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Blow molder invests in more coextrusion capacity

By: Michael Lauzon

February 20, 2014

Industrial blow molder Agri-Industrial Plastics Co. is investing about $4.5 million to expand its multi-layer fuel tank production in Fairfield, Iowa.

The private company has ordered a six-layer continuous coextrusion blow molder from Kautex Maschinenbau GmbH, its sixth Kautex machine in eight years. Auxiliary equipment and site preparation round out the investment.

“It represents our continued investment in multi-layer fuel tanks to meet growing demand in the marketplace,” explained Agri-Industrial director of sales Mick Stielow, in a telephone interview.

The firm counts lawn and garden, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and marine markets as key outlets for its production. Small-engine markets for polymer fuel tanks have gained from more stringent emission standards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. Agri-Industrial is winning new customers and gaining in the battle with alternate fuel emission barrier technologies such as fluorination and use of additives such as nano clays in polyethylene.

“Multi-layer is the highest performing, lowest-cost option,” Stielow claimed. Agri-Industrial’s fuel tanks have two virgin layers of high density polyethylene, two adhesive layers, an EVOH barrier layer and a regrind layer.

Agri-Industrial will install the new blow molder in its current 250,000-square-foot space in Fairfield and expects it to be running early in 2015. It also this spring will start an overall expansion, adding 100,000 square feet by summer for warehousing and future production requirements.

In addition to five Kautex multi-layer machines, Agri-Industrial runs 20 accumulator-head, extrusion blow molders for industrial applications. These machines have shot sizes ranging from three to 100 pounds, according to Stielow. Services offered include part and mold design, engineering and assembly.

The new Kautex blow molder is a KBSmart120 model with a single clamp and robotic parison transfer for high production efficiency. Its other Kautex machines are KB240 and KBSmart 61 models.

Richard K. Smith founded Agri-Industrial in 1978 and the company has been in the family since then. It employs 165 full-time in three shifts during five-or seven-day weeks. Stielow declined to provide annual sales figures but he estimated sales have been growing 20 percent a year since the company began rebounding in 2010 from the recent recession.