DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — There are plenty of qualities you might attribute to an extrusion machine. Personality is not usually one of them. So when you see an extrusion machine with fierce eyes and sharp teeth protruding from blood-stained gums, it's something of an oddity. So what's the significance of this beast, Plastics News asked Stephan Gneuss, and is it a shark or a crocodile?
"It's a shark," replied Gneuss, "and the relevance is that we wanted people like you asking this question." Touché.
Gneuss Kunstofftechnik GmbH of Bad Oeynhausen, Germany, did not call a news conference to discuss the taxonomy of beasts. Rather, it is celebrating its evolution from filtration technology maker to a manufacturer of turnkey solutions encompassing extrusion lines and measurement technology. Around 50 percent of its products are used in the recycling of post-consumer and post-industrial waste.
It can be a smelly business, Gneuss admits: "The important thing is to take smell out of post-consumer recycling. Post-consumer recycling is pretty smelly."
Started 30 years ago, the family firm now has 200 employees, business units in the United States, Brazil and China, and holds more than 60 worldwide patents. It first started producing extrusion lines in 2006 and now, seven years later, it has built over 40 lines installed in four continents.
Gneuss' brother Daniel Gneuss, who heads up the company's North American operations in Matthews, N.C., emphasized the company's role in bottle-to-bottle recycling: "We have extrusion lines with throughput rates up to 2 [metric tons] an hour. Our extruders are optimized for PET but we are also now making extruders for polyolefin applications.
"In the area of thermoformed sheet we have now all kinds of applications for customers using up to 100 percent flakes. What is significant is the clarity and quality of the sheet; our customers see a huge benefit in comparison with conventional technologies."
Daniel Gneuss explained that while bottle flakes are the most common application, "we have a few lines where fibers are processed. We have installations for nonwovens, stable fibers and continuous filament. Here clarity is not so important but it's important to have a continuous process, even if you're using post-consumer reclaim."
Gneuss's new introductions in filtration fall into two categories: further development of existing products and new product developments.
Daniel Gneuss noted that there is a tendency toward more niche recycling with higher-value products.
"Because of the importance of recycling we've had to look at the screen changers. We have introduced the RSFgeniusM. It's capable of acting extremely rapidly to changes in the quality of the polymer melt. We are looking at ever-dirtier recycled material yet with a need for ever-purer polymer melt."
A new product for 2013 is the SFXmagnus-R filtration system with a back-flushing system. Daniel Gneuss said: "We do without an independent drive for the back-flushing system so the system is more compact and, due to the lower number of parts, it's in between the price of the SFXmagnus and the RSFgenius. It is designed for somewhat less-complex filtration than the RSF genius.
Daniel Gneuss said the company has introduced a fully electric filtration system with no hydraulic aggregate or air supply in order to save energy and costs.
"We can do without the hydraulic power pack and all the associated issues with oil and heat," he said.
"Finally, we've introduced a new, complete screen changer range, the KR, our basic model. It's a filter based on rotary technology but trimmed down. We call it a 'discontinuous screen changer' but it has a lot of advantages over a continuous screen saver," Daniel Gneuss said.
Gneuss' presentation concluded with Stephan Gneuss demonstrating the firm's latest measurement and control-system technologies. The result of three years' development, the control systems are designed solely for operation with Gneuss' own processing technology.
"Our control systems are now controlled so that at any time with your mobile, tablet, laptop you can get remote control from the internet," said Stephan Gneuss. "If you're at home at the weekend and want to see what's going on at the production line you can do so at any time, and receive warnings if there are problems with the process."
This is the result of a long development strategy that started about three years ago, he said.
"We wanted to make sure that we built up quality in all areas."
Gneuss is so optimism that the company increased production capacity in 2009 and 2010. A further expansion of its Bad Oeynhausen facility is planned for 2014, with enlargement to the production building, the erection of a new parts store and the addition of a third story to its administration building.