creation and off-shoot investments. In fact, the Beaver project is projected to have a five- to seven-time multiplier effect on associated business activity, according to Brinley.

“With regard to natural gas liquids (and ethane, in particular), we are currently exporting 100% of our ethane to other domestic and international markets and that won’t likely change until Shell Pennsylvania Chemicals comes on line in 2021-2022. This project represents the first in-state use of ethane, and we have a compelling economic case if the resource is both extracted and used as close to the source as possible. We want to encourage other 'Shell-like' projects to consider this region for investment because of that strong value proposition,” said Brinley.

A study conducted by Shell determined that 70% of its potential North American polyethylene customers lie within a 700-mile radius of the Beaver site. Moreover, unlike the Gulf Coast, the region has no disruptive hurricane season. Those factors have kept the project on track, even when oil prices took a dip. When all is said and done, the plant will have created approximately 6,000 construction jobs and 600 permanent jobs.

Downstream demand

The plastics industry already has a strong foothold in the region, notably the so-called Plastics Cluster in Erie County and northwest Pennsylvania. Companies well-known to the PlasticsToday community, such as Micro Mold/Plastikos, Silgan Plastics and Berry Plastics, have a decades-long presence in the area.

Advanced polymers producer Covestro, known as Bayer MaterialScience until Bayer spun out the business in September 2015, has been a high-profile presence in the Pittsburgh area for many years. Its expansive facility sits alongside the Bayer plant.

And near the airport, GE opened its $39-million Center for Additive Technology Advancement (CATA) in 2016. A year later, GE announced that it was developing the CATA into an externally focused Customer Experience Center. Equipped with an array of industrial additive manufacturing equipment, the center enables clients to glimpse the potential of 3D printing under real-life conditions.

Penn State Behrend
Penn State Behrend's Plastics Engineering Technology program is one of only six such programs recognized by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission. Image courtesy Penn State Behrend.

A third pillar of the region’s advanced manufacturing framework is a supportive educational ecosystem. For the plastics industry, that begins with Penn State Behrend: Its Plastics Engineering Technology (PLET) program is one of only six such programs recognized by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission. The university's plastics processing laboratory is the largest undergraduate educational facility of its type, housing millions of dollars’ worth of computers, materials, and processing equipment.

With its high density of plastics manufacturers creating downstream demand for ethylene and an engaged academic environment, the “Erie region is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this opportunity,” according to Amy Bridger, Senior Director of Corporate Strategy and External Engagement at Penn State Behrend. “Our plastics companies are well established and positioned for growth. Expansion of the Plastics Engineering Technology program at Penn State Behrend and the development of new curricula and research will help those companies and others across the industry meet the workforce demands of a larger, Pennsylvania-focused market,” Bridger told PlasticsToday. “Our students also will benefit, through opportunities for industry research, increased exposure to potential employers and the sort of experiential learning that you can’t offer in a classroom.”

As it stands, 63% of PLET graduates are still living in Pennsylvania, according to the school. If all goes according to plan, even more graduates will have fewer reasons to leave the region in the years ahead.