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PTC Bonds with Rockwell to Boost Manufacturing Bid

At LiveWorx this week in Boston, PTC CEO and chairman, Jim Heppelmann, explained the logic behind the $1 billion investment Rockwell Automation has committed to PTC. According to Heppelmann, the investment that was announced on June 11 will give both PTC and Rockwell a greater digital offering to manufacturers worldwide.

PTC, Jim Heppelmann, Rockwell Automation, LiveWorx

At LiveWorx this past Monday, PTC CEO and chairman, Jim Heppelmann, explained how the partnership with Rockwell will enable PTC to further its technology play with manufacturers. (Image source: Design News)

The idea for the partnership came from PTC’s success in using its digital products to deliver a quick ROI to its manufacturing customers. “We were seeing our greatest use cases with factories. They have old stuff, new stuff, and they have products from 40 different vendors. We found we could deliver some impressive savings by digitizing it,” Heppelmann told Design News. “We brought in Rockwell, so we could scale it. We were having so much success, we wanted to bring in someone with deep expertise in the market.”

PTC’s EVP of field operations, Matt Cohen, concurred that PTC’s success with manufacturers is what brought the two companies together. “The factory space has the quickest adoption pace,” Cohen told Design News. “If you can improve productivity and reduce downtime, you can get to ROI very quickly.”

As part of the deal, Rockwell Automation’s chairman and CEO, Blake Moret, will join PTC’s board of directors effective with the closing of the equity transaction.

Blending the Technologies

The partnership will blend the technologies of both companies while developing joint global go-to-market initiatives. PTC and Rockwell have agreed to align their respective smart factory technologies, combining PTC’s ThingWorx IoT, Kepware industrial connectivity, and Vuforia augmented reality (AR) platforms with Rockwell’s FactoryTalk MES, FactoryTalk Analytics, and Industrial Automation platforms.

Cohen noted that PTC’s technology would be effective in pharma manufacturing, yet PTC has only a small track record in the sector. The Rockwell partnership closes that gap. “We have not been strong in pharma, yet we know our technology is right for pharma,” said Cohen. “Rockwell is credible in pharma, so we’ll train and enable Rockwell’s sales team on PTC technology.”

Beyond the Industrial IoT

In discussing its industrial technology, Heppelmann questioned whether the industrial IoT sufficiently describes the company’s technology. “A fresh look means including AR [augmented reality] and VR [virtual reality]. I don’t know if that’s IoT or not,” said Heppelmann. “We’re not going to stop talking about IoT, but it’s not just IoT. It’s industrial connectivity, it’s data, it’s VR and AR.”

He noted that the difference IoT makes is that it pulls data from non-traditional sources. “What’s different about IoT is we’re not just getting data out of organized databases,” said Heppelman. “We’re getting it from different interesting things. We’re bringing in data from different sources, and then we’re using that data for analytics and for AR and VR.”

Even as PTC consolidates its focus on manufacturing with its Rockwell partnership, the company remains devoted to developing new technology. “PTC is a way different company than it was five years ago. We’re always fighting inertia. That’s our biggest competitor,” said Heppelmann. Cohen added that there’s “a constant pressure for change. We don’t get too comfortable with the new thing, because change is in our DNA.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

KraussMaffei acquires stake in online used machinery startup

KraussMaffei acquires stake in online used machinery startup

German processing machinery giant KraussMaffei Group, itself acquired by ChemChina in 2016, has taken out a stake in fellow German startup GINDUMAC, the developer and operator of an online sales platform for plastics processing machinery, machine tools, and sheet metal working equipment.

Janek Andre (left) und Benedikt Ruf (right) founded GINDUMAC in July 2016.
In the buying area the visitor can filter by machine specifications, e.g. machine brand like KraussMaffei.

Through the acquisition, KraussMaffei will be able to fully map plastics processing machinery throughout their entire life cycle in an integrated sales process for new and used machines. KraussMaffei will now be better placed to implement "Old for New" deals when plastic processors decide to replace machinery. When buying a new machine, GINDUMAC guarantees a fair and market-driven purchase prices for the used machine currently in use. In less than 48 hours, GINDUMAC says it can determine the current market value of a plastics processing machine using a proprietary evaluation software solution that compares current market prices based on an intelligent data algorithm. Through the tie-up, KraussMaffei will also be expanding its offerings through a rental model for second-hand processing machinery.

GINDUMAC, or Global Industrial Machinery Cluster, brings an international start-up culture into the partnership with the traditional company KraussMaffei. The teams at the locations in Kaiserslautern, Barcelona and Mumbai consist of “forward-thinking talents” from more than 13 countries.” GINDUMAC sees itself as a digital company that develops new solutions for the used machinery trading in a progressive, visionary, courageous and implementation-oriented manner.

Since its foundation in 2016, the European start-up metropolis Barcelona has played a key role in shaping the corporate culture. Known for its diverse tech and creative scene, GINDUMAC says it is able to attract young talent from all over the world to this location and to shape a special start-up culture.

Has the 3D-printing train left the station?

Has the 3D-printing train left the station?

3D printingFew conference topics can draw a crowd at an advanced manufacturing event like additive manufacturing. True to form, a panel discussion on 3D-printing technology at last week’s co-located PLASTEC East and Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) East in New York, NY, was standing room only.

Representing companies from across the 3D printing/additive manufacturing spectrum, the panelists mined deep expertise to debate such issues as 3D printing's transformative effect on the production process and the remarkable surge in metal additive manufacturing. Here are some insights from the far-ranging conversation.

Skate to where the puck is going to be

There is no doubt that additive manufacturing will play a major role on the production end of the business, and that will happen sooner than many people think, said Matt Sand, President of 3DEO (Gardena, CA). “Like Wayne Gretzky said, you skate to where the puck is going to be,” said Sand. Look at the new technologies coming into the marketplace, how the bottom is falling out of materials pricing. “The time to get into additive manufacturing is now. In five to 10 years this is going to be a significant manufacturing technology that will have an impact on the production side of your business. If you wait five years until the production technology is here, you’re already too late,” cautioned Sand.

Sand’s company has developed a proprietary metal additive manufacturing technology, Intelligent Layering, that fabricates parts that meet MPIF Standard 35, reportedly a first in metal additive manufacturing. According to 3DEO, its process can reduce final part costs by as much as 80% compared with other metal additive manufacturing techniques. The supplier of precision-engineered 3D-printed metal parts serves an array of industries including automotive, consumer electronics and medical technology.

Surge in metal additive manufacturing

For Sand, as well as other panelists, the big news in 3D printing currently is coming from the metals side. We are seeing massive growth in metal additive manufacturing, said Felipe Castañeda, Industrial Designer and Marketing Manager at 3D printing technology company MakerBot (Brooklyn, NY). “We are seeing a flood of new entrants in metal powders,” said Castañeda, and that will change the business paradigm moving forward. “The cost of materials today is 10 to 30 times more expensive than it is for metal injection molding. Over the next five to 10 years, however, we will see the cost of metal powders for additive manufacturing begin to approach MIM pricing levels,” said Castañeda. Given that materials represent the lion’s share of manufacturing expenses, high-throughput machines could be real game changers on the production side, he added.

Castañeda's observations are supported by the Wohlers Report 2018, widely considered to be the bible of the 3D-printing industry. The 23rd annual edition noted that an estimated 1,768 metal additive manufacturing (AM) systems were sold in 2017, compared with 983 systems in 2016, an increase of nearly 80%. One of the reasons for the surge, Terry Wohlers told PlasticsToday, lies with “users of metal AM systems beginning to hit a stride that requires more capacity, so they are buying multiple machines. This comes as a result of new designs being certified for production by AM. Previously, one or two machines were sufficient for testing and qualification of the AM process,” said Wohlers.

The dramatic rise in metal additive manufacturing machine sales does not come at the expense of polymer-based 3D printing. In fact, roughly half of additive manufacturing service providers are running polymer-only systems. And companies such as HP and Carbon, which are focused on high-speed printing of end-use products, are setting a new bar on the production side of things, noted Sand.

Advent of high-speed resin-based systems

In the last 10 years, we have seen the emergence of more functional engineering thermoplastic and metal materials for additive manufacturing, said Sand. Now we’re seeing a new phase in production, driven by the speed of the 3D printers, and some of the price points on materials coming down as the scale becomes more cost effective. That’s true of metals and it’s especially  true of plastics, with the advent of high-speed resin systems, according to Sand. “HP, in particular, set the tone a couple of years ago,” said Sand. HP hopes to disrupt the $12 trillion manufacturing sector by accelerating the part production process, using its Multi Jet Fusion technology, ultimately to the point where it can rival injection molding.

That brings us to the supply chain, the foundations of which could be rattled by additive manufacturing, according to Cullen Hilkene, CEO of 3Diligent (El Segundo, CA), a digital manufacturing service provider that offers CNC machining, molding and casting as well as 3D printing. As production is performed “close to the customer, via distributors or even within the home, the supply chain as we know it, will experience fundamental disruption,” said Hilkene.

That’s a lot of potential disruption when you think about it. If you’re part of the advanced manufacturing ecosystem, the sensible thing to do, it seems, is to take a page out of the Scouting handbook and be prepared.

Medtronic’s Momentum in Innovation Continues

GERALT/PIXABAY Medtronic’s Momentum in Innovation Continues

Medtronic seems to be on a roll when it comes to innovation. The Dublin-based company has received the greenlight from FDA for an expanded indication of the Kyphon HV-R Bone Cement.

Under the new indication, Medtronic can market Kyphon for the fixation of pathological fractures of the sacral vertebral body using sacral vertebroplasty or sacroplasty.

Sacral insufficiency fractures (SIFs) are a common cause of debilitating back pain. SIFs mimic the symptoms of lumbar spine pathology. Studies show more than two-thirds of patients diagnosed with SIFs aren't able to associate their pain with a traumatic event. As a result, physicians often prescribe conservative treatment, including physical therapy and prolonged bed rest.

"Early intervention is an important consideration for both hospital costs and patient outcomes," said Jeff Cambra, vice president and general manager of the Interventional Pain Therapies business, which is part of the Restorative Therapies Group at Medtronic said in a release. "Combined with our 20 years of experience in vertebral compression fractures, this new indication for our bone cement solution allows us to continue to make an impact on vertebral compression fracture and sacral insufficiency diagnosis treatment in the U.S. by giving physicians options to deliver the best clinical solutions to their patients."

Medtronic gained access to the technology when it acquired Kyphon for $3.9 billion in 2007.

This is the second technology Medtronic has brought to the forefront in as many days. The firm said it had a partnership with Tel Aviv, Israel-based Nutrion to use the Foot Print Report along with the myLog app to help make it easier for patients to understand the link between meals and glucose variability.

Monitoring is Key in Precipio’s Liquid Biopsy Success

Courtesy of Precipio Monitoring is Key in Precipio’s Liquid Biopsy Success

The liquid biopsy market has expanded greatly in the past few years. From billion-dollar financings to highly publicized spinouts – the space has managed to attract quite a bit of attention and change the dynamic of diagnostics.

Earlier this week, Roche made a big play in the space by acquiring the remaining shares of Foundation Medicine for $2.4 billion. Precipio is hoping to make its own impact in liquid biopsy and said it is focused on the monitoring segment of the market.

The New Haven, CT-based company is about a year removed from merging with Transgenomics. The transaction also helped Precipio become a public company – although that wasn’t the main reason for the merger, said Ilan Danieli, CEO of the combined firm.

“What I find is an interesting view is that people see our transaction and assume that we wanted to become public,” Danieli told MD+DI. “They say we did a merger with [Transgenomics] and oh-by-the way- got this technology, but it’s actually the reverse. What drove the transaction is the technology.”

Last month, Precipio said it launched two additional ICEme kits using its ICE-COLD PCR liquid biopsy technology. The new RUO kits enable the detection of mutations in KRAS Exons 2 & 3, which include important predictive and prognostic biomarkers, and are available on both qPCR and Sanger molecular diagnostic platforms.

The ICP kits will be priced at about $100 per specimen, a fraction of competing liquid biopsy tests. Laboratories running ICP can apply tier-1 approved codes to bill for the tests at approximately $400 (based on Medicare’s 2018 Clinical Lab Fee Schedule).

“We develop very focused targeted panels for monitoring, that come in at a price point that’s a fraction of those competitor models,” Danieli said.

The breakthrough clinical value of this dramatic cost reduction is the ability to test sequentially and repeatedly, increasing the likelihood of identifying the KRAS mutation soon after it appears. The company said this enables the physician to optimize treatment in real time and react to the genetic signals that may precede potential patient deterioration.

The economic value lies in the ability of the treatment center to generate new revenue by now offering an in-house laboratory developed test to screen pancreatic patients, tests which, absent ICP, are being sent out to external diagnostic labs.

He noted that other companies were developing at a price point that probably could not be maintained long-term in the market.

“At some point how do the economics of this work? We are in an environment of healthcare," Danieli said. "It’s not an environment of unlimited resources. I think that’s part of the problem – these very expensive tests that really aren’t sustainable in an ongoing clinical market.”

But just how can Precipio compete or exist in a world filled with Illumina-spinoff Grail and cancer detection powerhouse Guardant Health?

“I think the playing field is going to be divided into screening and monitoring,” he said. “I think [Grail and Guardant] are without a doubt far more applicable to screening. I think they’re going to have a very hard time playing in the monitoring market, which is our focus. Both sides of the business have value. Where I’m really happy with companies like that is from a market education perspective. They’re doing a phenomenal job. Bringing liquid biopsy to the forefront of people’s minds is great for everyone.”

Considering Market Access Risk as Part of Today’s M&A Process

Considering Market Access Risk as Part of Today’s M&A Process
Image source: Trueffelpix/Shutterstock

The medical devices market experienced steady growth throughout 2017, with deals reached between some of the largest players in the market. The story has not changed much over the first six months of 2018, as the appetite for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the medical technology industry remains strong. From our insights into the industry, it appears this trend will continue into the second half of 2018 and 2019. The recent U.S. tax overhaul has resulted in M&A as a major driver of growth for healthcare and medical technology companies. In fact, a Capital One survey of 300 senior healthcare executives found that 50% of those polled said M&A would be their major growth strategy in 2018, up from 38% in 2017.

Industry leaders have begun embedding market access into their key business decisions, which is increasing the visibility and effect of this competency. Leveraging the market access competency during the M&A process can lead to immediate and sometimes substantial results, by providing sound clinical and economic data on which decisions are made around evidence investment, pricing, reimbursement risk, and target asset timelines. Failure to assess market access risk in due diligence can result in post-M&A surprises, particularly if additional evidence and infrastructure needs were not factored into deal valuation. In short, the market access function is vital for any company that is strategically emphasizing inorganic growth.

Evolution of Market Access Function

The market access function has always been a key competency when it comes to supporting value creation and definition for medical device companies. Historically, market access was limited to a peri-launch activity, and focused primarily on payment mechanics and communicating value to stakeholders. Eventually, market access moved upstream to support product development as payers and purchasers began demanding more evidence to support clinical and economic value.

Today, the demand for value-based healthcare requires a more holistic, integrated approach to defining and communicating value to customers, and market access is, of course, a key enabling function.

M&A Process and Key Market Access Issues

Several factors can drive M&A: diversifying portfolio risk, entering new growth markets or geographies, leveraging synergies or supply chain, and acquiring a strong IP pipeline. During any M&A, acquirers must rigorously evaluate a target asset’s commercial potential via a systematic assessment of opportunity and fit.

Due diligence is, of course, critical to informing a company’s go/no-go decision, but too often, market access is considered a secondary issue in the process. In fact, given ever-increasing demand for evidence that goes beyond regulatory requirements for medical devices, market access should be an essential part of due diligence. Market leaders are deploying market access analysis upstream, in landscape assessment, target prioritization, and throughout the in-depth diligence review.

Broadly speaking, the goal of the market access evaluation in due diligence is to conduct an examination of opportunity and risk. It allows the team to zero in on opportunities and red flags that could range from opportunity for clinical and economic differentiation, underinvestment in evidence to prove value, impact of evolving payment models, and the need for specialized resources for post-deal integration. Ultimately, the goal is to identify opportunities and the investment needed, including additional investment in evidence or any barriers that are so severe that the deal should not be consummated.

Real-World Insight

The results of the market access evaluation during due diligence are critical for medical technology companies to course-correct and to inform financial modelling and post-merger integration plans. These real-world implications for companies considering M&A include:

  • Assessing whether evidence development planning supports revenue projections. A major concern during M&A is whether the available/ongoing/planned clinical studies are designed to meet the target’s average sales price (ASP) and market penetration projections. A market access evaluation for a target’s principal device asset helped our client identify that market penetration for the entire class of devices was threatened, and we realized that the clinical studies designed to support the ASP were not sufficient. These market risks and integration priorities were factored into the client’s financial model, which affected the final deal valuation.
  • Identifying specialized reimbursement strategies and resources. Market access also plays a role when coding and reimbursement structures are in place. For one M&A, the target asset (a manufacturer that is also a durable medical equipment {DME} provider) had a code payment that was lower than its claimed ASP, only realized by leveraging payers’ appeal processes. This makes reimbursement a cumbersome process for providers, with inconsistent results. Through the market access analysis, the client realized that high-level reimbursement came at considerable expense. The costs of this infrastructure were factored into the deal.
  • Realigning reimbursement timelines in a global market. A target had forecast substantial revenue growth in Germany and noted that it had developed a “buttoned up” market access strategy. The asset was an ambulatory product going through the Federal Joint Committee (G-BA), and the target had projected a reimbursement timeline of less than 12 months. By conducting a thorough market access assessment, it was discovered that the target had underestimated the timeline by years. Significant efforts needed to take place post-integration to drive the reimbursement process, and as such, our client adjusted its financial model appropriately.

Industry changes, including new economies of care delivery, innovative business models, and evolving customer needs, are expanding M&A interactions. Medical technology companies must leverage market access competencies to maximize investment and promote value. Companies anticipating growth through M&A need to assess their market access opportunity and risk, both to minimize surprises and to ensure that the deal lives up to its promise based on a clear picture of the market access environment.

Searching for the Future of Diabetes Management

Pixabay Searching for the Future of Diabetes Management

The future of diabetes management could be coming soon. A global innovation competition is underway to find digital solutions that can help transform type 2 diabetes management.

Type 2 diabetes currently accounts for around 90% of the estimated 425 million people with diabetes globally, and new, innovative ways to manage this condition are urgently required to meet the substantial and growing burden to patients and our healthcare systems. That is exactly what the Ascensia Diabetes Challenge has been designed to do – find ideas that are out there and have the potential to make a difference to Type 2 diabetes management. 

Since last October, the challenge has solicited 116 ideas from entrepreneurs and startups around the world who are at the forefront of healthcare innovation, all attempting to win funding and partnership opportunities to further develop their ideas and bring them to patients.

Six challenge finalists deemed to have the most potential for patient impact were announced at the start of April and given the chance to present their solutions to a panel of Ascensia leaders during a two-day event, where I helped facilitate a series of collaborative workshops among the finalists. During my time there, I was most impressed that the Ascensia team, including very senior individuals, took the time to offer more than just a few kind words of encouragement. Each finalist and their respective groups spent extended time with members of the Ascensia team for truly tangible insights and counsel, starting with the patient impact of their solutions, and then discussing the potential for commercialization.  For me, this level of commitment to startups and entrepreneurs, and continued emphasis on patients is something that sets the Ascensia Diabetes Challenge apart from other similar competitions I’ve seen.

What I Learned About the Finalists

Whisk CEO Nick Holzzer and COO Stuart Renshaw believe many people are “stuck on repeat” with eating habits and recipe choices, or refrain from healthy cooking due to difficulty or inability to find the right ingredients. Thus, they developed Whisk, a food platform with an artificial intelligence-powered digital dietician that connects users to the grocery retailers. It has the potential to help Type 2 diabetes patients easily find the food and recipes they love, and is tailored to each person using selected preferences to drive sustainable behavior change. Whisk allows patient interactions with the system to train the AI as they work together to set goals to make the digital dietician even more intuitive in guiding patients’ food choices.

Finalist company Holmusk, based in Singapore, was inspired by the previous experiences of CEO Nawal Roy, who saw first-hand how big data and technology were changing the finance industry, while healthcare lagged behind. With Type 2 diabetes a leading chronic disease in Singapore, the team decided to tackle this highly behavior-driven condition first. They created Glycoleap, a digital health program that combines expert human coaching with smart mobile technology to empower people with Type 2 diabetes to live a healthier life. GlycoLeap is powered by a scalable, engaging, and effective technology platform for data-driven, personalized health coaching to keep people with diabetes healthier when they’re away from the hospital or clinic.

Another coaching-based solution comes from Macadamian, a company that is using voice-enabled software to positively impact diabetes patients’ lives. After speaking with physicians, nurses, and patients at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Timon LeDain, director of emerging technologies & products at Macadamian, set to work with colleagues on developing My Diabetes Coach, the first diabetes management platform that uses Amazon’s Alexa to help people with Type 2 diabetes better manage their care. The platform’s artificial intelligence utilizes data captured through an integrated wearable device, a mobile phone, and dialogue with the patient to provide a personal and empathetic virtual coaching experience. Coaching facilitates treatment adherence and makes care management less overwhelming, while the mobile app, Amazon Alexa feature, and patient portal allow the patient’s circle of care (caregivers, family, peers, and clinical team) to participate.

Many of the team at xbird come from the digital and tech space, where they used data analytics to improve clients’ advertising. When a member of CEO Sebastian Sujka’s family was diagnosed with cancer, he decided to leave his job and start xbird, applying his data analytics expertise to improve people’s lives and prevent disease. Today, xbird is a medical artificial intelligence company with software that analyzes micromovements collected by smartphones and wearables worn by people with diabetes and cross-references them with historical blood glucose data to predict and detect potential hypo- and hyperglycaemic events. xbird’s Continuous Activity Monitoring recreates a patient’s day, potentially identifying micromovements that could indicate an oncoming diabetic event. This happens automatically, without any need for manual logging from the user, and creates actionable insights for both doctors and patients.

The Qstream platform is based on research by B. Price Kerfoot, MD, at Harvard Medical School, where it began as a game-based tool to help medical students retain information. Given the range of symptoms and need for self-management in many chronic conditions, Kerfoot decided to see how this approach could be used to engage patients and clinicians in fun, challenging competitions – while delivering real-time insights that clinicians depend on – to significantly improve patients' behaviors and outcomes. Qstream uses mobile, science and gamification to provide powerfully simple solutions that help patients and healthcare professionals reinforce the knowledge and skills that matter most. Qstream lets patients and clinicians play a game on their phone or tablet for minutes a day. The game is delivered from the cloud to any mobile device, is easy to use and can be deployed at scale.

The sixth finalist’s solution was born from personal experience. Walk With Path founder Lise Pape created the Path Feel solution after seeing her father suffer from Parkinson’s for more than 15 years. With a background in innovation design engineering, Pape explored developing digital and hardware tools to support people with mobility issues, a generally under-served area of healthcare, with a focus on neuropathy, a key condition associated with mobility problems. Path Feel can help people with diabetic neuropathy feel the ground and achieve balance by integrating data from the insole of their shoe, which can be used to personalize and enhance care.

The Future of Innovation and Diabetes Management

Open innovation competitions like the Ascensia Diabetes Challenge are becoming increasingly popular as a reliable way to identify new ideas and potential partners for future solutions while encouraging collaboration. In healthcare, especially in medical devices and software solutions, startups offer a rich pool of ideas and an untapped source of innovation that often require the expertise and resources of more seasoned partners to grow.

The solutions presented by this challenge’s finalists all demonstrate a potential for significant impact to the management of Type 2 diabetes. New solutions in this area remain in high demand as the number of patients with Type 2 diabetes continues to grow, and it’s encouraging to see such passionate innovators working to make a difference in patients’ lives. All six finalists have presented unique and innovative solutions, and all will receive prizes for their achievements thus far. 

Most importantly for me, as a champion of innovation, it’s exciting to be part of events that bring together the best and brightest ideas and give them a chance to change the future of healthcare and ultimately, the lives of people. By sharing their solutions and inspirations with one another, these finalists have already generated new ideas and opportunities to collaborate. The winner of this competition will be announced during Friday, June 22, at the American Diabetes Association’s 78th Scientific Sessions.

Mondi expands U.S. production for flat-bottom bags

Mondi expands U.S. production for flat-bottom bags

Mondi Totani FlexboxMondi (Vienna, Austria), a major provider of packaging and paper, is expanding its United States capability to produce premium flat-bottom bags for food, pet food and home and personal care applications. The move comes in response to rising U.S. demand for premium flexible packaging solutions from consumer goods manufacturers and brand owners.

In the food sector, for instance, premium packaging innovations are emerging worldwide as a major trend, according to the “Global Packaging Trends 2018” report from market research firm Mintel. “Brands will look to contemporary packaging formats to reinvigorate the center-of-store aisles less visited by younger consumers,” Mintel states.

Mondi’s expanded capability, which includes more manufacturing capacity and new equipment in the U.S. at its Jackson, MO, facility, will be fully operational by the third quarter of 2018. It will help Mondi meet the growing needs of U.S. consumer goods industry for premium bags with creative designs, riveting graphics and printing, as well as innovative features.  

“Premium flexible packaging needs to communicate a brand’s message effectively and be as unique as the product inside,” notes Bill Kuecker, Vice President of Marketing, Mondi Jackson. “With the extreme competition on store shelves that brands currently face, packaging needs to grab the consumer’s attention and maintain satisfaction during a product’s use life to remain relevant.

 “Our expanded premium bag-making capabilities will help our current and future customers bring their products to market in packaging that meets these challenging criteria. To cite just one example, our premium flat-bottom bags can be produced with a variety of reclosing options, such as top sliders, to help customize the consumer’s packaging experience.”

PLASTEC Minneapolis 2018 held October 31-November 1 is part of the Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event that also includes MinnPack brings you the latest in materials and additives, injection molding, rapid prototyping, coatings, automation, packaging and more. For details, visit PLASTEC Minneapolis.

Changing consumer behavior and demographics fuel the increasing popularity of premium packaging options. In the pet food sector this trend has been especially noted. According to market research firm Packaged Facts’ report U.S. Pet Market Outlook 2018-2019, “…super premium and natural pet food brands are expected to drive the market, outpacing the growth of regular pet food by at least double.”

Mondi TotanibeutelIn response, pet food manufacturers and brands are turning to packaging suppliers for innovative solutions that differentiate their premium offerings from commodity brands. Sought-after features include clear windows that showcase package contents and enhanced printing that conveys product quality at a glance.

Lifestyle, demography and convenience are also impacting the broader food sector. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (#CB18-41, March 13, 2018), the elderly population is on the rise, with U.S. seniors expected to outnumber children by the year 2035. At the same time, consumers of all ages are eating more meals alone or while on the go. These trends create more demand for premium bags and packaging with easy-opening features, built-in handles for portability and reclosing features to preserve food freshness.  

“Mondi’s expanded premium bag-making abilities will help our packaging customers respond to evolving consumer needs and expectations,” notes Kuecker. “The improvements enhance our ability to supply ‘CustoMYzed’ solutions that meet specific packaging challenges.” 

Thermally conductive polyamides manage the heat

Thermally conductive polyamides manage the heat

Demand for thermally conductive thermoplastics is growing in many industries. This particularly applies to the automotive industry, the electrical and electronics industry, and lighting technology.

Miniaturization of electrical and electronic components, results in more heat being generated inside devices. This is dissipated by thermally conductive polyamide compounds.

One reason for this is the miniaturization of electrical and electronic components, which results in more heat being generated inside devices. In addition, many manufacturers want to take advantage of the significant freedom in design and the benefits that thermoplastics often offer in contrast to metals when it comes to processing and cost effectiveness.

Responding to this trend, Germany’s Lanxess is expanding its Durethan TC (thermally conductive) polyamide (PA) product line for thermal management in electrical and electronic devices. “The compounds are specifically designed with additional properties depending on their area of use which benefit the respective applications. This includes, for example, a high level of flame retardancy, excellent mechanical behavior, outstanding resistance to thermal aging, or high reflectivity,” explains Christof Boden. He also believes the structural materials have another advantage: “Because of their high content of thermally conductive particles, the compounds have a comparably high density, which means they feel good to the touch and can be used to create components with a perceived quality similar to those made of metal.”

One highlight of the TC line is a new PA 6 that combines excellent thermal conductivity with high reflectivity, flame retardancy, and tracking resistance. Its thermal conductivity is direction-dependent due to the mineral filler particles and equals 2.5 watts per meter-kelvin in the direction of melt flow (Nanoflash method). The trial product is halogen-free flame retardant and achieves the best classification of V-0 (0.75 millimeters) in testing pursuant to the UL 94 standard for safety of flammability of plastic materials.

The results of glow wire testing pursuant to IEC 60695-2-12/13 are also impressive, with the compound achieving the best possible classification (0.75 millimeters) in the GWFI (Glow Wire Flammability Index) test, at 960 °C. With a CTI (Comparative Tracking Index, IEC 60112) value of 600 volts, the compound also exhibits particularly high tracking resistance.

Despite the significant concentration of thermally conductive particles, the compound can be processed just as well as PA 6 types with high contents of glass fibers and exhibits a similarly low level of tool abrasion. The compound’s areas of application range from heat sinks and support profiles for LED lights to LED cooling fins for automotive headlamps to housings and cell holders for battery systems.

The TC product line also includes two easy-flowing PA 6 compounds filled with a special thermally conductive mineral that comprises 65 and 75 percent of the compound’s weight, respectively. Durethan BTC65H3.0EF and BTC75H3.0EF have a thermal conductivity of 1.3 and 1.7 watts per meter-kelvin, respectively, in the direction of flow. Their thermal conductivity is also almost entirely isotropic, meaning they dissipate heat nearly equally in all directions. Both compounds offer an excellent price-performance ratio. “We view them as alternatives to PA 6 types that contain boron nitride or aluminum oxide as the thermally conductive filler. This is because they dissipate heat similarly well as aluminum oxide systems, for example,” says Boden. These compounds also have better mechanical properties than PAs with boron nitride additives.

In addition, the TC product line also includes the easy-flowing, halogen-free flame-retardant Durethan DPBM65XFM30. This glass fibre and mineral-filled compound is especially designed for applications with moderate thermal conductivity requirements. One of its strengths is its excellent flame retardancy. As such, it achieves a UL 94 classification of V-0 (0.75 millimeters). “In addition, it also achieves the highest classification of ‘Hazard Level 3’ in tests pursuant to the European DIN EN 45545 standard for fire protection on railway vehicles for specific applications such as chokes, voltage transformers, windings, contactors, and switches,” says Boden. Further potential applications include medium voltage insulating parts, solenoid valves, and high current circuit breakers, among others.

Lanxess supports customers in their development of thermally conductive plastic components with a wide range of services under the brand name “HiAnt”. “For example, we analyze where areas of maximum heat in assemblies occur – known as hotspots – and provide suggestions regarding which components are best designed to dissipate heat. In addition, we also advise customers with regard to the selection of the most appropriate material, offer design suggestions, and simulate thermal conductivity behavior,” explains Boden.

Through this, experts from Lanxess help optimize component design so that areas affected by heat are positioned as far outward as possible and heat dissipation is increased, for example through the use of cooling fins. Furthermore, the company draws up guidelines for designing the components that take the particular characteristics of highly filled materials into account as far as their mechanical properties and processing is concerned.

Chinese part make employs platable ABS for new FAW-Volkswagen projects

Chinese part make employs platable ABS for new FAW-Volkswagen projects

A leading supplier of electroplated automotive parts in China has selected Elix ABS P2MC from Elix Polymers for several new projects for FAW-Volkswagen Automotive. Changchun FAW Sihuan Swell Auto Parts is making use of the best-in-class plating performance of this specialty grade to produce parts with very good surfaces and with very low scrap rates after the electroplating process.

ABS and ABC/PC grade offer platable finish solutions for auto parts such as grills.

Elix ABS P2MC is used for footboards, VW logos, front grilles and several exterior trim parts of the Magotan, Jetta and Golf models produced by Volkswagen’s joint venture with the FAW Group in China.

Spain-based Elix Polymers says it works with its Chinese distribution partner, Yixin Resources Co., to provide the best possible technical and logistic service to its customers. Yixin Resources, which has several offices and warehouses in China, has considerable experience in selling specialty materials and in engaging in project work supported by local technical teams.

Elix ABS P2MC is approved for use at most major Automotive OEMs. Outside of this segment, it is also used for cosmetic packaging and bathroom fittings. In addition to this well-established grade – a benchmark for ABS plating grades in the global market – Elix Polymers now also offers two additional electroplatable ABS-based materials. High-heat HH P2MC ABS and Ultra HH4115 PG ABS/PC complete the company’s plating portfolio. All three grades have special formulations dedicated to galvanic process requirements. To ensure Class A surfaces, the company has put in place a process of intensive control and selection of intermediate products.

Target automotive applications for these grades include not only radiator grilles and logos, but also profiles, tailgate handles and decorative interior parts. Grade selection depends on the technical requirements of the final part.

“Elix is growing strongly with new projects for the automotive, healthcare and consumer goods industry, thanks to our focus on specialties, customized service and technical solutions, together with our close cooperation with leading global OEMs and Tiers” says Fabian Herter, Marketing Manager Automotive & ABS Specialties.