BARCELONA, SPAIN — Agricultural implement and tractor manufacturer John Deere & Co. expects to increase its use of plastics by 19 percent in the coming year.
Much of that business could be won by rotational molding if it can match its cost advantage with an improved finish, said Deere plastics application development engineer Bill Wohlford.
``Using plastics in the agricultural field is sort of new to us. So we are on that part of the curve where we see new things coming up and in some other industries those opportunities are not quite so plentiful.
``We see a continuing growth in our application of plastics, and from my point of view ... we will see a fair amount of that going into rotomolded products,'' Wohlford said. He spoke at the Association of Rotational Molders spring meeting, March 21-23 in Barcelona.
Wohlford works out of Moline, Ill.-based Deere's technical center. He was making a presentation with Gary Rozek, president of longtime Deere rotomolding supplier Centro Inc. of North Liberty, Iowa.
The speakers highlighted the teamwork between the custom rotomolder and major customer. In 28 years, said Rozek, Centro has produced more than 1,200 part numbers for Deere, shipping to 18 locations in four countries.
Wohlford said Deere consumes around 6 million pounds of polyethylene a year, and 1.5 million pounds of ABS. PE, rotomolding's primary material, represents 15 percent of Deere's plastics purchases.
But, despite the potential for new applications, Wohlford said rotomolders need to focus on new technology. He said rotomolding has been rejected for some parts because it lacks a Class A finish.
He added that fabricated steel parts are much cheaper than plastics — 18 cents a pound for steel vs. 75 cents for plastics. Even so, rotomolding remains the cheapest of the plastics processes, he said.
Rozek cited several examples of successful teamwork between Deere and his company, including a joint venture to rotomold in one of the customer's plants.
Wohlford said Deere helped develop and test a soybean resin for a rotomolded panel on its round baler. The component ended up using conventional resin; still, Deere considered the project successful, and Wohlford said Deere will use the material in the future.