Dean added that trends highlighting a need for improved structural capabilities and enhanced durability “are consistent with what we see in the packaging markets, where there continues to be growing demand for more robust materials to better protect food in order to help reduce food loss and waste throughout the value chain”
Global Automotive Technology Director Jeffrey Sternberg added that the desire for new plastic and composite materials that are stiffer, durable and offer higher thermal resistance likely stems from continuing efforts to reduce weight in vehicles to improve fuel economy and lower emissions.
“There's still a lot of metal used in engine, transmission and chassis components, and those are prime candidates fortoday's high-performance polymers,” Sternberg said. “When you combine the new materials needs with the industry's expectations of materials suppliers, you can see the move toward deeper collaboration early in the development process to identify and secure greater weight savings opportunities.
“I believe there is growing understanding that material attributes can be more fully utilized by optimizing the material, design and process in a more collaborative way,” he added. “It's a triangle, not a straight line. The best way to get the greatest value from plastics is to design first for plastics.”
Almost 40 percent of 671 respondents said that the role of the material supplier is more important now than it was three years ago at the last NPE. That type of response “is a natural evolution of the growing collaborative environment,” said H. H. Wong, DuPont's Americas performance polymers director.
“Success feeds on itself,” he added. “We've all tasted the success that comes from collaborative efforts and that success has elevated our role in the industry's eyes, just as it has elevated the role of our value-chain partnerships in our eyes.
“If we focus on the end result and collaborate during the development, we can continue to build a strong future for this industry,” Wong said. “The industries we support are moving more quickly, product development cycles are shortening and the growing collaborative model is inviting us to better streamline development efforts and eliminate duplication. We play to our strengths, and one of our strengths has always been in application development.”
When asked the top three concerns facing the plastics industry, respondents put two topics into a tie for the top spot: environment/sustainability and the competitive global environment. Unstable oil prices came in second among industry concerns, with global economy/currency challenges in third place.
“When you consider the fact that plastics touches every market, every region of the world, it's probably not a surprise that some of the same things that keep our world leaders awake at night keep our industry awake at night,” Wong said. “We may feel some of those issues more sharply than others, but we reflect the world in which we live.”
Almost 27 percent of respondents work in research and development, with almost 24 percent in management, marketing or sales and almost 22 percent in industrial or product design. Among top resins used, 60 percent of respondents listed engineering plastics (nylon, PBT, acetal, etc.), while 58 percent listed general plastics (polypropylene, polystyrene, PVC, etc.) and 45 percent listing thermoplastic and thermoset elastomers.
On topics related to resin pricing:
• 53 percent of respondents said they evaluated material price in context with the overall cost of manufacturing.
• 52 percent said that the importance of material pricing depends on the component they're working with.
• 39 percent said they'd redesign a component in order to work with a material that offers a lower price point.
• 28 percent said that the recent dip in oil prices has created a buyers' market for materials.
At NPE 2015, DuPont Performance Polymers is presenting lightweighting strategies for the automotive industry on Wednesday at Noon in Room W207A. At that same location, DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers will be discussing strategies on how the packaging industry can approach creating tougher multilayer packing films at 10 a.m. Thursday.