BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - PET blow molding is not the get-rich-quick business that it once was, according to the president of a major PET bottle machinery manufacturer. ``Most bottle makers do not have experience in competitive manufacturing of PET bottles,'' said President Shigeto Aoki of Aoki Technical Laboratory Inc. of Nagano, Japan.
``This market is separating the men from the boys,'' Aoki said through an interpreter at the Interplas '96 show in Birmingham. ``In the old days, even the boys made money. They became rich boys.''
Customers are asking for new, innovative shapes and forms, but instead of paying a premium, prices are decreasing, according to Aoki.
Aoki Technical Laboratory is confronting the challenging situation - which is fueled by excess capacity in some bottle markets and plunging PET resin costs - by promoting the versatility of its single-machine process.
``Bottle makers have to develop a system where they can come to us, and we can give them more value and flexibility, using various means, so that the bottles can be more cost-effective, and maintain the price and be profitable for the user,'' he said.
``Aoki is concentrating more on showing prospects what they can do with our machines. We tried to advise prospects a few years back on what they can do, but they were not situated to listen to what we were saying. They are now more ready to listen to us,'' he said.
Aoki featured two machines at Interplas. The SBIII-150P-20 was making injection stretch blow molded polyethlene bottles. According to the firm, the machine can produce bottles in sizes exceeding 1 liter. The bottles do not require trimming, and the stretching process improves the properties of the finished bottles.
The Aoki-250LL-50 was demonstrated making bottles from a blend of PET and polyethylene naphthalate resins. Many PET bottle makers are now experimenting with different PEN/PET blends for bottles requiring high-temperature or high-barrier properties.
Although it was not featured at the booth, Aoki also touted its new SBIII-350LL-40 machine. The company has manufactured only one of the new machines, which was sold to a customer in Japan.
The new unit is designed to mass-produce narrow-necked PET bottles.
The company claims it can produce finished bottles for about the same cost as an injection molded preform used in two-stage blow molding. The molding machine can produce up to 1,800 1.5-liter bottles per hour.