VMT is aiming to become a top specialist in recovered secondary raw materials

As a plastic industry enterprise, VMT has often encountered the view that the industry is not traditionally thought of as responsible or environmentally friendly. Because plastic is in any case needed in the world, VMT wants to be involved in increasing the responsibility of plastic use.

“We want to be a pioneer in the field and build a profile as a top specialist in recovered secondary raw materials. This is what all of our development efforts and responsibility measures also attempt to achieve”, VMT CEO Marja Haapanen says.

Plastic products manufactured by VMT are used for machine and device components in industrial production processes. Using plastic for such applications makes sense, because the materials need to be easy to form into shape and light in weight.

“Our product development is always carried out from the perspective of sustainable development. We optimise the use of plastic in a way that ensures that we are always using the correct material that suits the application. So, our product development is geared towards making products as optimal and functional as possible and achieving the required strength characteristics while using as little plastic as possible. We also make sure that the products last for as long as they are needed, maximising their service life”, Haapanen explains.

A recycled raw material is an environmentally friendly choice

The responsible approach adopted by VMT is highlighted in particular by the dramatic increase in the use of secondary and recycled raw materials. A few years ago, only about 20 percent of the plastic raw material used by VMT consisted of recycled materials, while the remaining 80 percent consisted of new raw materials. Now, the numbers have been inverted – 80 percent of the plastic products manufactured by VMT are made using recycled plastics.

Thanks to improvements in plastic recycling, the range and availability of raw materials are expanding and improving. Adopting new materials for use does however require plenty of development work by VMT, but success in such efforts has increased the use of secondary raw materials dramatically.

“Our goal is to increase the volumes of products made with secondary raw materials even more”, Haapanen says, stating that there will however always be some technical products for which new raw materials cannot be replaced with recycled materials due to their characteristics.

“We are however continuously trying to increase the volume of recycled raw materials, and we work hard to accomplish this.”

The use of recycled raw materials is also supported by the knowledge that the sourcing of new raw materials will become more difficult and expensive in the future. At the same time, recycling is becoming more efficient, and machines make it possible to better utilise secondary materials.

“Recycled plastic already exists, so it is worthwhile to use it. As long as the raw materials are kept pure during the recycling, they can be used again and again, countless of times.”

Investing in product development is worth it

VMT uses two different processes, injection and blow moulding. Recycled raw materials have been traditionally available for injection moulding, and it is also easier in principle to use recycled materials for injection moulded products. As for blow moulding processes, it has been somewhat difficult to obtain secondary raw materials.

“The blow moulding process is also more difficult to control, and in the past, we have been able to only use certain fractions to make products. We have been working hard here at VMT to gain control of the blow moulding process with recycled materials as well, and as soon as the suitable raw material is found, the hard work will begin to pay off”, Haapanen rejoices.

The Finnish secondary raw material Fortum Circo that can be used for blow moulding utilises waste plastic collected from consumers. Circo mainly contains crushed plastic package waste, such as detergent bottles and other similar containers.

“We have been able to get Circo to work as the raw material for our blow moulding process, and we are using a lot of it now. The good thing about Circo is that its availability is guaranteed. Recycled materials often have the problem that you might get only one batch of the raw material. When we start the manufacturing process for a certain product, we need to be sure that the raw material continues to be available in the future as well, because our products are usually made for periods that last several years”, Haapanen explains.

Investments to tackle the carbon footprint

VMT’s internal recycling efforts have been at a good level for a while now. The company reuses almost one hundred percent of the waste material it generates. The waste material is taken straight to a crusher on conveyors and from there back into production.

“We have not been able to crush the largest products as part of our own production, so we have taken them to our partner in Kuortane for crushing and then back again to be used in production. We will be investing in a system this year that will be able to crush even such larger products”, Haapanen says.

“This will further improve the recycling and eliminate the need for additional transports, thus reducing our carbon footprint as well.”

Active efforts to ensure responsibility

VMT is continuously looking for ways to do things better in terms of responsibility and the environment.

“We always want to find small things that we can do to improve energy efficiency and the environment in general”, Haapanen confirms. The responsibility measures impact human resources affairs as well.

“We take care of our house in a way that helps everyone. We have invested in occupational safety, developing our payroll system, and improved the healthcare of our staff.”

However, there is still work to be done. Moving forward, VMT will invest in responsibility reporting in a way that makes it clearer to staff, partners, and customers what measures have been implemented.

“In the course of this year we will also look into measuring our carbon footprint and developing environmental affairs in a more systematic way, for example by using various certifications. We will talk about this in more detail in the spring”, Haapanen reports.

Product development takes the design process in the right direction right from the start

Product development is needed both in the manufacturing of a new product and in the further development of existing products. Although you are itching to get going and full of ideas about what kind of a solution the product needs, our advice is the same for everyone:

Contact a plastic industry expert as soon as the need occurs to you.
This will save you money and trouble.

When it comes to plastic products, the best added value is obtained when the know-how of industry experts is used as early as possible. Each plastic product – whether a completely new solution or a further development of an existing solution – requires product development right from the start, consisting of structural properties, environmental requirements, dimensions, and the manufacturing method, among other things.

Plastic industry experts have plenty of experience of such things, and probably even some ready proposals that they have successfully utilised in previous projects. Plastic industry experts may also have a wide selection of new solutions available that your business might have been unaware of.

Finding the right correction for the development of your product early on will save both time and money, because the design process has not had the chance to go astray.

Product development where service comes first

There are clear differences in manufacturing methods, depending on the needs and the problem being solved. This is why it is important to first determine the size of the product, the needed quantity, and the use environment and application of the end product. These will ultimately decide the right manufacturing method for the product.

We will help our customers to move forward with their problem – even in cases where we find that the best manufacturing process can be provided by another enterprise. We will discuss the needs and details of the product with the customer and point them in the correct direction, whether this means development and manufacturing by us or by someone else. This will allow the customer to move down the straightest road.

So, what does product development include?
Here’s how it goes, step by step:

  1. We will go through the basics together and sketch some suitable solutions on paper or digitally. We will vary the dimensions, specify size classes, and discuss the production volumes at a basic level.
  2. Once we have agreed on the basics, we will choose the manufacturing method. All of our methods have their own strengths and weaknesses that will be considered when deciding.
  3. We will specify the characteristics required of the product in the environment where it would be used. For example, should the product be able to withstand mechanical stress, extreme temperatures, oceanic climates, pressure, etc.
  4. Next, a 3D sketch drawing will be made of the product, which will be submitted to the customer for review and inspection. At this stage, we will further specify things such as the dimensions and other things that the customer has now defined in more detail for the product.
  5. A 3D printed product will then be made on the basis of the 3D drawing, which the customer will ultimately be able to test in their application. This will often generate additional insight into what is required of the component.
  6. We will then go back to the drawing board with the development needs emerging during the prototype testing phase. After all the fixing is done, we will make new 3D models and prototypes for further testing by the customer.
  7. Once the customer thinks that the prototype works and is final, it will enter production. If we can provide the best method of manufacturing the product, we will take care of it.
  8. During production we will further review internal development processes, which may involve for example tuning the production automatisation and manufacturing technique.

Would you like to read more about our manufacturing techniques?

We have explained them in more detail in our blog post A jungle of methods – making container-like pieces. The blog outlines in detail the making of various container-like products and what needs to be considered when choosing the correct manufacturing method. You can find the blog here.

Secondary raw materials in the plastics industry – the new Fortum Circo® makes it possible to use post-consumer recycled plastic in blow moulding

The use of recycled raw materials in the plastics industry has been increasing over the years. The most important reason for this is the environmental perspective and the effort to reduce the carbon footprint of finished products. Although the use of recycled raw materials has generated interest and is encouraged, secondary plastics have gained a foothold only slowly so far due to the uncertain availability of raw materials.

“The typical problem with recycled raw materials has been that the materials on offer are different and inconsistently available. Most of the recycled raw materials we use have so far been obtained from the construction and excavation sectors, because that has been all that has been available, at least in sufficient quantities”, says Sales Manager Ville Mäkinen.

The volumes of available secondary raw materials are expected to grow in the coming years, because consumers are now also being encouraged to collect and recycle plastics. EU has set a goal to have half of all household plastic packaging recycled in the member states by the year 2025. Consumer enthusiasm about plastic recycling is generating new opportunities on the secondary raw material markets.

Fortum Circo: from plastic packaging to recycled plastic

The plastic packaging waste collected from households in Finland is processed at the Fortum plastic refinery in Riihimäki, where the recycled plastic is sorted and refined into small granules. The new secondary plastic raw material goes by the name of Fortum Circo.

“Fortum Circo is a domestic recycled raw material that makes consumer plastic sorting more concrete and tangible. It is great to see how consumers, brand owners, and manufacturers paid more attention to the origin and responsibility of raw materials. The carbon footprint of Fortum Circo is approximately half of the footprint of virgin plastic. It is also a versatile material, and its properties can be customised for specific customer needs depending on the application and production methods”, says Fortum Circo Brand Sales Manager Anniina Rasmus.

“Fortum Circo opens up completely new possibilities, because recycled plastic collected from consumers has not been available at this scale previously. In particular, I count excellent availability and even quality among the advantages of this new raw material. Fortum Circo makes it possible to manufacture completely new products in our blow moulding production using post-consumer plastic packaging waste. We are also looking forward with interest to working together with Fortum on recycled raw materials”, Mäkinen rejoices.

Use of recycled raw materials in the future

Approximately 30% of VMT’s production is currently made using recycled raw materials. It is hoped that this number will grow in the coming years. The production raw material systems have been refurbished to be better suitable for the use of recycled raw materials. Waste materials generated during production are utilised almost fully.

“Customers are interested in using recycled raw materials, and we encourage them to do so. We still make technical plastic components with virgin raw materials, but recycled plastic can be used in the making of many other products. We always work together with the customer to determine if recycled raw materials can be used”, says Mäkinen.

“We want to use plastic wisely and choose the right raw material for the application”, says CEO Marja Mäkinen.

Are you interested? Get in touch, we are happy to tell you more!
More information about Fortum Circo: www.fortum.com/circo

A digital overall equipment effectiveness system adopted for the injection moulding department

A new overall equipment effectiveness system (OEE) has been adopted for injection moulding. The system was first adopted for blow moulding a year ago, and now it has been installed onto injection moulding equipment as well. Production Manager Erkki-Jussi Lahtinen explains that the production processes at both facilities can now be monitored digitally, allowing the overall situation to be seen at a few glances.

“The system allows monitoring the operation of the equipment in real time. The system shows the utilisation rate, target times, actual production times, standstills, and production quantities. The numbers of defective pieces or wastage can also be tracked at the same time”, Lahtinen says.

The system provides the management with valuable information about the status of production, but it also serves as a practical tool for employees monitoring the equipment. “The system does a good job of controlling daily production and activities. The idea is that you don’t have to check data on a separate computer – it is enough to just turn your head a bit. We already have a large screen on the wall of the blow moulding hall, showing what production stage is underway, and soon we will have one over on the injection moulding side as well”, Lahtinen says.

Informal knowledge was replaced with exact data

Monitoring the efficiency of the equipment was difficult before the new system was put in place. “People have an innate habit of embellishing things. The system however is incorruptible – it always provides honest information about what the machines are doing. Potential quality issues can also be seen clearly, meaning that we can intervene in the important things immediately”, Lahtinen explains.

Data supports decision-making better than informal knowledge. The system provided by Novotek Oy opens up entirely new views onto the current state and development needs of production. “This is a must-have tool for the development of production processes”, summarises Lahtinen. “If your definition of efficiency has been based on hand-picked data and you believe that everything is in order, then the actual work begins only after a system like this is installed”, Lahtinen states.

Developing operations always benefits customers as well

Customers can see the impact of the new system investment especially in improved quality and supply security. When the production process is closely monitored, it is possible to better identify and solve any problems and bottlenecks. When production runs more efficiently, customers can be offered more competitive prices and supply schedules.

“We now know in detail how much time it takes to make the products. The real-time system makes it possible to set prices more accurately, so the data received through it has a big impact on the entire order-to-delivery process”, Lahtinen says.

Additional investments in new machines, robots, and training

In addition to the overall equipment effectiveness system, investments have been made in machines, robots, and staff training as well. Injection moulding will receive a new robot from ABB by the end of the year and a new injection moulder early next year.

Even though new equipment and robots are an excellent way to boost production, the most important resource for any business is the know-how of the personnel. The staff is trained to use the new robot for instance at the ABB training laboratory. Skills are also developed with automation and injection moulding trainings starting next year, which have been designed together with the Tampere Vocational College Tredu.

“By investing in staff skills, we will be able to reinforce our competitiveness and secure our future growth. VMT staff has been involved in our development efforts for years, and a culture of renewal has formed at our company. Continuous development does its part in reinforcing personnel motivation and the meaningfulness of work as well. We want to provide all employees with the chance to improve and learn new things while working at meaningful tasks”, says CEO Marja Mäkinen.

A jungle of methods – Making container-like pieces

There are all kinds of container-like products in the world, but how are they made? Plastic containers are a part of our daily lives now, ranging from soft drink bottles to washer liquid containers sold at service stations. Of course, we are also used to seeing larger containers as well. For example, less space-intensive underground waste collection tanks are deployed more commonly in urban areas now. Their frames are among the product group of container-like products.

In addition to easily noticeable containers, there is also the slightly less-known group of technical containers. These containers are hidden inside machines and systems, working at various vital functions. In some cases, the components are not seen by users at all during the service life of the product.

A container-like product requires more from manufacturing

So, how do you define a container-like plastic product? Even though the field is extensive, certain constraints can narrow it down. Having the shape of a container and a continuous outer surface surrounding the inner space are the basic elements of the definition. Both the inside and outside usually have a functional purpose.

However, a container-like piece is not the same thing as a shell piece. Below is a rough sketch of the differences between these two.

When making a traditional plastic product, the form tool can be taken inside the product. When making a container-like product, however, the form tool cannot be used in the same way, but the inside must be made to form on its own, so to speak. This can be solved also by making two shells and placing them together, thus creating a container-like shape. The weakness of this method is that it creates a seam in the centre of the product and requires a different means of joining. This additionally increases the risk of leaks and other problems.

There are clear differences in manufacturing methods according to needs

If a genuinely continuous and tight wall structure is desired for a container, there remain two alternative methods of manufacturing: blow moulding and rotational moulding. These two are often seen as competitors, but in actuality these are clearly different methods with their own strengths and advantages.

When deciding which method to use, it is worthwhile to go back to the following fundamental questions:
– What is the size of the product?
– How many pieces of the product are needed?
– What is the final use environment and application of the end product?

Answers to the first two questions go a long way in deciding whether to use blow moulding or rotational moulding. When talking size, container-like products are measured by their volume. Blow moulding can be effectively used when making products with a volume of about 2 decilitres and up to 300-400 litres. It is possible to go larger than this, but the tool will be so large that the required investments are a bit too high for the quantities that are usually made in the Nordic countries. When the size is measured in cubic metres or exceeds 500 litres, rotational moulding is the obvious choice.

Serial production or small batches?

When thinking about produced quantities, annual demand is a good measure of volume. The manufactured quantity again highlights the strengths of the two methods. Blow moulding can be considered a method of serial production, because the manufacturing cycle is relatively short (less than ten minutes) and the quality of the products remains consistent. This means that there will be very few quality differences between the individual products. Blow moulding can be considered a method of serial production for the additional reason that it works well with large volumes: the larger the annual volume, the more efficient blow moulding becomes.

Thanks to its fast process cycle, the strength of blow moulding is the low unit cost of products.
The slightly high tooling cost may however make this method undesirable, in particular when lower annual production volumes are considered. The moulding tools used in blow moulding are always machined and water-cooled steel or aluminium moulds. When working with blow moulding, the moulding tool needs to be relatively durable for it to be able to maintain the pressurised air blown into the mould (6 to 8 bar).

Being the heavily built pieces that they are, they last well and can survive the entire service life of the product if maintained properly. Despite the moulding costs, even relatively small series can actually be profitable for blow moulding. It is a good rule of thumb that as soon as the annual need for products reaches about 500, blow moulding should be considered. This method will not reach its limits very quickly either, because it can be used to make up to hundreds of thousands of pieces using only one mould.

Rotational moulding on the other hand is best for small series that do not exceed 500 pieces in annual volume. The moulding tools used with it may be lighter than those used with blow moulding, and some can even be made of sheet metal. This is made possible by the non-pressurised manufacturing process of rotational moulding, which also keeps the mould tooling costs low. Modern product design and demanding functional forms have however forced even rotational moulds to enter the world of machined tools, which brings the prices close to those of blow moulds. It is typical of the rotational moulding process that the manufacturing cycle is slightly longer (some tens of minutes). This is also the reason why the unit prices of rotational moulding products are higher.

Blow moulding means lighter products, rotational moulding can be used to make sharp corners

Environmental considerations also affect the choice of manufacturing method. These include for example operating temperatures, chemical stresses, and mechanical loads. The plastic raw materials used with the processes discussed here are largely the same, so the most differences are introduced by the properties of the processes themselves, such as wall thickness.

Blow moulded products are typically much lighter because of better wall thickness management. The wall thicknesses of the products can be specified with great precision, enabling the making of light-weight structures. There is however a minor weakness with this method. It can be a bit difficult to form sharp outside corners because the forming process is based on stretching the material preform.

With rotational moulding, the case is almost completely the opposite: sharp forms and corners usually need many times more material than even walls and rounded shapes. This is why the end products of rotational moulding tend to be quite heavy. The products generated using these different techniques can in fact be best differentiated by their weight. Rotational moulding products feel a bit sturdier, which may be of benefit in certain applications.

Summary of the methods:

  • Making container-like products of various sizes:
    • 2 dl–500 l – Blow moulding
    • 500+ l – Rotational moulding
  • Annual demand for container-like products
    • >500 pcs – Blow moulding
    • <500 pcs – Rotational moulding (in some cases blow moulding can be used)
  • Product characteristics
    • Blow moulding
      • Rounded shapes
      • Light weight, wall thickness well controlled (Sharp corners require special care)
      • Good ability to withstand chemical stress
    • Rotational moulding
      • Enables sharper shapes
      • Heavier structure, thick walls (Strong corners)
      • Good ability to withstand chemical stress

5S – An excellent place to work

At an excellent factory, everything is set up in the best possible way. It is clean everywhere and each work station is well organised. Are these things only possible after the factory has reached excellence, or are they preconditions for achieving it?

VMT Plastic is a busy place. Development projects, progress with regard to quality and the environment, training sessions, cooperation with students, investments, recruitment drives, moving production from one hall to another and much more. Much has happened within a short period of time, yet there is much more work to be done.

Our blow moulding production and a section of our finishing department have been successfully relocated to new facilities. This has provided us with an excellent opportunity to organise everything into their rightful places using labels and coloured tape to mark where each item is supposed to go, clean up and think about where the forklift would be best placed so that everyone has access to it.

We are now talking about the 5S method of the LEAN approach. The purpose of this method is to reduce variation that hinders operations, which means cutting back on factors that cause unnecessary expenses. The term 5S comes from the first letters of the original Japanese words Seiri, Seito, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke, which represent the five stages of the method. In English the stages could be expressed as follows:

  • Sort – Remove unnecessary tools, materials and items from the workstation.
  • Set in order – Organise the required tools appropriately. Each tool’s proper place is clearly marked.
  • Shine – Clean and maintain your devices and machines.
  • Standardize – Establish the organisation and cleaning as a routine part of the work.
  • Sustain – Maintain the established practices.


We organised an info session about the stages of the 5S method for all of our employees on 27.1.2020. Everyone got the chance to see how the standardization of the work environment affects results with the help of a playful exercise. The purpose of the training session was to solidify and unify our idea of how to proceed with the method towards a more functional, effective and safe work environment – towards achieving an excellent workplace.

LEAN specialist, Ella Teivainen

Technical benefits and properties of blow moulding

What is plastic blow moulding?

Blow moulding is based on extrusion. In a blow moulding, a tube of warm plastic is lowered between the halves of a mould. The mould is closed, and air is led into the tube at a suitable pressure, moulding the plastic tube into the contours of the mould. The piece is then cooled down, the tube is cut, the mould is opened, and the piece is ready for finishing.

The process is quick, which makes a blow-moulded piece very competitive in terms of pricing. What makes blow moulding an excellent mass production method is its good repeatability and because it is very controllable to produce identical results between repetitions.

The benefits and properties of blow moulding

Blow moulded pieces are seamless, vessel-shaped or sinusoid, most often round. Blow moulded pieces can be very long or channel shaped. There are no real restrictions to shape. Different kinds of evasions or include several inserts, such as metal threading, hose clamps, support struts or fastener ears.

“Especially in machining and appliance industries, our clients struggle with cramped spaces in ever-shrinking machining spaces. With blow moulded pieces, we can utilize the tight spots, because the pieces can take many shapes and the thickness of the pieces is controllable.”

The blow moulding method enables equal and thin thickness in the pieces. In blow moulding, the thickness of the pieces can be determined in a very detailed manner, because the method ensures good viscosity. Thus, it is possible to optimize the weight of a piece, because the thickness does not need to be increased to reach required stiffness.

The thickness of the piece’s wall affects material expenditure and thus the price per unit of the pieces. Material choices also enable transparency, enabling for example seeing how full of liquid a piece is without opening it.

Production of dimensionally accurate plastic products is possible, because the range in blow moulding is easy to control.

” The range of two fastener ears at the opposite ends of a piece that is over a meter long can be kept under a millimetre.” 

Strong flat and thin pieces can also be blow moulded. The capsular structure ensures a stiff enough piece but is lighter than a solid structure.

The plastic used in blow moulding is chemical resistant and is thus safe in even challenging targets.

Blow moulding mould

The moulds for blow moulded pieces are very resilient and last almost forever. A yearly yield of 100 000 moulded pieces can be easily done with a single mould. Resilience and a long life are visible in the price of the moulds but is compensated quickly, if the volume of the moulded piece is expected to grow.

” Our oldest moulds are from 2003, and they are still in complete working order. We do basic maintenance and slight adjusts to our moulds from time to time. “

Blow moulding is an eco-positive method

Press release for the Subcontracting Trade Fair 2019

Blow moulding allows for the production of a technical product as a single piece, which results in savings in energy consumption and simplifies the customer’s assembly phase.

The use of plastics has positive impacts on the environment via energy and material savings

Life cycle analyses have demonstrated that in the right product groups plastics produce the smallest total impact on the environment when compared to other materials.

As a responsible partner we are ceaselessly developing our operations. We always strive to utilise materials effectively and save energy, which also cuts costs and thus also reflects positively on productivity.

We recycle material in our own production to avoid raw material waste and instead funnel the valuable material for reuse.

We strive to minimise our environmental impact with high-quality product design that optimises the need of materials and maximises the product’s service life and recyclability. We design the most functional and material-efficient solution for each purpose.

The positive environmental impacts are realised as savings in energy and materials as well as reductions in waste volume and energy needs in distribution and transportation. We use reusable packaging materials with many of our customers.

We are a partner with ISO9001 and ISO14001 certifications.

You are welcome to join us to discuss sustainable and eco-positive plastic solutions and forging a long-lasting partnership!
The Subcontracting Trade Fair 2019 is held in the Tampere Exhibition and Sports Centre on 24.–26.9.2019.


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