Lots of Expansion Brewing In Film Extrusion

By: James Callari 30. January 2014


There’s been a spate of expansion news in film extrusion, as processors are reporting new installations at breakneck speed.


Most recently, Next Generation Films, Lexington, Ohio, announced that it has ordered three blown film lines from Windmoeller & Hoelscher, Lincoln, R.I.,  to bolster its capacity for its core business and build up its presence in the barrier film market.


Next entered the barrier film market in mid-2012 and has ordered two Varex II lines, one 87-in., 7-layer line and one 103-in. , 9-layer line, to cultivate this segment of their business. Notes Dave Frecka, founder & CEO at Next,  “We want to solidify our position as a key player on the growing barrier market and are investing in the technology we need to do so.”


Varex II was introduced at the K 2013 in Düsseldorf as the successor to the well-known Varex line. W&H engineers spent roughly three years reviewing each component of the existing range, making both small and large changes to improve output, safety and efficiency.



The third line ordered, a 126-in. 5-layer Varex, will be installed this spring and used to support the company's core business.


Meantime, BJK Flexible Packaging, a specialty films producer based in Louisville, Ken., has expanded its film production capacity with the addition of a new five-layer blown film line from Reifenhauser Inc., Wichita. Kan. The company recently installed and commissioned the new line (see photo bottom) in an all-new 30,000 ft² addition that it built specifically for that purpose at its Louisville headquarters.


The new film line started running in November. It will be used to produce five-layer film structures that will provide a better alternative than 3-layer structures, according to Brian Krein, Chairman and CEO of BJK.  The 110-in. wide line is equipped with with a 550-mm die and is capable of running more than 1,500 lb/hour of material. “It’s our feeling that 3-layer’s future for many film segments will move to 5-layer,” Krein noted.  “5-layer films allow more flexibility in general to extrude for specific applications.” These sentiments are consistent with those expressed by ExxonMobil in meetings with Plastics Technology at last year’s K 2013 show.


Leading U.S. stretch film producer Sigma Stretch Film, meanwhile.  recently installed two stretch film lines from Gloucester Engineering, Gloucester, Mass. including a 5-layer cast stretch film line to the company’s facility in Shelbyville, Ken., and a 5-layer blown stretch film line (see photo above) in Belleville, Ontario.  The cast film line has been in production since October 2013 and the blown film line will be in production early this year. 



The 9-up cast stretch film line includes four Contracool extruders equipped with PIB injection that feed a Cloeren feed block and auto die.  Also included is a casting unit with temperature control unit (TCU) and a 1002-DS Surface-Center winder with dual overlapping single turrets.  The line is enhanced with resin vacuum loading, loss-in-weight blending, gauging, profile control and a trim reprocessing system all controlled by the Extrol 6032 control system.    


The five-layer blown stretch silage film line includes five Contracool extruders equipped with PIB injection feeding a low profile five-layer IBC die and air ring.  Also included are a bubble cage, Traversanip oscillating primary nip roll with composite roller collapsing frame, secondary nip roll, and a dual turret 1002-D Surface-Center winder.  The line is enhanced with resin vacuum loading, feed throat gravimetric blending, and a trim reprocessing system all controlled by the Extrol 6032 control system, and containerized controls.    


Here's A New Way to Produce Bags from Scrap

By: James Callari 29. January 2014

Macro Engineering and Technology Inc. has developed and patented a new method to produce trash bags and similar film products from post-consumer material.


Nowadays, when producing bags containing high amounts of reclaim, most processors “bury” the scrap in the core layer of a multi-layer structure, and sandwich it with skin layers made primarily of virgin material. The problem with that method is that impurities originating from the scrap layer—such as gels and pins holes—tend to migrate or “leak” through all the layers of the structure, explains Mirek Planeta, the former president of the machine builder who now heads up the firm’s R&D efforts. "In two- or three-layer coextrusion, when (the material exits) the die all of the layers are aligned, so any impurity will create a fault or defect in all the layers at the same time," Planeta explains.


Macro patented approach is to produce the bag from two separate films, which are blocked after they the exit die to prevent any gels or pin holes from aligning. This arrangement adds to the film strength because one film with the defect is essentially "covered" by the second film without the defect. The film is blocked so that the two layers act as one to prevent the gel or other defect from seeping through, Planeta notes.


This can be achieved by blocking a two-layer tube, or by extruding  using a dual-orifice die to create two bubbles, thereby producing two separate  films. It can be done with one or more extruders.


In trials at its plant in Mississauga, Ontario, Macro found film produced by this method showed an improvement in both tear strength and tensile strength. Macro trialed both blends of post-consumer scrap with virgin, as well as a structure in which both of the bubbles were made of 100% reclaimed consumer scrap structure (photo). Both cases showed no evidence or gel leakage or pin holes, Macro officials state.


The company's intention is to license the technology to interested processors.


Paper or Plastic?

By: James Callari 16. January 2014

Usually when people hear “plastic money” the first things that come to mind are the credit and debit cards they regularly use in lieu of paper currency. But the whole paper vs. plastics question seems to be taking on an altogether new meaning. An article that ran last year in The New York Times reported that after 300 years Britain will be converting from cotton-based paper to plastic beginning with 5 and 10 pound notes. According to the article, Canada and Australia and about two dozen other countries have already the switch.


The Bank of England is expected to contract with Innovia Films to produce the plastic currency, according to a press release on the processor's website. Innovia's product is a biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) film it calls Guardian. Guardian is used as a substrate by more than 20 other countries, including Canada, Innovia says. The company plans on investing more than $30 million at its facility in Wigton, Cumbria to support the new business.


The U.S. is not expected to follow any time soon, but the article in The Grey Lady, as the Times is known, did extol the virtues of plastics in this particular application: it is more durable than paper and also harder to counterfeit.


Australia is credited with inventing plastic currency in 1988 from BOPP. Sources say Mobil Chemical developed a BOPP-based alternative to paper for the U.S. market years ago.  Though described as a “fantastic product,” it could not overcome government obstacles. Last October, New Delhi, India-based Jindal Poly Films, Ltd., announced it had completed its acquisition of ExxonMobil Chemical's global BOPP films business, a process that started in 2012.


Here's some background on England's move, which is scheduled to become effective in 2016.


Then check this out. It seems that when plastic became the substrate of choice in Australia, the process was downward blown film.



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.


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