Bruckner Inc. (Booth S514) will continue to manufacture simple components of its film stretching machines in China but it has no plan to do extensive engineering there.
Bruckner Chief Operating Officer Ludwig Eckart said making simple parts is a cost-saving measure but even these components are thoroughly checked before going into machine assemblies elsewhere. The company's engineering core will remain in Europe and North America, he said in an interview at the Bruckner booth at NPE.
China has been Bruckner's main market for film stretching lines. After explosive growth in the 1993-2003 period, supply outstripped demand for biaxially oriented polypropylene film. By 2005 China's market had 2 million tons of BOPP capacity.
Eckart sees demand beginning to catch up to supply again as film is absorbed in China's domestic packaging, in packaging of exported articles and as exports of BOPP film go to foreign markets.
China's BOPP markets are commodity oriented. Elsewhere specialty oriented films are where most of new film demand is coming from. Helping address specialty needs, Bruckner continues to develop its Lisim orientation technology which involves biaxial stretching in one step through a series of motors rather than clips. Bruckner bought the rights for Lisim from DuPont Co. in the mid-1990s. The multinational plastics and chemicals firm had developed the technology for its PET and other films.
Founded as an engineering firm in 1961, Bruckner tends to stick to its roots: advancing film stretching technology as markets and machinery capabilities evolve. The private company sees wide sales swings as markets absorb big chunks of its machinery and then don't need any more for a while. Annual sales can hit $450 million then drop off to $150 million.
Uncharacteristic is Bruckner's recent foray into biogas - methane and other fuels generated from agricultural materials. Although he didn't give much detail about Bruckner's intentions, Eckart did say the company is becoming involved in two major projects in the United States.
Unlike expensive, huge film stretching machines, biogas demand could be steady, Eckart said.