The plastics industry in the United States is immense, with it’s manufacturing-focused market size topping, on average, more than 73 billion dollars per year. With that many dollars on the line, businesses and manufacturers that work with plastics are constantly asking one very important question: what’s next?
Here’s your answer: automation. Plastics automation is both the present and future of success in the plastics manufacturing industry. That means the real question should be: what’s next in plastics automation? Now only that, but how do plastics manufacturers make sure that they’re using these future-facing concepts and technologies to maintain a competitive edge?
Let’s take a closer look.
What technologies and techniques are shaping the future of plastics automation?
There are a number of technologies and techniques already known in plastics automation that are looking at future changes and improvements.
Two of the main driving forces for the future of plastics automation are:
Injection molding. Injection molding is one of the cornerstones of plastics automation. It’s a known factor in the industry. When it comes to where injection molding is advancing, the drivers are threefold: development, machinery, and customer needs.
- First is the development of new types of plastics. Thermoplastic science is currently progressing at a rapid rate, which is causing manufacturers to need to be able to handle these new plastic varieties. It’s worth it, because new thermoplastics offer improved flexibility, heat resistance, opacity levels, durability, conductivity, customizable appearance, and more.
- Next are the unique, societally motivated customer demands. 2020 taught those who work in industrial settings quite a lot, and one of those things is that people are going to prioritize safety. This has led to an increase in the production of bacteria-resistant plastics and materials that are easier to clean, sanitize, and maintain. These trends, instead of slowing down as the pandemic wanes, are staying strong as the new “normal” is shifting to one that prioritizes cleanliness.
- Finally there are the technological changes influencing the future of injection molding. Technology is always advancing, even in plastics manufacturing. Industry 4.0 was all about interconnecting technologies to improve efficiency and productivity. With Internet 5.0 making waves over the last year, the focus is now shifting to advancements in robotics and machines that are capable of decision making working alongside humans. Temperature control and injection pressure are more easily monitored by these advanced technologies, giving manufacturers more control and less opportunity for QA errors during production. As time goes on, these technologies will only become more intelligent and complex, so now is the best time to start looking into how you can better automate using robotics and AI.
Sustainability. If you go to the website for this year’s Plastec West conference and look at the various speakers and panel discussions, you’ll notice one topic appearing more than any other: sustainability. Discussion topics include various industries’ challenges with sustainability, the development of more eco-friendly packaging, bioplastics, and material optimization. These topics, alongside strategic automation approaches that use technology to lessen plastic waste and improve efficiency, will be where to look in the future of sustainable plastics automation.
When it comes to plastics, the future is a green one and any business that wants to be competitive is looking at the ways they can create, manufacture, and be more green.
What should manufacturing businesses do to stay competitive in the future market?
To stay competitive, all you need to do is pay attention. Look at plastics industry publications, follow thought leaders, and keep your ear to the ground on social media. Absorb data and strategy so you can more easily find where your plastics company fits in.
Another easy way to stay competitive is by finding the right companies to partner with for your plastics automation. Look for companies like Summit Engineered Automation that offer customized top-to-bottom plastics automation solutions that are as future-facing as your informed strategies. In fact, if you’d like to learn more about how our plastics automation processes work, you can get in touch with us today and we’ll answer any questions you might have.