Issue: Jul 2006


Plastics Expo to Showcase Technology Breakthroughs



The internationally renowned plastics exposition, NPE 2006, took place at Chicago’s McCormick Place from 19 to 23 June.

The internationally renowned plastics exposition, NPE 2006, took place at Chicago’s McCormick Place from 19 to 23 June.
Hosted by The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), this was the 25th NPE to be held since 1946. At least 2000 from over 100 countries participated.
NPE 2006 participated in the USDOC’s International Buyer Program (IBP), whose representatives recruit and lead visitor delegations and match potential buyers with appropriate exhibitors at the show. For the automotive industry, this opened up new markets across the globe and also provided a chance to see what technology breakthroughs in the use of plastics in the automotive sector have emerged.
NPE 2006 also provided access to the US market for companies wishing to do business. The Americas [from Canada through Chile] accounts for one-third of the world’s annual resin consumption – the three signatory countries of the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA, export more the $4 billion worth of plastics annually. The US is home to 20,000 plastics plants – most of which process resin into plastic products. Plastics is the fastest growing manufacturing industry in the US and provides nearly one and a half million jobs in the country.
Major markets for US plastics are packaging which accounts for 34% of resin sold, construction (18%), consumer and institutional products (18%), transportation (6%), furniture and furnishings (4%), and electrical and electronics account (4%). Five per cent of the remaining resin is sold for use in other markets and 11% is exported.
Automotive Industries (AI) spoke to William Carteaux, president and CEO of SPI about what developments in the plastics sector.
AI: The North American automotive industry is facing a tough challenge with global players eating into the market. How do you think this impacts the US plastics industry?
Carteaux: The number of automotives sold do not vary greatly from year to year – it is mainly a business of market share. In time the global resin producers and processors will be able to shift to meet demand - whether it’s for an existing North American producer or a global player opening up shop in North America.
AI: What are some of the technology breakthroughs that are likely to emerge in plastics that will revolutionize the automotive industry?
Carteaux: Great increases in auto efficiency can be gained through weight reduction. Moving fewer pounds requires less energy. Although smaller cars mean less material, the potential for the greater use of plastic is significant. Plastics technology breakthroughs designed for more efficient autos will help offset the impact of offshore auto manufacturing.
Plastic fuel tank technologies have become the tank of choice replacing steel tanks first in Europe and Asia and now North America. This is for weight reduction as well as design flexibility, corrosion resistance and safety. Plastic fuel lines have also been advancing because they are lighter in weight, lower in cost and available in various colors for tracking under the hood. Further, combinations of plastics and steel are being developed for weight reduction but also for high load-bearing capacity and high-energy absorption for front ends and doors.
Automotive glazing, including both side windows and windshields, promises great potential for plastics.

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