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An information source on plastics.

An Information Source on Plastics

The Canadian Plastics Institute (CPI) was created by a joint initiative of The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) and the federal Department of Regional Industrial Expansion, to provide a technical resource for the industry.

The CPI is intended to help promote technological advance in the plastics industry in support of its need to be internationally competitive. As such, the specific goal of the institute over its six-year existence has been to provide strategic technical information to assist the industry to make the informed decisions needed when investing in advanced technology as a means of enhancing competitiveness.

The CPI's staff are experienced professionals who gather, evaluate and distribute relevant information about new and emerging plastics technology as it develops on the world scene. CPI is funded partially by SPI, Industry, Science and Technology Canada and the National Research Council of Canada. The remainder of the operating budget comes from technical seminars and the sale of reports and monographs written on subjects of vital interest to the industry.

The First Five Years

During its first five years, from 1983-1988, CPI accomplished the following:

1) CPI created its professional staff team with a varied and extensive knowledge of plastics materials and processes.

2) CPI developed a network of national and international contacts.

3) technical library with over 2,000 volumes was established.

4) electronic database access to international sources of technology was established.

5) over 100 technical documents were written on specific new technologies.

The focus during the initial incubation period was to become financially self-sufficient. To this end, CPI conducted client projects on a confidential one-on-one basis; companies interested in new technology would contract CPI to locate or provide information on appropriate technology. It became clear, as the institute grew, that the services it was providing were not able to generate enough revenue to cover all of the operating costs without some continued government funding, allowing the institute to provide free advice and referrals in response to individual company enquiries. More and more, CPI's extensive network of contacts is becoming a recognized resource to the small- and medium-size plastic processor.

There is an enormous output of technical and scientific information beyond the resources of most small companies to assimilate. CPI has been created to condense that public-domain information on plastics into a straight-forward, comprehensive format that can be used as a ready reference for plastic processors. CPI also acts as a window on tecnical needs of the industry for government agencies, universities and research organizations.

Plans for the Future

The focus for the next strategic period will be to provide information and easier access to technology to help firms respond to the two main potential threats to the plastics industry. These two areas are: the environmental challenge that threatens the industry due to the widespread public perception of plastics being a major contributor to the growing solid waste disposal probelm and the challenge to be internationally competitive in the light of free trade.

CPI will be working less on a one-to-one basis with companies and will concentrate on presenting information on technical opportunities on an industry-wide basis. This approach has already been presented in a pilot workshop which took place in September of 1989. Co-sponsored by CPI and the Ontario Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology, the seminar was well received by 27 companies who attended. The one-day format was unique. Twenty-three business opportunities based on technical advances were presented to an audience drawn from the local industry base in Kitchener, Ont. The technologies represented, in most cases, foreign technology that is either already commercially available or will be soon. Investment Canada and External Affairs also took part in the seminar to explain how they can assist in technology transfer. Once the opportunities had been presented, the participating companies were asked to make appointments during the afternoon with CPI staff to review any technologies of interest. A total of 77 enquiries were received during the afternoon session! In follow-up activities with interested companies, MITT (in co-operation with CPI) will work with companies and assist in completing any technology transfer or joint ventures which may result.

Current Initiatives

A few of the technologies presented at the Kitchener seminar are available in Canada, either from a university or privately. An example of the technology presented is the exciting opportunity offered through a process called stereolithography. Prototype parts can be generated from concept to finished part (overnight) with no tooling. Stereolithography forms designs or parts from CAD/CAM/CAE generated solid model data. A vat containing a photopolymer is used in conjunction with an ultraviolet (UV) laser beam. Photocurable polymers change from liquid to solid in the presence of the UV light. A controlling computer directs the laser in successive layers across the liquid polymer, solidifying one layer of a prototype part at a time. This technology is currently available in Canada and franchises are being offered. CPI was instrumental in obtaining this opportunity for Canadian processors.

The CPI is actively publishing information on technically significant developments in the polymer field. One such topic is reactive processing. Reactive processing uses an extruder as a mini-reactor to graft a reative monomer or polymer onto a second polymer backbone. Superior property enhancements, to those achieved with mechanically mixed blends, are possible. The major advantage of reactive-processed materials is their ability to meet tough end-use requirements without the major capital expense of full-scale reactors. In 1987, CPI published a comprehensive review of the research and material developments utilising this innovative technique and because of the overwhelming interest from the industry, they have recently produced a second report updating the patents and technology.

The NRCC has commissioned the CPI to conduct a technology assessment which compares the technological level of Canadian plastics manufacturers to their foreign counterparts. This initiative will provide a profile of the key process technologies of importance ot the Canadian economy. It will identify areas where there is a gap in Canadian technology vis-a-vis competitors in other countries. CPI's aim is to facilitate the establishment of strategic alliances between Canadian manufacturers and compatible foreign entities.

One of the goals of CPI, as stated earlier, is influencing research at the university level. In order to develop a baseline of current research capabilities, CPI has published a Compendium of Research in Plastics and Composites in Canadian Institutions. It sells for $65 to SPI members and lists over 200 researchers in polymers and composites. Also included is a list of available testing facilities.

CPI has helped Canadian companies become more competitive. Sometimes the help is in the form of advising companies who have never used a particular plastic process. CPI recognized the need for a basic document comparing various methods of producing the same parts. Produced in two volumes, these Comparison of Technologies reports have just been released. Volume 1 of the reports compares injection moulding, blow moulding and glass mat thermoplastic forming. Volume 2 compares thermoforming, GMT and sheet moulding compound compression moulding. Each volume describes the process, materials and machinery required and compares the manufacturing costs. Typical market data is presented.

The CPI's aggressive programme for 1990 will include the dissemination of technical information via seminars, newslatters, monographs and articles.

For further information or to be added to the CPI mailing list, please contact the Canadian Plastics Institute, 1262 Don Milss Rd., Suite 48, Don Milss, Ont. M3B 2W7, 416-441-3222, Fax: 416-441-1208.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Chemical Institute of Canada
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Canadian Plastics Institute
Author:Best, Susan
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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