PITTSFIELD, MASS. To gain a competitive edge in today's global electronics market, molders need to watch the latest consumer trends and take advantage of new material applications. That's according to Hiroshi Yoshida, global market director for electronics at Sabic Innovative Plastics LP.
Three current trends for the electronics market include miniaturization, design and ecology, Yoshida said in a recent telephone interview.
``Products are becoming smaller, thinner and lighter,'' he said of the miniaturization trend.
Meanwhile, to simplify and streamline production, companies are integrating multiple parts into one and reducing the total number of parts. Both changes require materials with better performance, providing opportunities for high-end engineering plastics, he said.
Although the amount of resin used in each electronic product is declining, Yoshida said, manufacturers are switching from commodity to engineering resins.
Another important consumer trend is the desire for unique design differentiation and personalization of products, he said.
``For instance, all TVs are not black any more,'' he said. Even the black ones are different in texture, finish and touch, he noted. ``Shiny black is in this year.''
Yoshida gave the example of laptop computers. The design focus for business laptops is to be light and portable, he said. But consumer models are more likely to be used at home and need to look good. ``They need to be colorful and have nice light-effects,'' he said.
To cater to the different needs and wants of consumers, brand owners are expanding product portfolios and, therefore, requiring more material development.
On top of that, product life cycles are increasingly short, Yoshida noted. ``Every three to six months, laptop and cell phone manufacturers need to launch a new model and for TVs, it's about six months.'' As a result, the product development process is also shorter.
The electronics industry has started to establish platforms with specified materials, modeled after the auto industry. That way, companies apply the suitable platform to each model, instead of starting from scratch every time, Yoshida said.
Consumers also are increasingly aware of environmental friendliness. ``They pay attention to bioplastics, [recycling] and energy consumption.'' Mobile phone and laptop companies also are talking about eliminating PVC from their products, he said.
Yoshida said Sabic IP, based in Pittsfield, offers nonhalogen resin grades and also has been a pioneer in recycling materials. The former GE Plastics has been running a closed-loop recycling program for copiers in Japan since 2003. The firm's original equipment manufacturing customers bring back their used copiers and crushed plastic housing enclosures. Sabic IP buys back the flakes, de-compounds the material and makes regrind.
``The reprocessed resins have very comparable performance,'' Yoshida said. The closed-loop model enables Sabic IP to share the benefits as well as risk and cost with OEMs.
The company is extending the approach to recycling programs, making polybutylene terephthalate with recycled PET bottles, for example.
``The open-loop program was commercialized in the beginning of 2007 for the global market,'' Yoshida said. ``This type of large-scale, up-cycle recycling is the way we want to go.''
Study:Australia needs more plastics policies
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA An Australian study has recommended that the government provide greater oversight of plastics and chemicals to do a better job of managing risks to the environment and national security.
The 489-page study, ``Chemicals & Plastics Regulation,'' released by the Australian Productivity Commission in Melbourne, began in 2006 after the Council of Australian Governments identified plastics and chemicals as a ``regulatory hot spot.''
The council found that state and territory governments are ``broadly effective'' at managing health and safety risks posed by chemicals and plastics, but less effective at managing the risks they pose to the environment and national security.
``Workplace chemicals can present complex risks to people, property and the environment. The physical properties of some chemicals, such as flammability and toxicity, are hazardous. ... Chemicals have the potential to impact adversely on the environment during their manufacture, use and disposal,'' the study said.
The report recommended forming a new governance framework to improve policy development, assessment, risk management and enforcement across Australian jurisdictions. That action would involve establishing a standing committee on chemicals and changes to the country's National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme, to ensure that it conducts its own assessment of chemicals and plastics rather than simply set risk management standards.
Other proposed inclusions in the governance framework involve establishing a new environmental risk-management standards body, the study said.
``Regulation is an important tool in managing risks, to help ensure net benefits to the community of using chemicals and plastics are maximized,'' it said.
The study also said the Australian Workplace Relations Ministers' Council should not implement the United Nation's Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals until there is sufficient evidence to prove that system will produce ``net benefits.''
Single targets China for growth in sales
HOCHDORF, GERMANY Single Temperiertechnik GmbH, which makes temperature controllers and heat-transfer units in Hochdorf, Germany, is boosting its activities in China.
Single has opened four sales outlets in China: in Tianjin, Suzhou, Dongguan and Hong Kong.
``With a geographically well-balanced sales infrastructure, we can significantly step up our penetration of the Chinese market,'' said Michael Gruber, head of exports.