Top 10 Extrusion Items in 2013

By: James Callari 1. January 2014

Here's a quick rundown of things that caught my eye--and likely the attention of extrusion processors, in 2013.


Reifenhauser is a global powerhouse in providing screws and barrels, a segment that has consolidated in North America over the last decade due mostly to mergers and consolidations.


  • PP Cup Billed as Foam Alternative

Berry Plastics Group, Inc. Evansville, Ind., introduces a new type of hot-beverage cup that reportedly offers performance and environmental advantages over foamed PS containers. Called Versalite, the cup is PP-based and is produced by a proprietary process in which a cellular structure is created the during sheet extrusion process using atmospheric gas.


The two companies--the former a supplier of feeding/dosing and conveying technology, the latter of twin-screw compounding extruders, pelletizers, etc.,--actually came together under one umbrella in late 2012. But in late 2013 announced they'd operate under the brand name Coperion K-Tron.


Last year Kreyenborg, which makes screen changers and gear pumps, and sister company BKG Bruckmann, which makes pelletizers, were acquired by Nordson. The year before Nordson bought Xaloy and Extrusion Dies Inc.


Blow molding machinery supplier Graham Engineering Corp. (GEC) has made yet another acquisition in extrusion, last year buying Welex Inc., an iconic nameplate in sheet systems. In 2012, Graham acquired American Kuhne, Ashaway, R.I., which supplies feedscrews, extruders, and complete lines for medical tubing, pipe, and profiles.


Back in 2010 we reported that injection molder Tech II added thermoforming capacity, and in so doing became the first North American processor to offer IML thermoformed cups/containers.Well, last year they added sheet extrusion to the mix.


Kudos to colleague Lilli Manolis Sherman for reporting that EcoPaxx nylon 410 from Royal DSM of the Netherlands (U.S. office in Evansville, Ind.) was introduced by DSM’s German development partner, MF-Folien, a leading expert in nylon film production.


A properly designed high-speed, single-screw extruder (HSSSE) can significantly boost the processing capability of a small-diameter  machine for a wide range of applications. That was the conclusion of a study conducted by Davis-Standard LLC. Such extruders are far more prominent in Europe.


eco Plastic R from Plantic is PET sheet made of post consumer material that is laminated to the company's proprietary barrier  film  made from up to 60% renewable materials. 


Three years in the works and unveield at K 2013, Windmoeller & Hoelscher's Varex II linefeatures a sleek, completely enclosed design that several onlookers thought looked more like an Apple product than typical industrial equipment.



European Film Extruder Sets Up North American Operation

By: James Callari 17. December 2013

U.S. processors at the high-end of the film extrusion market will soon have a more robust competitor.


 Südpack USA Inc., a fully-owned subsidiary of the 50-year-old German packaging specialist Südpack GmbH & Co. KG,  has recently ramped up its distribution network with plans to “conquer the North American packaging market.”  Based in Chicago, the U.S. operation was founded in 2012 and has increased its business activities ever since. Prior to that, the processor was supplying material through “external partners.”


The company has no plans at the moment to manufacture in North America, said Tom Wilde, sales director of Südpack USA. “(But) the demand for our solutions has steadily increased since we founded Südpack USA Inc. With our high-quality products and customer support, we can generate sustained added value for our American customers,” he added.


Südpack has about 1,000 employees and generated more than $440 million in global sales in 2012. Its product portfolio ranges from multilayer hard and flexible films to flow wrap films, lid films, microwaveable convenience packaging solutions, prefabricated bags and technical film. The company also prints its films in-house. The company’s focus on the North American market is on re-sealable packaging as well as deep drawing flexible and hard films.


While Südpack will not be manufacturing, this likely won’t be the last time a leading processor from outside North American seeks to set up an operation on this side of the ocean. Longer term, as shale-gas-based resins start to come on stream on this side of the ocean, experts from the materials, equipment and processing side believe that more and more processors from Europe and elsewhere will start to produce film—and other polyolefin-based extruded or molded products, for that matter—to be made here. From a pricing standpoint, the consensus is naphtha-based PP/PE consumed by European processors will not be able to compete with gas-based resins made in North America. The wheels are in motion.


Mid-Size Former Has Big-Time Tools

By: James Callari 2. December 2013

With renderings like this furnished by Dordan, the Buck Bomb team was able to see what their product(s) would look like packaged in a clamshell family without having to spend a penny in prototype tooling.


We’ve featured Dordan Manufacturing Co., Woodstock, Ill., twice recently in Plastics Technology,  in  May 2011 and March 2013, mostly highlighting the thermoformer's unwavering efforts to include PET clamshells in the post-consumer recycling stream. But as successful as this family-owned, 50-year custom former has been to improve the environmental footprint of its operation, it’s been equally adept at using high-end tools to support its core business: clamshell package design for a wide range of industries.


Some of these tools are more commonly found at an automotive OEM than a custom thermoformer, but Dordan has successfully deployed them in packaging too. States Chandler Slavin, the company’s marketing manager/sustainability coordinator: “If you subscribe to the ideology that packaging has the ability to help or hinder product sales, it is paramount to see what the package will look like on the shelf. Often times, an engineering drawing doesn’t communicate shelf impact. And cutting prototypes is considered too costly in the early phases of the packaging procurement process.”


As a result, Dordan has found it important to develop a stepping-stone between concept and reality when it came to communicating a packaging concept’s form and function to the customer.


Dordan used to subscribe to I-DEAS (Integrated Design and Engineering Analysis Software), a product originally furnished by Structural Dynamic Research Corp. (SDRC) that allowed it designers to create engineering drawings and wire frames, Ms. Slavin says. The former would also use this tool to generate ray-traced images. “Ray-traced images were helpful in that they communicated the overall shelf impact of the part, but they took up to a week to generate—completely consuming the output of the computer— and were not that visual accurate because the plastic did not look ‘see-through’ like plastic should,” states Ms. Slavin.


Electronic Data Systems (EDS) bought SDRC about 12 years ago, and combined it with Unigraphics (acquired when EDS bought UGS Corp.) to create NX, an advanced high-end CAD/CAM/CAE software package now owned by Siemens PLM Software. “Once that happened Dordan began experimenting with the 3D modeling and photo-realistic rendering options that NX offered, laying the foundation for what we call our Design for Thermoforming Process,” Chandler Slavin says.


Dordan’s experience in designing a new package for The Buck Bomb shows how her company’s Design for Thermoforming Process saves time and money while reducing risk and expediting decision-making.


The Buck Bomb is a scent-dispersal product used by hunters. It consists of a detonator and the spray scent. The Buck Bomb used to be sold in blister packs, but the company was interested in what it would look like if packaged in a clamshell. Consequently, it approached Dordan—its current blister supplier—communicating its request.


But there was a catch: The way The Buck Bomb was sold at retail changed depending on the retail outlet; sometimes just the spray scent was sold, other times just the detonator, and yet others wanted the detonator and spray scent sold together. In other words, The Buck Bomb needed a family of clamshell packages, and they needed them for a price that was competitive with their existing blister packaging. “How do you show a customer what the various formulations of their product/packaging scenarios will look in clamshells like if the customer is not willing to invest in prototype tooling and an engineer drawing/wire frame isn’t sufficient?” Ms. Slavin says.


“Dordan’s Design for Thermoforming Process incorporates the process of manufacturing into the packaging developmental phase; it assumes the artistic capabilities inherent in the art of thermoforming for every project, allowing for the seamless transition from concept to reality,” she states.


This process utilizes NX-generated photo realistic images and 3D package design movies to demonstrate how the package has been designed for manufacturing, including part functionality and shelf impact. Unlike the ray-traced images of I-DEAS, these renderings can be created quickly, and the resulting imagery extremely accurate.


Says Ms. Slavin: “With these renderings, the Buck Bomb team was able to see what their product(s) would look like packaged in a clamshell family without having to spend a penny in prototype tooling. By seeing a fully-engineered digitally produced ‘photo’ of the proposed packaging, The Buck Bomb team was able to expedite the decision making process as marketing understood how it's priorities were met via photo renderings while engineering understood how it’s priorities were met via engineer drawing. Moreover, in producing photo-realistic renderings/3D videos prior to moving to prototype, the risk of any potential design flaws in the prototype part is mitigated by the front-end engineering that is required to produce these images.”


As a result of this effort, Dordan developed a family of clamshells that maintained The Buck Bomb brand aesthetic while reducing the overall SKUs, saving time and money.

Stackable, Recloseable Package Hits Store Shelves

By: James Callari 20. November 2013

We last reported on innovative packaging processor Clear Lam Packaging, Elk Grove Village, Ill.  in the March 2013 issue of Plastics Technology. At the time, the firm was fresh off announcing the development of a new type of package, called PrimaPak, a flexible, stackable, reclosable package designed to replace cans, bottles, and jars. Now, the film and sheet processor has announced the first commercial application of the unique package: John B. Sanfilippo & Son’s Flavor Tree brand, Limited Edition Premium Dark Chocolate Pretzels. They will be sold through an East Coast regional retailer, Ocean State Job Lot, which has more than 100 stores through New York and New England.


The PrimaPak structure consists of a proprietary multi-layer blown film that is laminated to several undisclosed substrates to build in heat resistance, then processed on vertical form-fill-seal (FFS) equipment from rollstock. The package is engineered to maximize manufacturing, warehousing, cubing, shipping, and merchandising efficiencies, says James Sanfilippo says, CEO of Clear Lam and part of the John B. Sanfilippo family.


The patented and patent pending PrimaPak technology is designed to replace heavy rigid packaging and improve shelf appeal. It achieves up to 70% weight savings compared to plastic jars. The technology is also said to reduces the package cube by 30% or more, maximizing manufacturing efficiencies and improving warehousing space and transportation demands.


To create a flexible package capable of being stacked and to better protect products inside, Clear Lam developed a new method of enhancing the package rigidity. The end result is a pop-up box shape with greater consumer appeal. The finished package retains its shape, performs well during transport, and stores well on retail shelves as well as in consumer pantries. In addition, the Peel and ReSeal Lid opens easily, stays open, and reseals to the package with a light touch.


Additional PrimaPak applications and further product expansions are planned in 2014, according to Clear Lam.

A One Percenter All Film Processors Will Love

By: James Callari 8. November 2013

One of the more compelling keynote presentations from the Global Plastics Summit, Nov. 4-6 in Chicago, was delivered by Greg Jozwiak, North America commercial v.p. for Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics, and Scott Farmer, executive vp for global purchasing for processing giant Berry Plastics. In separate presentations, they gave their viewpoints on the growth opportunities shale gas will ultimately offer to packaging suppliers.


Both were extremely optimistic. “Shale gas offers plentiful and competitive energy for America,” Jozwiak said in his talk, titled Shale Gas: Fueling the Resurgence of the American Plastics Industry. “It justifies new investments and provides opportunity for growth across the plastics industry via core market growth, reshoring, traditional material conversion to plastics, potential to export converted goods, and selective resin export.”


Jozwiak went on to point out that in the $173 billion packaging market, plastics overall has a 35% market share. Polyethylene in particular has a 10% share in packaging, he said. If PE’s share would increase by just a single percentage point, Jozwiak said, the consequences would be extraordinary. “An increase of 1% translates to 200,000 metric tons of PE consumption,” he said, citing the Smithers Pira Packaging in North America to 2017 study. “That amount alone would require about 28 (film) processing lines.”


But the Dow packaging executive is more bullish than that. “Core growth (due to shale gas) could boost growth by 2.5%, reshoring 1%, substitution (of non-plastics packaging) by 0.75% and export of finished goods another 0.25%,” he explained.  “That’s 4.5% of growth, representing 770,000 metric tons/yr.”  Jozwiak added that Dow customers outside of the U.S. are looking at establishing a manufacturing footprint in America to tap into this potential.  Other sources say the reshoring trend has already begun, pointing to new installations this year of high-density lines to make T-shirt grocery sacks, can liners and produce film.


To Berry’s Farmer, however, much of shale gas’ potential to U.S. processors is tied to how much—or if—resin prices come down. “Resin generally comprises the largest portion of the overall cost to plastic packaging, as much as 70% or more,” he said. “Producers are enjoying lower costs due to investments made in the shale boom. Converters are paying on average higher prices than previous years. Lower costs will allow plastic packaging to grow into spaces currently occupied by other substrates. Lower costs will increase domestic manufacturing bringing products and jobs back to the US. Lower costs will create the potential to drive innovation and growth.”


Left unsaid in this discussion was equipment. One industry source estimates that more than 70% of the 20 billion lb/yr of blown film is currently processed on equipment that’s 10 years old or older. It can be argued that if resin costs from shale gas drop even a penny a pound—a huge amount for any processor, particularly those who deal in high volumes—film producers will still be leaving money and opportunities on the table if they continue to run it through equipment that doesn’t offer the lastest capabilities in  throughput, gauge control and quality.


The Global Plastics Summit was co-sponored by IHS and SPI.

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