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New film, profile extrusion lines tackle high assembly cost issues

German processing equipment maker Reifenhäuser (Troisdorf, Germany) talked about a new blown-film development-which should appeal to processors wanting German-made quality but at a lower price than traditional modular lines the company produces-at last month's NPE show in Chicago. This unit, Filmtec 3-1700 IBC-RHS (RHS = Reifenhäuser High-quality Standard line), is an off-the-shelf unit with limited options.

The three-layer coex line includes a die head up to 400 mm, REIcoflow II gauge control with air cooling ring lips, an eight-segment scissor-type calibration cage with fluoroplastics rollers, carbon fiber rolls on the collapsing unit, a REIcofly noncontact, air turning bar, and a tandem winder. The unit, as can be seen, is not a stripped-down, low-cost line as some equipment makers tried to market about 10 years ago. Instead, Reifenhäuser's Jens Spirgatis, technical manager, blown film, says this unit goes after the customer who has a specific three-layer application and says he wants "Made-in-Germany" quality for a package price of less than €1 million.

How does Reifenhäuser do it? What the company is not broadcasting widely is that the RHS line is made mainly of German-made parts, which are shipped to the company's facility in China where assembly takes place. Parts that are sourced in China for the line are produced to European standards, he says, by foreign subsidiaries of globally operating companies such as Siemens. The difference in manual assembly costs between those in Germany is substantial, Spirgatis says. He sees customers in Asia-Pacific, Latin America, South Africa, and Eastern Europe finding the unit and price attractive.

"The idea is for Reifenhäuser to obtain a larger slice of the three-layer pie. Many processors out there are interested in high-quality three-layer lines but can't afford the traditional modular line we produce in Europe with all the extras," says Gerry Donohue, technical director at Reifenhäuser Great Britain (Tewkesbury, England). "By limiting the number of options, we have been able to keep the costs to the right level." Ulrich Reifenhäuser, co-managing director, says the present capacity of his Chinese facility is about 12 lines/yr but the company is looking into the possibility to expand this to meet expected increasing demand. So far the company has delivered nine RHS lines assembled in China to processors in the Far East.

He says a big attraction for customers is the fact that the RHS line is available for delivery four months after signing the contract, whereas a traditional Reifenhäuser three-layer modular line assembled in Germany can take six months or more.

Interestingly, extrusion equipment competitor SMS Plastics Technology's BEX division (Bad Oeynhausen, Germany) opted for a similar production and assembly method using low-cost Chinese labor to produce its economical small and technical profile extrusion line: techBEX. This makes the unit's price quite attractive, says Torsten Sahrhage, sales manager, profile extrusion. Like ready-to-wear clothes, this line comes with very limited options. Processors can order single-screw extruders for either 40 kg/hr or 60 kg/hr. Downstream units include a calibration table, caterpillar take off, manual rather than computer controls, and synchronized cutting saws.

The versatile, plug-and-play unit can process profiles from a wide range of plastics such as ABS, polyethylene, polypropylene, acrylic, polycarbonate, ASA, nylon, and vinyl granules. Battenfeld Extrusiontechnik (BEX) GmbH, Bad Oeynhausen, Germany; +49 5731 2420; www.bex.battenfeld.com;

Reifenhäuser GmbH & Co. KG, Troisdorf, Germany; +49 2241 481768; www.reifenhauser.com

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