Design involves problem-solving and creativity. The American Heritage Dictionary defines design as: “To conceive or fashion in the mind; invent,” and “To formulate a plan.” It also means that someone not only had to conceive of all the amazing products, tools and “things” that we take for granted every day, but also had to collaborate with engineers and manufacturers to ensure that the final deliverable could function effectively, safely and be reproduced at a reasonable cost. Judging by the innovations that I’ve seen at NPE2009, the plastics industry does design very well.
Much of the content of NPE2009 is of direct interest to design engineers and anyone else involved in product design and development. An increased emphasis on plastics design at NPE2009 came about because SPI has expanded the trade show far beyond its traditional core. The first International Plastics Design Competition (IPDC) was concluded last night with awards handed out in 15 categories, including “The People’s Choice Award, which attracted 10,203 online votes at the IPDC website. Here is a list of all the winners, but better yet, visit the Winner’s Galley on the IPDC web site to see and read more about the winning product entries. If you are at NPE, go see all the entrants up close — they are still on display in the West Hall of McCormick Place.
ANTEC 2009, the Society of Plastics Engineers’ massive conference, is co-located at NPE this year and has more than 750 original peer-reviewed presentations, including multi-paper sessions on product design and development, mold design and moldmaking.
Also of note to those interested in product design and development is the inaugural Time Compression Expo, co-located with NPE2009 and produced by Gardner Publications. “Time compression” means cutting time to market by accelerating product development through the use of new design, software, prototyping and direct manufacturing techniques. Another co-located event produced by Gardner is the MoldMaking Expo, which is devoted to technologies and strategies in mold design, moldmaking and rapid manufacturing.
Not to be overlooked are the hundreds of NPE2009 exhibiting companies that supply design engineering, tool design and moldmakingproducts and services; raw materials that deliver new customer values ranging from molded-in functionalities to decorative effects and shelf appeal; fabricating systems that extend product development capabilities by increasing design freedom and expanding the scope for parts consolidation and light-weighting; and custom processors who supply full service, from design to molding to final assembly.
While press releases are not known for understatement, in a recent one I fell short of the mark when I declared that NPE2009 would feature “at least 16” exhibits relating to bioplastics and that there would be 39 bioplastics presentations in co-located conferences. People responded with information showing an even bigger role for bioplastics than had I imagined.
● Michael Thielen, editor of Bioplastics magazine, did his own count of bioplastics-related exhibits at NPE2009 and came up with 38. His list includes biodegradables, not all of which are bioplastics, but still… And one of the exhibitors not counted by me was Michael’s own Bioplastics magazine.
● Another exhibitor missing from both Michael’s list and mine is IDES, the plastics materials database. Marketing manager Nathan Potter writes: “Just read your article on bioplastics - not sure if you knew, but last November we launched a way in which our Prospector database can be used to search for plastics that are biodegradable, include recycled content, or are derived from renewable resources…. It’s been interesting to see the traffic growth to this particular search, so there is definitely growing interest in these types of materials.”
● After some discussions with the folks at SPE, I took a second look at the agenda for SPE’s ANTEC 2009, to be co-located with NPE2009. I found that I had not searched thoroughly enough the first time. There will be quite a few more presentations on bioplastics than are found under the “Bioplastics” session headings. One paper in a “Flexible Packaging” session, for example, is titled Development of Antimicrobial PLA Nanocomposites with Silver Containing Layered Nanoclays for Packaging and Coating Applications. Who knew?
● SPI’s Midwest regional manager Patti Gillespie has just sent me preliminary descriptions of entrants in the International Plastics Design Competition, which will culminate at NPE2009. The entrants will not be made public until the end of this month, but they include several applications for bioplastics.
Among the key specifiers of materials and processes for the end user companies served by the plastics industry, design engineers are a critical group. They play important roles in industrial design firms, OEMs such as those in the automotive or medical device fields, and toolmakers and processors in the plastics industry itself. Certainly they are people that NPE2009 exhibitors want to reach.
SPI’s recent news release about the NPE2009 International Plastics Design Competition is helping to do just that.
Doug Smock, longtime editor in the plastics press, is now in charge of the materials beat for the prominent magazine Design News and also hosts the publication’s blog on engineering materials. “Look for Great Plastics Design at NPE2009” was the headline of a recent posting about the design competition.
Mike Foley is the editor of Designfax, a lively e- newsletter for the design community. “Make Your Big Impression” is his headline for a story on the competition appearing in the July 15 issue.
The competition is being organized by SPI’s Alliance for Plastics Processors (APP), which will issue a Call for Applicants in the Fall of this year. The APP and its predecessor, SPI’s Structural Plastics Division (SPD), have organized 36 previous design competitions, but the one at NPE2009 will be the first open to products in any end-use market, from automotive to packaging, and to entrants from any country in the world. For details on the NPE2009 International Plastics Design Competition, consult the recent news release, posted on SPI’s website. There’s ample information on previous competitions sponsored by the APP and SPD at the APP website.
The photo shows a previous APP competition top winner: “The Cottage,” a children’s playhouse entered in the 2006 competition by molder Horizon Plastics (Cobourg, Ontario); designer, Michael Greene; moldmaker, Impact Tool; OEM, Thinking Outside.