The end of Nissui Corp.'s patent on its low-speed granulation process in the United States could spell big things for Plastec North America Inc. (Booth S2670) and other new entrants in the market.
Plastec, based in Miami, is debuting its full line of 10 low-speed machines from Marennes, France-based Moditec srl, as Plastec prepares to ramp up efforts to convince North American molders that the machines have advantages for reprocessing postindustrial engineering resins.
Moditec also is giving serious thought to manufacturing and assembling parts of the machine in North America.
Moditec has been selling the low-speed granulators in most of the rest of the world for 20 years, but Nissui's patents kept it out of the United States until April, said Moditec President Gilles Dutour. Nissui stopped making auxiliary equipment in the United States last year after its Japanese parent declared bankruptcy.
The low-speed machines operate at about 25 rpm and produce less dust than traditional high-speed granulators. While the machines have less throughput than traditional granulators, the low dust is key for engineering resins because they are not forgiving of impurities in recycled material, said Janet Kevlin, national sales manager for Plastec.
``Part of what we're going to do is help the market understand the technology,'' said Ernest Sosa, vice president of Plastec North America.
Although firm figures on market potential are hard to come by, Plastec estimates that Nissui probably sold between 500 and 900 granulators a year in the United States in its best year in the late 1990s.
But the market could be much larger, said Dutour. For example, the much smaller French molding market buys about 400 low-speed granulators a year. Industry in France is more aware of the benefits of the technology, he said.
Customers in North America are taking a skeptical approach to the machines, asking for demonstrations and proof that they do what they say, Kevlin said. The company has offered to videotape its machines grinding any material a potential customer sends and return the ground material and video, she said.
The Moditec line includes 10 machines, ranging in size from a model with a 4-by-6-inch cutting chamber to one with a 29-by-33-inch chamber, capable of grinding car bumper fascias, Sosa said. Moditec claims it has the largest range of low-speed equipment in the industry. The company is targeting medical, electronic, automotive and computer markets in the United States.
Regarding plans to make at least part of the machines in North America, Sosa said: ``It's all a matter of time.'' Kevlin said that will likely happen before the end of the year.
Moditec and Plastec are financially independent of each other. Moditec has about 75 employees, and does about 7 million euros ($8.1 million) a year in sales, Dutour said.
Nissui patents also covered the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan and Malaysia, but those patents began expiring in 2000, Sosa said.