Biaxially oriented film line supplier DMT SA has been given a massive cash injection that it hopes will put it in a better position to compete with much-bigger market leader Bruckner Maschinenbau GmbH.
DMT, in Le Bourget du Lac, France, vies for second place in the world market with Dornier GmbH.
In the last three years, world capacity for biaxially oriented films has almost doubled, to 5.95 billion pounds a year, according to Bruckner, based in Siegsdorf, Germany.
Around two-thirds of that capacity is in lines making biaxially oriented polypropylene film, one-quarter in biaxially oriented PET and the remainder in nylons and specialties.
Bruckner claims to have supplied 63 percent of those lines. The German firm estimates DMT's market share at just 8 percent, Misubishi Heavy Industries - active mainly in China - at 15 percent, and Dornier at 4 percent.
DMT stands for Darlet Marchante Technologies, after Jean-Pierre Darlet and Innocent Marchante, the firm's co-founders and co-owners. They recently were joined by Wolfgang Pinegger, who with financial backers has injected some 12 million euros (US$15.5 million) into DMT.
``Until six months ago, DMT had liquidity of 500,000 euros (US$645,000) and an order book of 150 million euros (US$193.5),'' Pinegger said during K 2004, held Oct. 20-27 in Dusseldorf.
Both Darlet and Pinegger previously held positions at Bruckner.
DMT has extended its engineering, project management and research and development capabilities.
In March, it set up a second operation, DMT Technology GmbH in Salzburg, Austria, which is coordinating offices in Europe as well as technical support in China and Russia. DMT Technology employs 30 in engineering and project management, jointly with DMT SA. Salzburg is also the new official headquarters.
Pinegger quit his post as chief executive officer of Bruckner five years ago and joined DMT as a shareholder in May, although he has been working with the company for the past two years. Pinegger said DMT, which employs around 200, is now ready to take on Bruckner head-to-head.
``We are starting up, on average, one line a month,'' he said. ``The company has the most modern technology, and the financial question mark hanging over it has been removed. It has no debt. The organization is dramatically better. DMT has always had some very good people, but not enough of them.''
Pinegger claims DMT now is winning more than half of all orders for orientation lines.
``The technology was always there, but this business has a lot to do with connections,'' he said
The company even has been able to afford an acquisition. It recently bought Artec Maschinenbau GmbH in Lintz, Austria, out of receivership. Artec makes recycling and repelletizing systems that can be used on orientation lines.
In recent years, China has by far been the most important market in the world for orientation lines. Pinegger says DMT has never been as strong as Bruckner there. Only 30 percent of DMT's business has been in China, but some 90 percent of Bruckner's sales are grounded there. However, Pinegger says, that market has peaked and lately orders have come from Syria, Russia and the Americas.
On the technology front, DMT is readying its alternative to Bruckner's LISIM technology - which uses linear motors to stretch films in the machine and transverse direction simultaneously.
DMT's system is called MESIM, and uses a mechanical pantograph system. Bruckner developed a pantograph system 40 years ago, but dropped it, saying the technology is not flexible enough to cover today's production needs. Pinegger says MESIM is more flexible because the pantographs run on flexible rails.
LISIM is a highly innovative system but at about twice the price of a conventional sequential stretching line; DMT's target is to have MESIM lines cost only 10 percent more, Pinegger said. A MESIM oven will cost about $5 million, he said.
The MESIM ovens should also be cheaper to run, since LISIM lines require a lot of energy to cool down the motors and the clips holding the film, he said. Learning MESIM operation and maintenance procedures should be easy for people familiar with existing lines, Pinegger said. Also, the technology can be retrofitted to existing lines, he added.
``ExxonMobil and DuPont have old 4-meter lines that could be converted to make completely new products,'' he said.
MESIM should be market-ready in 2006. Pinegger expects ``at least 50 percent'' of new DMT lines to incorporate MESIM technology when it is ready.
Bruckner began selling LISIM lines in 1996, and is readying third-generation technology, which marketing manager Christian Aigner said addresses criticisms of earlier versions.
Investment costs will be around 25 percent lower, energy requirements halved, and the lines suitable for more film types. Lines will have a new track system and new clips will be able to handle thicker film.
Earlier this year, Bruckner reported a record 2003. Orders totaling 495 million euros (US$638) were almost double those of 2002. It sold more than 35 lines and claimed its world market share for film stretching lines was up from 50 percent to more than 60 percent. Bruckner, which includes operations making associated equipment, employs 530 worldwide.