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Rotoplas 2021 FAQ

Rotoplas will be held September 20-23 at the Donald Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL (a few minutes from O’Hare Airport). Learn more about the event.

Registration

Do I need to register?
This is our most frequently asked question. Yes, you need to register. Online registration is available here. You can register onsite at the Stephens Convention Center in Hall B beginning Tuesday, September 21 at 6:45 AM.

How do I get my badge?
Your badge is available in Hall B at the Stephens Convention Center. You can pick up badges from 6:45 AM – 5 PM on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

What does my registration include?
This depends on the registration level you selected. (Check the confirmation emailed to you.) Annual Meeting & Workshops includes exhibit floor, breakfast & lunch (Wed), welcome reception (Tues), supplier-sponsored reception (Wed), breakfast & lunch (TH), gala & awards dinner (TH). Exhibits Only includes the exhibit floor (Wed and TH). Spouse/Guest includes Welcome Reception (Tues), supplier-sponsored reception (Wed), gala & awards dinner (TH). Retired includes exhibit floor, gala & awards dinner (TH).

We offer three full- or half-day seminars for an additional fee that can be added on. Details on all education sessions are here.

Do exhibitors receive free registration with their booth?
Each booth includes four Exhibitor Personnel registration for employees of the exhibiting company to work the booth. Your exhibitor personnel only have access to events being held within the exhibit hall. Discount codes for these passes have been emailed to you. Contact staff if you have any questions.

Exhibiting companies also tend to register many employees for the Annual Meeting, which includes education sessions and many networking opportunities. One person from each exhibiting company is required to register for the Annual Meeting.

Schedule

When are the exhibits open?
The exhibit hall is open Wednesday 1:30 – 6:30 PM and Thursday Noon – 5 PM.

What’s the rest of the schedule?
The schedule is available here. The online schedule will be updated to include room numbers. The schedule will also be available in the show guide which is given to each registrant and there will be a schedule behind your name badge.

Is the meeting at the Hotel or the Convention Center?
Most of the meeting is held at the Convention Center.

Golf departs from the Hilton Rosemont Lobby. Tuesday’s Welcome reception, Thursday’s gala, and Friday’s Board meeting will also be held at the Hilton.

Everything else is at the Convention Center.

Are there breaks between sessions or will I be running everywhere?
It’s very unlikely you will need to run. There are thirty-minute networking breaks in the middle of the general sessions and before the workshops.

These networking breaks will include refreshments.

What’s the difference between the general session and workshops?
The general session is the only rotomolding programming Wednesday morning and for the first hour Thursday morning. All Annual Meeting attendees attend these sessions.

Multiple workshops run at at the same time Thursday morning. Annual Meeting registrants choose among seven workshops to attend during two time slots.

The Exhibit Hall

Who is exhibiting?
You can review a list of our exhibitors here.

Where is the Product Competition?
Along Row 600 near the ARM Booth and Presentation Theater. This year you will vote on your phone or on a tablet at the ARM Booth.

What if all this walking around makes me thirsty?
There will be cash bars on the floor for the entire afternoon. There’s a Starbucks in the convention center, just outside our Halls. At 5:30 PM on Wednesday, we’ll conduct a one-hour reception (with passed appetizers and open bar) in the Exhibit Hall.

When is exhibitor setup?
Monday 12:30pm-4:30pm, Tuesday 8:00am-4:30pm, and Wednesday 8:00am-11:00am. Most questions about exhibiting are covered in the Exhibitor Service Manual.

What is suitcasing?
Suitcasing is an unprincipled business practice in which  companies who are not exhibiting gain access to an event by obtaining event credentials (attendee badge, expo-only badge etc.) and then solicit business in the aisles or other public spaces used for the conference. Please note that while all meeting attendees are invited to the exhibit floor, any attendee who is observed to be soliciting business in the aisles or other public spaces, or any company’s booth will be asked to leave immediately. Don’t make it weird.

Travel

Can I get a hotel room?
Book at hotel within one of our room blocks at the Hilton or Aloft.

What else?

What should I wear?
The meeting is business casual. Some people will wear blue jeans. Dress up a bit for Thursday night’s gala dinner.

What are the COVID-19 precautions?
ARM has no mask requirements for fully vaccinated attendees. CDC states that “indoor and outdoor activities pose minimal risk to fully vaccinated people. Fully vaccinated can resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing.”  Attendees who are not fully vaccinated are expected to wear a mask covering their mouth and nose at all times. If state or federal guidelines change, we’ll notify attendees and update this FAQ.

What if I need help at the show?
Our registration staff will be able to answer many questions and can contact ARM staff for help. If there’s an emergency, contact security.

What can I buy at the ARM Booth/Presentation Theater?
A variety of ARM books, some rare rotomolding text books, the In-Mold DVD, t-shirts, cycling jerseys, and posters. Stop by and we’ll give you a surprise freebie.

I’ve got some free time. What should I do?
Nearby Dining and Entertainment: Parkway Bank Park is right behind the hotel. The site features eight restaurants/bars, a comedy club, movie theater, and indoor sky-diving.
Shopping: The Fashion Outlets of Chicago is a multi-story mall that’s one big block away from the meeting. Approximately a 10-15 minute walk.
Get to the city: Take the Blue Line Rosemont station (a ten-minute walk from the meeting) to Chicago. Thirty minutes to hipster neighborhood Logan Square. One hour to downtown.
Chicago Dining: Your best close Deep Dish pizza option is Lou Malnati’s.  Gene and Judes (since 1946) is an authentic hotdog stand open late. Paradise Pup was featured on Diners Drive-In and Dives.

I have a question you didn’t answer!
Send an email. We’ll keep adding questions as the event gets closer.

2021 Annual Meeting Education Sessions

Below we are announcing the initial lineup of education sessions at Rotoplas, our 2021 Annual Meeting. The theme of the meeting is A Rotomolding Revolution.

More presentations will be announced.

Automation in Manufacturing: How AI and Robotics are Changing the Way We Manufacture

John McElligott will kick off our Annual Meeting at Rotoplas. John was employed as a combat engineer during 9/11. Specializing in demolitions, explosives, construction and engineering, he also served as a SAW (squad automatic weapon) gunner and ultimately Squad leader. John was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant. As Co-Founder of Royal Square Development and CEO of the Squared Collective, John spearheaded technology, marketing, community engagement and investor relations as well as being a driving force in Business and Economic Development. A sought after national speaker on the impact exponential technology, robotics and artificial intelligence will have on rural and 3rd tier cities, John left Royal Square 3 years ago and is currently the  CEO of “York Exponential” a collaborative robotics company.  

An Automation Journey

Ken Bather, Seljan Company, will share automation insights from his decades in manufacturing, where he has seen companies journey from no automation to CNC routers to CNC and Robots. At Seljan Company he works with a rotomolder that uses CNC and produces Robots for other rotomolders.

Control cycle parameters and reduce variables using process control and live telemetry

Adam Covington, Ferry Industries, will share how process control and live telemetry can go beyond simple reporting to allow rotomolders to take better control of their cooking and cooling processes.

Design and. Processing – Yin and Yang (Half-Day Seminar)

In this half-day seminar Michael Paloian (Industrial Design Systems) and ARM Technical Director Nick Henwood will spar over the challenges of what happens when part design theory meets the practicalities of rotational molding. The seminar will be based on a series of design case studies. Attendees will interact with each other and ask questions of the presenters.

Embracing Change with Advanced Technologies

Daren Balderson, Trilogy Plastics, will compare the impact of automation with how Trilogy embraced and pioneered CNC routers in the roto workplace in the early 1990s as a paradigm shift away from hand fixture finishing and heavy intense human labor. He will discuss how it helped re-allocate human assets to other areas of production, increasing throughput and productivity with safety gains and profitability gains.

The Future of Automation in Rotational Molding Machines 

Robert Sly and Matthew Jeffries of Rotoline will speak on the future of automation in rotational molding presenting a  case study of rotomolders currently using a robotic machine. The talk includes labor studies, information on safety and liability in automation, why Rotoline developed the machine, and where they see applications.

Getting Connected – What is the best track and trace method for rotational molding?

Jim Crawshaw and Toby Huff, PSI Brand,  will propose the best traceability solution suited to rotomolders.

Track and traceability is very important for rotomolders and it is undeniably known as the future of all manufacturing. Considering the significant cost, resource, and productivity advantages it provides, it is not hard to see why traceability offers so many benefits to connect products with the manufacturer and the end-user.

Benefits include quick and efficient identification of affected products in recalls, a higher level of quality control, insight into operational efficiency, and improved customer satisfaction.

Hydrogen cylinders – Roto’s role in hydrogen fuel revolution

Aldo Quaratino, Matrix Polymers, will inspire attendees to look at a new market segment, and understand new technology to be implemented in rotomoulding.

Billions of Dollars across the globe are being invested in developing hydrogen technology to produce clean, renewable and carbon-free energy, and rotomoulding has a huge part to play. As of early 2021, over 30 countries have released hydrogen roadmaps and governments worldwide have committed public funding in support of decarbonization strategy through hydrogen technologies. These include large-scale industrial usage, transport applications, integrated hydrogen economy and infrastructure. Matrix Polymers is working with several Rotomoulders and OEMs to produce cylinders for storing hydrogen for use in all forms of transportation and power generation. This presentation will discuss this massive opportunity, which has the potential to take rotomoulding to a new level.

Introduction to Rotomolding (Full-Day Seminar)

ARM Past President Dru Laws, Tango Manufacturing, will cover the key elements of the rotomolding process. This includes available materials, the main types of equipment used, processing parameters, process control methods to optimize part properties and key design guidelines. Attendees will have plenty of opportunities to ask questions and explore areas of particular interest.

Molding Quality Parts by Staying in Your Processing Window

Carmine D’Agostino and Hassan Riaz, NOVA Chemicals, will share the benefits of producing parts with the correct processing window and the shortcomings when a part is not molded within the optimum processing window.

Through recent observations, while optimizing processing conditions for the new NOVA TRx resins, the presenters have learned that operating outside of the optimum processing window can have more dramatic implications to the quality of a rotomolded part than previously understood.  This presentation will review the effect of some standard properties as well as ESCR, creep, and tensile properties when the rotomolding cycle has fallen outside of the processing window.  This will include a review of both undercured and overcured part properties.

RESILITY™ Innovative Rotomolding Resins

Steven Ma, Dow Inc, will share robust polyethylene  (MDPE-HDPE) based solutions are needed to meet and exceed current industry demands. The process to design long-lasting performance and improved processing materials will be discussed.  Included in this talk will be case studies that analyze materials to determine benefits and how these benefits can differentiate a molder.   Rotational molders will learn about a new set of material options for consideration.

Rotomoldable Acetal for Tank Applications

Darin Grinsteinner, Celanese, will inform our members about a single layer, low fuel permeation acetal material, developed specifically for rotational molding of tanks for a wide-variety of applications.

Hostafom® acetal copolymer possesses a linear structure with a highly crystalline quality that provides a variety of characteristics: outstanding wear, long-term fatigue, toughness and creep resistance as well as excellent resistance to moisture, solvents and strong alkalis.  Its chemical structure provides a higher stability to thermal and oxidative degradation compared to acetal homopolymers.  Recent developments have provided new acetal compounds that have been optimized for rotomolding applications.  The new formulas provide the opportunity for a single layer solution or alternatives to secondary processes such as fluorination in applications such as fuel tanks.  The newly developed formulas increase the impact resistance while still maintaining excellent resistance to fuels.  These formulas have been formulated to be processed on typical rotomolding equipment and process windows.  

Setting Standard Operating Conditions for New Resins or New Parts

Henry Hay, NOVA Chemicals, will host a workshop focused on how to conduct and document a trial for a new resin or a new part with an existing resin.  This will include how to define the processing window and how to set standard operating conditions.  Considerations include using part quality requirements to set initial oven temperatures and determining the operating window at a given oven temperature.  Finally, he will discuss where to set the standard operating parameters within the known processing window.

SMART: Rotomoulding solutions towards new market trends

Sergio Zilioli, PERSICO, will share video of a fully automatic production cell made of 3x Smart machines with robot and automated molds. He will also show a new market trend, related to hydrogen tanks for electric vehicles, manufactured with Smart machinery.

Rotomolders will identify new markets for rotomolding and understand the possibilities of full automatic production cells.

Value-Added Selling in Volatile Markets (Half-Day Seminar)

Paul Reilly, Reilly Sales Training, will lead a seminar on value-added sales. The presentation will be tailored to fit our audience and will also address current hot button issues including how sales teams can address supply chain disruptions.

What’s Your Problem?

Join Ron Cooke (ExxonMobil Canada) and Sandy Scaccia (Norstar Aluminum Molds) for the beloved (too much?) workshop where members troubleshoot problems with panelists, experts, and peers. This discussion earns perfect marks from our attendees every year.

Why Automate?

Rob Miller, RotoLoad, will share the concepts of common automation technologies and practices within INJECTION, EXTRUSION, and BLOW MOLDING to inspire rotomolders to think about which concepts they may be able to implement in their manufacturing process.This is a great opportunity for molders to think outside the box to improve efficiency and tackle labor shortages. 

More sessions to be announced.

Learn more about Rotoplas and get signed up!

Rotoplas is on!

We can’t wait to step into the exhibit hall and see our friends September 21-23, 2021 at Rotoplas as the world of rotomolding gathers together again.

Rotoplas is the largest exposition for the rotational molding industry, offering the latest in advanced technology, products, services and innovative parts made specifically for the rotomolding process. 

As the world reopens over the next few months, we will address logistics questions and ensure the meeting meets all CDC guidelines. 

Our Forums & Programs Committee has been hard at work on the presentation schedule. We expect to open registration and provide you with all the details in July.

In the meantime, we wanted to provide you with a rough outline of what happens when at Rotoplas.

Monday 9/20: Optional Social Events TBA
Tuesday 9/21: Seminars and Committee Meetings
Wednesday 9/22: Presentations and Exhibits
Thursday 9/23: Presentations, Exhibits, and Gala

What can you do now?

Book your room at our host hotel, the Hilton Rosemont Chicago/O’Hare. The meeting is held in Rosemont, IL which is five minutes from O’Hare airport.

A full list of more than 55 Rotoplas exhibitors is available here. Many exhibitors have recorded videos about their services which you can watch here.

Nominate someone for the Hall of Fame here.

Decide which parts from the last two years you will enter in our Product Competition.

Rotoplas status

The state of Illinois is reopening and the prospects for holding Rotoplas have improved. ARM will make an official announcement about the meeting in June.

Recently we surveyed a group of rotomolders and asked them to  give us their best estimate of how many people their company would send to the meeting at the end of September. 

The median number of attendees per rotomolder company remains the same as in 2017. The typical rotomolder company estimates they will send 4 people to the show. Only one of the 20 companies that responded indicated they expected not to send anyone. A few companies indicated they would send more people than in 2017. Based on everyone’s best estimate for what they will do more than four months from now and how we interpret the data, the number of decision makers at the meeting should remain about the same as in 2017.

While the average number of rotomolders per company decreases 23% according to the survey, the biggest decreases are in companies that sent 10+ in 2017 and in some companies outside the United States. The median number of attendees per roto company outside the U.S. only dropped from 3 to 2, which is better than we expected.

We are excited to see the situation improving and hope to see everyone September 20-23. We will make an official decision and announcement in June.

Notes on Adhesion Improvement between PE and PA in Multilayer Rotational Molding

Before sharing this study on improving adhesion in our member newsletters, we asked Technical Director Nick Henwood to let us know whether the paper would be valuable to rotomolders. He offered some notes for context:

I think this is work is useful, especially in relation to rotomolded gas tanks.

Gasoline permeates PE too easily to pass current conformance tests (EPA and CARB requirements).

PA-Polyamide (aka “nylon”) has much better permeability characteristics, but is also much more expensive than PE.

Therefore it makes sense in principle to make a two-layer moulding using PE with an internal “lining” of PA.

Problem is that inner layer of PA will not adhere to PE and delamination occurs to a considerable extent. Often the delamination is complete.

Anything that improves the adhesion of the two layers would be very helpful.

The first option put forward, plasma treatment of PE powder, is known already, primarily as a way of improving adhesion of PE with polyurethane (PU) foam. Interesting to see it being used for PA.

The second option mentioned, creating polymer “entanglements” has been put forward in principle previously, but actual performance data takes this option forward considerably.

Listing of Resin Properties Update

The ARM Education Committee plans to refresh the  ARM Listing of Resin Properties this spring. ARM supplier members are invited to contribute their resin data to the publication by March 2, 2021. Review the current document here.

Data is provided by suppliers, but test methods and specimen preparation protocols are standardized, to provide apples-to-apples comparison.

Use these forms to enter your data:

When you complete the form, a copy of your submission will be emailed to you. Complete the form for as many resins as you would like to list. If you need to change the data you entered, complete the form again and contact staff to let us the know the date and time of the form that should be deleted.

If you wish to list any specialty materials (e.g. foams, flame retardants, conductives, rotolining, etc.), please contact ARM Technical Director Nick Henwood as soon as possible.

As in the past, suppliers must ensure, with the exception of the melt index, density and ESCR, that all of the technical data in the listing has been obtained solely from rotationally molded specimens and that the data for each resin, with the exception of the low temperature impact data, have been obtained from only one sample per resin. ESCR has been obtained from compression-molded specimens molded under the conditions specified in those procedures. The current version of the ARM Low Temperature Impact test method is version 4.0 (July 2003), available here.

Supplier Members of the Association of Rotational Molders may publish their data in the Resin Properties Listing at no charge; this is a Member Benefit.  Suppliers who are members of other associations affiliated to ARMO (the Alliance of Rotomoulding Organisations) may publish their data for a fee of $1,000 payable prior to publication.  Alternatively, you can join ARM.

Ask Dr. Nick

Dr. Nick Henwood

Technical Director Nick Henwood’s Ask Dr. Nick series allows ARM a way to share his feedback on interesting technical questions we receive at ARM. Here’s a handy list of the ten posts we’ve published so far.

If these articles are helpful, access Dr. Henwood’s many more technical articles written for ARM in the last four years in the complete archive of his blog posts.

Online Education: More than 100 videos and webinars on demand for members

ARM webinars were viewed 10,000 times in 2020, twice as many times as 2019.  This number includes live webinar attendance and recorded webinar views, in which members watch our 10+ years of webinars at their convenience on the ARM website.

We now offer more than 100 videos on-demand for members. Non-members can join ARM here. Members can access all of the titles listed below immediately. 

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President’s Message: Annual Meeting Feedback and SWOT Analysis

Here’s an update to our little chart to memorializing 2020:

ARM President, Rick Carlsen

Virtual Fall Meeting

I am happy to report that ARM’s first virtual meeting is successfully behind us.  As with any untested method, there’s a certain level of anxiety that comes with the territory, and this was no different.  While the Forums and Programs committee put together another excellent slate of presentations, the unknown of the unknown weighed heavily on our minds.  Would people participate when balancing the meeting with their daily duties?  Would the technology work as intended?

The results from the meeting show that 98% of attendees reported that the meeting met or exceeded their expectations.  Generally speaking, the technology worked, the presentations were on target and members felt their time was spent in a beneficial way.  We also heard that this format exposed more individuals to ARM than previous meetings since meeting attendance did not require travel expenses.  This is all great feedback that will be taken into consideration for future meetings. 

Another result of moving our meeting online was that our virtual exhibit hall remains open at bit.ly/alltheroto There you can learn about more than 50 exhibitors and watch dozens of new videos from our suppliers, sharing the newest machines, materials, and more.

While this format worked, we also understand that it is difficult, if not impossible to replace face-to-face meetings.  Although our next planned face-to-face meeting is Rotoplas 2021, it remains a key objective to host a live meeting once it can be done safely and responsibly.

North American Rotomolding Industry SWOT Analysis

ARM conducted a SWOT analysis of the rotomolding industry for our online Annual Meeting. The goal was to get a baseline for the rotomolding process that rotomolders can use as they implement Industry 4.0 technology. This way we can compare where rotomolding is today with where the rest of the manufacturing world is going. 

We sent a freeform text survey asking for feedback. Many of our supplier members also work within other industries with manufacturers who use different plastic processes. Their critical feedback compares rotational molding with other processes.

Strengths

The strengths are in the eye of the beholder. Short runs, low cost tools, and creative parts, are seen as the strengths of rotomolding but the folks on the shop floor don’t necessarily love them.

Survey respondents noted the flexibility of the process, the shapes we can make, the ability for us to change colors, and the ease of tooling are all strengths.  Many respondents also mentioned low cost tools, which is definitely true in comparison to other plastic processes, and short runs

Durable parts are hugely important. There is a lot of talk about plastic being bad.  The fact that our products are reusable, can be repurposed, and are durable goods, puts us in a different category than other plastics processes.

Other strengths include low capital needs for entry, and our capability of making very large parts. Some of our members are making incredibly large fluid holding tanks. 

So what do our non-molder members say about us? They’re talking not as much about the process itself as they are the industry. Non-members commented on strengths such as the closeness of the industry, networking, and that it is the most cooperative industry to work in. We are unique in that rotomolders are very open and honest with each other. I think that really stems from the entrepreneurial feel that the industry still has. We are a lot of small, agile companies run by passionate business owners. 

In the recent Plastics News, where they list the top rotomolders from 2019, the top 20 molders make up about 50% of the market. The other 400 molders in North America make up the remaining 50% or about $3,500,000 of revenue per business. The entrepreneurial spirit also breeds creativity and fosters sharing. 

This industry feels a lot like craft beer, the other business that I’m involved with. One of the similarities is market reach. Because rotomolded products are large hollow parts they are difficult to ship very long distances, just like craft beer. That may be one thing that’s playing into this cooperative industry. 

Weaknesses

One of the most common weaknesses mentioned is that we have a slow process with a higher cost. This really hits home. A number of years ago, a friend who used rotomolding as a very small part of their business summed up rotomolding as “cheap tools, expensive parts.” 

There are material limitations. We do have fewer materials to run than other plastics processes. While there are other materials available, as an industry we choose to run primarily linear polyethylenes. 

Labor is one of the Achilles heels of the industry. We have a very manually driven process that requires almost a craftsman, more than a button pusher, to run our presses and perform secondary operations. Attracting labor, finding people who will work hard, and the general availability of labor, are all becoming more of an issue as we compete against people who are frankly automating their business and making the work easier. 

Our non-molder members talked about resistance to change, not embracing new resins, and focus on material cost rather than value. From talking to other molders and suppliers, and from being around the industry, I think this is accurate. There is a certain stubbornness associated with entrepreneurs and some molders out there are resisting change.

This can be seen when you’re looking at materials and automation. There are more materials out there than linear polyethylene. However, based on cost and other factors, some people choose not to use them. There are also a lot of people choosing not to use automation so I think there’s some pretty fair criticisms or ideas of what the weaknesses are within the industry. 

Opportunities

Within a SWOT analysis, your strengths and your weaknesses are both internal looking. The opportunities and threats are viewed on a macro level. Some of the opportunities our members mentioned are conversions, automation, new materials, and customer market awareness.

Conversions from metal, concrete, and wood are always discussed as we look for the next big product that is a takeaway from another industry. It gets us thinking creatively: what is the product and how are we going to make it?

When we look at some of the weaknesses and threats, automation resolves many of those issues. As an industry, it’s a real opportunity for us to understand how we will make the most of automation. 

At our 2019 Annual Meeting, Toter shared a video of one of their automated machines, where there were 30 – 40 molds on a single machine. Both the molding and trimming operations were being run by a single operator. They accomplished this by leveraging automation. 

It’s interesting that our members labeled new materials as an opportunity because one of our weaknesses was material limitations. Our suppliers are telling us there are more materials that we are resistant to use. Determining what types of materials the market needs, and how to bring those to market will be very important in the future.

Only a few respondents mentioned consumer market awareness but it is a very interesting point. Our non-molder members commented that we need to educate the OEMs and designers on what we sell and the durability of our parts. I think these comments speak to expanding market awareness. 

Kayaks and coolers are the more popular consumer-facing markets for rotomolding. The premium cooler has done a really good job of promoting the process. Many manufacturers tout the process capability of rotational molding in making an almost indestructible product as why our process is superior to other processes. For an opportunity, how do we leverage that? We now have a group of consumers in the market who understand what rotational molding is and, more importantly, they understand the benefit that it has to create a robust product that they love using. We need to leverage that consumer awareness in the future.

Though it wasn’t mentioned in our survey, I think our relatively small market size, coupled with the ingenuity and creativity of some of our entrepreneurs, could really lead to additional opportunities.

Threats

While there are a lot of external threats that are plaguing rotational molding, we are going to focus on those specific to our process. Obviously we’re not going to mention things like pandemics because what are the odds of that actually happening?

Lower cost and competitive processes were some of the most frequent results. We know there are other plastic processes out there that are becoming more competitive through automation. We’re seeing blow molders who can make larger and more intricate parts. The speed at which 3D printing is coming into the market and expanding is staggering. We’re also seeing competition with injection molding. 

The next biggest threat that was mentioned was labor availability and skill. As discussed, we are a very manual process and makes it difficult to find people to do the work that we need. When you do hire people, do they have the skills to be able to perform the work? How many rotomolders are hiring people who have never run a drill before? How many people don’t know the difference between certain tools? 

The last threat is environmental. For our industry, people always think of plastics being bad for the environment. You’re not seeing playground equipment and large stock tanks and things of that nature floating in the Pacific. We may not be a part of “Plastic Islands” but we do have microplastics. We do have our resins and our pellets that are washing out of our dumpsters and into the water stream.

There’s absolutely an environmental impact we can have but when we talk about threats, one of the biggest environmental impacts we’re going to have is this emergence of electric engines versus combustion engines. We’re seeing more cars going electric. We’re seeing more components on machinery go from hydraulic to electric. There will probably always be a place for the combustion engine, but as electric motors become more powerful, as battery storage becomes less of an issue, I see this being a real threat to rotational molders, especially considering gasoline tanks, diesel tanks, diesel emission, fluid tanks, hydraulic reservoirs, overflow tanks. That’s a big part of our businesses.

Our non-molder members had interesting feedback about threats to our industry related to rotomolders’ views on tolerances. One of the other really interesting comments made was by a supplier who talked about corporations and holding companies continuing to purchase rotational molding companies, and that the organizations are becoming less entrepreneurial and more corporate. The question or the opportunity we have with that is how do we keep larger corporations engaged? How do we keep larger companies coming to meetings and sharing information, and how can we do that in a way that doesn’t pose a threat to our members? 

What’s Next?

I hope you’ll think about the feedback we received on the SWOT survey. What do you agree or disagree with? From your company standpoint, how do you compete? How do you match up against some of the stereotypes of rotomolding that came up? As you take a look at your internal direction for your business, what should you be doing more of, what should you be doing less of? What do you need to do to change the industry? How do you keep growing your businesses in terms of cost, quality, delivery, and ease of doing business?

It’s pretty clear what other industries are doing and I think there’s some legitimate opportunities and threats within our businesses that we need to take very seriously. 

In conclusion, I think there’s a lot of great things going on within the market. I think there’s a lot of room to improve. I think there’s a lot of opportunity on the horizon and it’s going to be very interesting in the upcoming years to see how people respond. 

Rick Carlsen
ARM President

Long-term properties of roto materials: Should I worry?

Dr. Nick Henwood

ARM recently held its Annual Meeting as a virtual event and this new format seemed to be a great success.  Obviously, we all missed the normal human contact; the chance to meet contacts, former colleagues and friends, in person.  However, as a way of presenting information and opening up discussion, the on-line format certainly seemed to work.

As part of the main event, we organized a technical session with presentations around a common theme, which was “Long-term Properties of Rotomolding Materials.”  There was an introductory keynote, followed by four groups of expert speakers, plus a Q&A session.

I would encourage any of you who missed out on this session to revisit it via the ARM website, where we now have recordings of all parts of the session.  Some aspects of the same subject were also recently covered during our Design Webinar Series (Module 5), which is also available in recorded format.

Does Long-term Properties seem a subject which is rather esoteric and strictly for the “techies” amongst us?  Possibly, but it really shouldn’t!  There are several good reasons why any rotomolder should be aware of the basics of this subject, if not all the detail.

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