Flexible Packaging sat down with Steve DeSpain of Kiefel to get his thoughts on the current extrusion market and what innovations may be on the horizon.

Q: What are the top 2-3 ways an extrusion system can save a flexible packaging company money and resources?

• Screws and dies which allow fast job changes, i.e., flexible extrusion equipment with excellent self cleaning effects that allow faster changeovers and less scrap.

• Autoprofile systems to improve overall gauge-tolerances that improve yields through resin utilization as well as increased printing/converting speeds due to flatter more uniform film.

• Operator friendly and easy-to-understand and operate computer controls (HMI) - with features like our PERFECT CHANGE that allows the customer to changeover products with less scrap and downtime.

Q: Improved technologies are resulting in an increase in automation throughout the plant floor. What are the pros and cons of such a shift in operations?

• One of the cons might be a lack of true operator thought into what they are doing, i.e., the robot effect. Quality control may suffer due to lack of attention by the operator.

• Not all customers have the talent it takes to operate and maintain these more technical systems. A more talented staff is required to take advantage of all the benefits a system like this has to offer as well as maintain.

• All production data such as temperatures, tension settings, process conditions, etc., are stored and orders are reproducible leading to consistent products supplied to the end user.

• Higher film quality, reduced scrap and less damage to the expensive finished product, due to the usage of such things as shaft and roll handling systems.

• Easier monitoring of polymer usage, order reports, power consumption, line efficiency, etc., helps run an efficient operation.

Q: If a converter is looking to purchase a new film extruder, what specifically should it be looking for?

Increase in output, better film quality, operator-friendly system, service and back up from the supplier and the reliability of equipment. The customer needs to ask where do I want to be in three or five years from now and will my supplier be there to support me not only now but well into the future.

Q: What specific features are flexible packaging companies asking for in blown film equipment? What are they less interested in?

Companies should be looking for flexibility, output, quality of the equipment and of the film produced on it. On-time delivery and startup, reliability of the equipment and good service should also play an important part in any decision.

I believe companies are less interested in gimmicks and “black magic” solutions, they want tried and true, proven technology. Things that work on one product and nothing else, or in other words, things that make the equipment less flexible, are things that most companies cannot use or afford.

Q: What is the next evolution of extrusion and when do you expect that innovation occur?

The next evolution in extrusion equipment (other than any proprietary things being worked on) will be things to take advantage of cost savings like energy efficiencies and manpower usage.