The new face of the North American plastics industry is emerging as companies that are focused on plastics. One of the first large companies to divest its plastics portfolio was Monsanto back in 1997 when Solutia was created. Monsanto made a decision to focus on agricultural biotechnology. Solutia filed for bankruptcy in 2003 in the midst of a major manufacturing slowdown and emerged from bankruptcy early this year. The company believes it is now stronger and more competitive than at any time in its history, hopefully setting a positive tone for other plastics orphans. Solutia posted a first quarter profit of $1.4 billion, compared to a loss of $8 million for the same quarter in 2007 because of reorganization gains. Revenues were up 40 percent. What’s important from a design engineering perspective is that Solutia, a major nylon producer, is developing new products and expanding capacity. Vydyne GW350 was announced in April and is said to offer superior toughness and elongation. Solutia is also increasing nylon 66 capacity by 140,000 metric tons. Solutia’s plant in Pensacola, FL is the world’s largest integrated nylon manufacturing facility. Solutia operates five nylon-making plants in the U.S., while its sales to Asia are growing rapidly.
Several major companies have divested part or all of their plastics portfolios in recent years, ranging from GE Plastics and Dow to Bayer. When the spin-offs become standalone companies, such as Solutia, they may face trouble raising capital in tough credit markets, such as the one we face in 2008. In fact, Solutia had to file suit against three banks that had balked at providing the company with capital needed to exit bankruptcy. Solutia needed the funds for operations and won the lawsuit.
It’s important for companies like Solutia to survive and thrive, particularly when they are producing products with a limited supply base.
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
Capping a 30-year quest, GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from ceramic matrix composites. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine.
Seismic shifts in 3D printing materials include an optimization method that reduces the material needed to print an object by 85 percent, research designed to create new, stronger materials, and a new ASTM standard for their mechanical properties.
A recent study finds that 3D printing is both cheaper and greener than traditional factory-based mass manufacturing and distribution. At least, it's true for making consumer plastic products on open-source, low-cost RepRap printers.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.