CMT Field Notes: Chinaplas 2014

CMT recently exhibited at Chinaplas 2014 in Shanghai. With over 130,000 visitors and 3000 exhibitors, this year’s event was the biggest yet. According to some exhibitors, this show could become second only to K in terms of attendance and importance for the plastics industry.

Chinaplas_2014

In cooperation with our distribution partners in China & Taiwan, CMT was very well-represented through the presence of HTYAC materials in several booths. Both European and Chinese thermoforming moldmakers and machinery companies were running XTL and FLX plug assists. PP was the most commonly processed polymer (some of it running inline) while APET was also being used for small diameter drinking cups.

During the show, we were often asked what is the best plug material for PP or APET? We often get this question at events and while the true answer requires some nuance, most people want a simple response that will allow them to get the best part with the highest degree of clarity. In many cases, we end up talking a lot more about plastic sheet and thermoforming specifications than we do about plugs. Does the PP have a clarifier? What temperature is the sheet as it enters the mold? Are you measuring sheet temperature or just oven temperature?

Polypropylene is susceptible to scratching and sometimes it contains filler such as talc or calcium carbonate. PP is favored by many converters because of its low density, allowing more yield per kg than other polymers (among other benefits). However, low quality PP does not offer the same clarity as APET (or high quality PP with clarifying agents) and clarity is the key factor in many packaging applications.

PP has a very narrow window for optimal thermoforming temperatures and the range that many converters use is at the high end of this window.  This is common when the users have past experience with DELRIN (nylon) plugs due to the high thermal conductivity of DELRIN, which takes heat out of the sheet very quickly. This leads to sheet sticking and general expansion of the plugs, which can then require new plugs or re-machining the old ones, which means more downtime and added costs. HYTAC plugs can eliminate many of these problems due to their syntactic structure.

All in all, Chinaplas was a great event with visitors from all over the world. Countries such as China, Indonesia and Thailand are still enjoying tremendous rates of growth in plastics packaging, which suggests more capacity for thermoforming. Drinking cups, in particular, seem to be popular items. And beyond the excitement in the show hallways, the ride on Shanghai’s Metro system was an adventure of its own!

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The next event for CMT is the Thin Wall Packaging Conference in Chicago, IL on May 20-21.

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