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Plastic Perspectives
Thermoforming has traditionally been a large consumer of the plastic sheet marketed by our industry and yet it is an often overlooked manufacturing conversion process due to the “low tech” but vital steps required to produce a commercial product.

According to Plastic Engineering’s Thermoforming Buyers’ Guide, there were over 150 companies in the US engaged in the manufacturing of either thermoforming equipment and/or producing thermoformed plastic products, primarily from sheet. It is estimated that this process consumes over 50% of the thermoplastic sheet product produced in the US.

Thus, it behooves all in our industry to learn more about this market and to participate in its growth, which is estimated to be in double digits per year, for the balance of this decade.

Speaking of growth products and markets, in another category – high-tech future materials – comes organic light emitting diodes (OLEDS). An innovative plastic screen was unveiled this year on a digital camera from Kodak, based on the materials research team of Dow Chemical, Motorola and Xerox. They developed polymer inks and printing methods that can spew out plastic circuitry, generate their own light and are unbreakable, unlike LCD’s. DuPont is also at work on this technology. This might one day lead to video wallpaper studded with millions of light-emitting specks of plastic. So walls could turn into TV sets or change color to match the season. The implications for the thermoplastic micro-gauge film extrusion and casting industry are enormous and commercialization is expected within the next five years.

Concerned with the proliferation of abbreviations for many of the plastic materials used in our industry? What is SPPSS? VLDPE? PCTFE? (for answers, see last line in this column.) A very useful guide to these and many hundreds more of common (and not so common) Acronyms of the Plastics Industry, is Acronymania, published by the SPI – yet another acronym. I suggest it as a standard reference tool for all in our industry.

Finally, as 2003 winds down the cry “wait ‘till next year” may finally be heard, as our industry emerges from a 3-4 year record slump in growth and enters 2004 with renewed vigor and optimism and results that start approaching 2000-2001 sales and profits. A look back at some classic writings from the book The Complete English Tradesman, written by Daniel Defoe in the early 1700’s:

The tradesman who buys warily always pays surely. If he has money to pay he need never fear goods to be had: the merchant’s warehouses are always open, and he may supply himself upon all occasions as he wants, and as his customers call…


Some tradesmen are fond of seeing their shops well stocked, and their warehouses full of goods; this is a snare to them and brings them to buy in more goods than they want…a well experienced tradesman had rather see his warehouse too empty than too full; if it be too empty he can fill it when he pleases, if his credit be good or his cash strong; but a thronged warehouse is a sign of the want of customers and of a bad market, whereas an empty warehouse is a sign of quick demand.

A Happy and Prosperous New Year to all our readers.

Answers to Acronym Quiz:
SPPSS= Amorphous Polyphenylene Sulphide Sulfone;
VLDPE=Very low density polyethylene

For more information, click on the Author Biography link at the top of this page.

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