2012 ARMO Conference – Lyon, France
By Susan Gibson, JSJ Productions, Inc.
“The rotomolding technique is a fairly basic process when making less than 10,000 parts with low demand, but what happens when you want to make more sophisticated parts?”
– Paul Nugent
The 2013 ARMO Conference, which took place October 1-2 in Lyon, France resulted in an overwhelming success for the global rotational molding industry. There were more than 450 attendees representing 43+ countries and 37 exhibitors were on hand for the event, and the program was highly educational, informative, and exciting.
Olivia Perrier, ARMO 2012 Chairman (France), Jean Charles HENNI, AFR Chairman (France), and Bill Spenceley, ARMO Chairman (USA), welcomed the global group and introduced atindustry at large as well as industry specific topics.
The featured speaker for the event was Michelle Loubry, Regional Director West Europe Plastics Europe (France). Loubry presented a picture of the plastics world in 2030 based upon a report by futurologist Ray Hammond, which was commissioned by Plastics Europe. The report predicted six factors which will change and drive the future of the plastics industry: 1) world population (there will be 6 billion people in the world by 2030, 2) climate change and the environment, 3) looming energy crisis, 4) expanding globalization, 5) disease prevention and longevity (people might live 100 years with the same energy and vitality they have at 50 years of age), and 6) acceleration of technology development. “Plastics have revolutionized the way we live. By 2030 Europe could be experiencing arctic-style winters and plastics will help by reducing the need to use fossil fuels and safeguarding people from the effects of climate change. Plastics will contribute to combating shortages of food by keeping food safe and maximizing crop yields. Plastics will help to combat shortages of drinking water by keeping drinking water safe as well as creating more drinking water. Plastics will enable food to be grown under cover, enable multiple harvests, optimize crop development, develop hydroponic systems, and micro-sprinklers. Drop irrigation systems will replace old pipe systems to prevent leakage, build water super grids, reverse osmosis desalination, and provide plastics pipe systems for harsh conditions. Plastics are very eco-efficient as only 4% of oil and gas are used in manufacturing plastics. Plastics will contribute significantly to energy savings and emission reductions,” he said.
Presentations of a more general focus included a fascinating look at the rotational molding industry by Paul Nugent, MNOP Consulting. “The rotomolding technique is a fairly basic process when making less than 10,000 parts with low demand, but what happens when you want to make more sophisticated parts?,” he said. Nugent detailed some of the more sophisticated industry innovations and improvements including molds, materials, venting, and machinery. “Bio materials are a reality,” he said. “For example, the car developed by Total Petrochemical opens up a lot of possibilities.” Nugent also predicted polypropylene to be the Holy Grail for rotational molding. Dr. Peter Mooney, Plastics Custom Research Services (USA), presented an overview of the North American Rotational Molding Business stating that the growth in North America between 2002-2010 was approximately 2.4% and that the number of rotomolders in North America remains at approximately 400. A significant number of these companies started in the 1980’s, and approximately 49% are custom and proprietary molders. “Rotomolders in North America seem to be very optimistic about the future,” he said. Mooney also predicted a 2.5% growth over the next few years for the USA, with Canada and Mexico coming in with a 3.5% growth rate. “Agriculture is deemed to be the best growth market for North America,” and “Rotational molding is a mature industry now growing at approximately 2 – 2.5 %, he said. As for the future, “Rotomolding will have to merge into other parts to develop a multi-dimensional market,” Mooney said. Mark Kearns, Queens University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, focused on the current technical status of the rotational molding industry and how it compares with more established processes. He said rotomolders do the following things very well: 1) mold a lot of large hollow parts; 2) mold different types of PE; 3) use cheap molds; and 4) build their own rotomolding machines. However, rotomolders are learning and starting to do the following; 1) monitor material and oven move of temperatures; 2) standardize rotomolding machines; 3) use pressurized molds; 4) hold close tolerances; and 5) make quality-foamed parts. “The rotomolding process competes with blow molding and other plastics processes that manufacture at a much faster pace, and it competes well in design and overall dimension stability,” he said.” Abbas Tcharkhtchi, professor, Ensam Paris (France), talked about rotational molding as an innovative process for the manufacturing of complex industrial parts from turbo machines to violins. He said the difficulties of the process are mold design, selection of polymer, and processing conditions. Tcharkhtchi, talked about using the process to make the lining of a composite tanks for storage of hydrogen gas at high pressure.
Topics more specific to materials, design, and future manufacturing potential were presented by Sebastien Poirel, EVOK Design (France), on a new commercial truck design featuring a prototype manufactured with polyester. The truck is a mower among other applications. “Total’s new material, which was key because it offered glossy parts, displayed shiny, accurate, and resistance to deformation. And, the final product replaced many parts with one rotomolded part,” he said. Francois Buron, Diedre Design (France), whom specializes in urban mobility, said, “Rotomolding allows us to move fast and give tangible shape to our ideas.” He cited the Total car as a great example of efficacy of Total’s BioTP Seal®. He provided some solar energy components and solar energy products including an innovative shower that can be placed in the home.
Eric Maziers, R&D Manager, Total (Belgium), said the rotomolding process combined with the TP-Seal® or Bio-TPSeal® technologies is now offering an amazing opportunity to develop city cars in a sustainable approach, and Total will act globally to support this business. He used the example of the Viability Service Vehicle, which was developed by Noremat and is used for mowing, pruning, collecting off-cuts, grinding up branches, and gritting. Dr. Claudine Porcel, European R&D Manager for ICO Polymers (France) talked about rotomolding solutions for environmental requirements of the automotive industry. Regarding Adblue tank solutions and Innovative tank solutions, Dr. Porcel said the market indicators are that agriculture is growing more than 6.8% a year on a worldwide basis and road transport is growing more than 2 % a year in Europe.
Pat Long, President Formed Plastics Inc. (USA), presented an insightful talk about unusual rotomolded applications for the medical industry. Examples provided included an SDS Frame, which is used as a mixer in a kidney dialysis machine, mixing and distributing various bicarbonate and acid solutions; MRI Housing; Waste and Water Bottle for Medical Diagnostic Equipment; infant Incubator Housing; surgical positioning board, Medical water supply bottle, a barcode reader cover and various other miscellaneous rotomolded medical parts.
The program included number of educational workshops presented topics such as fuel tanks, permeation, and standard evolution; bio materials for the production of industrial rotationally molded parts; designs showing the capacity of rotational molding for the manufacture of industrial parts with complex geometry, the potential for using rotational molding to make parts that cannot be made by other processes, and on machines and plastics.
The social and networking part of the conference was a huge part of the overall success of the event. The 2012 ARMO Gala will no doubt be long remembered as attendees were transported to the Castle of the Saint Trys and also transported back to a time when French royals were entertained with decadent food and old world entertainment, and also the event included a fabulous display of fireworks over the valley.
A huge congratulations goes out to AFR as the organizing entity for the event and the entire ARMO team for putting on such a sensational event for the global rotational molding industry. Stay tuned for the next ARMO Conference, which is staged to take place in Nottingham England in 2015.