Growing Plastics in the Cornfield of Iowa and Wisconsin

Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) is one of the largest players in the agriculture field named the city of Clinton in Iowa as the location for PHA plant. The PHA plant will produce renewable and biodegradable plastics from corn. The PHA plant will be located adjacent to ADM's wet corn mill in Clinton. The plant will utilize starch from the mill's existing corn grind capacity as the raw material for PHA production.

The announcement was offered by the PRNewswire in Decature, Ill. in March 14, 2006. Accordingly "Archer Daniels Midland Company (NYSE: ADM) and Metabolix have selected Clinton, Iowa as the location for the first commercial plant for PHA natural plastics. This plant will have an initial annual capacity of 50,000 tons per year, and will produce a new generation of high-performance natural plastics that are eco-friendly and based on sustainable, renewable resources."

The production of plastics from non-petroleum base materials has a long history. A number of these plastics including silicone family of plastics have received an acceptance and found a wide variety of application. The production of modified natural and natural polymers also goes back to the early day of plastics as an industrial material. The protein and cellulose (Acetate or Nitrate) have offered a unique application in the medical and non-medical field including eyeglass frame, toothbrush, or packaging. The natural rubber, a plant extract resin is still a wide use in rubber industry and is considered an important item of expert from Southeast Asia. The use cord for production of poly-lactic acid for production of degradable polymer is an established process with a slow grows than is expected. The unsuccessful venture between the DuPont and Cargill did not offer a break though as it was predicated. Additionally, the break-up of the venture and the departure of DuPont from the production of PLA plastics have questioned the future of this polymer as a serious player and contender in the market.

PHA is a polymerization process first offered by Professor Anthony Sinskey and Dr. Oliver Peoples, at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the late 1980s. The process is believed to offer production efficiency and marketability. The PHA is believed to offer the advantage of PLA as renewable resource and degradability with higher production yelled and product quality.

What is important about ADM announcement is not a new invention or a radically different production technique than what is available. The importance is the arrival of a powerful and resourceful player to this field with a potential of a world wide success. ADM has over 25,000 employees, more than 250 processing plants and net sales for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2005 of $35.9 billion.

According to G. Allen Andreas, Chairman, Chief Executive and President of ADM, ” We are pleased to announce Clinton, Iowa as the location for the first commercial plant to produce PHA-based plastics, which are renewable, biodegradable and suitable for multiple applications," stated "PHA natural plastics offer the global marketplace an alternative to traditional petroleum-derived plastics, and ADM is proud to use the farmers' harvest to create new products for the emerging market for ag-based chemical and industrial products."


UWP Industrial Studies Poised to Meet Anticipated Talent Gap

According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) 2005 Skills Gap Report, nearly 80 percent of manufacturers are experiencing a shortage of qualified workers, including every category from machinists to scientists and engineers. The association projects a need for 10 million new workers by the year 2020. The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Department of Industrial Studies has been gearing up for years to meet the growing needs of high tech manufacturing.

UW-Platteville continues to be the leader in training engineers and technical personnel for the growing laser industry. The laser has become a common tool for competitive and high tech industries, and companies using laser technology are expecting graduates to have appropriate skills.

Over a decade and a half ago, the UWP Industrial Technology Management Program acquired an industrial laser in its Center for Plastics Processing Technology. It is the first of all the comprehensive universities in the state to have such technology, and the program attracts cross-disciplinary students from both industrial technology management and engineering disciplines. In fact, the department has put procedures in place to facilitate cross campus participation in these programs.

Majid Tabrizi is a UWP professor of industrial studies and director of the center. "In a fast-paced, competitive world, well-trained workers are essential for business growth. The center, a laboratory worth more than $1 million, is one of the best-equipped facilities in the Upper Midwest. From plant layout to prototype production to testing new materials, the center is a unique resource in that it is an educational partnership between industry and the university, using plastics processing equipment that was designed by leading manufacturers," Tabrizi explained.

Tabrizi said the program receives high marks from employers impressed with the caliber of UWP graduates. Tom Hartman, the manager of manufacturing engineering at Molded Rubber and Plastic Corporation in Butler, Wisconsin and the past president of the Milwaukee section of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) looks to UWP for hiring engineers for his laser facility. He recently wrote to Tabrizi to express his gratitude for the training students are receiving at UWP. "I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that I am very pleased with the results of the second student that I have hired from your program. ... She has made the transition from student to a contributing member of our group in very short order. I have challenged [her] with a variety of tasks since joining us and I have been impressed with her performance.

You should take great pride in the work that you are doing and the students that you are sending out to industry," Hartman said. Increasingly, UW-Platteville is being recognized as a major source for technology instruction and a reservoir of talent, which will be particularly important given Wisconsin's role in plastics processing. By 2002, Wisconsin was rated 10th in the country in plastics employment and 12th in plastics shipment. It is the fourth largest industry in the state, with over 700 plastic and plastic related companies currently employing over 52,000 people and total sales exceeding $3 billion annually. Over a dozen Wisconsin companies rank in the top 100 companies nationwide and that figure doubles if Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota are included.

In addition to regular courses for degree-seeking students, two courses for professionals will be offered during the upcoming spring semester. "Injection Molding Technology" and "Laser Technology" will be offered in the evening hours. Tabrizi said that practicing engineers, technicians and managers would all benefit from attending these courses.

Anyone interested in learning more about the UWP Center for Plastics Processing Technology, Laser and Plastics Program or any of the programming offered through the Department of Industrial Studies may contact Dick Klawiter, chair, at (608) 342-1246 or Tabrizi at (608) 342-1115. Anyone interested in learning about the Industrial Studies Women's Advancement Center may contact Lyn Bouck, advisor, at (608) 342-1148.

Contact: Majid Tabrizi, professor, and director of the Center for Plastics Processing Technology, Department of Industrial Studies, (608) 342-1115,

Prepared By: Evelyn Martens, UWP Public Relations,(608)342-1194,

posted by Lee S. Jadaan @ 8:19 AM

UWP Plastics Processing nTechnology Center Receives Gift

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Plastics Processing Technology Center recently received a gift of a new state-of-the-art thermoformer from MAAC Machine in Chicago, Ill., and the thermoforming division of the Society of Plastics Engineers. Additional funding for tooling and materials will come from the thermoforming industry, including an ongoing commitment from Plastic Ingenuity, Inc. in Cross Plains. The value of the equipment will exceed $50,000.

The gift comes as UW-Platteville is increasingly being recognized as a major influence in the world of Wisconsin plastics processing. According to Majid Tabrizi, professor of industrial studies and director of the UWP Center for Plastics Processing in the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture, Wisconsin is rated between eighth and 12th in plastic manufacturing in the nation. It is the fourth largest industry in the state, with over 700 plastic and plastic-related companies employing over 52,000 people. Total sales exceed $3 billion annually. Over a dozen companies rank within the top 100 companies nationwide, and that figure doubles if Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota are included.

Significantly, almost 30 percent of jobs in the industry are in companies within 250 miles of Platteville, and UWP is one of the few universities in the region training students for this industry. Gene Schoohs, engineer manager for Plastic Ingenuity, Inc., explained why his and other companies continue to support UW-Platteville's plastics technology program. "We're living in a global society which is becoming more and more competitive. We have to be able to have highly qualified people and the UWP plastics program is a strong contributing factor in being able to do that. We find your graduates have the strong technical background we need to come in and help us build on our knowledge and experience," Schoohs said.

The center's laboratory is equipped with over $1 million worth of plastics equipment, making it one of the best equipped in the upper Midwest. Those assets, along with the expertise of the UWP faculty, make the Center a resource that provides a variety of technical services, including periodic training programs for the business community. In fact, this summer, the center offered six workshops related to thermoforming through the continuing education department.

Anyone interested in learning more about the UWP Plastics Processing Technology program may go to or call Tabrizi to request an informational CD at (608) 342-1115.

Contact: Majid Tabrizi, director, Center for Plastic Processing Technology, (608) 342-1115, Prepared By: Evelyn Martens, UWP Public Relations, (608) 342-1194,

A Message to Alumni

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville, one of the state’s four engineering universities, long has been the leader in the area of laser and plastic technology education. The University of Wisconsin-Platteville is still the state’s only comprehensive university which offers a degree program in plastics processing technology.

The Center for Plastics Processing Technology is considered the best well-equipped facility in this field among all of the comprehensive state universities and other universities in the region. The Center has been trusted with supporting the plastics industries within the state and university service area by offering industrial training programs as well as mechanisms for industrial problem solving, manufacturing and production related research and the transfer of technology.

The Center for Plastics Processing Technology has initiated a number of programs to assist local and regional industries with the necessary training and technology transfer in this area. The list of participating industries includes John Deere, Generac, Plastic Ingenuity, and others.

In recent years, a mechanism has been put in place to accommodate industrial personnel to participate in the advanced technical and professional courses. The Center also offers industrial based training programs specifically geared to the production environment and facilitating the participation of engineers and technical managers in the current course offerings. These courses are offered at a small fraction of the cost (less than 3 dollar/hr of training) of similar courses by other institutions.

The Center for Plastics Processing Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville has reached a critical point in its attempt to acquire a state-of-the-art roll-fed thermoformer. Having this piece of equipment as part of our lab equipment will enhance the quality of education in the program significantly and perhaps place the thermoforming program at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville among the best well-equipped in the state and potentially, the best program of its kind in the nation.

The presses have been advertised for bid. A well known supplier of roll fed thermoforming presses, Zed, has been selected for the purchase. The president of the corporation Mr. Mark Zelnick has been extremely supportive. The market price for the press is $300,238 the asking price is $120,000, less then 40% of the market value and well below the production cost. The specifications of the press are available upon request.

To support this important goal the university, with the generous support of a number of industrial leaders and the various sections and divisions of SPE, has initiated a fundraising activity to purchase a roll-fed thermoformer. The following funds have been secured with great thanks to the generous leadership of these companies and institutes.

  1. Placon Corporation $10,000
  2. Plastic Ingenuity $10,000
  3. Prent Corporation $10,000
  4. Thermoforming Division of SPE $10,000
  5. The SPE-Milwaukee Section $10,000
  6. UW-Platteville $40,000

Two proposals have been submitted to the Education Foundation of SPE-Milwaukee Section. The statuses of the proposals are not clear yet.

I am respectfully requesting the state’s Plastic Industries, particularly the thermoforming industries, to offer their support for the remaining $30,000 shortfall. This is a unique opportunity for both the university and the plastics industries to provide this capability to our students and our educational institute.

The purchase of the thermoformer is contingent upon the acquisition of these funds and if this project fails I am not sure if in the foreseeable future any university, including Platteville, will have the opportunity of having such a capability.

I would greatly appreciate if you would kindly share this information with your participating industry. We are still hoping we can secure the remaining funds and allow the University of Wisconsin-Platteville to continue to provide member industries with a quality workforce.

Thank you again for your generosity and support of altimeters and the plastics technology education at our university. The current and incoming students will greatly appreciate the privilege of having access to a state-of-the-art thermoformer during their studies at our university.

Contact: Majid Tabrizi, director, Center for Plastic Processing Technology, (608) 342-1115, Prepared By: Evelyn Martens, UWP Public Relations, (608) 342-1194,

The National and State Statistics Related to Plastics

Industrial statistics and Industrial Growth