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Methylene Chloride Compliance Deadline Delayed
After an appeal from a number of industry and labor groups, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has agreed to an "interim stay" in certain of the key compliance dates for the new methylene chloride standard.

In January 1997, OSHA published a new standard for employee exposure to methylene chloride (MC), a chemical used in the manufacture of polycarbonates, flexible polyurethane foam, furniture strippers, metal cleaners and photographic film. The standard lowered the permissible exposure limit (PEL) from 500 parts per million to 25 parts per million over an 8-hour period and a short term exposure limit (STEL) of 125 ppm during a 15-minute period.

In November, OSHA received a joint motion for reconsideration of the standard from industry and labor groups including the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance and the United Auto Workers. Both the HSIA and the UAW had earlier agreed to drop independent lawsuits if OSHA would implement extensions.

The joint motion asked that the engineering control startup date of April 10, 2000 -- which is now limited to employers with 20 or fewer employees -- be applicable to all companies using MC with 20-49 employees and specifically foam fabricators with 20-149 employees. The motion said that it would be better to let companies use their resources toward meeting the engineering control deadline, rather than diverting part of those resources to interim respiratory protection. (Unlike for most substances, inexpensive respirators do not protect against MC exposure because the molecule is so small it can pass through some respirators.)

The federal agency agreed, granting a deadline extension while it studied the issue further. Until a final ruling is made on the joint motion, companies that need to use respirators to meet the 8-hour standard will have an additional four months, until Aug. 31, 1998, to comply. The date set for compliance with the 8-hour PEL and the STEL through engineering controls was pushed to Dec. 10, 1998.

OSHA also reserved the right to extend the compliance date again if it found that a final ruling on the motion did not give companies ample time to comply.

Bull Market Predicted for '98 Contract, POP Sales
Manufacturers of plastic components sold to the contract furniture and point-of-purchase display industries should see increased profits as projected sales in these markets are expected to grow, according to industry experts.

Office Furniture Nears $12 Billion Sales Mark
In 1997, the office furniture industry saw sales top the $11 billion mark for the first time, jumping 12 percent to $11.25 billion, according to the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Assn. -- International. Over the next two years, the industry is projected to grow by 6 percent annually, reaching $12.6 billion by 1999.

In addition to increased sales activity, many of the nation's top office furniture companies made strategic business moves to shore up their companies. Throughout the year, many of the big players made acquisitions, sold off divisions or, in the case of Steelcase, the world's largest office furniture maker, went public.

According to Thomas Reardon, who took over the association as the acting director after the Nov. 8 death of executive director Russell Coyner, the office furniture industry is going through changes. "The industry continues to experience many mergers and acquisitions as companies are increasingly vulnerable in a mature product market," he said. "Many manufacturers (such as HON) acquire other companies in order to enter market niches they were not previously competing in."

POP/Fixture Markets look to break records
Also in 1997, the point-of-purchase display industry built upon its already staggering sales volume, totalling nearly $13 billion, while the store fixture industry amassed $7.5 billion. The new year sees a number of signs pointing to these two markets hitting new strides.

With well-known name brands taking their campaigns international, the POP and store fixture industries are set to experience what Doug Hope, producer of GlobalShop (the large annual retail design exposition), terms "display fever."

With new corporate logos and rollouts being introduced (such as Pepsi and Gillette), new POP displays are required, fueling the growth of the industries, Hope said. The industries are calling this wave of increasing need for displays the "New Millennium."

"Markets such as tobacco, cosmetics, health care, breweries and soft drinks are good at rollout innovations," Hope said. In 1997, convenient stores implored the large volume programs of these markets, accounting for a large percentage of POP's overall annual sales, he added.

For 1998, Hope said he sees the store fixture market increasing its sales numbers by 6 to 7 percent with the POP market growing by at least that figure. "I haven't seen a cycle like this in the last 10 years," he said.

-- Larry Adams and Kevin Bastian

IAPD Creates new membership category; Elects New President
The European Plastics Distributors Assn. could be the first group to join the Leawood, KS-based International Association of Plastics Distributors under the IAPD's newly created association membership category.

The IAPD has presented a formal request to the EPDA and the matter will be discussed at the EPDA's meeting this May in Dublin, Ireland.

The overture to the European group is part of the IAPD's Mission: 2000 Strategic Plan. The bylaws amendment establishing the new category was voted on Oct. 31, 1997, at the 41st IAPD Annual Convention in New Orleans, LA.

Members also voted on a new president. Elected was James Conway, owner of ACI Plastics Inc., a St. Louis, MO-based plastics distributor. Conway, a former mayor of St. Louis and state senator and representative, founded ACI in 1967 and has been a member of the IAPD for 27 years.

Merit Award Presented
Also at the convention, former IAPD executive director Carol Wagner was presented with the Paul Davis Award of Merit. The award, named for the founder of the IAPD, honored Wagner for her 14 years of service to the organization.

Wagner served as executive director from May 1983 to December 1996 when she retired. In that time, membership grew from 200 to 400 companies, a four-color, bi-monthly magazine was launched, a permanent headquarters was established and the budget was increased from $150,000 to $800,000.

Cargill Dow to Make Plastic from Starch and Sugar
Dow Chemical Co. and Cargill Inc. have formed a joint venture to make plastics from starch and sugar, creating a biodegradable synthetic that may replace plastics made from petrochemicals.

Called Cargill Dow Polymers LLC, it will employ as many as 100 people its first year and will make resins for use in films and food packaging. The companies declined to disclose projected revenue.

Cargill Dow will make polylactic polymers, a type of resin, from corn and sugar beets. The polymers have the potential to replace some of the most widely used plastics, including polyethylene used in garbage bags; polystyrene, used to make foams, and polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, used to make soft drink bottles, Cargill Dow said.

Many plastics makers have been seeking ways to make products that are as strong as those made from petrochemicals but decompose quickly in landfills, analysts said.

These new plastics are similar in gloss and clarity to plastics derived from oil. Like PET, they resist oil and grease and keep in flavors and odors, Cargill Dow said.

The new company will operate at a former Cargill plant near the company's Minneapolis headquarters.

Joint Venture Expands Plastics Shows
A new partnership has been created between Industrial Shows of America and the Traverse Lerew Group. The result of this venture is new shows for the plastics industry.

The group will kick off their joint venture at The Plastics Show in Philadelphia, April 7-9 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. "The marriage between ISOA and The Traverse Lerew Group is a natural one," said Charles Cross, vice president of ISOA. "We are excited about the vast possibilities before us and look forward to expanding into the field of plastics."

For more information about upcoming shows, contact Becky Lerew at (216) 826-4069.

Plastics Processes Featured at Westec '98
Educational sessions on plastics processing will be held March 23-26 at Westec '98, the 35th edition of North America's largest annual metalworking and manufacturing exposition.

Sessions pertaining to plastics include: Fundamentals of Injection Molding, Troubleshooting for Injection Molding, Fundamentals of Powder Coating, Cost Analysis for Powder Coating and Short-Run Prototype Tooling for Plastic Part Manufacturing.

The conference program is just part of Westec '98 which will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Products from more than 600 exhibitors will be spread out over more than 250,000 net square feet of exhibit space.

For the plastics industry, Westec '98 also features products and services for integrated design and manufacturing, as well as exhibits displaying injection molding machinery and mold- and die-making equipment. Also on display will be equipment from 150 technology categories including: machine tools and accessories, cutting tools and inserts, milling, grinding and deburring, drilling and tapping, EDM, machine controls, finishing and laser systems.

For more information on Westec '98, phone (800) 733-4763.

Plaskolite Purchases Division of Ram Products
Plaskolite Inc. recently purchased the mirrored sheet division of Ram Products of Sturgis, MI.

"Ram has an excellent reputation and completed our product line with the 29 cast colors it manufactures," said Mitch Grindley, vice president of marketing and sales. "This means the ability to better serve our distributors, which continues to be Plaskolite's mission."

"What's exciting to us is that the combination of the two companies' product lines make it convenient for our customers to fill their acrylic mirror needs," Grindley added.

The acquisition of Ram Products makes Plaskolite the largest manufacturer of mirror acrylic sheet, and the only mirror company worldwide which manufactures acrylic sheet for the final mirrorized product, the company claims. "While this acquisition is exciting, it will not be the last one," added Grindley. "Plaskolite will continue to build on strengths and look for ways to strengthen its customers in their marketplaces."

Duall Acquires Tri-Seal Profile Division
Duall Plastics Inc. has acquired the operating assets of the Profile Division of Tri-Seal International Inc. in Blauvelt, NY. L.C. "Neil" Drozeski Jr., president of Duall's parent corporation, Bunzl Extrusion, announced that Duall will move Tri-Seal's extrusion operations to its plant in Athol, MA, in the early part of 1998.

One of the largest custom profile extruders in the United States, Bunzl Extrusion is a subsidiary of Bunzl plc, a publicly traded company headquartered in London. Bunzl Extrusion has annual sales of more than $100 million through its seven subsidiaries: A&B Plastics, Yakima, WA; A&B-Southwest, Phoenix, AZ; Duall Plastics, Athol, MA; Porth Plastic, Des Plaines, IL; Southern Plastics, Columbia, SC; Tri-Lite Plastics, Fallsington, PA; and Tri-Lite South, Pell City, AL.

"Bunzl Extrusion's A&B Plastics and Duall subsidiaries are two of the major producers of fence slatting in the United States," Drozeski said. "With the acquisition of Tri-Seal's top locking and full privacy fence slatting products, Bunzl Extrusion will be able to offer a complete line of fence slatting products."

"We intend to broaden our fence product line and continue to grow this portion of our business," he continued.

Drozeski added that the non-fence products of Tri-Seal's Profile Division will also complement Duall's other custom profile markets. The company's non-fence markets include medical, transportation, and industrial.

ANTEC '98 Set for April
Billed as the world's largest plastics conference, ANTEC '98 will address all aspects of plastics engineering, including: design, processing, properties, production and product performance. Sponsored by the Society of Plastics Engineers, this year's technical conference will be held April 26-29 at the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel in Atlanta, GA.

This year's Super Session on the topic of Life Cycle Analysis -- the environmental impact of making a product -- is set for Wednesday, April 29, from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Speakers include: Dr. Ronald Liesemer, American Plastics Council; Tom Kornegay, Amoco Chemicals; Patricia Calkins, Xerox Corp.; and James Fava, Roy F. Westin Inc.

In addition to the more than 100 technical sessions, there will also be a three-day exhibition of machinery, materials and related equipment for the plastics industry. For more information, contact the SPE at (203) 775-0471.

Composite Association Honors Craigie
Fred Dierks, president of the Composite Fabricators Assn. (CFA), presented the 1997 President's Award to Larry Craigie of Dow Chemical Co. Presented at Composites '97, the award is given annually to the individual who has contributed to the CFA and the composites industry in "unparalleled fashions."

Craigie has been active in the industry for the past 25 years. He has also been instrumental in working with the CFA and the industry on the comprehensive testing on styrene emissions. He is an active member of the MACT Development Work Group, chairs CFA's Composites Care Initiative and serves on CFA's Executive Committee as its supplier ex-officio representative.


Plastics Machining & Fabricating
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