Senoplast Klepsch & Co. KG will double its sheet extrusion capacity in Mexico to bolster its push into all-plastic refrigerators and freezers.
The company, based in Piesendorf, Austria, opened its first North American plant, in Queretaro, Mexico, in 2000, said Mike Reeves, sales director of Senoplast USA Inc., the extrusion firm's U.S. sales arm in Aurora, Ill. But the Mexico plant's sole extrusion line - making ABS, polystyrene, glycol-based PET and acrylic sheet - is nearing capacity, Reeves said in an interview at the Society of Plastics Engineers 2004 Thermoforming Conference, held Sept. 18-21 in Indianapolis.
Senoplast is bringing the technology to North America to manufacture thermoformed plastic refrigerators and freezers. The firm, which will use its own line of extrusion equipment for the sheet, is partnering with thermoformer TPI of St. Paul, Minn., to sell the unpainted parts to appliance makers in North America, he said.
``We've developed a refrigerator [product] line for many of the large manufacturers,'' Reeves said. ``It eliminates the need for painted metal.''
The firm extrudes colored ABS sheet that is thermoformed into the exterior and inner liners of refrigerators and freezers. The plastic sheet replaces standard metal appliances that need to be painted, saving cost and adding to weatherability, he said. The nonpainted plastic refrigerators already have been sold in Europe and Brazil and can be thermoformed into a variety of unusual shapes.
Meanwhile, plans are under way to add a second Senoplast three-layer coextrusion line in Queretaro to support the product. That line is scheduled to start up in about a year, Reeves said, and will add 9 million more pounds of coextruded sheet capacity at the plant.
The all-plastic refrigerators and freezers can counter the rising cost of sheet metal, he said. Sheet metal prices have increased by about 60 percent between 2003 and 2004, he added.
The firm also is looking to the Far East, especially China, for possible expansion, Reeves said. Some of the company's appliance and kitchen-product customers already have operations there.