Ah, December. The time of year when the days are shorter, the nights are longer, and you wonder what UPS 2-day shipping really means on the 24th. The internet abounds with lists and reviews, top 5 this and top 10 that. We’re not immune to the seductive power of nostalgia so we’re going to indulge in a wee bit of reflection on the year that was.
1. The Thermoforming Industry was Strong
From M&A activity to plant expansions to new equipment investments, there was no shortage of positive news for all of us involved in thermoforming. With recent data suggesting 8.6% growth in machinery in 2016, we could be set for continued success well into 2017. Changes in customer preferences, new material developments and downstream integration with robotics are all contributing factors to the dynamism that we are seeing in the space.
2. Heavy Gauge Thermoformers Increase Use of Syntactic Foam
It was a good year for us at CMT and especially with heavy gauge processors. We issued new case studies highlighting how several companies either upgraded from wood plugs or switched from aluminum plugs to improve material distribution and reduce cycle times. Our LPX material has now become the primary syntactic foam used in the 2-part LP system where it is combined with a lightweight composite core. Due to more stringent quality requirements associated with Class A finishes and tricky materials such as TPOs, several processors designed new plugs using HYTAC FLXT, a co-polymer syntactic with Teflon. As part of our value added approach to working with the heavy gauge industry, we coordinated material selection, machining and final polishing on multiple projects. We expect this trend to continue into 2016.
3. CMT Launches HYVAC LCM
HYVAC LCM, or lightweight composite material, represents a breakthrough in cost-effective tooling for low- and medium-volume runs. Though still technically in beta phase, we are currently working on half a dozen projects with heavy gauge formers. Wood and composite tooling board have always offered formers the ability to quickly mock-up a mold, but the advantages of cost and speed were offset by poor part performance. LCM addresses the quality gap while keeping costs low and simplifying the mold-making process. We expect strong demand for LCM in 2016 when we fully launch in Q1.
4. CMT Europe Leads the Way in International Markets
When we first launched CMT Europe in May 2013, we were responding to customer demands for high-quality service and rapid delivery of HYTAC materials. With record sales in 2015, the new venture has been an unqualified success with a new building set to open in Q1 2016. There are 2 major events on the thermoforming calendar next year, both in Europe: the 10th annual European Thermoforming Conference in Barcelona and the big dog, K2016. For the first time, CMT Materials will exhibit as an independent company at the world’s biggest plastics tradeshow next October.
5. Data, Data, Data: It’s (They’re?) Everywhere
Like many industries, thermoforming gets better with good data. We’ve seen several interesting developments with uVu Technologies and T-Sim software over the past year as it seems more and more companies are adopting these data-driven approaches to perfecting the art of thermoforming. It’s interesting that our most popular blog continues to be the one where we discussed plug design and the crush test with graphical data. Next year, we will join forces with other industry players to develop new design of experiment projects and further refine the plug-sheet interface.
We would like to wish all the best of the season’s greetings to our customers, partners and industry colleagues around the world. Thank you for making 2015 a great year and we look forward to seeing many of you at conferences and tradeshows in 2016. If you are ever in the Boston area, be sure to let us know – as long as we have less than 7 feet of snow, we’ll be glad to see you!
(CMT is officially closed on 12/25 and 1/1.)