Industry Corner: Plastics Processing Machinery

By Gross, Andrew; Jovan, Wendy | Business Economics, April 1998 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Industry Corner: Plastics Processing Machinery


Gross, Andrew, Jovan, Wendy, Business Economics


In the 1967 film classic, "The Graduate," an ambitious young man is given a one-word advice for success in the business world: plastics. It turned out to be good advice. Plastics are the first new family of materials in the past 3000 years; they compete against the far older families of paper, metals, ceramics, and wood. Plastics first came on the scene a hundred years ago, when cellulose nitrate was substituted for ivory in billiard balls; the next application was photographic film. Plastics got their big boost during World War II when polyethylene was developed as insulation for radar cable. Total U.S. shipments of all plastic materials then rose rapidly from 2.2 billion pounds in 1950 to 14.5 billion in 1967, to 42 billion in 1983. Of the 1996 total of 76 billion, polyethylene held 33 percent, polypropylene 14 percent, polyvinyl chloride 14 percent, thermosets 13 percent, and all others 26 percent.

Clearly, plastics made major inroads on the material scene. Crude oil and natural gas yield "feedstocks" or petrochemicals: ethylene, benzene, propylene, etc. These more simple chemicals, called monomers, are then polymerized into plastic resins or polymers (see the list in previous paragraph). Such resins in granule, powder, or pellet form are ready to be processed into two families of plastics: thermoplastics (which can be remelted or reshaped) or thermosets (which cannot be transformed). The formation of such plastic materials occurs on processing machines.

LESSONS OF DERIVED DEMAND

After paying at the checkout counter of the supermarket, comes the question: What will it be - paper or plastic bag? (A few, environmentally conscious customers pass on both, just grabbing their groceries or bagging them in linen bags.) Will bottle caps and toy cars be made of metal or plastic? Will beverage bottles be made of glass or plastic? What about siding - will it be vinyl or aluminum? Out of such decisions, multiplied many-fold, the future of plastics and hence plastics processing machinery will unfold. The most visible application of plastics is in packaging; but plastics have made major inroads in consumer durables, construction, industrial goods, medical equipment, and motor vehicles. Our research indicates that plastic materials should continue to hold their share, or even increase it, against competing materials in most applications, based on such aspects as machinability, durability, cost effectiveness, and even environmental considerations (because many plastic materials can now be recycled).

Shipments of plastics should rise at 4 percent per year in the United States during the next five years; world demand is expected to surpass 150 million metric tons by 2002. The demand for plastics processing machinery can be readily traced to the demand for plastic materials. But makers of such machinery clearly need to be concerned with the specific end-uses or applications of plastic materials, not just how they are formed and shaped but into what.

Machines designed for forming plastic film differ from those designed to make small toys or large containers. In short, makers of machinery must follow the key dictum of progressive industrial marketers: You must know not only your customer, but your customer's customer!

The domestic plastics industry faces increasing competition from overseas producers, some with low-wage labor, others with innovative products. Thus, U.S. plastics processors, whether they make film, bottles, or complex shapes, insist on sophisticated machinery with time-saving, cost-reducing, and less labor-intensive features. Machinery makers are responding to such requirements. As a general rule, a new model has an output double that of a five-year-old machine. Possibly the most significant development is modularity, which allows for retooling and quick switchovers. In short, U.S. makers of plastics processing machinery expect to remain competitive and innovative, especially in medium and large size models.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Industry Corner: Plastics Processing Machinery
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?