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Plastics News Europe’s final issue of the year is now out and can be accessed digitally on our site as from today.
In this issue, we recap the past year, mainly covering key European plastics event of the year Fakuma – a show that continued its successful streak in Friedrichshafen, Germany for the 26th time in October.
The automotive industry is the centre of our focus on materials in this issue, with Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer of the CAR centre for Automotive Research in Duisburg telling us about the latest trends in the car industry. Julian Buckley, the editor of our soon-to-be-launched Plastics and Rubber World also brings us a soft touch on the Paris Motor Show, and Citroen’s use of plastic parts in its latest models.
Our special correspondent David Vink also looks into the latest innovations in surface treatment and decoration, where aesthetics meets interactive functionality.
For our blow moulding feature, editor Karen Laird visits leading manufacturer of blow moulding machinery Kautex Maschinenbau, which has seen significant gains in the packaging industries and specialities in recent years.
Micro-electronic moulding trends are also examined as electronics and other industries require high levels of precision, know-how and the right equipment.
This issue’s Q&A is with Dr Ramesh Ramachandran, President & CEO of EQUATE Group, whose subsidiary EQP launched a food-grade PET with 25% recycled PET content in October.
As always, our regular pages include James Snodgrass’ Design Landmark column, where he looks into the history of Itera Bicycle – the first attempt at a plastic bicycle.
To access our October issue, please go to our Digital Magazine page and click on download issue.
Packaging is the largest end use market supplied by French and Italian injection moulders, accounting for 47% of polymer usage in Italy and 51% in France in 2017, according to a study by AMI Consulting.
The findings showed that 304 Italian and 239 French companies are involved in packaging production with French and Italian PET preform manufacturers that supply the mineral water industry.
This includes both companies manufacturing in house such as S.A. Des Eaux Minérales D'évian in France and trade suppliers of preforms such as Plastipak Packaging that operates in both France and Italy.
Italy’s second largest end use sector is the manufacture of injection moulded furniture with moulders IPAEProgarden & Scab among some of those listed in the database.
In France, the automotive sector is the second largest end use market accounting for 15% of all injection moulded end use markets compared to only 6% in Italy.
Polypropylene and PET account for 55% of all polymer usage in Italy, thanks to their use in packaging. Polypropylene is also the main material processed by automotive and furniture moulders with some of the larger consumers being Accuma S.p.A. and Sigit Sud S.p.A.
Similarly, in France, 62% of all polymer usage is polypropylene and PET which again are mainly used in automotive and packaging sectors. Nestlé Waters and Schoeller Allibert S.A.S.U. account for some of the largest volumes used in the injection moulding industry in France.
Photo by Total Corbion PLA Total Corbion PLA's facility in Rayong
Bioplastics company Total Corbion PLA has started up its 75 kilotonne per annum (ktpa) polylactic acid (PLA) bioplastics plant in Rayong, Thailand.
The plant has successfully produced Luminy PLA resins, which are biobased and, in some cases, biodegradable as well, Total Corbion said in a 3 Dec release.
The 50:50 joint venture between the French energy giant Total and Dutch biochemicals company Corbion was set up in the Netherlands in late 2016 for the development of bioplastics.
The new industrial-scale facility will produce a broad range of Luminy PLA resins from renewable, non-GMO sugarcane sourced locally in Thailand. These include standard PLA, high heat PLA and PDLA with “unique properties”.
The products can be used in a number of applications, notably in packaging, consumer goods, 3D printing, fibers and automotive. The materials are also specifically optimised for extrusion, thermoforming, injection moulding and fiber spinning processes.
Total Corbion PLA also announced that it is expanding production of lactide, the monomer required for the production of PLA, at the same site to 100 ktpa.
A 1 ktpa PLA pilot plant, which has been operational since last December will be used for product development at the site, the company added.
“The start-up… establishes Total Corbion PLA as a world-scale PLA bioplastic producer, ideally located to serve growing markets from Asia Pacific to Europe and the Americas” said Stephane Dion, CEO of the company.
The commercial-scale production, according to Bernard Pinatel, President Refining & Chemicals at Total, is “fully in line” with the French company’s strategy to expand in petrochemicals and innovate in low-carbon solutions.
“Bioplastics are a great complement to our more traditional petrochemicals products to meet the rising demand for polymers while contributing towards reducing end-of-life concerns,” added Pinatel.
According to Total Corbion, with the start-up of the new plant, global production of PLA has increased by almost 50% to 240 ktpa.
PLA is a fast-growing polymer market with an estimated annual growth rate of 10% to 15%.
At the end of their useful life, PLA products can be mechanically or chemically recycled, or in some cases composted and returned to the soil as fertiliser.
Injection moulder IPG
As a result of increased demand for its products, Czech injection moulder IPG s.r.o. says it is planning to expand its storage and production capacities, reports local daily Mlada fronta DNES.
"This year, we would like to construct a new storage facility, and next year a production hall," said Peter Gross, the company's founder.
Visualisation of Sentinel 2 series satellite
Hi-tech Hungarian aerospace parts producer Admatis has won a major contract to supply satellite components for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Copernicus research programme.
The Miskolc, Hungary-based firm is due to deliver a range of 140 components to Airbus Defence and Space group which is involved in the manufacture of the programme’s latest Sentinel 2 Earth monitoring satellites.
Admatis will cooperate with other Hungarian firms, also members of HUNSPACE, the Hungarian Space Industry Cluster, among 30 domestic and foreign component suppliers, confirmed Hungary’s National Development ministry.
All suppliers will contribute by the 2018 supply deadline to the latest Sentinel 2-C and 2-D satellite projects in ESA’s Copernicus Earth observation programme.
Admatis, a name created from ‘Advanced Materials in Space’, was founded in 2000 and specialises in the production and use of lightweight materials. These include strong man-made honeycomb structures made with material including fibreglass, aluminium and advanced composites.
The firm also uses the Evonik Industries closed-cell rigid foam ‘Rohacell’ based on polymethacrylimide (PMI), with applications particularly in antenna components. Admatis also uses the foam for sandwich panels and structures.
Admatis, which has worked previously with NASA projects, works in close partnership with the University of Miskolc where its general manager Dr. Pál Bárczy is professor of material science.
Another of the HUNSPACE member companies that has supplied space projects is the automotive and technical parts plastics moulder and prototyping company Technoplast Group based at Fels?zsolca in north eastern Hungary.
Demand was quite good across the polymer markets in March but material availability tightened.
L/LDPE prices fell slightly during the first two weeks of March. Following a small €20/tonne reduction in the March ethylene contract price, producers targeted a rollover. Most early contracts were however being settled at around €5-10/tonne lower compared to price settlements of the previous month, despite solid demand and limited availability.
Demand was quite lively at the beginning of the month as firming oil prices led converters to believe that feedstock costs would soon bottom out.
Demand was however expected to fall during the Easter holiday period at the end of the month as most film producers operate at a lower rate.
Plant outages have limited availability of LDPE material and import volumes were at a lower level than seen in the previous month. LLDPE was more readily available with imports continuing to swell supply.
In March, HDPE producers were seeking a price rollover to bolster their profit margins after the ethylene contract price settled €20/tonne lower. However, most early contracts were settling €10/tonne lower compared with the previous month, despite low material availability and good demand.
Overall, material availability for HDPE grades were relatively short with blow moulding grades facing slightly tighter bottlenecks than blown film and injection moulding grades. A plant maintenance turnaround at a large Belgian plant has further exacerbated the supply situation. However, a steady supply of imported material continues to supplement local production.
As oil prices were on a rising trend, most converters sought to replenish inventories at the beginning of the month. Demand was however expected to weaken during the Easter holiday period later in the month, with most converters operating at reduced rates.
In early March, the PP sector was much steadier compared with the sharp reduction in prices seen in the previous month. The March propylene contract price was unchanged from February, which prompted producers to call for a small price increase to improve their margin position. Brisk demand and tightening supply permitted marginal price gains for contracts settled during early trading.
Offtake was quite lively late February into early March as converters sought additional material to rebuild inventories. Signs that crude oil prices, and hence feedstock costs, were turning upward, stimulated sales. Demand was however expected to be dampened by the Easter holidays at the end of the month.
Material availability was somewhat shorter last month. This was largely due to a series of scheduled plant maintenance programmes and a lower volume of Russian homopolymer imports.
Following the surprisingly steep €100/tonne rise in the March styrene monomer (SM) reference price, PS producers called for price increases ranging €100-120/tonne. Producers justified the sharp rise in SM costs on the likelihood of impending supply shortages. In early trading, PS contracts for smaller customers were settling close to the €100/tonne increase in feedstock costs. It remained to be seen whether the full cost increase could be passed onto larger customers settling later in the month.
PS demand started to recover with the arrival of spring and higher crude oil prices also encouraged converters to rebuild stocks.
PS supply was generally sufficient to meet demand. SM availability is however likely to be tighter over the next couple of months. There are several plant maintenance turnarounds planned and imports from the US into Europe are easing.
The €20/tonne reduction in ethylene costs meant just a €10/tonne reduction in the PVC cost base last month. PVC producers targeted a price rollover or even a small price increase to rebuild their profit margins. Tightening supply and a pick-up in demand saw PVC prices largely unchanged from the previous month during the first two weeks of March.
Following a period of plentiful supply, PVC availability started to tighten last month. Several European PVC production plants had either begun or were about to undergo routine maintenance programmes. In addition, higher North American PVC prices meant that imports from the region would likely wane.
The onset of spring heralded an upturn in offtake to the construction sector. There was also a notable rise in export business. Demand was however likely to slow during the Easter holidays.
In early March, PET producers achieved price increases just over the rise in their cost base to provide much-needed margin improvement. The March paraxylene contract price settled €10/tonne higher, while monoethylene glycol settled up €11/tonne. The combined cost increases meant a €10/tonne rise in the PET cost base.
Tightening market fundamentals permitted PET sellers to raise contract prices on average by €10-20/tonne. Spot prices were increasing at an even faster rate as producers reduced supply on the spot market to cover rising demand to meet their contractual obligations. However, PET notations in southern Europe barely moved due to continued import pressure.
Seasonal PET demand has improved as processors build up stocks ahead of the beverage bottle-making season.
Maintenance work is due to be carried out at several PET plants this spring, which will reduce supply.
Photo by Greiner
Greiner Packaging International has won the confidence of Romania’s biggest hygiene products manufacturer Hexi Pharma to supply it with plastic bottles for its disinfectants destined for hospitals across the country.
Since December 2015, when it won over this new customer, the Kremsmünster, Austria-based packaging group has been packaging Hexi products in blow moulded 1,000ml HDPE bottles.
Hexi Pharma has been providing disinfectants and cleaning agents to a range of clinics, hospitals, laboratories, hotels and schools across Romania for more than 20 years.
Greiner was able to assure its new customer it could supply safe, certified packaging which is capable of meeting regulations for the transit of dangerous goods on European roads, the moulder said.
“We impressed our customer above all with our high production standards,” commented Günter Ausserw?ger, sales director of Greiner’s Kavo packaging division. “We have many years of experience in this industry and we know what the specialists need in this sector.”
Bottles for the contract are produced in two different mouth sizes and changes can be carried out using a single tool thanks to interchangeable attachments. This provided a cost effective process resulting in significant cost savings for the customer, the executive explained.
Greiner Packaging’s Romanian subsidiary operates three production plants in the country, including a joint venture with Greek packaging firm Thrace Plastics in ?elimb?r.
Greiner Romania, which last year reported annual sales of around €38m, is expected to increase its sales by 5% during 2016.
VW Polo WRC model with Litecor hood.
The Society of Plastics Engineers Central Europe presented applicants, finalists and winners at its 16th biannual automotive innovation awards night in July 2015. The body exterior first place went to a part that does not feel or look like plastic: the hood outer skin of the Volkswagen Polo R WRC (World Rally Car) road version in Litecor from steel producer ThyssenKrupp, cutting overall hood weight by 30% to save 25% CO2 emissions.
Litecor involves two layers of 0.2?0.3mm sheet steel with a 0.3-1.0mm “special thermoplastic blend” film core layer. The patent WO/-2012/126923 (“Composite material and structural component for a motor vehicle”) published on 27 September 2012 refers to “at least one fibre?reinforced plastic layer” with its matrix “based on polypropylene, polyethylene, polyamide, and/or mixtures thereof”.
SPE CE automotive award events are chaired by SPE CE president Dr Klaus-Dieter Johnke (from VW) and commented by Dr Rudolf Fernengel of 2R Kunststofftechnik and Büro für Kunststofftechnik consultancy as jury chairman (earlier at BMW). Fernengel observed, as part of the usual jovial VW/BMW sparring, that BMW had investigated plastic-cored steel body panels much earlier, “but without any success, as the plastic was too thick then – but with its more economical approach, VW has managed [it]”.
Production of 2,500 pre-series Litecor hoods took place at Thyssen-Krupp in Dortmund, where there is also a 30m long x 8m wide x 6m high Litecor sheet pilot line with 10,000 tonnes per year capacity installed in 2013. Volkswagen in Navarra, Spain meanwhile presses Polo R WRC hoods with the Litecor skin in standard VW sheet steel processing tools.
Instead of conventional soft forming steel, Litecor involves easily formable interstitial-free (IF) steel without carbon alloying elements. Cold joining techniques such as punched rivets, screws, Betamate adhesive from Dow or low temperature laser welding ensure the plastic core does not creep. Litecor is however suitable for inline painting, as it withstands exposure to cataphoretic electrodip (“e?paint”) paint coating lines at up to 210°C.
Oliver Kleinschmidt of the ThyssenKrupp car sales department and steel sandwich materials product co-ordinator, who is listed in the above patent as one of the Litecor technology inventors, predicted in March 2013 “we should be able to start supplying Litecor in large quantities as from 2017”.
ThyssenKrupp has identified at least 14 potential Litecor applications as large flat and high?stiffness bodywork components such as roofs, doors, tailgates and hoods. Compared with full-steel design, ThyssenKrupp found Litecor-skinning made a hood 21% more expensive and a door panel 7% more expensive.
In the long term, ThyssenKrupp expects thinner Litecor skins with sprayed polyurethane reinforcement.In July 2015, the organiser of the Composites Europe 2015 fair in September announced on behalf of PU machinery producer Hennecke that it would show a ThyssenKrupp “Incar Plus project” lightweight door on its fair stand with its thin steel/plastic hybrid outer skin (Litecor sheet) selectively back-sprayed with a PU-based plastic. Hennecke’s composite spray technology sales manager Jens Winiarz says this compensates for loss of dent stiffness and resistance associated with use of the very thin steel sheet.
Having also investigated seat shells, ThyssenKrupp says Litecor “is equally ideal for structurally relevant car interior parts, as it is much lighter than monolithic sheet steel and therefore presents a real alternative to aluminium, especially in cost-sensitive volume markets”.
Litecor and Bondal – a similar sandwich product for low noise electric motor stators – are examples of ThyssenKrupp’s 40 different InCar Plus lightweighting solutions announced in October 2014. ThyssenKrupp’s InCar Plus project co?ordinator Dr Axel Grüneklee says Litecor and Bondal “open new potentials for future vehicle generations, so that steel will also be the material of first choice for most vehicle producers”.
In the SPE CE 2015 awards, machinery producer Frimo won the body exterior innovation award for the bionic self?cleaning and aerodynamic (low Cw value) sharkskin-inspired roof and hood surfaces of the “Street Shark” demonstrator used on the BMW Z4 car (European Plastics News July/August 2014). Dominik Schwager of D?style – racing driver son of BMW’s former plastics specialist and i-series project manager Hans Schwager – customised the car.
Eschmann Textures supplied the ceramic?coated textured mould, ISL Berlac the in-mould coating (IMC) paint system for the parts. The parts are produced with a 3D-Core expanded structural composite foam core by low pressure resin transfer moulding (LP-RTM) process with a “snap-curing” Vitrox PU from Huntsman and Puroclear PU from Rühl Polymer.
D-style, Eschmann Textures and Frimo also featured in the body interior innovation award for the BMW Z4 prototype decorative trim strips developed in 2014 with bionic design features and a self-healing surface obtained with Rühl’s Puroclear polyurethane.
The body exterior second place went to Kunststofftechnik Backhaus for an air duct under a charge-air cooler moulded for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class launched in September 2014. Fernengel praised moulding of the two-component part in the 20% talc filled PP grade Hostacom M2UO2 from LyondellBasell and Tefabloc 823, a TPS/SEBS from Feddersen as the soft component, in a Wittmann Battenfeld moulding machine with a highly complex slider system in the mould from Uniteam Italia. The part is first moulded straight for easy release, then bent 90° “like a film hinge” in the mould with an additional slider.
Kunststofftechnik Backhaus also took the power train fifth place for backmoulding to metal of a phenol formaldehyde, Vyncolit W2005 from SBHPP Sumitomo Bakelite High Performance Plastics, in a B&M Formenbau mould by a Wittmann Battenfeld machine to make a brake system pressure component for various vehicles. Although Fernengel said there are no weight or price advantages or disadvantages, this approach reduces heat transmission to the brake fluid.
The body exterior third place went to the Airpanel adaptive grille shutter on the 2014 Mercedes?Benz C-Class, moulded by Montaplast in a TJ Moldes mould. Holger Jakobs of Daimler, Sindelfingen accompanied the part at the SPE CE automotive awards night. Earlier in a 2015 VDI plastics in automotive conference paper, he claimed the actuated plastic louver based shutter application with eight painted louvers behind the C?Class chromed ABS grilles to be “the first time a controllable cooling louvers system has been applied to a car’s visible front area, whereas competing OEMs in general use them behind the vehicle front design area”.
Lanxess supplies PA6GF15 for the louvers and their supporting structure and PA6GF30 as a stiffer, more torsion-resistant material for the crankshaft applying movement from the actuator to the louvers. PPGF30 is used as a low friction material for the sliding bolts. The actuator is made by Mirror Controls International (MCI), applying for the actuator housing its experience in use of PPGF40 as mirror actuation system housing material. This proved to have better acoustic performance than a PBT considered at the prototype stage, Jakobs said at the VDI conference.
Jakobs said that the louvers are painted while mounted on the louver carrier and admits that painting significantly increases the system cost, but this has been compensated with part integration and narrower than usual air slots.
Body interior first place went to the claimed worldwide first all-plastic instrument panel carrier, developed for a BMW M4 (GTS) special model due in March 2016. The IP carrier has been produced in a Siebenwurst mould in a combination of PA66 and 60% glass fibre reinforced PA61/X from EMS-Chemie. IP carrier designs have so far progressed over the years from all-metal, to hybrid PA/metal overmoulded, adhesive bonded or riveted versions.
The new Mercedes-Benz high gloss touchpad produced in the Coverform process (full details: Plastics News Europe July/August 2015) received the electronics and optical parts first place and grand innovation awards. M-B talked at the 2015 VDI plastics in automotive engineering conference about work with mouldmaker AWM Moldtech, which became integrated within Adval Tech group’s Foboha in March 2014 as Foboha (Switzerland).
Among only two other electronics and optical finalists, toggle switches of the 550bhp Ford North America Mustang took second place for use of one injection mould to produce all plated toggles with their red day?and?night symbols. They are moulded in a Schreiber Kunststofftechnik mould on Sumitomo (SHI) Demag machinery, with moulding and plating taking place at BIA Kunststoff- und Galvanotechnik in Schulman’s Polyman ABS Galvano Rot platable material and Alcom PC 740/4 UV WT1257?04LD polycarbonate from Albis, a light-diffusing UV stabilised easy?flow grade containing an unspecified special filler.
BIA also featured with the body interior second place, for use of its BDC “black diamond chrome” (as shown at Fakuma 2014) for the centre console trim in Bayer MaterialScience’s Bayblend T45 PG grade of PC/ABS on the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT C190, launched in August 2014, also moulded on SHI Demag machinery. The console also includes the new touchpad produced in the Coverfom process. A third place in this category went to “piano black” round ventilator housings and lamellae for their high gloss with an impression of depth on 2014 model-year Mercedes-Benz A-, B- and C-Class cars. The parts are moulded by Fischer Automotive Systems on Arburg machinery in Grilamid TR30, a transparent amorphous polyamide from EMS-Chemie.
A lightweight glove box designed by BMW for the 3-series with start-of-project (SOP) November 2018 received the body interior fourth place for substituting conventional flock finishing with a decorated natural fibre reinforced PP film produced by Isowood, applied to Quadrant Plastic Composites (QPC) composite based on a Borealis 30% long glass fibre reinforced PP. BMW has been evaluating the glove box in various moulding machines at its Landshut plant, using a mould from Wisa Werkzeug + Formenbau.
Magna Exteriors & Interiors (Bohemia) submitted and displayed an injection moulded prototype dashboard made in a Minerv grade of PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) from Bio-on in Italy, but it did not feature among winners. Bio-On has been making PHA using cane and beet sugar production waste; in April 2015 it announced plans to develop production from potato waste, and in June 2015 it announced that it was ready to grant licences to realise the first PHA bioplastic production plants using glycerol derived from biodiesel by?products.
The electronics and optical third place went to a Continental Automotive head-up-display (HUD) mirror retainer on various vehicles since 2013, on account of precision, dimensional stability and low thermal expansion over a wide temperature range from the Celanese Fortran 6165A6 and 1140L4 grades of PPS that were used. Fernengel says there “was astonishment at integrated clips, but directing glass fibre flow orientation in the clip areas means they don’t break”.
Powertrain first place was received by a water assist (WIT) moulded clutch pedal and associated bearing block on BMW cars as from July 2015. These were developed by compound producer Akro?Plastic, injection moulding machinery maker Engel, mouldmaker Moldetipo PR, fluid assist equipment specialist PME Fluidtec, along with Spanish moulder Batz S. Coop. Use of Akromid B3 ICF15 (pedal) and B3 ICF20 (bearing block) – respectively 15% and 20% short carbon fibre reinforced PA6 grades – cut part weight by 15% and increased stiffness of the pedal by 25% (see also Plastics News Europe, June 2015).
The powertrain grand innovation award went to a gear setting module moulded since 2014 on Arburg machinery by FTE Automotive for all Audi vehicles worldwide using the DKG 7?gear Ultra S-tronic gear system. Fernengel referred to high creep resistance of the EMS?Chemie Grivory HT1VL-50X grade of 50% long glass fibre reinforced polyphthalamide, its withstanding operating temperatures up to 160°C and the need to be processed at over 320°C – “something not all moulders can manage,” he said.
Photo by Michael A. Marcotte Shawn Reilley (left), Milacron's vice president and general manager, Americas, for advanced plastics, and Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Latin America director.
Mexico’s red-hot automotive industry is boosting business for Milacron Holdings, officials said at Plastimagen.
Mexico is becoming a center of the auto supply chain for plastics, including Tier 1, Tier 2 and direct-to-assembly plants, said Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Milacron’s Latin American director.
“Queretaro, particularly, is becoming the plastics hub for Mexico,” Gonzalez said. “Not only molding companies, but also mold makers are coming. Since we have many European company assembly plants, they are bringing with them many, many suppliers.”
Building the supply base is important for Mexico, which has become a powerhouse for automotive assembly. According to AMIA, the Mexico automotive industry trade association, 77.4% of all light vehicles that are assembled in Mexico are exported to the United States — but Mexico still imports 70% of the components for those vehicles.
Most of Milacron’s machinery sales to Mexico — volume-wise — go to multinational companies. But Gonzalez said an active base of Mexican-owned processors also is investing in new equipment. “That’s opening opportunities for local suppliers for the automotive industry, and the local industry is preparing very well in quality,” he said. “They are acquiring better technologies and processes.”
Milacron opened a High Impact Technical Center in Queretaro about 18 months ago, to boost sales, parts and service for its injection moulding, extrusion and blow moulding machinery for Mexico and other countries in Latin America.
Milacron had “very strong growth in 2015” in Mexico, said Shawn Reilley, vice president and general manager of injection presses and advanced plastics processing technologies.
“We think we’re well positioned to partner with automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers,” Reilley said in a 8 March interview at Plastimagen.
At the show, Milacron has two injection moulding cells. One has an all-electric Roboshot 165 with an E-Multi secondary injection unit for two-component moulding of liquid silicone rubber and thermoplastics. The cell has a Mold-Masters E-Multi injection unit for liquid silicone rubber.
LSR is used in medical molding, which is growing in the maquiladora region in northern Mexico, Gonzalez said.
Also at Plastimagen, Milacron is showing a Magna T 170, a toggle press that accommodates large and heavy molds.
Milacron also is showing Mold-Masters hot runners for automotive parts and automotive lens production, and a Mold-Masters TempMaster hot runner controller.
From mid-January crude oil and petrochemical feedstock costs were heading even lower
At the beginning of January, standard thermoplastic producers were able to limit rebates to the decline in feedstock prices. However, as crude oil and petrochemical costs continued heading in a downward direction, buyers’ bargaining power improved. By the end of the month, the price decline in most cases exceeded the cost reduction.
L/LDPE and HDPE blown film prices fell €50-60/tonne compared with the €27.5/tonne reduction in the January ethylene contract price. HDPE blow moulding and injection moulding grades fell by €35-40/tonne.
Polypropylene homopolymers fell €60/tonne and copolymers by €40/tonne against the €50/tonne fall in propylene costs. PVC prices declined in line with the proportionate impact of ethylene on PVC costs.
Polystyrene was the exception where short supply enabled small price gains, despite styrene monomer costs falling.
In February, petrochemical feedstock costs continued on a downward trend. During the first half of the month, prices for most standard thermoplastics were trading downward by just less than the reduction in the monthly contract prices. Prices were expected to drift even lower as the month progressed.
Polymer demand was quite lively at the start of the year as converters began to build their inventories after the holiday period. From mid-January however it became apparent that crude oil and petrochemical feedstock costs were heading even lower. Buyers became more cautious in their outlook and ordered just sufficient to meet their immediate production needs, provided the price was right.
Demand held up well during the first two weeks of February although many converters continued to exercise restraint.
Availability of standard thermoplastics improved during the first two months of the year. Most cracker and polymer plants were operating without disruption, although several suppliers had to place customers on allocation. There are also several plant maintenance turnarounds on the horizon in the polyolefin sector.
Imports could however play a more prominent role. New plants in Mexico and the Middle East are preparing to export growing volumes to Europe, and Iran is set to return to the market soon.
A summary of the latest supply-related market developments is presented below:
? Versalis’ 110,000 tpa LDPE line in Ferrara, Italy was switched off 1 February 2016 following a renewed problem – the third glitch that occurred at the site in the space of a month.
? A fire in the 170,000 tpa LDPE/EVA swing plant at Versalis’ Ragusa, Italy site on 6 January forced the company to declare force majeure for all of the “Riblene” LDPE and “Greenflex” EVA grades produced there.
? In the wake of a fire that took place in mid-December 2015 at the refinery in Port Jér?me, Gravenchon, France just as the facility was due to resume operations following a maintenance turnaround, ExxonMobil declared force majeure for its “Primol 352” white oil products at the refinery on 26 January.
? Construction of the low-pressure 300,000 tpa HD/LLDPE plant in Mahabad, Iran, has been completed and operations have begun.
? National Petrochemical Industrial, Saudi Arabia was forced to shut down the propylene and polypropylene plants at its Yanbu site on 11 January because of a technical problem.
? Over the course of the coming weeks, industrial investor Alain de Krassny and private equity group OpenGate Capital will restructure their current 50:50 ownership in PVC producer Kem One.
In mid-February, some market participants considered that feedstock costs and polymer prices could rise in March, given that crude oil prices were edging higher.
Read the full report here.
Paul Schall, founder and owner of P. E. Schall GmbH & Co. KG, the trade fair company which organises the Fakuma exhibition in Friedrichshafen, Germany, has died aged 76.
He founded the P.E. Schall company in 1975 and the first Fakuma trade fair for the plastics processing industry started in 1981. It was initially intended as a regional fair for the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria and neighouring countries along Lake Constance, Austria and Switzerland.
Although these geographical areas remain as important as ever, Fakuma fairs – held every year except for those when the K fair takes place in Düsseldorf – have taken on a much greater national and international profile.
The scope has also widened from the original focus on plastics processing machinery (Fakuma derives from “Fachmesse für KunststoffMaschinen”), with a strong emphasis on injection moulding, to now include extrusion machinery, ancillary equipment, plastics materials, mouldmaking, processors, research institutes, thermoforming and even newer rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing technologies.
Following an agreement with Schall, the Crain Global Polymer Group (including Plastics News, Plastics News Europe and PRW) has published English language Fakuma Show Daily publications at the Fakuma 2014 and 2015 fairs.
Paul Schall’s death has come as a surprise to those whom have known him in the plastics and other industries with which he has been associated, as he was as active as ever at Fakuma 2015 last October.
Speaking with the Show Daily at Fakuma 2014, Schall described how his professional career had started with the sale of machines for graphical arts in 1962 and this led to his first Mograma trade fair. This was followed in 1972 by the Fameta metal processing machinery trade fair.
As well as the Fakuma fair in Friedrichshafen, other exhibitions organised by Schall’s company include Blechexpo (sheet metal), Bondexpo (bonding), Control (quality assurance), Druck+Form (printing), Motek (automation), Optatec (optical), Schweisstec (welding) and Stanztec (stamping) fairs. Blechexpo, Control and Motek are held in Stuttgart, Optatec in Frankfurt am Main. Schall ran Control and Motek fairs also in India for the first time in 2014.
Paul Schall held the position of managing partner of P.E. Schall GmbH & Co. KG and has been supported on the company board by his wife Bettina Schall as managing director with responsibility for marketing and public relations. The company owns the fairgrounds in Sinsheim through its ownership of Messe Sinsheim GmbH and also owns the Pescha Media-Agentur advertising and marketing agency.
Photo by File photo Robert Schad
The machinery development and mould making agreement has ended between Athena Automation and Sipa.
Athena is Robert Schad’s Vaughan, Ontario-based company that makes PET preform injection moulding machines. Sipa is a blow moulding machinery manufacturer based in Vittorio Veneto, Italy, with a North American operation in Atlanta.
Athena announced that the agreement has expired in a 17 February news release.
The two machinery companies first agreed to work together in December 2012, to build a line of automated PET injection presses and blow moulders. Sipa also was making all preform molds for Athena machines. Under the agreement, both companies would integrate their respective machinery into a complete system.
In the 17 February announcement, Athena said it would support Sipa in shipping and servicing the remaining inventory of “Athena for Sipa” machines. But Athena’s next generation of PET preform moulding machines will be sold and serviced directly by Athena, alongside its injection presses for other markets.
In the news release, Schad said: “As far as molds are concerned, we’re not forming an alliance with a specific mould maker — we will let customers choose the mold maker they want to use with the post-mould cooling and quick mould-change technologies from Athena.”
Officials from Athena and Sipa were not available for comment.
Currently, Athena manufactures injection presses with clamping forces of 150,300 and 450 tonnes. Athena’s new 155,000-square-foot machinery assembly factory is in the early start-up phase. Its existing 40,000-square-foot building will become the headquarters office and house sales and customer service.