CHICAGO — Manufacturers are turning out more screws, as the industry experiences a miniboom driven largely by demand for replacement screws.
During the past six months, several screw makers have announced expansions. All of the companies exhibited at NPE 1997.
The most recent news came in May, when Cincinnati Milacron Inc. officials announced that Milacron is making screws and barrels for any brand of parallel twin-screw or conical extruder — not just Milacron's own machines.
The time is right to become a full-service, aftermarket screw supplier, according to Glenn Anderson, marketing manager for Milacron's extrusion systems business.
``We're focusing on a lot of our core strengths and we believe we have an advantage over our competitors in our manufacturing,'' he said.
Milacron manufactures screws and barrels at its machining plant in Mount Orab, Ohio.
For parallel twin-screw extruders, Milacron is producing screws in diameters of 80-132 millimeters. Barrel and screw retrofit packages are available for conical twin-screw extruders with diameters of 35-92mm.
Milacron displayed examples of both parallel and conical screws at NPE in Chicago.
Anderson said U.S. manufacturing means Milacron can produce and deliver screws more quickly than European extrusion equipment makers.
Demand for quick shipment is one factor driving U.S. expansions by two other extruder manufacturers — Werner & Pfleiderer Corp. and American Maplan Corp.
W&P, in Ramsey, N.J., is the U.S. unit of German-based Werner & Pfleiderer GmbH. In January, W&P announced it was boosting screw production in New Jersey by 60 percent, by purchasing more custom-built, computer numerically controlled machining equipment.
W&P officials said they need to make more screws in New Jersey for the company's own ZSK twin-screw compounding extruders, plus replacement screws. The company declined to release details about unit production.
``The strengthening of our capabilities here is particularly geared toward the aftermarket,'' said Gerhart Lempp, vice president of manufacturing. ``This upgrade of manufacturing capabilities allows us to operate much more efficiently and thus makes W&P more cost effective.''
All ZSK extruders sold in North America are assembled in Ramsey.
Screws made in Ramsey also will be sold in South America, and throughout the world. The company will continue producing screws at its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.
Maplan announced in late 1996 that it had begun to machine its own screws in a 23,000-square-foot addition at Maplan headquarters in McPherson, Kan. Maplan invested nearly $2 million in the building and computer numerically controlled milling equipment to make screws, according to President Horst Eigruber.
American Maplan, founded in 1977, builds extruders and screws for PVC pipe, profiles and siding. Maplan used to import all its new screws from Germany, although it had rebuilt some screws in McPherson.
American Maplan is owned by Battenfeld GmbH of Meinerzhagen, Germany.
Youngstown, Ohio-based screw manufacturer Spirex Corp. is building two factories at once.
``We have bought quite a bit of new machinery and we're increasing our plant capacity in Youngstown by 50 percent,'' Paul Colby Jr., sales manager, said the week before NPE, held June 16-20.
Spirex is building a 13,000-square-foot manufacturing and office-space addition in Youngstown. Construction should be completed in July. The company already has two buildings in Youngstown totaling 18,000 square feet.
Construction should be completed by late summer on a 16,000-square-foot plant in Gainesville, Texas, Colby said. Spirex has leased manufacturing space there for several years.
``Our shipments are up close to 30 percent so far this year,'' Colby said.
Exports are growing quickly.
``We're going to have much more of a presence in Europe in the coming year,'' Colby said. ``Our presence in Asia is going to grow.''
Another screw specialist, Xaloy Inc., continues to invest money in its operations. Xaloy President Walter Cox said screw companies are under pressure to grow quickly to meet larger orders from fewer machinery customers.
Earlier this year, Xaloy officials announced the company would spent $10 million through 1999 to boost production at its headquarters factory in Pulaski, Va., which makes barrels, and its screw plant in Newburyport, Mass.
This year, Xaloy will spend $3.8 million at both plants. The company is purchasing a number of machines, including three CNC milling machines, an electric discharge machine, three new lathes, a Schleif grinder and heat-treating equipment.
The $10 million program from 1997 through 2000 follows $12 million worth of investment from 1991 through 1996, according to the company.
Xaloy is improving manufacturing of all sizes of barrels, but small-barrel production has changed dramatically in recent years, the company said. During the past five years, Xaloy has invested more than $2 million to upgrade its small-barrel operation. Five years ago, machine tools used to make small barrels were more than 20 years old. Today, their average age is less than five years.
Last year, Great Lakes Feedscrews Inc. spent about $1.5 million to build a new testing lab and add a combination whirling/ milling machine at its headquarters plant in Tecumseh, Mich.
Whirling technology removes metal much faster than traditional milling. It works by using a doughnut-shaped cutting tool that spins rapidly around the screw to cut flights into the metal. The screw also slowly turns to expose fresh steel to the cutting blades. After the whirling process, a milling tool completes the screw.
The CNC whirling machine has helped Great Lakes Feedscrews move into new markets, such as twin screws and tapered screws. Higher output rates also helped the company win a contract to supply injection molding screws for several machinery manufacturers, including Ube Machinery Inc.'s factory in Ann Arbor, Mich.
HPM Corp. also has purchased a new whirling machine to make screws for its injection molding machines and extruders in Mount Gilead, Ohio. HPM also is starting a Process Research and Development Group to focus on screws.