TARPON SPRINGS, FLA. - Graham Packaging Co., a leader in the extrusion blow molding market, is expanding its 3-year-old injection stretch blow molding business with a massive Sidel machine. Graham is installing the unit at itsEmigsville, Pa., plant to make 20- and 32-ounce hot-fill PET bottles for Coca-Cola Co.
The Sidel machine is capable of making 150 million bottles annually. Graham officials declined to say how much they invested in the new equipment, which they billed as the largest-output hot-fill bottle machine in the world.
The addition of the French-made blow molding system is the latest move by Graham to double its presence in the PET bottle market in less than two years, both domestically and abroad, said John W. Tobias, Graham's senior program manager for PET.
Graham, based in York, Pa., took delivery of the Sidel machine March 16, and expects to have it in production by mid-May. With the addition, total output at the flagship Emigsville plant will rise to 250 million bottles a year, Tobias said in an interview at Bev-Pack Americas '95, held April 24-25 in Tarpon Springs.
Graham officials would not reveal which bottling plant or plants will receive Sidel's output, but Coke has a nearby Harrisburg, Pa., facility that produces such beverage brands as Fruitopia, PowerAde, Minute Maid and Nestea.
The machine is so large it required shipment in the world's largest transport jet, the Russian Antonov An-124, to Harrisburg International Airport. From there, five semitrailers were required to complete the shipment to Emigsville.
The Sidel SBO 24/34 will be put in to support Coca-Cola, Tobias said. Initially, 32- and 20-ounce hot-fill bottles for the eastern U.S. market only will be made, but the system can produce larger and smaller bottles, Tobias said.
Graham entered the PET blow molding market with its installation of a Nissei oven-blow system, which Tobias said has a lower output.
Graham is not limiting itself to hot-fill PET in its food and beverage division, Tobias said. Other Graham divisions are expanding their blow molding capability to
PET products in the personal-care market, for example, he said. Nor is hot-fill blow molding a part of its South American expansion at this point, he said, citing the continued operation of three Rheem-Graham joint venture plants in Brazil that exclusively produce extrusion blow molded products.
Graham was fourth in Plastics News' 1994 ranking of North American blow molders with estimated annual sales of $380 million.
Although the Sidel blow molding machine is huge compared with others in service, Krupp Corpoplast Maschinenbau GmbH in Hamburg, Germany, is marketing a system capable of making 14,500 hot-fill bottles per hour at a fill temperature of 185§ F, said Bev-Pack conference speaker Michael Koch, Krupp Corpoplast general sales manager.
Conference attendees noted this is a higher-output system than the Sidel device at that temperature - a temperature considered the ideal safety benchmark for filling bottled sports drinks, trendy teas and temperature-sensitive juices deemed to be the focus of the hot-fill PET industry worldwide.
Lower fill temperatures mean less mold heating is required: The Corpoplast machine, operating at lower temperatures, can produce as many as 18,000 bottles per hour, Koch said.
Koch noted the Corpoplast B-177 E model has a patented, energy-efficient heating system that allows high penetration of heat into the preform. This system allows for shorter processing time, resulting in a bottle-making cycle time of 50 seconds, he said.