CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When the idea for the Polymers Extension Program first came to Frank Cotten and Robert van Brederode five years ago, there were fewer than 200 plastics-related companies in North Carolina. Today, more than 600 companies are in the North Carolina industry with shipments totaling $6.8 billion and employment reaching about 38,000.
PEP is starting its third year of providing training programs and other services to the plastics industry there.
PEP operates out of the Cameron Applied Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, but is a separate state program not affiliated with the university, according to van Brederode, who is director of PEP.
Last month, PEP installed a new, 45 millimeter twin-screw extruder from Theyshon Corp. The program had a single-screw extruder in place, and also operates two injection molding machines, one from Cincinnati Milacron with 55 tons of clamping force. The second press, a 230-ton Van Dorn, was sold and removed. A new Van Dorn Demag, possibly with large clamp tonnage, will replace it soon, according to Cotten, senior plastics engineer for PEP.
PEP also recently installed a computerized materials-testing laboratory that can perform ASTM tests such as flammability, intrinsic viscosity, melt flow index, tensile impact and others. The program offers these tests for nominal fees.
The North Carolina legislature provides a grant that pays the salaries of the full-time staff at PEP.
``What helped us get that was when the state designated the plastics industry as one of its key target industries to attract here,'' van Brederode said.
A shortage of employees trained in plastics processing convinced the legislature that if it wanted to attract the plastics industry, it better offer training programs.
Also, the local chapters of the Society of Plastics Engineers helped.
``The big push really came from the SPE sections,'' said van Brederode. ``They were the ones who recognized the need the industry had for education and technical support in this area.''
Cotten said PEP is starting a customized training program in which trainers will teach classes at the processor's plant and at community colleges. Programs covering both plastics and rubber provide greater, localized access to the programs that PEP offers, Cotten said.
PEP also offers a two-day introductory course to injection molding, and the Paulson Interactive Series Hands-on Injection Molding Basics.
PEP purchased the Paulson series, which it also leases to processors.
On Nov. 12, PEP hosted a reception at the school in conjunction with Plastics Fair Charlotte, to display the new equipment and acquaint industry personnel in North Carolina with the training programs.
For more information on these programs contact van Brederode at (704) 547-3972 or fax (704) 547-3931.