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January 1, 2008

3 Min Read
K Review: Equipment makers report

One thing that was in short supply at K 2007 was industry pessimism.

Claudio Menini, business unit manager at Soveplast Plastic Machinery (Villafranca, Italy), reported high interest among K show visitors.

On the pipe, profile, decking, and siding extrusion side of the sector, things were generally upbeat. Wolfgang Studener, managing director of extruder maker Battenfeld Extrusionstechnik (BEX; Bad Oeynhausen, Germany) says demand for pipe extruders is growing rapidly. One reason is that copper’s price has risen so dramatically that more builders are reaching for plastics pipes for hot/cold water systems. Another reason appears to be to reduce theft at building sites where copper pipe is proving an irresistible booty for burglars who find an easy market to resell such stolen goods. Plastics pipe doesn’t have this appeal.

During K, BEX was showing a cut-away of a 2000-mm high-density polyethylene (HPDE) pipe used in the mining industry that was extruded by its customer Tehmco (Santiago, Chile). BEX sold 25 extruder lines for jumbo pipe processing (800-2000 mm) last year and now has 75% of the world’s big pipe market, claims Studener.

Plastics supplier Borealis (Vienna, Austria) and its sister company Borouge (Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.) also see continued high demand for both sewage and potable water systems throughout the world, not only in developing countries. The firms took the opportunity at the K to establish their Water for the World initiative to leverage both companies’ expertise to provide know-how, funds, personnel, and polymer for pipe projects around the world. Together with Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), an organization supported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), WaterAid, Care International, Thames Water, Unilever, and Halcrow, the project targets bringing clean water and sanitation to 4 million people globally by 2015. The initiative is open to competitors as long as they have the same goals as his company, says new Borealis CEO Mark Garrett.

Dietmar Straub, CEO at equipment producer KraussMaffei (Munich, Germany), says demand for pipe extrusion lines in Eastern Europe is growing not only for municipal renewal projects but particularly for gas distribution lines. He also says sales of sheet and profile lines are growing, though BEX’s Studener, on the other hand, says he is seeing a definite slowing in investment in new equipment and capacity of profiles lines, with some of this decrease linked to the U.S. housing slowdown.

Drossbach Corrugated Pipe Solutions (Rain/Lech, Germany) and competitor Fränkische Rohrwerke (Königsberg, Germany) used the plastics’ venue to announce the formation of a global technology partnership to manufacture large corrugators, starting with inner diameters of 800 mm. Fränkische transfers its existing know-how for the FDC LLX machine to its partner for further technical development and optimization. Following a transition period, Drossbach will manufacture and supply the machines to Fränkische customers. The companies plan joint extruder and corrugator marketing.

Rinco Albert, marketing manager at corrugator equipment maker Unicor (Hassfurt, Germany), reported demand for his company’s equipment was running high this year, reportedly at the euro 10 million mark, with two of the company’s latest and largest machines, the UC1800, designed for the production of drainage, storm water, and sewer pipes, being ordered just prior to K. In the U.S., stiffer Environmental Protection Agency regulations for managing storm water are expected to have a positive effect on demand for large-sized corrugated pipes and also spur equipment investments.

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