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Plastics Machining & Fabricating:
Industry News

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Machining and Fabricating Seminar Draws Large Turnout

An estimated 100 plastics fabricators, machine shop personnel and industry suppliers from across the nation were on hand in Chicago Oct. 20-22 for the first Plastics Machining & Fabricating Seminar with tabletops. The seminar program is the first of its kind to focus on fabricating and machining of plastic parts, including routing, cutting with lasers, sawing and welding.

Cliff Moberg, a member of the Executive Committee of the Society of Plastics Engineers, kicked off the program with an overview of the plastics industry. Other presentations in Session I focused on: developments in engineered and anti-static plastics, acrylics and polycarbonates; thermoforming tips; and cutting tool technology.

Session II focused on machining and fabricating, with presentations on: routing and trimming, laser technology and panel saw developments. Rounding off the program were presentations on bonding and welding, as well as decorating plastic parts through printing, stamping, foiling, heat transfer and finishing materials.

Case studies of high production contract manufacturer Eastern Plastics Inc., Bristol, CT, and custom display manufacturer Brookdale Plastics, Plymouth, MN, were among the highlights of the program.

Anchoring the conference were tabletop exhibits by 22 companies. The tabletop exhibits were open during Wednesday's early-bird reception, lunch and Thursday's evening reception.

Tentative plans call for producing a second annual machining and fabricating seminar in the fall of 2000. For information about attending or being considered as a presenter, contact Karen Koenig, editor of Plastics Machining & Fabricating, at (847) 634-4347, ext. 366, or e-mail

Polypropylene Consumption to Grow 7.3 Percent Yearly

Global consumption of polypropylene is expected to increase an average of 7.3 percent a year until 2003, with the highest rate of 13.2 percent average annual growth in the Middle East/African regions. According to an annual report on the polypropylene industry by TownsendTarnell Inc., expected growth in these regions will be fueled by the rapid development of automotive, film and textile industries in these regions.

Despite the economic crisis that has affected Asia, Russia and parts of South America, global polypropylene consumption will increase by 10.3 million tons by 2003.

"The polypropylene industry is entering a period of overcapacity, and more capacity is being built," says Dr. Dave Durand, manager for TownsendTarnell's Volume Plastics Business Center in Houston. "The key to recovery from this overcapacity is growth in demand, and an understanding that growth in demand will help polypropylene producers plan for the future."

Demand in the largest consuming region, Asia/Pacific, is predicted to grow at an average of 9.5 percent per year, a consumption increase of 3.6 million tons.

Although some of the largest end-use markets for polypropylene are approaching maturity, there are still many geographic and end-use segments that will experience strong growth.

"For example, we have seen a dramatic increase in consumption of polypropylene in thin wall injection molded containers in the last two years," Durand said.

Ineos Acquires ICI Acrylics

Ineos Group has partnered with Charterhouse Development Capital to fund the purchase of ICI Acrylics, the world's largest producer of methyl methacrylate..

The $837 million acquisition was finalized Nov. 2. The new company will formally be known as Ineos Acrylics.

Methacrylates are the foundation for a wide range of acrylic products and are used in applications from coatings, appliances, electronics, adhesives and corporate imaging, to baths, spas, kitchen work surfaces and construction. The business portfolio also includes the "Lucite" and "Perspex" brands.

Ineos Acrylics has 15 manufacturing facilities in nine countries and employs more than 2,000 people across Asia, the Americas and Europe. The company also has five technical centers where it carries out the research and development required to maintain its market leadership.

Former ICI Acrylics CEO Scott Davidson will serve as chief executive of the new business. Jim Ratcliffe will serve as chairman.

Panel Processing Equipment Manufacturers Homag and IMA Merge

Homag Maschinenbau of Schopfloch, Germany, and IMA Maschinenfabriken of Gutersloh, Germany, have announced that they will form an engineering and manufacturing group focusing on accelerating advancements in woodworking technologies.

The merger between the two major panel processing machinery manufacturers is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Homag is to hold the majority interest of the new group, which is expected to generate an annual sales volume of about 990 million DM and employ 4,000 people.

According to the declaration of intent already signed by both parties, the two companies will merge their core business fields under the roof of a joint holding company while maintaining a "clear-cut two-brand" name strategy.

The merger is not expected to have any immediate impact on the U.S. distribution of the two companies' respective product lines. Homag is represented by Stiles Machinery Inc. of Grand Rapids, MI. IMA is represented by IMA America of Raleigh, NC.

By developing a common vision, however, Homag and IMA say they will realize increased efficiencies in technological development within their core business areas, materials management and productivity, particularly in the development of panel sizing and edgebanding equipment.

Peter Kleinschmidt, president of Stiles Machinery, says, "We have great expectations for this new engineering powerhouse and its synergies. Our goal is always to help our customers take advantage of the best technology in the marketplace."

World Polyethylene Demand to Reach 54
MMT in 2003

World demand for polyethylene is expected to increase more than 5 percent per year, to nearly 54 million metric tons in 2003, significantly outpacing real growth in the global economy.

According to the World Polyethylene study by The Freedonia Group, polyethylene will remain the largest volume thermoplastic resin in the world, commanding roughly double the volume of polypropylene and polyvinyl chloride, the second and third largest resins respectively.

The study states that low density (LDPE), linear low density (LLDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) have distinct areas of strength based on their characteristics and cost, with LDPE and LLDPE used predominantly in film and coatings and HDPE used mainly in blow molded and injection molded containers. According to the study, PE is also gaining new uses at the expense of polystyrene and PVC due to the regulatory restrictions related to solid waste issues and potential toxicity of these resins. New polymerization technologies are also enhancing the performance characteristics, and cost structure, of PE, particularly LLDPE.

Market Report

According to Freedonia, China will continue to to support the world's most rapidly expanding PE market, and will also remain the world's largest volume importer, providing some relief for the export-intensive PE industries in Asia, including those in Japan, South Korea and Singapore. According to the study, although the Asian PE market contracted in 1997-1998 due to the region's financial crisis, long-term prospects for PE demand remain favorable based on projected turnarounds for key countries such as South Korea and Thailand, as well as continuing growth in Taiwan.

Latin America also offers favorable long-term growth, due mainly to the evolution of its plastic packaging and durable goods markets. In Eastern Europe, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland offer growth opportunities, with the former two countries remaining significant exporters. However, Freedonia says, Russia's market will remain weak.

North America, the study finds, will remain the world's largest PE market based on a favorable demand for packaging, construction materials and consumer goods.

For further details about World Polyethylene, contact Corinne Gangloff at The Freedonia Group, (440) 684-9600, FAX (440) 646-0484, e-mail Full text of the study is also available online through commercial database companies and the Web site.

NPE Seminar Programs to be Handled by SPE

Working with the Society of Plastics Engineers, the Society of Plastics Industries has revamped the NPE Conference to address not only technical topics but business issues ranging from E-commerce to equipment purchasing to site selection.

The triennial NPE 2000 is scheduled for June 19-23 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

"We've designed the NPE 2000 Conference to be more timely and practically useful than any previous NPE Conference, and to interest plastics professionals in a wider range of jobs," said NPE 2000 Chairman Vincent Witherup. "In carrying out this new concept, SPE will draw upon decades of experience as the world's premiere organizer of plastics educational events."

SPE is developing the full program, including all presentations and speakers. SPE will also present an education program consisting of topics relating to design, tooling, processing and materials. These are separate from SPI-sponsored activities; those wishing to attend the SPE seminars are required to register with SPE and pay an admission fee.

NPE 2000 will take place from June 19 to 23, 2000, at Chicago's McCormick Place, North America's largest exhibition complex. The 23rd NPE is expected to surpass the 1997 show which set three NPE records: number of exhibiting companies (1,726); net exhibit space (1.015 million square feet) and number of registered participants (82,634).

For more information on NPE 2000, visit the NPE Web site at

Lach Diamond Earns Award

Horst Lach, CEO and president of Grand Rapids, MI-based Lach Diamond Inc., received the Diamond Award for the development, manufacturing, application and market development of polycrystalline diamond tools.

Lach received the award from DeBeers Director Colm de Barra for the "over 25 years of pioneering work." The discovery of spark erosion by Lach for the sharpening and forming of all types of polycrystalline diamond tools first enabled the worldwide distribution of the PCD tools in the automotive, plastic, furniture and laminate flooring industry.

Holz-Her U.S. Inc. Makes Charlotte Fast 50 List

Holz-Her U.S. Inc. is one of the fastest growing companies in Charlotte, NC, according to the annual Fast 50 List, which recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in the 213 counties of the Charlotte region.

Companies qualify for the Fast 50 List based on a formula that reflects both dollar growth and percentage growth over a three-year period. The company must have sales of at least $3 million in 1998 to make the 1999 list.

A manufacturer of panel processing equipment, Holz-Her U.S. has three divisions: Holz-Her, apps and Epic.

The annual Fast 50 is co-sponsored by The Business Journal, KPMG, LLP, Kilpatrick Stockton LLP, Central Carolina Bank and NIXdesign Group.

Nova Chemicals to Acquire Shell's European PS Business

Nova Chemicals has signed a binding agreement with Royal Dutch/Shell Group to acquire Shell's European solid polystyrene and expandable polystyrene business for $185 million plus working capital, which is currently estimated at $30 million.

In the transaction, Nova Chemicals will acquire 760 million pounds of polystyrene production capacity including 495 million pounds of expandable polystyrene and 265 million pounds of solid polystyrene per year. These facilities will complement Nova's 200 million pound per year EPS plant at Ribecourt, France, and its 400 million pound per year solid polystyrene plant at Carrington, England, which is adjacent to the Shell Carrington EPS facility.

In addition to the production facility, Nova will also acquire: polystyrene research and development facilities at Breda, in the Netherlands and at Louvain-la-Nueve, Belgium; Shell's platform of polystyrene technology and Shell's European polystyrene sales and marketing operations. Nova Chemicals has also agreed to purchase Shell's 7 million pound per year polystyrene plant and molding facilities near Santiago, Chile.

This acquisition will more than double Nova Chemical's production of styrenic polymers in Europe, from 600 million pounds of annual capacity to 1.365 billion pounds of annual capacity. Upon completion of the transaction, Nova will become the second largest producer of solid polystyrene and EPS in Europe, remaining the largest in North America and third largest worldwide.

Plastic Museum Opens New Exhibits

The National Plastics Center & Museum, Leominister, MA, has opened two new exhibits. They are: Expanded Plastics Hall of Fame, which includes more than 100 of the leading individuals who helped create the continent's third largest industry, and the first ever "Plastics Art" display featuring works of world acclaimed sculptor Miko Kaufman.

For information about the museum and upcoming events, visit or call (978) 537-9529.

Freetech Plastics Wins SPE People Choice Award

Freemont, CA-based Freetech Plastics was named both the Cut Sheet Multi Part Medical Award winner and the People's Choice Award winner for its robotic surgical console for minimally invasive surgery.

The awards were announced at the Society of Plastics Engineers 1999 Thermoforming Conference held in September.

Freetech manufactured the set of enclosures for Intuitive Surgical's Da Vinci Robotic Surgical Workstation. The console uses an aluminum cast base and sheet metal infrastructure. The pressure formed parts align to these using ball studs mounted on 3D-machined locating pads to accommodate the freeform organic shapes of the individual covers.

The rear covers contain the power supply and IO for the surgical tools. The left and right cosmetic panels also enclose the surgical controls. The top viewer covers the medical monitors and other electronics for the 3D image that the doctors see.

Other SPE awards announced

In addition to Freetech, other award winners included:

Cut Sheet Awards: Industrial Award &emdash; Morton Custom Plastics, 200-hp Evinrude engine cover; Consumer Entertainment &emdash; JY Sailboats, sailboat; Point of Purchase &emdash; Airform International Ltd., Coca-Cola icon sign; Automotive &emdash; Autoform Inc., brushed silver body side molding GMC "Jimmy"; Multi-Part Assembly &emdash; Plastics Design & Mfg., external skins for a medical device; Material Handling &emdash; Productive Plastics, fork lift Dockstocker; Electronic Enclosure &emdash; Specialty Mfg. Inc., medical electronic enclosure.

Roll Fed Awards: Consumer Housewares &emdash; Oral-B Laboratories, cross action tooth brush package; Consumer Package &emdash; Creative Forming, Scotch pop-up tape dispenser; Critical Barrier Packaging &emdash; Prent Corp., coronary imaging catheter; Consumer Electronics &emdash; GN Plastics, CD case; Food Container &emdash; GN Plastics, 12-cell egg carton for coke bottles; Industrial Packaging &emdash; Universal Protection Packaging, small top load clamshell.


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