WARREN, MICH. — Bundy Group is spending $1.5 million in extrusion equipment to launch production of multilayer plastic fuel and vapor lines in North America.
The company has just started work in Warren on one of the industry's largest fuel- and vapor-line extruding machines, a piece with four extruding heads capable of making five-layer tubing.
The machine, which uses technology developed a decade ago by Bundy's Technoflow subsidiary in Kassel, Germany, is about 150 feet long.
The automotive supplier, a business unit of the TI Group LLC of Abingdon, England, had been making the multilayer tubing at the Kassel plant and shipping it to North America.
But with use of the coextruded lines growing dramatically in North America, a shift to a U.S. plant was needed, said Bundy director of technology Dennis Soles.
``Plastic fuel and vapor lines represent a real future for our business,'' Soles said. ``Europe uses a lot more plastic tubing. But there are advantages [to multilayer lines] here, and our emissions requirements are much stiffer than in Europe.''
Typical multilayer lines include a barrier layer to protect against the outgassing of hydrocarbons. The 1990 Clean Air Act, phased in throughout the decade, has put stricter standards on vehicle emissions.
Historically, stainless steel fuel and vapor lines have been used, said Bundy product development manager Daniel Collins. Those lines allow no hydrocarbon permeation. But they also require flexible connectors — where emissions can escape — to attach the lines to the engine.
``Plus, you can't bend steel,'' Collins said. ``To fit a tight space, you sometimes need a flexible piece of plastic.''
As with other tubing manufacturers, Bundy traditionally has made three- and four-layer hose. That multilayer tubing uses fluoropolymers as a permeation-resistant barrier layer sandwiched between either conductive or non-conductive nylon 12 resin.
Bundy's new extrusion equipment has the capability of making five-layer vapor lines using a barrier layer of ethylene vinyl alcohol, plus nylon 12, an adhesive, and two layers of nylon 6 resin. EVOH is a lower-cost alternative to fluoropolymer barriers, he said.
``This gives us a product at the lowest cost that still meets emissions standards,'' Collins said.
Many of Bundy's competitors also can make five-layer tubing, albeit not with EVOH. Major tubing producer ITT Industries Inc.'s Fluid Handling Systems in Auburn Hills, Mich., makes more than 60 million feet per year of multilayer hose from its plant in Oscoda, Mich., said ITT Industries' Fluid Handling Systems vice president Tom Jamrosy.
ITT Industries generally uses three- and four-layer lines for its tubing. ``We'll continue to see growth because of new emissions regulations,'' Jamrosy said.
Bundy's new extruder is at its 295,000-square-foot Warren plant. The equipment features patented melt pumps and extrusion dies. The tube's wall thickness is ultrasonically controlled during cooling.
The tubing also passes through a pad printer for part labeling and fed into a flame treatment station for curing.
Bundy makes nylon fuel- and vapor-line connectors at its plant in New Haven, Mich. The company produces about 100 million connectors annually. In addition, the Warren plant makes roll-formed steel tubing.
Bundy had 1998 sales of $1.3 billion. The firm is considered one of several dominant players worldwide in fuel and vapor lines.