DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - Driven by explosive worldwide demand for PET packaging, French blow molding machine maker Groupe Sidel predicts its 1995 sales will soar 44 percent to about 3.7 billion French francs ($745.2 million), with North America accounting for about 40 percent of its business. The firm, based in Le Havre, France, earlier this year also notched the first U.S. sale of its SBO 48/38 model blow molding machine - which it claims offers a world-record output of 50,000 PET bottles per hour - to Plastipak Packaging Inc. of Plymouth, Mich. Plastipak is using the machine, which can produce 81/2- to 20 2/5-ounce bottles, to make single-serve bottles for Pepsi, according to Sidel spokesman Bertrand Guillet.
Each SBO 48/38 is equipped with 24 two-cavity molds, and 38 oven banks. The cavities in each mold are spaced 3 1/5 inches apart, which enables two identi-cal preforms to be blown simultaneously - a first in PET blow molding, according to Sidel.
The firm recently sold a second such unit - each of which costs roughly $5 million, depending on the options and molds - to another, undisclosed U.S. customer, and plans to install it in December, said Jean-Guy Delage. Delage, president of the firm's Doraville, Ga.-based U.S. subsidiary, Sidel Inc., was interviewed along with Guillet at Sidel's K'95 booth.
PET blow molding accounted for 86.5 percent of Sidel's consolidated sales last year of FFr 2.56 billion ($516.3 million), and the company predicts that from now through the year 2000, global consumption of PET resin will continue to increase by an average of 12 percent per year.
The U.S. soft-drink market consumes about 57 billion aluminum cans annually, Guillet noted, which gives PET promoters such as Sidel a huge target for future conversion. Additionally, Sidel, which has 1,200 machines installed in 80 countries, began selling its PET blow molding equipment in 15 new national markets in 1994 and in another 10 countries this year.
Guillet said the company, which builds its blow molding machines in France and Brazil, sees the biggest PET packaging growth in the United States (where Sidel's sales grew by 70 percent last year), China and India, where it sold its first PET blow molding machine this year.
In its 1995 annual report, the firm also cited the huge growth potential in Mexico, which boasts the world's second-largest consumption per capita of carbonated drinks, with 80 percent of the market's soft drinks still packaged in glass. Sidel in early 1994 opened Sidel de Mexico, a seven-person sales and technical service subsidiary in Mexico City, but that recession-ridden market has slowed dramatically. For 1996, Delage says of Mexico only: ``Who knows?'' He estimated that Sidel has about 16 PET blow molding machines installed in Mexico now.
With high PET resin prices prompted by tight supply, combined with the slowdown in what had been a fast-growing Mexican market, Delage said he foresees some leveling of the meteoric PET packaging growth, but nevertheless projects good years in 1996 in the United States and Canada. With a projected increase in PET production capacity, he said he believes ``the resin problemsshould lessen in '96.''
The 11-year-old Sidel Inc. unit, which employs 32 and can call on as many as 40 service engineers based in France, would have been affected negatively by the weak dollar, Delage noted -``if we had a U.S.[-based] competitor. But it has not hurt us significantly.''
Guillet said Sidel counts as its primary competitors for PET bottle machines Germany's Krupp Corpoplast Maschinenbau GmbH, Italy's Sipa SpA, and Japan's Nissei ASB Machine Co. Ltd. and Aoki Technical Laboratory Inc.
At K'95, Sidel also presented some new products and developments. It displayed for the first time its SBO 1 blow molder, the smallest machine in its PET line.
The firm claims the SBO 1 is the fastest single-mold machine in the world, with a production capacity of 1,200 bottles per hour, or between 5 million and 9 million bottles a year. The two-stage machine can produce bottles ranging in capacity from about 7 ounces to 3 liters, and also can run polyethylene naphthalate resin.
In addition, the company promoted its new quick-change system, designed to slash machine and personnel downtime during tooling changes as much as 75 percent.
Sidel claims the system simplifies mounting and adjusting by distinguishing between the tool holder - the machine is considered a support, on which adjustments are minimal - and the tools themselves, which are customized for each part to be produced prior to their mounting on the machine.
The system also uses both magnetic clamping and mechanical clamping.
Beginning next year, Sidel plans to begin equipping its SBO line of blow molding machines gradually with this quick-change system.
It said it also hopes to retrofit the system to existing SBO machines.