Respondents to a thermoformer's annual survey anticipate plastics industry growth during 2018 and report a climb in domestic polymer processing vs. non-U.S. production.
Ray Products Co. Inc. of Ontario, Calif., began conducting the survey in 2014. The custom thermoformer seeks input from a range of individuals using plastics manufacturing technologies on a regular basis.
About 55 percent of respondents identified as plastics manufacturing customers expect 2018 volume to stay about the same as last year. An optimistic 35 percent, however, project growth in volume vs. 15 percent envisioning less growth.
In Ray's first survey in 2014, respondents said 54 percent of their manufacturing occurred in the United States. The comparable 2017 figure: 68 percent.
Ray Products managers naturally take a special interest in pressure forming and work to educate professionals about the process's advantages. The new report says pressure forming's popularity increased 11 percent in 2017 vs. the previous year.
The survey found more manufacturers diversifying the processes they use.
“In 2017, for the first time, our survey found that the average manufacturing customer was taking advantage of the benefits of more than three processes,” the report said.
Respondents said that 100 percent recyclability was relatively less important in 2017 than it was in 2014. In an aside, Ray Products commented: “Processes like thermoforming are still largely recyclable by their very nature, compared to processes like urethane, RIM and structural foam which can't be readily recycled.”
The 2017 survey posed a new question to engineers: “Are you willing to start production without a prototype?” About 92 percent said “no.”
Quality again topped the ranking of attributes that respondents look for in working with a plastics manufacturer. Attributes ranking below quality were, in order, communication, expertise and past experience.
In providing “our take,” Ray Products said: “Plastics manufacturing customers are smart. They want great quality, great service and a great price. They're willing to pick the right process for their projects, and they understand the benefits of domestic manufacturing.”