We sat down and discussed printing equipment with Rick Keller from Davis-Standard, LLC, Dave Nunes from Hosokawa Alpine American, Inc., and Sebastian Huennefeld from W&H. What follows are the excerpts from that discussion.
VP of Extrusion & Solution Coating
38 years with the company
Hosokawa Alpine American, Inc.
32 years with the company
Product Manager, Blown Film Extrusion
Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corp.
8 years with the company
What’s new with your company pertaining to extrusion equipment? Are you planning to release anything new to coincide with the K show this fall?
Keller: Our Industry 4.0 initiative is focused on reducing waste and increasing uptime through an advanced monitoring of the extrusion process. The focus is to alarm and predict negative impact events before they cause waste, thereby reducing production waste. This is part of the effort to improve first pass yields through use of next level automation and controls.
Nunes: We have a new extrusion concept for specific blown film applications that we will be presenting for the first time at K19, and we will also be introducing some new web handling technology.
Huennefeld: W&H will be introducing new extrusion technologies at the K this year. I cannot tell you what they are yet, but I will say you can expect both hardware and automation developments, and I personally am excited about them.
One of the concerns many people have about flexible packaging is the increased attention being placed on plastic waste. Does your company have any products/innovations designed to make flexible packaging more sustainable? Are there other ways your company is addressing this perception?
Nunes: Flexible packaging is environmentally, ecologically and economically superior to all other packaging options. Alpine’s extrusion equipment in conjunction with the latest resin technology produces the thinnest and strongest films for specific applications. This process is inherently sustainable.
The flexible packaging industry with brand owners, consumers and governments must stop all forms of plastic waste and littering. This must be accomplished through global education and initiatives that make it clear these products are far too valuable to throw away or litter.
There are initiatives underway to address these issues, including the difficult task of cleaning up the waste that exists today. Alpine has been and continues to be committed to investing resources to solving these complex problems and promoting how flexible packaging is the solution, not the problem.
Huennefeld: Yes, there is a lot of attention placed on waste and rightfully so. As a manufacturer of machinery, we are constantly contemplating how to optimize production processes in order to reduce energy and material consumption. We also work with our resin partners to develop recipes that will reduce waste. As you know, a hot topic in the industry now is how to replace PET in standup pouches. We have worked closely with a resin supplier to formulate a recipe and develop process conditions to create a polyolefin-based film to replace the PET layer in a standup pouch. With the use of MDO processing and reverse printing, we’ve found a way to make a pouch completely from PE, which is then recyclable.
Keller: We continue to assist customers with processing biodegradable polymers, such as PLA in paper board applications. We are fortunate that polymer producers of biodegradable materials approach us with their newest materials for processing advice and testing. This keeps us on the forefront of material developments. There is a myth that plastic laminates are not recyclable. We would direct you to efforts made by Tetra Pak on recycling paper, poly and foil from the same package. The technology is available if the collection stream is made available to the public.
Automation, process repeatability and Industry 4.0 are just a few of the trends that are poised to play a role in the future of extrusion equipment. What are some others?
Keller: A continuing trend is the evolution of equipment design to support differentiation (quick changeover, shorter runs and use of specialty materials), and the drive to shorter product runs and multiple SKUs. Increased versatility of screw designs to process a wide variety of polymers is a benefit for these short-run, specialized applications in flexible packaging.
Nunes: Every aspect of extrusion technology contributes to repeatable quality, improved efficiency and zero waste. Extruders, dies, cooling systems, web-handling and complete system integration all play a role. Finding and keeping a strong manufacturing labor force is at a crisis point for many in our industry, and the more that can be done to reduce basic labor needs the better.
Obviously factors like poor film quality would potentially lead to an extrusion machine upgrade/replacement. But what are some other reasons to upgrade current equipment, even if it’s seemingly working well?
Huennefeld: There are plenty of cases when upgrading or retrofitting an extrusion line is the best option for a film producer. The most common reasons would be to increase output or to create the capacity required to expand applications. An airing might do the trick, or adding a couple extruders to go from mono to 3-layer production might be called for. Another reason to upgrade would be to replace machine parts that will become obsolete. In cases like these, it wouldn’t make sense for a converter to invest in a whole new line when upgrading existing equipment will achieve their goals for far less money and in less time.
Nunes: There are many reasons to upgrade and/or replace existing assets, including poor quality, low rate, high scrap, inefficiency, and high labor and maintenance costs. Strategic asset management is critical in a capital intensive industry like ours, and we have complete presentations dedicated to just that topic.
What’s one feature or innovation within your extrusion equipment portfolio that you believe gives your company a competitive advantage in the market?
Keller: Experience. We are the only equipment manufacturer participating in the cast film, blown film, extrusion lamination, solution lamination and rigid sheet areas, so we see everything in development across the marketplace and how it works together. Developing solutions for one process often has application in the other processes. Sharing this knowledge is at the core of the Davis-Standard experience.
Nunes: Our die technology allows us to produce the thinnest possible layers with the most exact layer-to-layer control for tailoring film products for very specific applications with the bare minimum amount and percentages of raw materials. We continue to develop new die designs that enhance the processing of existing materials, with an eye towards new concepts and resin technologies.
Huennefeld: One feature we have, that many other suppliers have as well, is remote access to a machine via the Internet. While that in itself is not unique, what we can do with the access is absolutely singular on the market. Around the clock, any day of the year, customers experiencing problems on W&H machinery can reach an actual information and diagnostics engineer, who specializes in their machinery type. These engineers each have a minimum of five years’ experience as field technicians for W&H. More than 80 percent of machine problems are currently resolved remotely. This is unparalleled.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about extrusion equipment or the flexible packaging industry?
Nunes: Flexible packaging is a superior packaging medium with the smallest possible carbon footprint and is the best solution for global packaging needs. We are proud to be a part of this industry and are committed to help solve the global waste issue while reinforcing the numerous benefits of the products we produce.