The plastics industry is one of the most advanced of all industries and one that plays an indispensable role in every other industry MESH Automation deals with. Plastics are vital in a wide range of market sectors, from packaging, construction, and transportation to electronics.
The third-largest manufacturing industry in the US, just behind the petroleum industry and automotive industry, but ahead of the chemical industry, the plastics industry has thousands of facilities throughout the country. It employs hundreds of thousands of people (more than 940,000 in 2014, and growing), and according to the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. (SPI), its productivity growth tops all forms of manufacturing.
Globally, the plastics market is driven mainly by the growth of specific sectors, namely health care, transportation and packaging. But it is clearly also affected by the energy industry since, as the SPI states, it is largely the relatively low cost of natural gas, and partly oil, that has reduced the costs of manufacturing plastics in the US. All of these are industries MESH is familiar with and works with constantly.
Elements of Plastics
The plastics industry as a whole incorporates various elements including plastic resins, the raw materials that are shaped and molded to produce plastic items. There are various types, including thermoplastic and thermoset polymers, the former that may be softened with heat. All of these require specialized machinery and equipment and viable forms of energy.
About 85 percent of polymer feedstock raw materials in the US come from natural gas. In the rest of the world, the plastics industry relies on crude oil, which is more expensive. US producers of vinyl chloride, polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) – both thermoplastic polymers – currently benefit substantially from the shale boom.
Benefits of Plastics for Other Industries
The team at MESH keeps abreast of developments and trends in the industries in which it operates including plastics industry automation.
According to the American Chemistry Council, even though plastic resins consume energy during production, their use in a wide variety of products in fact saves energy, at the same time generating a host of other benefits for consumers. Additionally, the plastics industry provides employment, generates investment opportunities and impacts favorably on US tax revenue, which is good for the economy.
The broad benefits of using plastic materials are varied, ranging from “lightweighting” products to saving energy, and even reducing harmful CO2 emissions. Specifically, industries and industry sectors that benefit include:
- Automobile industry Reduction of weight in vehicles (particularly light vehicles) is an important factor for fuel efficiency, reducing emissions, and ultimately for lowering costs for consumers. Plastic components can reduce the weight of a car by as much as 30 percent. In addition, fiber-reinforced plastic composites help to make cars safer, because they absorb more energy during a crash.
- Packaging industry The use of plastic packaging adds efficiency and conserves resources because it enables consumers to take more products home using less packaging. That’s because plastic is lighter than other forms of packaging; and because it is light, it conserves fuel costs in shipping.
- Construction industry Reputable research studies prove that plastics save energy in a number of different ways in building construction. For instance, vinyl windows are good for insulation and therefore cut energy consumption, helping to lower both heating and cooling costs; and innovative polymer roofing reduces electricity consumption costs for cooling.
- Manufacture of appliances The use of plastics for insulation and parts in appliances like freezers and refrigerators can improve the energy efficiency of appliances radically. This has a direct impact on household energy bills.
- Conservation of water The use of plastic pipes for water distribution is vitally important for the conservation of water. Primarily, plastic doesn’t corrode like metal does, and it both increases flow rates and reduces water loss.
MESH and Plastics Industry Automation
Like most other industries, the plastics industry benefits from factory automation, and this is one of MESH Automation’s most powerful areas of expertise. Whether you are in need of design engineering, machine tending of injection mold or blow mold processes, assembly, or part trimming, we have the experience and a comprehensive understanding of what’s involved.
We can design and build machinery and equipment for you, or expand your existing processing plant. Whatever type of business you have in plastics, and whatever niche you fill, we can help you maximize production cost effectively to improve your operation. Call today to make contact with our highly experienced engineering team.