Extrusion basics: How much do you love me? Evaluating a used extrusion line

First, my monthly reminder: There are no toxic plastics, none of them. When you meet anyone who thinks otherwise, try to find out why. Ask for statistics, toxicity data and their sources. You probably won’t get any, or they will be selective or come from questionable sources. Anything you think is really significant, please let me know.

Now, to extrusion. How much do you love me? My favorite answer to this often-serious question is, “11 on a scale of 10.” That may make the asker feel more secure, but doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. Some things can’t be easily quantified. Love is one of them; the value of a used extrusion line is another.

Sometimes I get asked to estimate value or capacity, or both, perhaps for legal purposes or by someone wanting to sell or buy a used line. My easy answer to a buyer is to invoke the rule of thirds.

First, find out the cost of a new line of equal size (diameter and L/D) and power (kW or HP), if possible from the same company that made the used one. Then plan to pay one-third of that price to buy the used line. If it’s selling for less, it may be very old or in poor condition, or both. It may well be a bargain, but such a line requires a visual inspection and should be competently tested before going further. Like a racehorse, it’s no bargain if it can’t run. If the price is more than one third, find out why. There may be a good reason: The machine may be relatively new and is being sold because the company has folded or decided to move far away, or it lost some business and the machine is now redundant.

Then, allow another third to fix what’s broken, often electricals, and shipment costs.

The final third is the savings achieved by buying used.

But it usually isn’t that easy. A line may be more valuable depending on how soon it can be put into operation. In some cases, where the line is still at its owner’s plant, it might even be leased and run there to get seasonally needed production right away, and then sent to its new location in the off season. If you do this, consider the possibility of leaving the line in place and having the owner continue to make your product under lease or some other creative financing. This is particularly attractive if you don’t do extrusion yet, as it saves you the hassle and cost of buying and storing resins and additives, finding employees and running 24-hour days. Like a car rental, such agreements must deal with responsibility if the line breaks down or the product doesn’t meet predetermined standards.

Another way to estimate value is to go online and look for similar equipment on websites of used-extrusion-line dealers. Prices are not usually posted, but you may encounter friendly salespeople who believe that if they quote prices, you may buy from them rather than someone else. In evaluating prices, make sure they

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