Novatec adds downstream extrusion equipment

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At NPE, Novatec is rolling out its Bessemer integrated downstream extrusion series for pipe, profile and tubing. Named for Novatec President and CEO Conrad Bessemer, who is shown demonstrating the central controller, the line includes pullers, cooling tanks, cutters and saws, all linked by a central control. (Novatec Inc. photo)

ORLANDO, FLA. (April 1, 8:45 a.m. ET) — Novatec Inc. (Booths 2829, 7747) — known for its dryers, loaders and conveying systems — is expanding into complete extrusion downstream equipment for profiles, tubing and pipe.

President and CEO Conrad Bessemer said Novatec started with a clean sheet of paper.

He said the goal was: “How do we make this as much of a science, and a repeatable science, as possible, and use technology effectively?”

Novatec Inc. pulled out of NPE2009, in the depths of the recession. But at the 2012 show, the auxiliary equipment maker has come back to make a statement: Novatec developed new products during the economic downturn.

“We realized after the recession that, to grow the business, we needed to look outside of some of our traditional areas in conveying and drying,” Bessemer said.

So at NPE2012, Novatec is rolling out its Bessemer downstream series. The equipment includes a fully integrated line of pullers, cooling tanks, cutters and saws. Each piece of auxiliary equipment has its own control panel, all linked together in a central control in what Novatec said is a first for profile and tubing extrusion.

“Nobody in the rest of the industry has connected all this equipment before,” Bessemer said.

Novatec also is using NPE in Orlando to introduce a GS loader with a brushless motor and MoistureMaster, an in-line pellet moisture measurement system.

Novatec officials outlined their technology introductions during an interview at the Baltimore headquarters before the show.

The Bessemer downstream series uses Conrad Bessemer’s last name for a reason — he said he is related to the Bessemer steel family. Henry Bessemer invented the first inexpensive process to mass-produce steel.

“These products are very, very rugged,” he said. “We want this thing to work and work and work.”

Conrad Bessemer came up through the downstream extrusion sector, working as an executive at firms that made brands like Versa cutters, Goodman profile cutters and Conair Gatto pullers, cutters and cooling tanks.

Novatec hired Robert Butts last fall as vice president and general manager for extrusion products. Butts has a 27-year career in extrusion and auxiliary equipment, including stints in sales at Goodman, American Leistritz Extruder Corp., AEC Inc. and SteerAmerica Inc. The company also recently hired several people that worked on the project.

Bessemer spent 19 years at Conair before leaving in 2006 to lead an investor group that bought Novatec. The move into a broad line of extrusion downstream equipment pits Novatec directly against his former employer.

“We were contacted by some major customers that said, ‘Look there’s a real opportunity here. You need to take a good hard look at this, because one competitor, being Conair, has almost 70 or 80 percent of the marketplace,’” Bessemer said.

He said Novatec wanted to do something different. The main goal was take separate pieces of equipment and connect them as an integrated process.

Historically, Bessemer said, downstream extrusion has grown up with certain companies specializing in one narrow segment, say pullers or cutters. Each piece of machinery has its own discrete controller. Since extrusion lines are long, the operator has to make a change, say in cool tank temperature, then run over to check the cut quality or tinker with puller speed.

The industry sector started in the 1950s and 1960s, well before the idea of linking machines through controls. The pieces of equipment were separate and distinct.

“They all depend on each other,” Bessemer said. “The cutter can do nothing without the puller. And obviously, it needs the tank to get the product to the right temperature. They’re really one big process line.”

Novatec is releasing technical details about the equipment line at NPE. But during the pre-show plant visit, Bessemer discussed the puller — a critical component because it sets the pace for the entire line —and the cooling tank.

On traditional pullers, a person hand-cranks a screw to set the level of compression force onto the part. “What we’ve incorporated there is actually a load cell that measures the amount of compression. You can set it, and you press a button and it always goes back to that,” he said.

Consultant Wesley Sipe helped develop the cooling tanks. The controller takes into account a lot of information, such as cooling-water flow, the number of spray nozzles needed and the spray velocity and what size recirculation pumps you will need.

“From a scientific point of view, the big change is how to calculate how much cooling length you need on a set size profile, at a set line speed. We designed a software program that you can actually input the material, the thickness of that material,” Bessemer said.

Novatec engineers found out that most extruders are over-cooling parts, which wastes energy, he said.

Other types of plastics manufacturing have long been fully connected. Novatec has years of expertise developing its own software and electronics to tie its drying and conveying equipment in with the production line.

The Siemens controllers use large color touch screens with high resolution. Ethernet connection can be wireless, so a plant manager can view the entire extrusion process remotely. It clearly shows the history of the entire process, such as puller speeds and temperatures.

The idea is to make profile and pipe extrusion a science, not an art dependent on a master operator. “It enables you to have a repeatable process,” Bessemer said. For example, after you determine the correct parameters, the controller stores the recipe for future use.

Each downstream machine has its own operator screen. You can scroll between screens of every other piece of equipment. It will also interface with McGuire Products Inc.’s LineMaster gravimetric control feeding the extruder.

“We’re really trying to change the thought process of people that need downstream,” Butts said.

At NPE2012, Novatec also is showing:

c The GS loader with a long-lasting brushless motor. Novatec’s goal was to offer the vacuum loader with a brushless motor at the same price as loaders with brushes, by buying motors in larger volumes.

Brushless electric motors can last four or five times longer. The brushes and commutator both wear out over time, requiring replacement brushes and then, a whole new motor.

Jim Zinski, product manager for conveying systems, said the brushless motor is now standard on GS loaders. Novatec is offering a five-year warranty. Also standard: a magnet-backed control pendant that can be left on the side of the loader or attached to the side of a material hopper. Other features include easy pivot-lid access and Micro-Burst sequential blasts of air to keep the internal filter from clogging.

c MoistureMaster can help stop under- and over-drying resins, according to Novatec. The moisture sensor is placed at the bottom of the drying hopper, machine throats and silo filling/unloading points. It can be retrofitted onto existing equipment.

Traditionally, processors have relied on time, temperature and dew point to dry materials. In the past, to find out the material dryness, employees had to take material samples back to a testing lab and perform lengthy tests.

MoistureMaster measures the dielectric constant — or the ability to carry electric current — of a specific resin against the dielectric constant of water. The inventor is Marco Sammartini, managing director of Bry-Air Prokon GmbH in Chiasso, Switzerland. He said the technology has been used in pharmaceutical production and agricultural items such as wheat and grain. This is its first application for plastics, he said.