DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Dec. 6, 11:45 a.m. EST) — As private-equity money keeps buying up machinery companies, employees of Kiefel AG, a maker of blown film lines and thermoforming machines, are glad their new owner is industrial company Bruckner Maschinenbau GmbH, Kiefel officials said at K 2007 in Dusseldorf.
Bruckner of Siegsdorf, Germany, builds tenter frames for film stretching machinery, cast film lines and sheet production equipment.
“They're a market leader, they're in the packaging sector and they bought us because of our success in machinery,” said Kurt Freye, worldwide sales director for Kiefel Extrusion GmbH, which makes blown film machinery in Worms, Germany.
In January, Bruckner bought Kiefel Extrusion and a sister firm, thermoforming equipment supplier Kiefel GmbH in Freilassing, Germany.
Bruckner has run Kiefel “in a decentralized manner,” and keeping existing management in place. At the same time, management is looking at ways to work together, especially with Kiefel's blown film and Bruckner's cast film.
A lot of the discussion during the first year was about nuts-and-bolts organizational issues, said Steve DeSpain, vice president of sales at the U.S. operation, Kiefel Inc. in Wrentham, Mass.
“There are all kinds of ideas. Do we share service? Do we share spare parts locations?” DeSpain said at Kiefel Extrusion's K show booth, as a Kirion three-layer blown film line ran in the background.
The three operations, blown film, cast film and thermoforming, can already join forces to offer complete manufacturing systems to make modified-atmosphere food packaging. “We're one of the only companies that can supply it from soup to nuts, from the sheet to the lid,” DeSpain said at K show, held Oct. 24-31.
Freye said an industrial buyer is more tuned-in to capital equipment than a private-equity buyer.
“They're in the machinery business. They want us to grow,” said Freye, who serves on Kiefel Extrusion's board of directors.
Bruckner is investing in Kiefel Extrusion's Worms factory, building a 13,000-square-foot building to expand assembly. Construction should be completed in the first quarter of 2008, Freye said.
Here is a breakdown of what each unit introduced at K 2007:
c Kiefel Extrusion introduced its Perfect Cool, an enhanced technology for internal bubble cooling. “That allows us to get additional rates up to 36 pounds per die-inch, plus,” DeSpain said.
Perfect Cool is designed for internal bubble cooling of large die diameters, of 8 inches and above. The Kirion blown film line running at K 2007 had a 16-inch die diameter and ran 1,650 pounds of film an hour.
Bubble cooling comes from a water-cooled stack, that keeps the process air used for inner bubble cooling constantly low over a long distance, Kiefel said. “We mix in air and water to get the best heat exchange we can during the extrusion process,” DeSpain said. The air also gets reused, he said.
Kiefel also introduced its HEM, for “high intensity mixer” and a new screw design with a new combined shear and mixing zone.
c The Kiefel thermoforming business showed its new pressure former for high-speed manufacturing, called Thermorunner KTR 6. The machine has a large forming area of up to 30 inches by 18 inches, so it can handle a larger number of cavities. At K, Kiefel made polypropylene cups with a 50-up cup forming tool. Also, a Speedformer ran PET packaging.
c On Nov. 7, Bruckner announced it had sold 25 machines this year, through October. Nineteen of them were for complete stretching lines. Bruckner said its cast polypropylene and PET sheet lines sold well. The company developed a cast-PET technology it claims can reach a capacity of up to 11,000 pounds of amorphous PET an hour.
Bruckner reported a 27-foot-wide biaxially oriented sheet line, said to be the world's largest, was finalized this year. The machine is part of Treofan Group's expansion of a plant in Zacapu, Mexico.
In another project, just before K 2007, Bimo Italia SpA of Milan ordered its second line with Bruckner's Lisim technology, which does biaxial stretching in one step, using a series of motors rather than clips.