George E. Danis, CEO of Plastic Molding Manufacturing (Hudson, MA), is a man with a mission. Several missions to be exact. In an interview with PlasticsToday, Danis provided some insights into his strategies for success in 2020, how politics plays a role in small- to mid-sized manufacturing businesses and why manufacturing is important to the United States.

PlasticsToday: What worries you about the political atmosphere?

George E. Danis, CEO, Plastic Molding Manufacturing (PMM): The uncertainty. In general, the lack of an industrial, economic strategy over the past few years and even in the previous administration has confused the industry. It will take some time to really settle down, and that is obviously more difficult when we have a confused administration. On the morning of Dec. 3, 2019, President Trump announced that it may take until after the 2020 election to settle the trade war. Remarks like this leave business people like myself uncertain about what’s going to happen tomorrow.

Our government is taking the short-term view and businesses cannot survive that way. [The government] doesn’t care about the long-term outlook. It’s based on thinking there is paradise in the future. Most administrations speak of “hope,” but hope does not bring in any new business or income to pay our employees.

PlasticsToday: How is Plastic Molding Manufacturing doing, and what are you looking forward to in 2020?

Danis: We are very busy currently. We have an exciting year ahead and it’s a very important year for making sure we maintain our competitiveness. We are looking to increase our investment in automation and grow our revenue, as well as grow our employee base.

George E. Danis, CEO of Plastic Molding Manufacturing
A strong advocate of reshoring since the 1990s, Plastic Molding Manufacturing CEO George Danis believes it’s the only way for manufacturing—and our country—to succeed.

PlasticsToday: Recently, you purchased Phillips-Moldex. How does this fit into your strategic plans for 2020?

Danis: Over the last 10 years we have acquired seven companies. A few were consolidated into our other molding facilities, creating a total of four plants plus Phillips-Moldex, which we acquired on Nov. 8, 2019. We look forward to further welcoming Phillips-Moldex to the PMM family and working toward improving its profitability.

PlasticsToday: As far back as a couple of decades, I had predicted that small-sized, family-owned molding companies would have to attain size/scale or they wouldn’t be able to compete with larger molding operations that have developed through M&A. Are many of these smaller companies having problems?

Danis: Yes, absolutely, I agree. The important element is that manufacturing businesses require a very high capital outlay and, therefore, it’s very difficult for someone to start a business, finance it and grow economies of scale to induce confidence with customers and vendors, and have the infrastructure needed to be successful.

To remain a manufacturing nation, we need longer payment terms on capital equipment. For example, if we can borrow $1 million and pay Federal Reserve interest rates of less than 0.5% and have a long pay back—say, 10 years rather than five—that will encourage small- to medium-sized companies to invest. It’s simple logic to assist manufacturing companies like a lot of our overseas competitors get from government. Manufacturing is the foundation of our economy. As a business owner we have to sign [for loans] personally and pay today’s going interest rate, which is now over 5%. That makes it difficult for us to be competitive with the Chinese or other foreign nations.

Also, the inability of our government to formulate a policy for the capitalization of companies [is a problem]. Allowing depreciation of capital equipment over the first 12 months instead of the longer term, which may be five years, would allow manufacturing companies that are struggling to re-invest in new equipment, automation, productivity and quality.

PlasticsToday: How have you met these challenges and succeeded?

Danis: We have been able to build a strong company by consolidating many of our operations and through customer service to stay ahead of our competition, which tend to be small family-owned companies. I don’t have more clarity into the problems than everyone else in manufacturing, but we’re working very diligently to consolidate because that’s what the industry is doing to compete globally.

PlasticsToday: What’s the primary cause of the failure of many small molding companies to thrive, and why should we care?

Danis: The failure of these small companies is not the ideal situation for the future of our country, because it eliminates that local competitiveness and the ability for small businesses to grow and employ more people in their communities. As a result, you have business owners and entrepreneurs looking to exit the industry rather than investing in U.S. manufacturing.

PlasticsToday: You’ve long encouraged the reshoring of manufacturing to the United States, yet you are also a big fan of working with Mexico and Central America to make this region much stronger.

Danis: Yes, my long-term plan is to convince the industry and companies to bring back their products from offshore or re-tool in the U.S. However, due to the lack of a technical labor force, companies are forced to buy a lot of tools from outside the United States, and these imports have resulted in local job losses, tariffs and businesses leaving our country. 

Reshoring has been our objective since the 1990s, when manufacturing was leaving the United States. It is the only way for manufacturing—and our country—to succeed. The unfortunate thing, which makes me unhappy, is that we could have had a much more futuristic policy and had manufacturing economic sovereignty independence, if we cultivated our neighbors from Mexico all the way to South America, where now we depend on China.

A transportation rail link that would reach the southernmost tip of South America to transport goods would greatly help the manufacturing industry. This would allow us to be more competitive in the global market. Transportation today has uncertainty involving navigating through the Pacific Ocean, which takes more than a month and is not cost effective [compared with] bringing products from China.

This is a long-term strategy to reenergize our manufacturing industry with labor that exists from Mexico to the tip of the Americas that would create employment and as a result the whole continent would prosper. We need to help our neighbors to prosper and eliminate the corruption and drug wars by bettering the economy of the people there, and not have immigrants feel the need to come to the U.S. to make a living.

This is one initiative both our industry and our government leaders should have cultivated years ago rather than going to China or other overseas countries or debating building a wall.

PlasticsToday:  What are your plans for 2020?

Danis: Our future plans call for improving our processes, organization and infrastructure to be more competitive and be first for our customers, and look for more companies to acquire. We are planning to acquire two more plastic molding manufacturers in 2020. We currently have four to five companies we’re analyzing, but our concern is that they are struggling. We’ve been able to reverse the trend of these companies we acquire because of our low overhead.


One of the most consequential aspects of 3D printing is the capability to produce objects that often cannot be manufactured using any other existing technology. At a fundamental level, 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, can consolidate parts in a single assembly. One famous example is the GE Catalyst turboprop engine, where 3D printing enabled the consolidation of 855 parts into 12 assemblies, reducing weight and simplifying the supply chain in the process. At a higher level, the technology allows the creation of “previously unimagined complex shapes,” noted Paul Benning, Chief Technologist for HP Printing & Digital Manufacturing. That creates unprecedented design opportunities, but to take full advantage of them, design engineers need to retool their thought process. “You have a world of designers who have been trained in and grown up with existing technologies like injection molding. Because of this, people unintentionally bias their design toward legacy processes and away from technologies like 3D printing,” said Benning.

3D printing hologram

According to some estimates, more than half of manufacturing employees will require retraining, as 3D printing and Industry 4.0–related technologies enter their workspace. “This effort requires collaboration across industry, academia and government to ensure that future design engineers are prepared for the fourth industrial revolution workforce,” Benning told PlasticsToday. Moreover, there will be a shift in existing roles, he added. “New elements of the design process will be introduced into engineers’ roles—they will need to learn the mechanics of 3D printing to become experts in the processes to support operational functions during production. New roles will also be created, such as reverse 3D engineers, for instances when 3D printing is used to build replacement parts for items that have no digital equivalent,” said Benning.

A shortlist of what design engineers should know about 3D printing, according to Benning, includes:

  • The new wave of design capabilities that allow the creation of previously unimagined complex shapes as well as durable prototypes and end-use production parts.
  • Thinking beyond cost reduction and speed optimization for existing products. The “true potential of 3D printing is realized when engineers can integrate the physics, software, materials and creative thinking around 3D printing to develop products that cannot be manufactured today,” said Benning.
  • In rapid prototyping applications, understanding that 3D printing enables the physical realization of initial ideas in a low-risk process. “Essentially, you can ‘fail faster’ using this technology,” said Benning. “Design changes are easier and learning cycles are faster, so you can use that extra time to create better products.”

Educating budding design engineers and re-training employees to operate effectively in this new environment requires a “holistic” approach that incorporates the supply chain, industrial engineering, materials science and manufacturing, according to Benning. A number of training programs have been established that impart the skill sets needed to shift “from old thinking and tap into new, creative ideas.” One such program, cited by Benning, has been developed at Oregon State University (OSU).

The students and faculty at OSU are working with HP to help translate basic research into technologies and materials, explained Benning. “For example, Oregon State University students are using 3D printing to design and build combustion, electric and driverless cars. The project, a collaborative effort with the University of Pennsylvania and Clemson University, will put one-tenth-scale autonomous cars into the hands of researchers nationwide.” And at Clemson’s College of Engineering, Computing & Applied Sciences, the use of HP Jet Fusion 300/500 series 3D printers are allowing students to see and touch products they have designed and physically test them. It’s this type of hands-on experience that will “teach graduates how to think in 3D, iterate designs and produce future ideas using additive manufacturing,” stressed Benning.

Other universities should follow these examples and “build out programs that foster creative, new ways of thinking and designing,” said Benning. The future of advanced manufacturing depends on it.

Image: Sdecoret/Adobe Stock


Since 1950, approximately 8.3 billion metric tons of virgin plastics have been produced worldwide, the equivalent of 176 million big rigs.

Less than 20% of that plastic has been recycled or incinerated, leaving nearly 80% to accumulate in landfills or as litter in our natural environment. Despite its significant contributions to innovation, the plastics industry has garnered increasing criticism over the years for its environmental impact. In a poll conducted by market research firm Morning Consult in 2018, a majority of people (55%) reported that they did not believe corporations were doing enough to reduce waste that could make it into the environment, and two-thirds of individuals (66%) reported that they would view companies more favorably if they implemented policies to reduce plastic waste.

So, why do we continue to use plastics in the first place?

Alex Hoffer, VP, Hoffer Plastics Corp.
The argument to remove plastics from our way of life entirely is not a feasible option for Alex Hoffer, Vice President of Sales and Operations at Hoffer Plastics Corp.

The technical answer is that plastic has a high strength-to-weight ratio and can be easily shaped into a wide variety of forms that are impermeable to liquids and are highly resistant to physical and chemical degradation. These materials can be produced at a relatively low cost, making it easier for companies to sell, scale, save and so forth. The primary challenge is that the proliferation of plastics in everyday use in combination with poor end-of-life waste management has resulted in widespread and persistent plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is present in all of the world’s major ocean basins, including remote islands, the poles and the deep seas. An additional 5 to 13 million metric tons are introduced every year.

However, consider for a moment the possibility that the plastics industry is doing more good than harm, and that the environmental issues the industry faces have more to do with recycling than production.

Here is how we should be thinking about plastics in 2020.

Plastics and the environment

Austrian environmental consultancy Denkstatt recently conducted a study to determine the impact of farmers, retailers and consumers using recyclable products (wood, tins, glass bottles and jars, and cardboard) to package their goods rather than plastic. What they found was that the mass of packaging would increase by a whopping 3.6 times, and would take more than double the energy to make, thereby increasing greenhouse gases by an astounding 2.7 times.

One common proposal for replacing plastics with different materials is to replace plastic bags with paper ones in grocery stores. While this may sound like a more sustainable solution, the data does not support it. By volume, paper takes up more room in landfills and does not disintegrate as rapidly as plastic. Because of this, plastic bags leave half the carbon footprint of cotton and paper bags.

Plastics and hunger

In my visits to the Northern Illinois Food Bank, I’ve had the honor to serve those in need of access to nutritious food. While helping stock the pantry or pass out holiday baskets, I couldn’t help but notice how food packaging alone impacts visitors’ perceptions. Most of the food at the food bank is canned or jarred, yet it is the plastic-wrapped food that always looks fresher and a little less dangerous.

Now, consider the properties of plastic that make it so attractive: It is durable, flexible, does not shatter, can breathe (or not) and is extremely lightweight. As a result, food and drink are protected from damage and preserved for previously unimaginable lengths of time.


Despite some speed bumps in the automotive sector, the global plastic injection molding market is poised for sustained growth, according to Saipriya Iyer, Research Content Developer at Global Market Insights (Selbyville, DE). The market research and management consulting company has published a report on the global injection molded plastic market, which can be purchased on its website. Iyer shared some key insights from her research with PlasticsToday.

  • The global plastic injection molding market is expected to reach a value of $345 billion by 2024. Key sectors contributing to this growth are automotive, driven by lightweighting to improve fuel efficiency and electric vehicle range; packaging, including thin-wall and rigid bulk products; and electronics, where plastic injection molding results in consumer-friendly designs and lower production costs.
  • China’s market for plastic injection molding is expected to grow at 6% through 2024. The continued building spree and norms supporting sustainable construction contribute to this growth.
  • The German market, which was valued at $11 billion in 2018, is expected to reach $14.5 billion by 2024. The automotive sector historically has been a big customer of injection molding services, but it is currently in a down cycle.
  • The automotive sector typically is one of the prime, revenue-generating end markets for injection molders in Germany and elsewhere, but economic factors and technological change are affecting that dynamic. Slumping demand in China, emissions-related issues in Europe and a shifting trend toward electric cars are conspiring to drive down global demand. Germany saw an approximate 12% decline in car production in the first half of 2019. Although new car sales have declined from historic highs in the United States, the country remains a bit of an economic oasis in the world, and that has propped up vehicle sales in 2018, which grew 0.3% over the previous year.
  • Stringent regulations regarding CO2 emissions in Europe will saddle carmakers with an additional expense of approximately €1000 per vehicle to comply with the new standards. But demand for injection molded plastic parts will continue to grow, as automotive OEMs seek to improve fuel efficiency through lightweighting. Molded plastic parts are widely used throughout automobiles, from wiring harnesses and light covers to dashboards and door handles.
  • The adoption of electrical vehicles is likely to increase at a rapid rate by the year 2030. Companies such as Tesla are witnessing double-digit growth in terms of revenue. The company’s Model 3 was ranked the best-selling electric car in 2018, followed by Model X (ranked fourth) and Model S (fifth). The company reported revenue growth of 82.5% in 2018 as compared to 2017. Electric vehicle sales volumes are creating significant profit pools for upstream players and distributors: Sales of electric vehicles grew to more than two million units globally, 63% year-on-year growth but a market penetration rate of only 2.2%.


Squatting in the defensive trenches of the war against plastics, one’s thoughts may turn to the future of Tupperware (Orlando, FL). Few brands are as joined at the hip with the postwar plastics revolution as this iconic product. Will it survive in today’s plastiphobic environment? A surprising answer may rise from the concrete canyons of New York: Tupperware has unsealed its first pop-up installation in its almost 75-year-history on Mulberry Street.

Tupperware popup

The TuppSoho is a store with a built-in shelf life through Dec. 22 at 227 Mulberry St. The installation is “designed to engage and excite all generations of Tupperware fans,” said the press release, with hands-on product demonstrations and Instagram-worthy perspectives. They can also buy Tupperware products, which is groundbreaking in a way, because the polyethylene containers are almost exclusively sold through direct sales channels to this day. Those Tupperware parties of yore? Still happening, dude.

With the TuppSoho pop-up store, the “party” takes on a new dimension. It’s an opportunity for the brand, which is approaching its 75th anniversary, to show off newer products and to share culinary tips. It won’t come as a surprise in the current context that Tupperware is also highlighting its sustainability cred by reducing the consumption of single-use plastics and avoiding food waste.

“The opening of TuppSoho marks a monumental point in our brand’s longstanding history,” said Asha Gupta, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer of Tupperware Brands, in a prepared statement. “We are giving access to our brand like never before. Tupperware has been an important part of how people interact with their kitchen and their food for decades. In fact, we are a cultural touchstone and we’re embracing that now by opening our doors for more people to experience the magic and depth of Tupperware,” said Gupta.

Tupperware popup

There’s no denying the cultural significance of Tupperware. The product has become such a part of daily life for generations that, like Kleenex or Frisbee, the brand name has largely supplanted the generic terms for those products. So, it’s interesting to consider that Tupperware initially failed to connect with consumers.


One of the greatest disadvantages of plastic materials is their flexibility and relatively low stiffness. One of the greatest advantages of plastic materials is their flexibility and low stiffness. Your perception of which of these statements is true depends on how you, as a designer, optimize the inherent properties of plastic materials. I personally prefer the latter statement, especially when I am designing products to be aesthetically appealing and easily assembled with minimal hardware.

At one time, all products required hundreds of screws to be assembled, which demanded extensive amounts of labor and parts. The aesthetics of the final design were often compromised by numerous exposed screws and fasteners. Today’s industrial designers don’t want exposed fasteners compromising the aesthetics of their product designs, and manufacturing engineers are being pressured to produce high-quality goods more efficiently. The solution to this apparent paradox is utilizing snap fits as a means of assembling parts that is ideally suited for plastic materials. The remainder of this article will be dedicated to discussing all the considerations associated with properly designing snap fits.

Before I discuss the types of snap fit designs and their associated design parameters, I’d like to focus on some basic functional requirements for snap locks, which are listed below.

  • A snap lock must be designed to work within the strength limits of the plastic.
  • A snap lock can be designed for single one-time use.
  • A snap lock can be designed for repeated use.
  • A repeatedly used snap lock should be designed to limit the deflection within working stress levels.
  • Ideally, a snap lock should only interlock two parts by constraining them in a single axis.
  • A snap lock can be designed for on/off bidirectional applications.
  • A snap lock ideally should be engaged with little to no residual stress.
  • A snap lock can be designed to apply a constant residual force.
  • A snap lock should be designed to account for tool design.
  • A snap lock should be designed to compensate for tolerances.
  • A snap lock should be designed to withstand opposing separation forces.

Although there are three basic types of snap locks—annular, cantilever and torsional—they all share the design considerations listed above.

Annular snap lock

The distinguishing attribute of an annular snap lock is the attachment of the protruding locking feature to a contiguous wall or edge that must deform to enable the locking protrusion to snap over the mating locking feature. In my opinion, these snap locks are the most difficult to design, prototype and optimize because the forces applied to deform and snap two parts together are very difficult to calculate or predict. Annular snap locks are often seen in snap-on bottle caps, pen caps, plastic containers and low-cost consumer electronic housings. The performance of an annular snap lock is highly dependent on the materials of both mating parts, the wall thicknesses and the amount of interference. Other critical considerations include part size and geometry, molding tolerances, flatness and location on a surface.

Torsional snap lock

Torsional snap locks are ideally suited for any application requiring a radial lock, such as a ratchet lock, threaded-bottle-cap safety lock or push-release lock. Designing a torsional snap lock is much less complicated to predict than an annular lock but more difficult than a simple cantilever snap. The stressed torsional portion of the lock must be designed to flex within the elastic working stress of the material while inducing enough forces to perform its desired function. Finger pressures to engage or disengage the snap should also be comfortable for the average person. These pressures will be a function of surface area of the release button and the force required to deflect the snap. In addition, the snap must be designed for ease of molding, tolerances, material properties and product life.

Cantilever snap lock

Cantilever snap locks are the most commonly specified snap locks and the easiest to design. They are based on a simple beam, which is designed to deflect a specified amount based on the height of the snap hook. The snap-hook profile is typically designed with a profile of a right triangle with a tapered leading edge, an equilateral triangle or a half-round configuration. A right-angle profile will provide a very secure interlock that can only be disassembled under normal conditions by manually releasing the snap. The equilateral and half-round profiles enable snapping on or off two parts simply by pressing them together or pulling them apart. We will examine the design considerations associated with each of these snap options based on the previous list of parameters.