New government regulations have some plastics-related firms focused on an end market they hope will see growth.
Emissions standards for small fuel tanks - used in golf carts, lawn mowers, watercraft, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles - are tightening, and equipment suppliers want processors to look to them for solutions.
The new rules are coming from the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board, and they relate to hydrocarbon emissions. Under EPA guidelines, the rules apply to tanks made beginning next year.
Steve Whitehead, vice president of St. Louis-based Fluoro-Seal International LP, said that company is getting itself well-situated to deal with the new rules.
The company surface-treats bottles and containers through its Fluoro-Seal process, which is a post-manufacturing, computer-controlled fluorination treatment.
``We have positioned ourselves to be the most cost-effective treatment for California standards and the upcoming EPA regulations,'' Whitehead said. ``We envision substantial growth with the introduction of several new facilities at various locations throughout the United States.''
Whitehead was mum on where those locations will be. The firm currently has nine toll plants and two captive facilities in the U.S.
Some machinery firms talked about tapping the market's potential at NPE 2006 in Chicago. At Kautex Maschinenbau GmbH, officials played up the firm's KBSmart 61 Co-Ex. According to Kautex, six-layer coextruded fuel tanks of polyethylene, with an ethylene vinyl alcohol barrier layer, have been used in automotive fuel-delivery systems all over the world. Now the same technology will be applied to nonroad vehicles and equipment.
``This is our attempt to accommodate the objectives of the smaller-fuel-tank manufacturers that have cost restrictions and have different sizes of tanks,'' said Wolfgang Meyer, president of Kautex Machines Inc. in North Branch, N.J.
The Kautex machine is available in single- and double-station models with stationary clamps, and six-axis robots handling the parisons.
``In today's market, you can't be everything to everybody anymore,'' he said. ``You have to really focus on those markets where you have an edge over competitors, or where you will be able to build an edge over competitors.''
Bekum America Corp. is promoting the new, large six-layer coextrusion development machine in the firm's applications lab in Williamston, Mich. The $1.5 million machine on display at Bekum's NPE exhibit later was moved to the demo lab.
``Our goal will be to conduct quarterly coextrusion training,'' said general sales manager Gary Carr. Coextrusion structures and materials can be tailored to address the current interest in flexible fuels such as E85, Carr said.
Pet All Manufacturing Inc. of Markham, Ontario, exhibited a six-layer gas-tank blow molding machine.