Among blow molding machinery makers at NPE 2006, the key themes were to focus on core strengths and building efficiencies to help customers maximize floor space and labor.
Machinery makers and converters face continued consolidation, according to several officials, and the market demands smarter ways of doing business.
Marketing itself as Sidel Solutions, Sidel Inc. is focused on lowering operating costs for customers, said Gina Haines, marketing vice president for Sidel in North America. The firm's new SBO 4 Compact is designed for rates below 7,000 bottles an hour, and the new SBO 34 HighSpeed has broken the 60,000 PET bottle- an-hour barrier.
The company sees growth in single-serve as a key driver, Haines said.
``We are beginning to see more and more dairy, and single-serve at retail where PET is beginning to penetrate,'' she said.
Sipa SpA's Plastic Packaging Systems sold several machines, including its new SFL 4 linear blow molder, during NPE 2006, which ran June 19-23 in Chicago. Sipa was operating the SFL 4 at its booth, producing 16-ounce oval containers for salad dressing. The line consists of two standard platforms, SFL 4 and SFL 6, according to spokeswoman Martina Bottarel.
The SFL 4 has maximum production capacity of 1,800 bottles an hour per cavity and can produce containers up to 3 liters while running in a two-, three- or four-cavity configurations.
The company also introduced Smartcoat, a new technology developed and patented by Sipa to improve the gas barrier properties of PET and polypropylene packaging by applying an outer coating to the container.
Officials said that Smartcoat has been conceived as a modular coating production line with an output varying from 12,000-36,000 containers per hour.
At Ingersoll Rand Co.'s booth, officials were showcasing what they touted as the world's largest PET compressor for bottle blowing. Traditionally, officials said, piston-driven compressors have been used whereas Ingersoll Rand's technology is centrifugal.
The company is seeing significant growth in PET bottles, citing 10 percent year-over-year growth of the industry overall. Interest primarily is from U.S.-based companies, the firm said.
Graham Engineering Corp. introduced its five-head industrial shot pot machine that it claims lets the customer get 2½ times production out of roughly the same floor space and labor used with a conventional two-head system. Each head is capable of up to 6 pounds of capacity. The company has a new version of the shot pot machine for an eight-head configuration with a continuous screen changer.
David Yenor, Graham vice president of global business development, said in a June 22 interview at NPE that companies like his are better off getting specific and being profitable in those areas.
The company still is active in industrial, but also is focusing on where its core customers are. Its business mix is about two-thirds packaging and one-third industrial.
At Techne North America's booth, officials used marketing backed by artist Salvador Dali to convey advancements in machines, including its long-stroke series, said Vice President of North America Kyle Grodzinski. The machine has been a strong seller in other markets around the world, including Europe and South America, but Techne is looking to gain more footing in North America.
The continuous extrusion blow molding machine is marketed under model 4000-T660, featuring a mold stroke of 660 millimeters. The company also featured Veltech, a fast-cooling system that's integrated into the blow molding machine.
Pet All Manufacturing Inc. has made the decision to market its own line of machines rather than be a representative for other firms. The move was necessary to be price competitive in a weak market, officials said.
Pet All's brand-new machine is an inverted-head injection blow molding machine for the medical industry, where all parts that can leak oil or hydraulic fluids are placed below the machine mold area to avoid mold and container contamination, according to product literature.
Its entire injection blow molding program is new, said owner and President Chris Merrick. The flagship machine is the inverted head, but the company also has traditional injection blow molding machines.
Pet All also introduced an all-electric extrusion blow molding machine.
Jackson Machinery Inc. officials introduced the VersaMatic 415 8-foot-by-10-foot single-shuttle continuous-extrusion blow molding machine. The product features tie-barless clamps and a standard Barber-Coleman DS controller. Its production rate is about 1,600 bottles an hour. Its 2½-inch extruder has an output capability of 180 pounds per hour. The firm also is looking to develop the machine into all-electric.
``We wanted to get a lot of output in a small footprint,'' said Dave Larson, Jackson's vice president of operations. ``This machine is well-thought-out. We are trying to be a respectable American manufacturer.''
At SIG Beverages, officials touted ``value-added bottling'' for its brands including Corpoplast, Plasmax and Asbofill. Officials said the lines offer more than just machines for the production, barrier coating and aseptic filling of PET bottles.
At its booth, officials were pointing out the ``total cost of ownership'' analysis in which officials evaluate the total cost of producing a PET bottle. Officials said that apart from the investment into the machine and the molds, the material and manufacturing costs of the preform must be taken into account. The costs for producing the bottle itself include components such as operating and maintenance expenses for the stretch blow molding machine, labor costs and incidental expenses for the factory itself.
Still, the market-share possibilities have companies seeking more solutions, officials said, especially in markets like beer.
``Younger people are the PET generation,'' said Promeet Nag, SIG's leader of strategic marketing. ``They don't know glass.''