NPE 2015 Thermoforming Wrap-Up

By all accounts, the 2015 NPE show in Orlando was a solid success. The organizers, SPI, were pleased with increased attendance and many industry correspondents reported positive reviews from exhibitors. Prior to the show, we set out goals for leads, conversations and meetings. We exceeded on all fronts, so you can add our name to the list of happy exhibitors.

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(Photo courtesy of SPI)

It is always tempting to draw broad conclusions or to seek a common theme from large events. Though we are firmly focused on the thermoforming industry as a whole, it is always interesting to learn about how specific certain projects can be. This is especially true in the heavy gauge industry. Generally speaking, heavy gauge formers do not use as much syntactic foam as their thin gauge counterparts, but most of them are familiar with what syntactic is. Continued efforts to replace metal with plastics in several industries (aerospace and automotive, to name two big ones) means that thermoforming is a very viable option alongside other plastics processes such as rotational molding. Syntactic foam functions as a plug assist on large, negative cavity parts where it can help reduce starting gauge while improving material distribution. It can also function as a mold where it provides superior properties to wood, MDF and other materials. For more on our work in heavy gauge, click here.

On thin gauge side of the business, we had several discussions with companies who are running multilayer films. These materials provide unique challenges, not least of which is understanding how the individuals layers respond to heat. We typically recommend HYTAC FLXT for multilayer films because when highly polished, the plug surface provides the greatest amount of slip or release against the heated plastic.

Another topic of discussion among thermoforming OEMs was in-mold labelling, or T-IML (or IML-T, depending on your preference). Given that this article from 2007 suggested thermofoming was ready for IML, it seems that the rate of industry adoption has been quite slow. Still, companies such as TSL in the US are moving forward and selling more systems, both in the US and abroad. Looking at the agenda for AMI’s Thin Wall Packaging Conference (which features many thermoforming players), T-IML will be the subject of several papers. We are also thinking about how plugs are used in this context as one of the major benefits of T-IML is the ability to use thinner sheet to form a part that will ultimately be reinforced by the label.

So, the first major event of the year is over, but there are several others coming up including FeiPlastic in Brazil (Booth L-600 with EMATEC) and Chinaplas in Guangzhou (Booth 13.1 A21 with Gabler), both in May. We’ll also be attending the Thin Wall Packaging Conference in Wheeling, IL on May 6-7. If you’re attending any or all events, be sure to look us up!

For another review of thermoforming at NPE, you might enjoy Clare Goldsberry’s article from Plastics Today.

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