News

Plastic – The Material of Choice

In a number of recent news stories we have discussed how there has been an increase of plastic used in various manufacturing industries, and in this story we aim to continue to look at how companies are heavily investing in plastic due to its various advantages.

masterbatch3

Like most, the plastic industry was susceptible to the economic downturn of 2009 and competition from the Far East still remains. However, due to popularity in various market sectors, plastic still remains an integral economic contributor.

In 2014 the plastic industry saw sales turnover of over £19bn, it currently employs 180,000 people throughout the UK and is continuously growing as it becomes the manufacturing material of choice.

One industry in particular that has been making some solid investments in plastics in the medical sector. This was explored in our recent news story Plastics in Medical, in which it was highlighted that many of the medical breakthroughs over the years have been due to the versatility of today’s plastics. Furthermore, plastic has aided in the reduction of contamination and medical costs making it the favoured material in medical device manufacturing.

Additionally the automotive industry have increased the amount of plastics used in their manufacturing which we spoke about in our Plastics in Automotive story. According to the British Plastics Federation, the average new car in 1984 contained 8.5% of plastics, whereas a new car today contains around 11%. Among many other reasons, it is argued that the lightweight nature of plastics has helped boost fuel mileage as well as saved energy, again making it the preferred material in automotive manufacturing.IMG_0173

While this shows great opportunity for companies working within the plastic industry who cater for medical and automotive organisations, it is not just those who are benefitting from the increased use of plastic, there are plenty of other markets experiencing this also.

One thing that we always try to get students who take part in our educational visits to understand is that plastic is everywhere and can be found in almost every part of our lives. Not only are organisations investing in it to develop their products but city councils are also investing in plastic to aid in environmental projects, something we have seen happening lately in the world news.

Recently Los Angeles council announced their plans to turn its main reservoir into a giant ball pit in order to save water.

“Shade balls” have been released onto the water in the midst of the worst drought in California history. The 4-inch, black plastic balls are aimed to shade and cool the water, reducing evaporation from the reservoir and making it less susceptible to algae, bacterial growth and chemical reactions that can produce harmful substances.

Made of black polyethylene and filled with water, shade balls a great example of how versatile plastics can really be and how this material is being put to good use across a number of industries.

shadeballs-img

Over the past few years we have definitely experienced and seen just how high the demand is for plastic and plastic manufacturers. In fact, our most recent news story ‘Exceptional Growth at Omega Plastics’ shows just how much we have been able to capitalise on plastic becoming the new favoured material in manufacturing.

You can read each of the news stories mentioned by clicking the links provided. Alternatively take a look through our services or even watch our 2 minute service video to better understand what we can provide for your company at Omega Plastics.

 

Exceptional Growth at Omega Plastics

In a previous news story ‘New Year, New Machinery’ we spoke of the investments we had made across the year in order to meet the needs of our customers and expand our reach in various market sectors and through 2015 we have continued to invest in our team as well as additional machinery.

new_machine-700
In 2015 so far our workforce has increased by 11 members of staff and is expected to increase even more by the end of the year. The majority of our company departments including, tool making, moulding, quality, operations, design, sales and finance have seen new additions to their team all of which has contributed to the growing success of Omega Plastics.

A new machine has also been installed in our Hartlepool factory; CNC 5-axis tooling machine. This DMG machine joins the two other DMG 3-axis machines in our Hartlepool factory and becomes our fourth 5-axis machine within the company. An investment like this enables us to widen our capabilities and all goes back to being able to offer our customers a full turn-key solution.

What’s more is that we have also made some big changes to our office spaces, again to better the customer experience with Omega Plastics. While our Blyth office is currently going through these changes our Hartlepool office was the first to see new office furniture and a stud wall partition. The partition has allowed us to have two separate offices which are now dedicated to sales and marketing alongside production and quality. This has brought about a number of advantages including better workspace, dedicated customer area and furthers the support of the quality standard TS 16949 which we are planning to have in place throughout the company by the end of the financial year 2016.

Times are busy and exciting at Omega Plastics and we are always looking for ways to better our company and people who want to be part of our successful team. We are currently looking for a Business Development Manager to head up our company in the south part of the UK and are accepting applications through our careers page.

To read more about our company please take a look around our website or watch our two-minute service video. Alternatively why not visit our stand, C34, at this year’s TCT exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham on the 30th September – 1st October to talk more about what our company can do for you. If you would like to book an appointment with us at the exhibition please email us at exhibitions@omega-plastics.co.uk

The Story of the LEGO Brick

With the mission of ‘inspiring the builders of tomorrow’ the LEGO Company is a global organisation some people dream of working for.

The LEGO Company are no strangers to allowing people to see what goes on inside their organisation. With the hit LEGO movie released in February 2014 and their new ‘Brickumentry’ being released in the USA this week, the LEGO group are bigger than ever.

Most recently they allowed Channel 4 into their head offices and factories in Denmark in a documentary called ‘The Secret World of Lego’, a programme that showed millions of viewers how the LEGO brick has changed the lives of many children and adults.

lego-bricks

The Lego Brick

Founded in 1932, the LEGO groups is a privately held, family-owned company with headquarters in Denmark, USA, UK, China and Singapore. Since its inception the iconic LEGO brick has made LEGO one of the world’s leading manufacturers of play materials.

In 2012 alone, 45.7 billion bricks were produced at a rate of 5.2 million per hour. Additionally of the number of bricks that were sold in that year was enough to stretch round the world at least 18 times.lego-store

The success of the LEGO group is undeniable with every person on earth owning at least 86 LEGO bricks on average.

Young or old you have played with LEGO but how many of us know how it is actually made?

The Process

LEGO bricks and elements are manufactured at the group’s own factories in Denmark, Hungary, Czech Republic and Mexico.

LEGO bricks are plastic injection moulded and so the process starts with tiny plastic granules. Inside the moulding machine these granules are superheated to around 230 degrees Celsius and are fed into moulds inside the machine. The machine then applies hundreds of tons of pressure to make sure the bricks are shaped with perfect accuracy, they are then cooled and ejected. This process takes only 10 seconds to carry out, due to it being almost completely automated.

lego-plastics-injection-mouldingThe moulds used in production are accurate to within 0.005mm and this accuracy means that only 18 elements in every one million products fail to meet the high quality standard.

This whole process was shown in ‘The Secret World of Lego’ and can be seen in the trailer below.

As a company specialising in rapid tooling and plastic injection moulding, it was great to see the service being promoted by one of the biggest companies in the world. Not only does it allow people to appreciate the process behind these kind of products but it educates the future generations and those who may need to invest in these processes in the future.

 

National Women into Engineering Day!

Happy National Women into Engineering Day! – A day dedicated to raising the profile and celebrating the achievements of women in engineering.

In a previous news story Girls in Engineering we spoke about how we were getting involved in an educational visit to show young girls what it’s like to work in an organisation like ours, and today was the day.

The visit had been organised through the Hartlepool College of Further Education and although the trip to our factory was only a snippet of the girls’ day we had a great time introducing the girls to our company and showing them around our factory allowing them to understand what it’s like to be an engineer.

Here are some pictures of the visit

DSC_0012

DSC_0022

DSC_0030

DSC_0037

DSC_0044

 

To read more about the Women into Engineering day you can find some further information and photos on the Hartlepool College of Further Education’s website.

Automotive Quality Management

Developed by the International Automotive Task Force, TS 16949 is a global technical specification and quality management standard for the automotive industry.

automotive-production

It creates a common process and procedure across the automotive industry and allows companies to achieve the best practice when designing, developing, manufacturing, installing or servicing automotive products.

Through adopting this automotive quality standard, companies are able to experience a number of benefits including possibilities of international trading and expansion of business. Additionally, integrating the process into the organisation, as well as management systems, is simple and allows companies to improve their practices regarding reduction of waste and prevention of defects.

Omega Plastics have supplied parts to the automotive industry for many years and to further support our ongoing developments in the industry we have recognised the need to adopt such a standard. By doing so we are able to establish and maintain our relationships with automotive customers. Furthermore, the continuous necessity to sustain and improve our company is very important to us and providing our customers with the best service will always come first.

It is hoped that ISO/TS 16949 will be fully integrated into our company within the next financial year along with a number of additional changes and investments that will all contribute to the growth and development of Omega Plastics.

If you want to read more about what we offer here at Omega Plastics, as well as the market sectors we serve, please visit our services and core industries pages

Girls in Engineering

‘Only 7% of parents would encourage their girl to pursue a career in engineering.’

This statement, which was put forward in a recent article, was the result of research conducted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology. The research also revealed that parents could be limiting their child’s future career decisions by having outdated perceptions of the jobs they believe male and females should be interested in.

Engineering sectors are crucial to the UK’s economy, supplying an estimated £455.6 billion to Gross Domestic Product in 2014. Additionally engineering sectors are estimated to employ 5.6 million of the UKs population which is the equivalent of 18.2%.

Regardless of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) being the most popular subjects among girls, only 6% of our engineering workforce is female.

“STEM subjects for the backbone of the engineering industry and help it continue growing and innovating. We see clearly from this research that girls do have a genuine interest in these areas but this doesn’t translate to the number of women entering the engineering industry.” – William Webb, Institution of Engineering and Technology president.

Webb further states that there is a serious need for better engagement with young people, girls in particular, and their parents.

What must also be highlighted is that although there have been constant low numbers of girls engaging with a career in engineering in the UK, overall numbers of both girls and boys are beginning to decrease, causing concern and the need for additional research.

When asked what they knew about engineering, only 46% of children stated that they knew about the different careers and opportunities in the industry, leaving 54% saying they weren’t aware. Furthermore 41% of parents stated that if their children were to ask for advice regarding a career in engineering, they feel they wouldn’t know enough to support them. Both of these figures are even high with girls and their parents.

Because of this it is argued that perceptions must be changed of what modern engineering is all about and what it can offer future generations in terms of a career.

“As a community we need to overcome negative and/or outdated perceptions of engineering to encourage more young people to consider it as a career option” – Paul Jackson, Chief Executive of Engineering UK

Today there are various programme that have been put in place to increase awareness of the opportunities the engineering industry has to offer for young people.

Engineering a Better World is a campaign which looks to engage with parents and their children about the exciting career prospects within the industry. This programme gives parents both the information and the tools they need to support their child in becoming future engineers.

Alternatively a campaign known as WISE aims to promote women in science, technology and engineering careers and inspire women to study and build careers within those industries.

moulding

At Omega Plastics we have always been avid believers in educating our future generations about the wealth of opportunities within our industry. Through creating a number of relationships with local schools, colleges and universities we have been able to provide educational factory visits, apprenticeships and student placements and next month we will be hosting our first Girls in Engineering visit.

The visit itself has been organised by the Hartlepool College of Further Education and the aim is to provide young girls with an insight into what a day in the life of an engineer entails.

Plastics in Medical

‘Modern healthcare would be impossible without plastic medical products’. Stated by Plastics Europe – Association of Plastics Manufacturers, they highlight how plastics are now one of the key materials used in medical manufacturing.

image-01

Research shows that people are now living better and longer and it is argued that the versatility of today’s plastics that have allowed medical breakthroughs have had a great effect on this. In the past few decades, plastics have made healthcare simpler and less painful. With new techniques and prostheses, plastics have reduced contamination, relived pain and cut medical costs.

Many of today’s most advanced and simple medical techniques are reliant on the use of plastics, from hearing aids, to blood bags and even something as common as eyeglasses; which due to the incorporation of plastics into the frames and lenses, has helped reduce their weight yet increase overall safety.

Additionally medical packaging has advanced greatly due to plastic. With the introduction of child resistant caps, child safety has definitely been improved and was something we discussed in our previous news story The Future of Packaging.

When manufacturing products for the medical industry everything must be completely regulated, in particular those products that are used for human interaction and at Omega Plastics we have the advantage of using an ISO class 8 cleanroom. Made up of all-electric moulding machines, our cleanroom facility has helped us play a vital role in the developments and implementation of new and existing medical devices around the world.

One project working with Advanced Surgical Concepts saw the manufacture of the ASC Tri-Port and Quad-Port; a multi-access port used in laparoscopic surgery throughout the USA/Europe. After being approached by the company, Omega Plastics went on to develop a number of variants for the device as well as multi-cavity tools. You can read more about this project on our medical case study page.

If you would like to know more about the core services of our company please take a look at our services and core industry pages to see what else we can offer for a company like yours.

The Future of Packaging?

Traditionally companies have spent their time and money on the aesthetics of packaging – differentiating their product from the competition. Now however, company’s attention has turned to the consumer experience as well as supplier experience with the packaging.  To gain a wider understanding we have looked into some recent developments in the packaging industry in the attempt to understand what the future of packaging looks like.

packaging-news-pic

Shelf Ready Packaging (SRP)

A recent development in packaging has been shelf ready packaging. Hailed as the perfect method for brands to grab the attention of consumers, SRP is now more useful for the marketing of brands than ever before. Packaging company Smurfit Kappa has revealed that brands are missing a significant marketing opportunity by over-looking shelf ready packaging. SRP was originally developed in order to lower the cost of everyday logistics and tackle the time consuming issue of traditionally putting out the items on shelves individually. In recent research it was found that the right packaging for a brand can dramatically influence the sales outcome with the product being noticed by up to 76% more by consumers.

Child Resistant Packaging

A not so recent development in packaging is child resistant packaging. Although not as recent, child resistant packaging is still of high importance within the industry and research has highlighted that every minute of every day a poison control centre answers a call about a young child ingesting medicine. In fact in 2012 64,000 children were treated for medical poisoning. child-resistant-packaging The Poison Prevention Packaging Act 1970 states that the laws purpose is to protect children from serious illness resulting from handling, using or ingesting hazardous household substances. Additionally is requires that particular substances within the household are protected by child resistant packaging so that children under the age of 5 cannot easily access medication. Quoted by Didier Wittebolle, Belgian Packaging Institute Co-ordinator of child resistant packaging; it is difficult to understand just how much child resistant packaging has helped towards lowering the numbers of children being poisoned by medication however “there is no doubt that child resistant packagings have made a positive contribution hereto. “

The issue, however, then arises when the packaging itself becomes difficult to open for others, in particular the older demographic. It is now said that when companies are creating child resistant packaging there should also be guidelines in order to make the packaging senior friendly all the same. The difficulty is finding that balance.

A Millennial Perspective

In addition to all of these new breakthroughs with packaging there is another aspect that is also affecting companies within the industry.

In a recent write up from Danielle Peacock she talks about ‘Millennials’ being generations aged 18-34. She puts forward the idea that coming of age in the middle of a recession has had great impacts on the generation in terms of their delay in marriage, home buying and having children.  In addition millennials are known to be a lot more brand aware making them a lot more vocal and influential not only on their own purchasing habits but those of others also. So what exactly does this mean for the packaging industry?

The Millennial Perspective is now something companies have to consider heavily, not just with their packaging but with their whole company image and branding. eco_packaging_design According to a Boston Consulting Group article; Millennials want a two-way relationship with brands, something that they call the “reciprocity principle”. An article wrote in the InsidePackaging magazine argued that the next generation are now extending their values through their purchasing power. Therefore companies now need to extend their values through their packaging and brand in order to influence the Millennials who prefer companies that “do good”. This includes being socially and environmentally responsible. It is said that millennials like information and finding companies who have values matching their own, asking questions like; ‘Is the packaging recyclable?’ Does the company have a larger social benefit mission?’ Again, this gives companies something to consider when choosing their packaging.

The Future of Packaging

All of this contributes to the future of packaging and how the industry will develop moving forward.

Although every company may be different in terms of the products and packaging they produce, it could be argued that all share the theme of keeping up with what is needed within the industry, whether that be shelf ready packaging, child resistant packaging or packaging with a back story.

It is an industry constantly changing to provide the best for consumers and Omega Plastics are definitely a company that can help you with that.

Specialising in plastic injection moulding, with a wide range of capabilities and a well experienced team, we are confident that we can help you meet your plastic packaging needs and help get your product into the market place in a fast and efficient manner. You can read a lot more information regarding our service offerings on our services pages.

Meet Luke McMorris

Luke McMorris, a 17 year old electrical mechanical engineering student from Hartlepool College of Further Education joined our team for a one week student placement during half term.

Omega’s relationship with Hartlepool College of Further Education is a fairly new one but nevertheless is progressing fast. During a visit to the college in December we were able to have a tour of their excellent facilities.  Since then there have been various meetings with members of staff from the college, including the Business Development Manager Graham Plant, in order to develop our relationship further and have lead to the recent student placement with Luke McMorris.

Hartlepool_College

Luke joined us on the 16th February through to the 20th February during which he was able to gain an insight into all sides of our organisation here at Omega Plastics.

Luke’s week started off with an introduction to our company; our departments, products and services. He then spent the remainder of his week gaining hands on experience in all areas of our organisation including logistics, design and tooling, moulding and assembly.

Working alongside two of our toolmakers, Luke was able to perform CAD work and oversee the whole tooling process from design through to fitting. Additionally Luke was able to have an input on a customer’s tool trial and on his final day made his own custom made CAD drawing which allowed him to then engrave his name onto an aluminium riser using a 3-axis CNC machine.

Luke, additionally, was able to work with our moulding team where he set up tools in the 500T press and learnt about the moulding process and product inspection with our Operations Manager Rob Gray.

Overall feedback from Luke proved the week was a success;

“I enjoyed my experience, settled in well and was made very welcome by all management and staff from day one. I loved working on the moulding side, putting the tools in the machines and shown how the products are made. I was also very interested in the tool making side which is something I am possibly going to go into as CAD is one of my favourite lessons as college” – Luke McMorris

The feedback when then responded to by Managing Director Dave Crone;

“It is heartening to hear that we have students who are genuinely interested in a career in engineering. We take great pride in the fact that we are fortunate enough to offer exciting opportunities to apprentices and graduates from University who are the next generation of engineers.”

Moving forward Omega Plastics are hoping to further develop the relationship with Hartlepool College of Further Education through additional student placements and potential apprenticeships.

As you may know through reading previous news stories, we here at Omega Plastics are big believers in educating future generations and have various plans in the coming months involving education.

Read more about our involvement with education.

Plastics in Automotive

“Increased use of plastics in automotive applications has been on a decades-long and incremental journey of greater acceptance.”

Automotive

While a recent article in Plastics News highlights the continued upsurge of plastics used within automotive manufacturing, here at Omega Plastics we are experiencing it first-hand.

The reasons behind the increased use of plastics may be plentiful, however Plastics News argue that the rise in federal mileage standards has been the main catalyst. Federal mileage standards are said to raise to 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025, therefore car manufacturers see lighter weight vehicles as one way to help boost fuel mileage consequently making plastics the preferred material in manufacturing.

Frank Macher, CEO of Continental Structural Plastics Inc. stated that;

“It’s an irreversible mandate that cars get lighter and cars get more efficient. The important thing is that we will never go backwards and light weighting will continue to be extremely important. “

Mentioned in a previous news story the UK is set to be manufacturing more than two million cars a year by 2017 proving that the car manufacturing industry is increasing within the UK at a steady pace. This has also been brought to light in a recent piece of news that Jaguar Land Rover is to create 1,300 UK jobs to build their new SUV.

img1

Furthermore Nissan has been ranked number one with regards to production in the UK, attracting a lot of positive attention to the North East from the manufacturing industry.

All of this puts UK plastic manufacturing companies in a great position due to the increased amount of plastics used within car manufacturing. This is backed up by Frank Macher, again, who states that;

“The future is challenging and I’m very, very confident that the plastic industry is in the best position it has been in many years to sees applications in the automotive industry come to fruition.”

As previously mentioned, Omega Plastics are experiencing the demand from the automotive market sector, so much so that we have recently invested in new machinery in order to cater more to automotive companies. Read more about our new machinery here.

500-1

It is important for us at Omega Plastics to ensure that we keep on top of the industry through research and trade shows, hence why we are always investing in new machinery and equipment in order to meet the requests of our customers.

Why not take a look at our services video which highlights our services in 2 minutes.