The way our products are manufactured, sealed, and presented to us is something we may not think about too much of the time. Most containers use plastic, which is the third largest manufacturing industry in the United States. Everything from medical device injection molding to food packaging containers to 3D printing is in high demand, all around the world, and so the industry is only projected to keep on growing. Despite the claims that more and more work is being outsourced to third world countries — or simply overseas — manufacturers may be starting to think about moving jobs back within the United States, which is a great thing for our economy and the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of people. Many of those jobs may come in the form of plastic manufacturers, who produce medical device injection molding techniques, plastic pharmaceutical containers, and so much more.
How Big Is the Plastics Industry?
The plastics industry is worth billions of dollars and just keeps on growing! There’s a high demand for the goods it produces. In 2012, plastic manufacturing companies shipped almost $375 billion worth of products. In the United States, almost 900,000 employees have the plastics manufacturing industry to thank; it’s a significant building block for manufacturing and for American jobs in general. Additionally, those almost 900,000 employees are just based in the United States — globally, the number is far higher. However, more of those jobs may be returning to the United States, as a study from IndustryWeek shows. Their study reports that almost 70% of manufacturers said the better access to skilled talent is one of the reasons they’re moving their businesses back to the United States. That’s four times as many people as the ones who cited better access to talent as a reason why they moved their businesses outside of the United States.
What Are Common Techniques Within the Plastics Industry?
Injection molding, extrusion, blow molding, and prototyping are common techniques in the industry. Indeed, injection molding and plastic manufacturing facilities can be found all over the country, in each state. There are over 15,000 facilities in the United States alone. Interestingly enough though, injection molding and extrusion were involved in most of the merging and acquisitions (commonly abbreviated MandA) activity that took place in the plastic packaging sector.
Medical device injection molding is a common use of injection molding. In this type of manufacturing, parts are created by injecting material into a mold (hence the injection part of the term). The material is usually heated, mixed, and then inserted into the mold, which is usually made of steel or another material that can withstand high temperatures. The mold itself is specifically designed for the part that it’s supposed to be make. Injection molding can be used to make many different things, from small parts to much larger things, like body panels of vehicles.
Extrusion is when material gets pushed through a specific tool known as a die, which creates a very intricate cross-section. This is best for materials that are more fragile or likely to break, since it goes through compressive and shear stress. The parts emerge with a high quality surface finish as well. Not only is this used on goods, but it can also be used to create some of our food!
These two techniques — injection molding and extrusion — accounted for over half of all plastics transaction volume in 2013.
What Sorts of Things are Produced Within the Plastics Industry?
The plastics industry creates the solid majority of containers for our food, drink, medicine, toys, technology, and pretty much every aspect of life. Medical device injection molding , pharmaceutical bottles, drinkware products, and food packaging are some of the most common things that we associate with the plastics industry.
If you take a look around you, you’d be amazed to see how many things in your household come from the plastics industry. They’re a major force in our everyday life, although we may not realize it. So next time you take a drink or pop a pill, think about the forces that have gotten that product to your door!