“Be adept and adapt” has become the new mantra for many manufacturing communities. This approach is alive and well in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania where a group of manufacturers and local officials recently gathered to discuss how public and private resources can help support this vital industry sector.
Advances in the development of new and improved polymers have led many engineers and product designers to re-think their use of more traditional materials like metals in the manufacturing process. Parts once thought of as impossible to create using plastic, are now being designed with polymers at a higher rate than ever before.
Plastic has historically offered many advantages over metal. Plastic parts are lighter and afford more design flexibility. They tend to be less expensive than metals and need little if any finishing or additional assembly.
A Low Maintenance Approach to Mold Care
"The time and care you invest in upfront maintenance will keep costly repairs at bay."
Let’s face it, our parents were right. Take care of your things, and they will last a very long time. It was a matter of necessity. Back in the day, products were made well and made to last as long as you didn’t abuse them. The same is true in a manufacturing environment. Take care of your equipment, and it will take care of your production needs for a long time.
In the plastic manufacturing environment, the key to consistent quality parts is to start with a quality, well-made mold. We call this our “low-maintenance” approach to injection molding. We begin the process with a solid mold design and a high-quality tool build. We run prime resins on some of the best machines available. All of these factors impact quality. According to Lowell Allen, Sr. Vice President of Manufacturing at The Rodon Group, “When running a 24/7 operation, you can’t afford to have shoddy workmanship.”
How do you achieve just the right shade of grey in your plastic part? It’s all in the masterbatch. A masterbatch is a concentrated mixture of pigments and/or additives encapsulated during a heat process into a carrier resin*. The resulting product is used to color raw polymer materials and provide other desired characteristics to the final part such as UV light resistance, flame retardants, slip agents and anti-stat agents.
We all know the importance color plays in our lives. And for manufacturers, getting the color right is an integral part of product quality. Unlike metal or other base materials, plastics lend themselves to a wide array of colors and additives. They are used in everything from bottle caps to medical devices. Each plastic application requires specific properties from the chosen polymer.
On Friday February 13th, there was a line of 27 container ships anchored at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach wanting to be offloaded. By Saturday, Valentine’s Day, that number had grown to 32. This bottleneck is primarily the result of a nine-month labor contract dispute between the union representing the longshoremen and the ship owners. The ship owners are accusing the union of work slowdowns. To retaliate, the PMA (a trade group representing the ship owners) has canceled night and weekend shifts to avoid paying overtime to the workers. It is estimated that the economic cost of one day of a lockout could cost $1 billion dollars. If the dispute is allowed to escalate, shutting down all 29 west coast ports, the economic consequences could be substantial. These ports handle approximately $1 trillion worth of cargo each year. Los Angeles and Long Beach are the largest, handling 40% of all incoming cargo containers.
There are many risks when it comes to selecting OEM suppliers. Understanding them is essential to running a successful business. In our new white paper, we’ll examine three strategic areas to include in your supplier selection process: Cost, Scheduling, and Compliance.
Cost is not just the final price you pay for a part. Cost also includes shipping, time to market delays, quality control checks as well as labor. Cheap foreign labor is becoming more expensive. Offshore suppliers face a more demanding workforce. And, today’s consumers are demanding that suppliers provide improved working conditions and pay. All of this is driving up the unit cost of goods sold.
The great recession underscored some inherent weaknesses in the U.S. supply chain. We have an employment skills gap, an uncoordinated approach to nurturing innovation, and an export imbalance. Since 2011, the federal government focused on changing this paradigm and made American manufacturing a priority. Under the guidance of the Department of Commerce/NIST, they developed an infrastructure with dedicated funding to rebuild our manufacturing sector.
3D printing or additive manufacturing has been around for decades. But it hasn’t been until the last five years that the hype has exceeded the reality of what this technology can do. After reading many articles from industry insiders, we've collected some key takeaways on the current and future trends for this manufacturing technique.
Where 3D printing really shines
Every year ThomasNet conducts their Industry Market Barometer® which defines the business trends impacting manufacturing companies. This year's survey subtitle was "Will progress be sustainable without an infusion of younger workers?" The summary of the report indicates that manufacturing companies are projecting upward trends and continuing to grow, hire and add new products. "More than half (58%) of the companies surveyed grew in 2013 and 63% expect to grow by the end of 2014." However, growth may be impeded by a lack of skilled workers. Here is a sampling of their findings.
Not only have manufacturers experienced steady grow, but they expect the trend to continue.