Q: There seems to be two contrary trends-packagers are demanding higher performance for their films, which means more multi-layer lines. Yet they also want simpler structures that are more sustainable. How does Kiefel address these two demands?
A: From a resin perspective, the world of polymers is always changing and our customers are attacking the sustainability issue by taking full advantage of these new resins. With respect to sustainability, as an [original equipment manufacturer] of blown film equipment, it is our responsibility to offer equipment that can run these new polymers as well as current ones, and still allow our customers to meet the needs required by the market in both cost and performance.
Our philosophy is to discuss the details of the equipment and the structures that our customer is considering long before an order is placed. With the right background information, we can design a line that addresses their sustainability needs while still offering high performance.
Q: How does the equipment you develop for coextrusion address sustainability? What kinds of technologies and developments are you investigating to speed this along?
A: There are many facets to the sustainability issue, most of which fall under the responsibility of the film producer and film converter. One of these facets is the ability to produce film using clean production technologies and best practices.
To do our part in the sustainability challenge, Kiefel offers technology such as specialized screw and die designs that allow our customers to run with very tight specifications while utilizing the best methods to make the film.
Another example would be the ability to run very tight gauge control and very accurate web widths to keep scrap levels down, which saves on resin and other resources used to make that scrap. Often times, trim is a necessary evil, but if we can minimize the amount of trim taken, or not take any at all, our customers are getting film out the door on the first pass.
Q: What are some of the biggest trends do you see popping up in extrusion and coextrusion?
A: For years now, the trend has been to move to more and more layers, now up to nine layers or more. We continue to see this trend, but on a much smaller scale. Some of our customers feel strongly that in this very difficult market, they need 7- or 9-layer equipment to stay competitive.
However, the bigger trend that we see at Kiefel is to stay with 3-layer lines. The majority of the quotations that we are sending out are for high-output 3-layer lines, with the key word being high output. The need for three-layer products is still the largest in the packaging industry and our customers recognize that.
Because of the competitive nature of this segment, many blown film companies are coming to Kiefel because they know we can offer them the technology that can maintain the highest film quality while still allowing them to run at much higher rates. We’ve sold a number of lines recently that were designed specifically to address this need.
Q: What do you consider to be the biggest challenge Kiefel is facing? What kinds of demands do you hear from your customers?
A: To steal a line from a past presidential campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Certainly the economy has a big influence on the decision to buy new equipment. Because of this weak economy, our customers put a lot of pressure on us to design equipment to help them be more profitable.
Their demand is simple: They only want to run two products; anything and everything, and they want to run these products at the highest quality level and at the highest output.