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UK Based CPM Production Vs Overseas Injection Moulding?

Updated: Feb 12

For many Asian countries, manufacturing is the bulwark of the economy. In Asia's largest economy, China, the manufacturing sector accounts for nearly one-third of economic output. In Asia's 13th largest economy, Vietnam, it accounts for almost one-fourth of gross domestic product.

"Asia will be the furnace in which a new era is forged—and may experience heightened versions of global challenges." - Jeongmin Seong

Excerpt taken from this article - Asia on the cusp of a new era:

'China’s large role stands out. The majority—56 percent in 2021—of the value flowing through the 20 largest global trade corridors involves China. By far the world’s largest bilateral trade corridor has run between China and the United States—$723 billion in 2021. But US–China trade has been slowing. This corridor grew at a compound annual rate of 3 percent between 2016 and 2021 (the top 80 average was 8 percent). China is also diversifying and building extensive new routes with Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.'

In 2022, China and India imported three times and nine times the value of intellectual property (IP), respectively, as they exported. These countries are producing plastic with primarily molten injection moulding methodologies and are only outsourcing what they are making to other nations. Little diligence is being paid to the product lifecycle or with any degree of concern for environmental sustainability. Goods retailing in the UK are being marked up considerably based on costs incurred from importing from Asia.

How is CPM production revolutionary?

CPM production is a 'pull' system whereby we are only producing what the customer is ordering. Sure, an injection moulding facility can produce high volumes in one day, but the initial tooling cost is 90% greater and how many of those components are sold straight away? How long would it take to box those components up and how long would it take to ship them around the world only for them to be re-unboxed? These are the questions that define the 'Tortoise & the Hare' of manufacturing supply chains. It's about looking at the supply chain as a whole because if you were to have a race between the two, CPM would get its products to customers much faster and much cheaper. It's time to end inflation through customs and handling charges associated with overseas shipping and bring it all back to UK shores. At least then we will have a manufacturing bulwark akin to the Steel and Coal industries again, which were both dispelled unilaterally in the 70's. We now import Coal from Australia for £450 per tonne when we used to sell it for £25 per tonne pre-millennium. This is a great example of how 'top line' or profit-led thinking has really killed the supply chain and come back to haunt the UK economy in the long run in spite of the fact that the executives who made the decision made a significant buck in the process.

In a facility housing 200x 3D printer’s, we can produce 10,000 Ovafly components per week but this is for a 38-component specification with a 54 stage assembly process. A product combining 5x 'Clothes Peg' sized components could be produced in mass manufacturing numbers; circa 19,200 parts per day or 96,000 parts per week. That's 384,000 parts per month and 4,608,000 parts per year.

The other key consideration in this argument when comparing the two processes, is how we re-purpose the waste materials at the end of the process and how we recycle the products themselves?

Current Asian manufacturers simply kiss goodbye to the newly produced products at the gate of the harbour. It's not so much a life cycle, more a launch into the abyss. With CPM, we are fundamentally taking control of both production waste (and feeding back to our supplier) as well as giving the customer the opportunity to gain a price point advantage on their next purchase - if they recycle responsibly through us; like a part-exchange in a car dealership.

I believe with great passion and enthusiasm, that CPM is a flagship process in product manufacturing. Although the 1 product business model carries greater risk than producing lots of different 'outsources' products, the processes involved are therefore much more streamlined, which gets the best out of additive manufacturing as a process and reduces human labour. The machines work best when they have less variables to deal with (such as material changes, print configuration and calibration) and assigning only 1 component to a machine for the duration of its life greatly improves the efficiency of the output and therefore the profitability of the business.

With 84x PV Solar panels on the roof, we will be negating 40% of our electricity usage as well as sending waste from print supports back to our UK supplier. This factory is the beginning of 'closed loop' medium sized sustainable manufacturing, that is profitable on UK soil. With respect to the state of our service-based economy, bringing 'smart' manufacturing back to the UK is surely a national priority ahead of an impending technical skills shortage and aging population.

Here are some stats on the UK plastic industry:

The UK plastics industry employs more than 170000 people. This is more than those employed in the pharmaceutical, glass, paper, nuclear and steel industries combined.

- Use of plastics globally has increased 20-fold in the last 50 years and will double again in the next 20 years

- There are over 6200 companies in the UK plastics industry (valued at 23.5bn)

- The UK is the 15th largest consumer of plastics in the world and the 4th largest in Europe

- We produce 1.7 million tonnes of plastic but only 50% is raw material - the rest imported

- Due to an aging workforce - 51% of UK firms are having trouble employing the relevant level of skills

Plastic originates from the invention of Bakelite in the 1940's and it has since become a world manufacturing constant. However, little attention is being given to its disposal and life-cycle and this results in most of it ending up in landfill and our oceans. With such a gigantic volume of plastic products produced globally, just imagine if we could finally close the loop on its supply chains, and moreover find a way to make it a sustainable material that is produced by a sustainable process.

Thank for reading, TNS.

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