New evidence of the stunning decline of the North American injection molding industry seems to gain speed almost daily. I reported earlier on the proposed sale of GE Plastics and the large layoffs at Milacron. This is on top of bankruptcies at leading Tier One suppliers and auctions of molding machinery. Now there is news that Bob Schad is putting Husky Injection Molding systems up for sale. Schad was a skilled tool builder who built Husky from the ground up as a technology leader and blue-chip company. Its original forte was very sophisticated systems to produce PET performs. Husky later branched into injection molding, and was a major player in stack molding and other high-productivity systems. The word is that Schad is disgusted by very low valuations of Husky on the Canadian Stock Exchange. Prices of shares jumped 20% when news of the sale broke. None of this is good news for the design engineering community. GE Plastics, Milacron and Husky were among the very best companies in the field, and important innovators. Outsourcing to China is only partly to blame. There is a growing lack of appreciation of total value when many companies make purchasing decisions. CEOs are driving companies to short-term profit gains through extensive use of processes such as electronic reverse auctions. We will pay a heavy price.
A new compression molding compound material combines the light weight, strength, and rigidity of carbon fibers with the flexibility and lower cost of glass materials in a composite compatible with automotive production.
Plastic bearings are real and millions of them are in use doing heavy-duty jobs we used to think only metals could do. Some of Germany-based igus's bearings are traveling around the world as functional parts in a car to demonstrate what they can do.
Baxter showed off his 2.0-derived moves at ATX West this year. The big red guy still looks pretty much the same, but has some new abilities, mostly due to software. The research robot version is now being used in corporate R&D departments as a design platform.
End-production using 3D printing, including objects made of multiple materials in one pass, is getting closer to reality as we saw on the exhibit floor at the recent Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show.