As we head into 2016, rotomolding is being done in almost every country. According to Plastics News data, there are more than 400 companies in North America with some form of rotational molding capability ranging from very basic open-flame rock-and-roll equipment through to the latest fully automatic machines from Persico SpA in Italy.
The trends likely to impact the rotomolding sector are varied. According to Jack Welter, president and CEO of South Bend, Ind.-based Elkhart Plastics Inc., there are some trends expected to continue to be a factor for rotomolders in 2016.
“We are seeing higher quality expectations from customers and increased value-add to molded parts in the way of assembly or added components,” he said. Welter added that the sector continues to see improvements in release agents, making production more efficient and cutting down waste.
“Longer lasting mold releases simplify the job of the machine operator and allow parts to be demolded easier, which should extend the mold life,” he explained.
Rotomolding also is regional in nature, and that is a trend that isn't likely to change. Unlike other plastic processes, there is little threat of work being offshored to cheaper regions of the world.
“It will never be economical to ship large hollow relatively inexpensive parts more than 500 miles or so,” Welter pointed out. “The product would need to be small and technologically advanced to have a chance to be shipped into the U.S. from Mexico and I don't see molders there having the sophistication to provide this.”
According to Patrick K. Long, president of Formed Plastics Inc., a key trend that can impact rotational molding in 2016 is the pursuit of new end markets.
“The future of rotational molding is to get into some other areas beside tanks and toys,” he said. “At Formed Plastics, that's what we've done and we've had good success at doing that.”
According to Long, rotomolders should be going after business in end markets that have been traditionally served by blow molders.
“We can do some medical equipment business, such as small holding tanks and equipment tanks,” he said. “The volumes in these areas aren't large enough for blow molders.”