CHICAGO - Klockner Pentaplast of America Inc. will spend more than $20 million to boost capacity for its general-purpose rigid PVC film, used mainly in thermoformed blister packs. In a Nov. 19 interview at Pack Expo in Chicago, President Harry van Beek discussed expansion plans for his firm's film plant in Rural Retreat, Va.
``We are doubling our facility there. We will be finished building by the end of the year,'' he said.
At the heart of the investment is a massive calender line with annual capacity for 50 million pounds of rigid PVC film - three times the size of typical calender lines, according to van Beek. The line, slated to be producing by summer, will double Klockner's film and sheet capacity at Rural Retreat, he said. The firm is adding space enough at the plant for two such lines, though it has no timetable for installing the second, he said.
Thermoformed blister packs are the bread and butter of Klockner's PVC business, with the most important, though not the biggest, end market being pharmaceutical - notably packs for medications separated into single-unit doses.
At the Chicago show, the company introduced a fully reclaimable vinyl film system for pharmaceutical blister packaging, called Optima, comprised of its Pentapharm rigid PVC film and Optilid push-through vinyl lidstock. The PVC lidstock replaces foil or paper, making the entire package recyclable; Klockner buys back PVC edge trim from Optima customers and reprocesses it into film used to make artificial Christmas trees.
Van Beek said Klockner is the first company in the United States to make a blister pack from 100 percent PVC.
``The pharmaceutical [blister packaging] market is growing faster than the average market,'' van Beek said.
He estimated blister packaging's share of the U.S. pharmaceutical market at 20 percent. In Europe its share is more than four times that, he noted.
Other growing North American markets for Klockner are barrier films, which are made through a coating and laminating process and contribute more than $20 million in yearly sales; thermoformed static-dissipative packaging for electronics; and credit cards, primarily smart cards - three-layer laminates of PVC sheet and two thin PVC film overlays, the latter supplied through its new rigid films joint venture with Hoechst AG, Kalle Pentaplast GmbH. The Rural Retreat expansion is unrelated to that partnership, van Beek said.
Rural Retreat already has three calendering lines, which together have capacity for 50 million pounds per year of rigid PVC and films made with Barex, from BP Chemicals Inc.
A single extrusion line makes PET and glycol-modified PET sheet, as well as coextrusions, for pharmaceutical and medical device packaging.
Klockner Pentaplast of America also has two plants in Gordonsville, Va., where it is based. Van Beek pegged overall film and rigid film, or sheet, sales at roughly $250 million. That figure includes sales from the company's Barrier Films division.
The company is part of U.S. parent Klockner Capital Corp.'s Packaging Systems Group, which also includes Klockner Bartelt Medipak Inc. - which introduced the Compacker 1200, a new high-speed, servo-driven thermoformer for blister packaging, at the show.
Fuel tank blow molder Kautex of North America, also part of that group, is being sold to Textron Inc.