Film extrusion 2010: A year in review

By Tony Deligio
Published: December 27th, 2010

From M&A, to PLA, to EVA, the film extrusion sector had an eventful 2010, with continuing impact from 2009 mergers, all new partnerships in 2010, and new owners at a number of technology leaders. Polylactic acid (PLA) continued to push into flexible film applications, with a big launch and retraction for the same product, while ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) for encapsulation films, and the entire solar market for films, continued to heat up.

1. 2010 film extrusion M&A: EDI, battenfeld-cincinnati, Macro, Reifenhäuser Kiefel, Brückner, and Gloucester
In addition to continued impact from deals consummated in 2009, 2010 brought a new round of deals in the film market, particularly among suppliers. With less than a week left in the year, extrusion and coating dies manufacturer Extrusion Dies Industries LLC was sold to private equity firm, Bertram Capital. In November, Macro Engineering was sold by its founder, Mirek Planeta, to DXS International Enterprises Inc., a Canadian corporation owned by the publicly traded Chinese company, Dalian Rubber & Plastics Machinery Co. Ltd. In June, the 2009 combination of Reifenhäuser Kiefel announced its first joint project, the Evolution line. In April, Battenfeld Extrusionstechnik (BEX; Bad Oeynhausen, Germany), Cincinnati Extrusion (Vienna, Austria), and B+C Extrusion Systems (Foshan, China) Ltd. announced that they would combine to form a new company called battenfeld-cincinnati. That same month, Gloucester Engineering Corp. filed for Chapter 11, while in July, the Brückner Group announced expansion plans.

2. Frito-Lay perseveres to develop biodegradable PLA bag….and promptly yanks it from the shelves

Tony Knoerzer, VP packaging and sustainability at Pepsico's Frito-Lay division, offered insight into the challenges his company overcame to create the polylactic acid (PLA) bag for the SunChips brand, but in October, the company announced that it was pulling most of the polylactic acid (PLA)-packed Sun Chips out of stores because consumers have complained that the material is too loud.

3. W&H secures printer, extruder orders; on pace for record year
Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corp. (W&H; Lincoln, RI) in June reported orders for its flexographic printing and blown-film technologies, with fourth-quarter deliveries planned for a flexographic press to Bema Polytech (Elmhurst, IL) and a co-extrusion film extrusion line to McNeely Plastics (Clinton, MS). A W&H North America representative told PlasticsToday that the company's sales through the first half of 2010 had been “robust,” with the potential to post a record year.

4. ExxonMobil Chemical discusses potential for Vistamaxx in films
ExxonMobil Chemical (Houston) has launched a four-grade suite of its Vistamaxx propylene-based elastomers for use in films, saying the material has a positive impact on everything from package seal integrity to line speeds. Carol Fitzpatrick, global development manager for Vistamaxx in films, said the material is helping processors react to a changing market, noting that equipment manufacturers are increasingly offering higher-speed packaging equipment, with some systems capable of rates as high as 80 m/min.

5. Dow sees bright future for polyolefin-based encapsulant, targets EVA
Dow Chemical Co. (Midland, MI) is launching a line of polyolefin-based encapsulant films for photovoltaic (PV) modules, after adding a new production line at its Findlay, OH manufacturing plant for the new product in response to growing demand for PV specialty films. Dow says that compared to traditional ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) encapsulants, its Enlight polyolefin-based product can enhance PV module production efficiencies, for lower conversion costs, while also providing greater module stability and improved electrical performance.

PlasticsToday also hosted a series of extrusion webinars in 2010. Here's one we archived that you might want to check out, or re-visit:

Tips & Tricks to Stabilize and Cool Your Bubble
Date: September 29, 2010, 11AM EST
Join Paul Waller as he shares his years of experience in blown-film extrusion. For part 6 of our Extrusion Expert series, Paul delves into bubble stability, one of the most critical determinants of a successful blown film line. Participants will learn why bubbles change shape, how to stabilize them and how to diagnose the causes for most common instability patterns. A comparison of air ring and bubble stabilizing systems will help participants select equipment that is most suitable for their lines. Participants should be able to reduce scrap rates after attending this unique webinar.

Tony Deligio

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