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December 1, 2007

15 Min Read
K show proves high mark during industry high point

The right event at the right time: K 2007 was an unqualified success for exhibitors, as more processors attended, many of them with projects and checkbooks in tow.

The new flexible printing line for vinyl, polyester, and polyurethane films and sheet, manufactured by Rodolfo Comerio (Solbiate Olona, Italy), attracted the attention of many show visitors, said (from left) Francesco Fiamminghini, purchasing manager, and Carlo Comerio, company president. The first of these lines was delivered this month to Italian processor Bottigelli (Monza).

Processors always have attended the tri-ennial K show to learn about the latest in materials and machinery technology. One major difference at this year’s K, the 17th edition of the show (held October 24-31 in Düsseldorf, Germany), was that the event turned out to be a huge marketplace, with many major machinery manufacturers stating they have never seen as much commercial activity closed at a K as at this past one.

Bernhard Merki, president of Euromap, the European committee of Machinery Manufacturers for Plastics and Rubber Industries, as well as CEO of Swiss injection molding machine manufacturer Netstal (Näfels), noted at the K that many machinery manufacturers are hurting for further capacity; order books are so full that deliveries are taking longer than they have in years.

“This is my seventh K show, and I think the status of the show has gotten even stronger,” he said. “One big change at this K show: there have been lots of big, unexpected, deals,” as processors showed up intent on closing deals. “They know they need to be decisive, as our lead times are not getting shorter,” added Merki. Luciano Ancheschi, Euromap vice president and managing director at size reduction specialist Tria (Cologno Monzese, Italy), added, “We see that visitors are much more prepared to discuss business.”

Sales were indeed brisk. Kevin Chudyk, VP sales at U.S. auxiliary equipment producer AEC (Schaumburg, IL), said in an interview at the K that he is reconsidering participation at other shows to concentrate on both K in Düsseldorf and Chinaplas, the two shows where he says he has met more qualified decision-makers bringing specific projects. Udo Kreyenborg, chairman of auxiliary equipment maker Kreyenborg (Munster, Germany), confirmed in a separate interview that sales were brisk.

Ulrich Reifenhäuser, both co-chairman of the eponymous extruder manufacturer (Troisdorf, Germany) and K 2007 exhibitor council chairman, says this year brought more CEOs and other decision-makers to the K Show than three years ago. “There is a definite trend to looking for top technology for investments,” he said.

Gerd Liebig, marketing director at injection molding machine maker Engel (Schwertberg, Austria), said this is the first time in 20 years that the K show occurred as the plastics machinery market was at its peak. “We have never been so busy at a K show…We’ve seen a 20% or higher increase in visitors compared to K 2004, and the quality of visitors has jumped too.”

Extrusion dealmakers found K to be the optimal venue

This year promises to become a record year for many extruder manufacturers, and Walter Häder, managing director of Cincinnati Extrusion (Vienna, Austria), says his company expects to reach the ?100 million mark in sales by December 31. The company’s booth, adorned with 16 different extruders, was a gathering place for visitors during the show; Häder says 40% more processors showed up this year compared to the last K show. The company included energy efficiency labels on its machines to give processors a better feel for ways they can achieve cost savings.

Günter Bahmann, president of Coperion Group (Stuttgart, Germany), which includes Werner & Pfleiderer (W&P) extruder systems, says incoming orders for the group rose from ?300 million three years ago to an estimated ?600 million by the end of this year. Coperion Group companies, so he says, have a global share of 35% in their extrusion sector. Wolfgang Pöschl, head of W&P, says the company is now the most important systems supplier for compounding engineering plastics, masterbatches, cable compounds, and vinyl. The technology development that Pöschl highlighted at the show was a huge MP360 gear pump, exhibited at a show for the first time, with a 360-mm-diameter gear wheel. An even larger unit, MP450 with an output up to 55 tonnes/hr, was sold just before the show.

At Brückner Maschinenbau (Siegsdorf, Germany), producers of extrusion equipment for biaxially oriented and cast film and sheet, the company took an opportunity to promote its Manufacturing Management System (MMS), part of Bruckner Servtec. The system helps processors with roll data history, optimizes roll cutting, improves production control, and includes a computerized maintenance system to achieve, as the company says, total web production transparency. Return on investment is typically 18 months, reports Brückner.

Along with continued demand for its film extrusion equipment, Reifenhäuser (Troisdorf, Germany) is banking on increased demand for equipment to produce natural fiber-reinforced plastics composites (WPC) for decking and profiles. It was promoting, at an open house held parallel to K 2007, a new BiTrudex 75 twin-screw extruder equipped with counter-rotating intermeshing screws to process up to 80% wood flour containing about 8% humidity and only 20% polypropylene. Degassing is done inline, therefore eliminating the extra cost of drying material before processing.

Billed by Richard Steiner, manager marketing and controlling, as offering the highest specific torque of all time, Leistritz Extrusiontechnik’s (Nurnberg, Germany) ZSE50 Maxx twin-screw extruder, designed for volume-limited formulations, made its debut at the show. Torque is rated at 15.0 Nm/cm3, while the increased free volume (OD/ID= 1.66) is achieved thanks to a newly designed shaft system.

K pulled in the dignitaries

According to Petra Cullmann, project director for the K Show, the number of visits from high-level governmental officials and other dignitaries from around the world shot up at this year’s K show, with governmental delegations from India, Malaysia, Switzerland, the U.S., and other countries all spending significant time at the fair.

Prior to a roundtable with the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI; Washington DC) and invited U.S. plastics suppliers and processors, William Timken Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Germany, toured the Milacron stand. In the photo below, Ron Brown, president, chairman, and CEO of Milacron (left), guided Timken (right) through Milacron’s machinery. Behind Timken is Joachim Schäfer, managing director of Messe Düsseldorf, which organizes the K.

“This fair truly represents the global nature of the plastics industry,” Timken said later at the roundtable. Speaking on free trade, which can leave U.S. manufacturers feeling exposed, Timken said, “Global competition is tough, but U.S. industry is up to that challenge.”

Surprised winner takes home extrusion prize

Processor Ray Read, general manager manufacturing at Australia’s largest pipe processor, Iplex Pipelines Australia PTY (Brendale, Queensland), had put his entry, one of more than 300, into the extruder funnel at the K 2007 booth of Cincinnati Extrusion (Vienna, Austria) as a matter of course after signing a contract with the company to take delivery of two Alpha-brand extruders to expand output. “Demand for pipe is booming in Australia,” Read said, indicating the logic behind the acquisition.

But when notary public Sebastian Kremer from Düsseldorf pulled Read’s name from the entries in Cincinnati Extrusion’s “Win an extruder!” sweepstakes competition on the last day of the K show, he was at first speechless. The Vienna, Austria-based extruder manufacturer was giving away its 500th such extruder, an Alpha 45 25B model valued at ?28,000. “Wow, I can’t believe I won it!” were Read’s first words, and he said he will be putting his prize to work once its delivered with the other two units in December to produce PE 100 pipe in diameters ranging from 13-2000 mm. The company already numbers Alpha extruders among the machine park inventory at its facility.

Going, going gone!!

This year’s K show highlighted technological innovation, as one expects at a K. Less predictable, but equally welcomed by exhibitors, was the amount of business taking place on the show floor. Here, a look at just some of the deals.

Brampton Engineering (BE; Brampton, ON) announced a number of sales at the K show, including what its says is the first-ever 11-layer blown-film line; its ninth overall AquaFrost; and a five-layer system. The 11-layer line went to an undisclosed customer described as a “significant player” in the blown-film market. Bud Smith, BE president and CEO, said the 11 layers were possible because of BE’s SCD (streamline coextrusion die), which has a stackable design.

BE claims to have 75 seven- to 10-layer film systems installed globally, with 15 coming in at nine layers or higher, as well as the only 10-layer systems in the world. The AquaFrost system, which blows film downward through a water bath to speed cooling and enhance film properties, went to an unnamed customer. BE now has AquaFrost lines sold into Europe, South Africa, the Americas, China, and the Middle East. “We’re now gaining momentum from the marketplace back to us,” Smith told MPW at the K, explaining that as more AquaFrost films are applied commercially, film processor acceptance grows. Smith says sales have been to blown- and cast-film shops, with two going to cast-film businesses and one used by a cast-film converter to replace a cast line. “The real driving force for our customers with [the AquaFrost] is that several processors have proved the economics are much better,” Smith said.

The five-layer blown-film line went to a fellow Canadian firm, Haremar Plastic Manufacturing Ltd. (Vaughan, ON). That business has several other BE lines, and purchased the multilayer unit to help it enter the barrier-film market.

Doubling what they believe to be the highest-output BOPS (biaxially oriented polystyrene) line currently in China, Parkinson Technologies (Woonsocket, RI) received an order for a turnkey 20,000-tonne system from a group of investors who will locate a facility in Cixi City within the Ningbo industrial trade area. Supplied by Parkinson subsidiary Marshall and Williams, the production system will be located in a factory currently under construction, with a start-up goal for sheet processing of early 2009. Signing the contract on Wednesday, Oct. 24 at the K were Peter Termyn, Parkinson CEO, and M.D. Chen, owner of the Lamo Group.

In addition to the Lamo Group, the other primary Chinese investor is the Zheijang Cixi ShuangFu Group, and the new business will be known as Ningbo Brilliance Plastic Film Pty. Ltd.

According to Alman Chow, Asia manager for Parkinson, the largest line previously sold in China also was from Marshall and Williams. With this sale, Chow said the company will now have six BOPS lines sold in China, plus one for BOPP (biaxially oriented polypropylene). Chow said that in recent years the BOPS market in the country has shifted from a 70/30 import/export split to 50/50. Primarily used for clamshell food packaging, high-quality BOPS has tremendous room for growth in the Chinese market. Right now nearly 90% of the thermoformed clamshell packaging in China uses polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and only 10% is in BOPS. Chow says that BOPS film demand has been growing 25-30% annually since 2003.

Walk a mile, or 80, in our shoes

For those of you who could not attend the show, we did our best to cover a lot of ground there. According to the pedometer he wore, MPW editor Matt Defosse walked just more than 80 miles during the week of the show. Other editors walked much farther, we’re certain. Following, a few of the people we saw on our treks.

Nissei President Yoda: Hybrids and hydraulics suited for Europe

While most Japanese injection machine OEMs are fully focused on all-electrics, Nissei Plastic Industrial (Nagano, Japan) is targeting global shipments of 50% all-electric and 50% hybrid machines incorporating its servo-driven X-Pump hydraulic motion control system in the medium term. Said company President Hozumi Yoda at a pre-K show interview, “The energy efficiency of our hybrids is close to all-electrics and you also have the merits of direct clamping.”

The X Pump was only released in the second half of 2006 but it already accounts for 30% of Nissei sales. Yoda said the X Pump system, in which an electric servo is employed to drive the hydraulic pump, has become so popular as processors have begun to realize, roughly 10 years after all-electrics really started to penetrate the market in Japan, that there can be some drawbacks. “The image of cleanliness has become somewhat tarnished on account of the amount of grease required to lubricate the ball screws,” said Yoda.

“There’s also always the fact that these high-cost ball screws are essentially ’consumable items’ that could one day break and need replacing.”

At K, Nissei went head-to-head with all-electrics with its hybrid offerings. “Injection compression molding is a popular technique in Europe so we expect our hybrid solution to be popular,” said Yoda, who feels that processors in Europe will not rush to switch to all-electric machines just because European OEMs start to offer them on a broad basis. “European hydraulic machines are perfectly good at what they do,” said Yoda.

New controls for Boy

Boy (Neustadt, Germany): The biggest development at this manufacturer of small injection molding machinery is its new controls, introduced at the K Show and now available across the entire machine range. The new Procan ALPHA touchscreen control includes hardware based upon a UTX PC system. This separate hardware module is said to be especially effective when processing analogous signals. It frees the PC from time-critical tasks, thereby helping reduce cycle times.

Open house proved a processor magnet

Particularly happy with the international composition of visitors attending K 2007 were (left) Peter Steinbeck (managing partner) and Jürgen Vutz (CEO) of blown-film extrusion manufacturer Windmöller & Hölscher (Lengerich, Germany). The company welcomed more than 500 customers and prospects to the in-house exhibition at its Lengerich, Germany headquarters, which ran parallel to the company’s presentation at the Düsseldorf fairgrounds. Steinbeck says this year’s K proved the best show ever for the company.

Netstal’s new hybrid enters market

The Evos has arrived at Netstal (Näfels, Switzerland). The hybrid Evos range of machines sees its official introduction at the K, after a teasing look earlier this year during the firm’s 150-year anniversary celebration.

Netstal CEO Bernhard Merki took time for this photo with the Evos 3500 (3500 kN clamp force), one of the first in the range. Eventually, as new clamp-force sizes are added to it, the Evos machines will replace Netstal’s established Synergy series. The 350-tonne press was running a 4+4-cavity mold made by France’s Plastisud, with inmold labelling of 50g (volume) containers at cycles shy of 5 seconds. Trexel’s MuCell gas injection process was also used on these parts to enhance weight savings.

Fanuc Chairman Takeshi Oda

Fanuc broadens offerings for molders

Fanuc Chairman Takeshi Oda brought MPW to this machine at his firm’s stand: The S-2000i 50B is a 50-tonne machine, molding liquid crystal polymer (LCP) connector switches during the K show as part of a production cell that included a four-cavity mold and a Fanuc robot. The Roboshot B series of machines from Fanuc (Oshino-Mura, Japan) now are available in seven models, ranging from 15-300 tonnes of clamp force. Fanuc says standard injection speed for this model is 330 mm/sec, with molders having the option to upgrade to a 500-mm/sec model.

Cool tech doubles output

Edgar Gandelheidt, CEO of Kiefel Extrusion (Worms, Germany) and Brückner Formtec stands before one of his company’s blown-film lines pumping out 750 kg/hr of metallocene-based linear low- density polyethylene web on a line featuring the company’s Perfect Cool cooling technology, which Kiefel claims doubles the output per line, compared to existing lines.

Pipe biz booming for Battenfeld

A happy Wolfgang Studener (above), managing director of Battenfeld Extrusionstechnik (BEX; Bad Oeynhausen, Germany), shows off a cutaway of a 2000-mm HDPE pipe used in the mining industry extruded by its customer Tehmco (Santiago, Chile). BEX sold 25 extruder lines for jumbo (800-2000 mm) pipe processing last year and now reckons it holds 75% of the world market for extruders of big pipes.

Monster in Hall 15

Messe Düsseldorf officials say it was the largest machine ever exhibited at the K, and to hear KraussMaffei officials discuss it, it may eventually be even larger. Our photo shows the crowd that seemed never to abate before the KM 2300-12000 MX Spinform machine, molding door modules of PC/ABS that were then overcoated as necessary with polyurethane in one of four colors. Car OEM Skoda contributed the part design. Larger machine? Yes, possibly, as KraussMaffei’s engineers already are considering linking this production cell in-line with a compounding extruder.

Thin walls? These have almost no walls

On a visit to the stand of Husky (Bolton, ON), Paulo Gomes, business manager, packaging for Europe, and Volker Neuber, VP service and sales Europe, took MPW to see the firm’s HyPac 300, molding extremely thin-walled tubs at the K. Inmold labeling was on the sides and bottom of these tubs, processed in a 100 MFR block copolymer polypropylene from Borealis. Tubes weighed just 6.5g with an average wall thickness of 0.3 mm. At 2.9-second cycle times, output on the four-cavity mold from Müller was just shy of 5000 tubs per hour.

’Downtime be gone’ with new die

From left: Christopher W. Curtin, executive VP sales/marketing; John A. Ulcej, executive VP engineering and technology; and Timothy C. Callahan, president and CEO of Extrusion Dies Industries (EDI; Chippewa Falls, WI), were proud of their K novelty, the Contour Die seen here. The company says its newest technology can help processors automate width changes and cut downtime between job changeovers.

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