What’s light, resistant and more performant than some conventional materials? Plastic of course. As its worldwide use has exploded in recent years, so has the development of the machines that produce it. Not so long ago, the manufacture of plastics (and rubber) machines was limited to just a handful of countries, each with their own safety specifications. Today, production can be found in many corners of the world – with the big players being China, India and Brazil. The sector is buoyant, to say the least.
Claudio Celata is no novice when it comes to the industry. He has made the safety of plastics and rubber machines a key element in his career, starting out when many safety devices we see today were lacking – and losing fingers was not uncommon. Today, Celata is the new Chair of technical committee ISO/TC 270, Plastics and rubber machines, whose secretariat is held by UNI (ISO member for Italy). He is also consultant to the Italian plastics and rubber processing machinery and moulds manufacturers’ association ASSOCOMAPLAST. Here, he shares with us some of the industry’s trends, the challenges, and how standards provide the platform from which innovation can grow.
ISOfocus: What are the major factors driving the plastics and rubber machine market? How do they impact global sales and production?
Claudio Celata: The plastics and rubber processing machinery industry has grown significantly since its inception in the 1950s, particularly with the new markets that have emerged over the last ten years. Where, initially, German, Italian, Japanese and American manufacturers dominated the global market, those have been superseded by producers in countries like China, Brazil and India. This is due largely to their growing industrialization and the subsequent huge increase in demand, particularly for products in the automotive, household appliances and toy industries.
What are some of the key issues and fastest-growing segments in the industry today?
The per capita consumption of plastics is globally growing worldwide year by year, but at geographically different growth rates. For example, in Scandinavia the per capita consumption of plastics is about 100 kg/year and in the USA it is more than 90 kg/year. In China, however, it is still only 52 kg/year and just 9 kg/year in India.
From these figures we can see that the rise in consumption of plastics – which in 2014 was around 250 million tonnes worldwide – corresponds with the boom in industrialization of some countries like China and India.
Another consideration concerns the typical applications of plastic raw materials. In the automotive industry, for example, plastic components in the year 2000 averaged approximately 100 kg per car; they are now exceeding 150 kg. Another obvious example is in food and beverage packaging. Here, plastics offer the best features for food preservation, resulting in much lighter containers compared to those made of glass, metals, etc.
How many innovations are introduced by the use of plastic materials in everyday life?
Plastics have become essential – and irreplaceable – in a wide range of sectors. They are effective thanks to their high performance, including:
- High tensile strength with proper structural design
- Reduced part weight
- Highly repeatable in processing (less scrap)
- Lower manufacturing costs
- Enhanced regulatory compliance
- Greater design flexibility (part consolidation)
- Lower packaging and shipping costs
- Up to six times longer tool life
It has become essential to make standards uniform and consistent.
Automotive and aerospace companies have been most active in converting existing metal products or parts to plastic, driven by the need to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency. With proper design, engineered plastics can be just as strong as metal. They can also be more chemical-resistant with exceptional resistance to heat, making them good choices for fuel systems, fluid handling systems, and other high-temperature applications.
Plastics are used today in a variety of different settings. Consider, for instance, their significance in medicine. With an increasingly ageing population, the demand for, and importance of, plastic prosthetics has never been greater. These are being increasingly used in routine procedures such as hip replacements. And this is a drop in the bucket!
With the global market for injection-moulded plastics estimated to reach 116 171.4 kilotonnes by the end of 2018, will there be an increased need and demand for standards?
The demand for ISO standards concerning the safety of plastics processing machines represents an evolution in standards development. With an increase of global plastics and rubber components, and delocalization into a number of different continents, it has become essential to make standards uniform and consistent, ensuring the highest possible levels of safety around the world. This will then remove the risk of safety devices and measures becoming barriers to the international trade of plastic materials.
What are some of the challenges you face in ISO/TC 270? Any plans or projections?
The most frequent challenge – if I can call it that – is to bring together the technical requirements applied by the standards or regulations used in different countries and regions of the world into a single standard. This is no easy task.
For my part, I have to accept to be more patient. In the meantime, the committee will start to study draft standards on other processing machines mentioned earlier. We hope to have great things come from this study, and look forward to keeping all of our followers and users posted on these new developments!