Plastic is a huge industry comprising of many players. Here, we’ll take a look at who they are and what services or products they provide.
When asked to describe the plastic industry, most people tend to focus first on the “plastics product manufacturers”. Let’s start with these manufacturers and we’ll radiate out to see who else work with these manufacturers before a product is finally produced and delivered to the consumers.
There are 2 ways to describe what a manufacturer does – either by process (the plastics making methods they use), or by the industry that they are serving (packaging, automotive, etc.). The final product to be made determines the type of processes to be used. It is not necessary that a manufacturer be equipped with all known processes. Most manufacturers are specialized in only one or two methods. Bigger plants may have 3 or 4 but it is rarely possible to have every process under one roof since the selection of process is dependent on the final product and industry that a manufacturer is supplying to. Eg, a company that supplies to the electronic industry may have injection molding process to make TV casing and other components. Blow molding processes that are used to make bottles are of little use to them.
Plastics are used extensively by different industries. These industries includes: medical and pharmaceutical; packaging; electronic and electrical; automotive; toys; building and construction; home products; agriculture; and many more. While most manufacturers sell their plastic parts and products to others industries, some trade among themselves. Eg. Plastic bags manufacturers who specialize on producing bags will sell them to other plastics manufacturers for packaging purposes.
There are many types of plastics materials. Within each type of plastic materials, are different grades – suited for different products and for different types of processes. Eg. PP (polypropylene) is a common material and has many applications. However, PP materials that are used for making plastic bags are different from those that are used to make car bumpers – although they may come from the same material suppliers who are also known as Resin Producers.
Resin Producers are petrol-chemical plants that produce plastic resins – the raw material for making plastics. Here, they convert by-products from crude oil refineries to make plastic materials. Different resin producers specialize in different types of materials. They supply large quantities to manufacturers (those who consume a few hundred tons of the same material monthly) and to Resin Traders.
Resin Traders buy the raw material from resin producers and sell to manufacturers in smaller quantities. A trader will often represent several resin producers thus providing manufacturers with a large selection of different materials.
Colorants and Additives Suppliers – While most materials are transparent or translucent in its natural state, colorants are added to give it different shades of colors. Additives are chemical agents added to alter certain characteristics of a material. Eg. UV stabilizer is a common additive that is added to plastic materials to prevent discoloration of the product from long exposure to sunlight.
Compounders are companies that specializes in “mixing” materials, additives and colorants in large quantities. They operate large scale mixing machines that are capable of mixing several tons of materials at a time. Compounded materials are more consistent than those mixed by manufacturers in smaller quantities using small mixers.
Machine Suppliers provide manufacturers with machines that makes the product. Gone are the days where plastic products are shaped manually by hand. These machines form the back bone of every manufacturing plant and the machine makers are categorized based on the process they are specialize in. Such processes include Injection Molding, Blow Molding, Stretch Blow Molding, Blow Film, Profile Extrusion, Sheet Extrusion, Rotation Molding, Compression Molding, etc.
Auxiliary Equipments Suppliers supplies various supporting machines and equipments to help a plant run efficiently. Examples of such machines are Hopper Dryers for drying materials, Mixers for mixing material, Robotics for extracting products from the machine, material handling system, conveyor systems, etc.
Mold Fabricators – Molds are mounted onto the processing machines on which plastics part takes its form or shape. Depending on the process, some molds can be very complicated. Mold makers specialize in precision tools to cut blocks of steel into the desired shapes. With the help of advance CAD/CAM softwares (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Machining), they provide the blueprint for the final product.
Technical and Engineering Services – Depending on the industry that the manufacturer is supplying to, some products require various standards adherence certification before their products are sold. Eg, car bumpers are subjected to certain automotive standards to ensure that the part is strong enough to withstand collision impact and these companies provide such tests.