Investment in People, Technology Drive Growth at PTi
Now 30 years’ old, machine builder develops solutions in tune with sheet processor needs.
In 1988, 28-year-olds Dana Hanson and Jon Roberts sat down with a piece of paper and wrote down a few key words as they searched for a name for the new extrusion machine builder they were starting up. “The idea,” Hanson recalls, “was to pick a name that reflected what we were trying to accomplish.”
At NPE2018, their company, Processing Technologies International (PTi) LLC, celebrates its 30-year anniversary. Hanson, president and CEO, and Roberts, sr. v.p. operations, not only picked a name that matched this vision but over the past three decades, they have positioned the company among the global leaders in sheet extrusion technology. “We have about 100 employees,” Hanson says, “and 30 of them are degreed engineers. From the start, we’ve been able to attract them, hire them and retain them. Having this depth of engineering and technical expertise is advantageous to us—especially now, as among our customers there has been a contraction in retained experience.”
PTi’s staff includes five process engineers who come from the processing side of the business. Two of the firm’s senior managers—Matt Banach, sr. v.p. sales and marketing; and Sushant Jain, sr. scientist applications and technology—were hired from multi-national packaging companies. “I don’t know that we’ve made a deliberate effort to bring people into the company who worked on the processing side, but at the same time we’ve never turned a blind eye to anyone with talent. People make products and projects successful. PTi is a firm believer in this philosophy.”
Over the years, PTi has invested not only in people and services—it currently runs a fleet of six technical service vans—but in infrastructure as well. In 2016, it broke ground on a $10 million plant expansion at its Aurora, Ill. headquarters that added 40,000 ft2 of primary manufacturing and office space. It built a 15,000-ft2 Technology Development Center that’s equipped with two complete production lines for testing, trials and training.
The machine builder’s exhibit at NPE2018 (Booth W6744) is reflective of two fast-growing areas in sheet extrusion. One is dryerless multi-layer sheet extrusion. In January 2010, PTi and Italian machine builder Luigi Bandera signed a 10-yr agreement allowing PTi to offer North American processors Bandera’s patented HVTSE (High Vacuum Twin Screw Extrusion) technology. The system employs a single atmospheric and dual high-vacuum vent system with a co-rotating twin-screw extruder that allows moisture and other volatiles to be extracted during extrusion, eliminating the need for drying in the case of hygroscopic materials such as PET and PLA (in the case of recycled PET, the need for recrystallization of the material is also eliminated). Hanson says PTi has sold 24 systems in North America since then, including large systems that run in-line with thermoforming.
The ability to eschew drying is but one of the benefits offered by the HVTSE, according to Hanson. The technology also supports a growing need among processors of sheet—particularly those in packaging—to be as nimble as possible in terms of switching from one material to another. In addition to running PET and PLA without having to pre-condition the materials, the system can also accommodate a wide range of polyolefins and PS. “As a machine builder you cannot be resin-centric,” he says. “Sheet processors are always looking at the next resin depending on price point. It’s important to offer systems as flexible as possible.”
Higher line speeds and more throughput are important to sheet processors as well. To that end, PTi is also showing what Hanson calls “high-density manufacturing” at the show. In this case, “high-density” is not a reference to a type of PE but reflects an effort by the machinery supplier to pack a lot of processing power in a smaller footprint. Remarks Hanson, “Processors are trying to shoe-horn lines in small places. And what we’ve developed is a system that has a smaller footprint but packs a lot of punch.” The firm’s latest Super-G HighSPEED Extruders on display—designed for PP and PS—have a 33% smaller footprint than previous models. For processing PP, the Super-G SGHS3000-36D has a production output of approximately 3000 lb/hr, offering what Hanson says is the highest output/ft2 in the market.
Thin-gauge sheet production presents some unique challenges to the extrusion operator, including the following set of 10 commonly encountered considerations
All things being equal, PET will outperform PBT mechanically and thermally. But the processor must dry the material properly and must understand the importance of mold temperature in achieving a degree of crystallinity that allows the natural advantages of the polymer to be realized.
A troubleshooting timeline is essential to help you quickly identify problems and their causes. Here we'll describe such a timeline and how to use it to solve one common problem—melt fracture in tube and profile extrusion.