logo

Thermoforming IML pioneer Tech II adds line, and now extrudes its own sheet

By: Bill Bregar

June 11, 2013

Tech II Inc., which has pioneered in-mold labeling for thermoforming in North America, has bought a second TSL thermoforming machine. The company also is now extruding its own polypropylene sheet.

Tech II President Eric Shiffer said the packaging company had been purchasing its sheet from outside suppliers. “Self-manufacturing our own sheet came from a desire for greater vertical integration — to control quality and costs — but even more importantly, to experiment and innovate on a confidential basis, accelerating the innovation cycle,” Shiffer said. “This allows us to experiment with products in a proprietary way, without giving away any secrets we develop.”

Used for years in injection molding, in-mold labeling gives high-level graphics for packaging. Thermoforming has faster cycles and makes thinner parts.

About a year ago, the Springfield, Ohio-based maker of food packaging started production on its first IML thermoformer, an FT3500 thermoformer from Thermoforming Systems LLC of Union Gap, Wash. The mold and automation for that first line came from Hekuma GmbH in Eching, Germany. Shiffer said the first whole production line has the capability to form on a 14-cavity mold. It is making a new packaging product.

In February of this year, Tech II started extruding sheet on a Welex line that that can produce two-layer or three-layer sheet, with film lamination capability. Welex, which announced the news June 4, said the line can be expanded into full barrier sheet production. It can handle up to five additional extruders, including additional rolls for additional sheet cooling. The Welex DB-W feedblock has a modular design so feedblock sections and extruders can be added.

That will allow Tech II to produce high barrier sheet containing EVOH (ethylene vinyl alcohol) and adhesives or two-color sheet with a core layer of recycled plastic. Right now, Tech II is laminating to get the barrier layer.

Welex President and CEO David Schroeder called IML thermoforming “cutting-edge innovation.” Welex is based in Blue Bell, Pa.

Shiffer said the company is extruding the sheet onto rolls, which are moved into position for the two thermoforming machines. Both Thermoforming Systems machines feature TSL’s Tilt Technology, where the bottom platen rotates to allow automation to insert the labels and remove finished parts.

Shiffer said that a few weeks ago, Tech II began running parts on the second TSL thermoformer, an FT4K, a larger machine and complete production line that can mold up to 21 cavities. The FT4K is paired with an automation system from Ilsemann Automation of Bremen, Germany, and a mold from Mould & Matic Solutions GmbH of Micheldorf, Austria.

The second IML thermoformer is making a packaging product that will hit the market Aug. 1, Shiffer said.

He declined to give details about either of the thermoformed ILM products.

The core business of the family-owned Tech II is injection molding food containers, lids, bowls and cups. Tech II runs 50 injection molding machines, turning out 15 million pieces a day.

Tech II executives wanted to diversity into thermoforming — with IML, the first time the technology has been used in North America — to set the company apart.