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Plant will make propane tanks

By: Bill Bregar

November 13, 2012

PITTSBURGH (Nov. 13, 3 p.m. ET)  — Kautex Maschinenbau GmbH has formed a team based in Germany to set up factories to make plastic cylinders for propane and natural gas — fully automated plants that use blow molding, injection molding and filament winding.

Kautex technicians are installing a complete factory in Mumbai, India, at Supreme Industries Ltd., a major Indian processor.

“We’re in charge of everything except the building,” said Chuck Flammer, vice president of sales in North America at Kautex Machines Inc. in North Branch, N.J. Speaking Oct. 10 at the SPE Blow Molding Conference, Flammer said the turnkey equipment was going to India in 30-40 containers on ships.

Sean Stephan, regional sales manager at Kautex Machines, described the process during the Pittsburgh conference. The first such factory is run by Ragasco AS in Raufoss, Norway. The plant in India will be the second.

Stephan said Kautex entered the factory-design business to tap the emerging market of compressed natural gas fuel tanks for cars, buses and trucks. Kautex, based in Bonn, Germany, is the dominant maker of machines for blow molded automotive gas tanks.

There are other applications. In developing countries, people living in areas with no utilities can easily carry the lightweight cylinders home from the store, he said.

Kautex supplies the blow molding machine to make the polyethylene liner. Although the liner is a simple shape, it must have perfect walls. Six-axis robots load the lines into a robotic filament winding station. The resin-soaked filaments can be either glass or carbon fibers.

The composite tanks go into an oven for curing. Finished tanks are 100 percent tested.

Meanwhile, an injection molding machine molds the outer case and some fittings.

Stephan said these are not propane tanks for your backyard grill. That market will remain in lower-cost metal, he said.

“These are not trying to replace steel cylinders,” he said.