Graham Engineering Corp (Booth S46039) this week debuted its compact Mini Wheel rotary blow molding machine at NPE in Chicago.
The machinery maker has begun to see the first small indications of improvement in the business environment, an official said.
It was certainly challenging in the first half of the year, but it seems as though the momentum is beginning to build a little bit. We are seeing some renewed activity and some renewed interest in older projects, said David Yenor, vice president of global business development at the York, Pa.-based company. It all happens step-by-step, but it seems like things are beginning to pull back out. People who had put projects on the back burner are now bringing them back out.
Yenor said the Mini Wheel machine positions Graham to exploit the improvement in the U.S. market as it builds. It also presents the firm with a real opportunity to expand its export markets.
Yenor estimates more than 80 percent of Graham's production in unit terms is located in North America. However, that is changing.
The European Union is becoming a much more integrated market than it used to be in years past, so moving forward we will see more and more activity from the international markets, Yenor said.
At NPE, Graham is showing a 12-station rotary wheel together with a complete five-material, six-layer extrusion system and controls. The company has developed nine- and 10-station versions, with Yenor revealing at the show that Graham has also added an 18-station design that will enable it to compete with even the largest long-stroke machines.
Graham believes that the Mini Wheel design provides molders needing up to 18 cavities of production with a superior alternative to five- or six-parison, double-sided shuttle machines.
In common with all wheel designs, the Mini Wheel also has only one parison to control, which provides the opportunity to make weight savings. The single parison is captured on both ends, between the preceding mold and the flow head, and is always the same length.
As a result, there is little possibility of parison curling or movement due to static electricity or air currents. This enables the operator to more accurately program the thickness of the necks, sidewalls, shoulders or bottoms of bottles.
All this helps bottle-to-bottle weight consistency, as well as light weighting. It also results in a broader processing window when compared to shuttle designs, Yenor said.
Energy savings are also an attraction. Graham uses electro-mechanical drive systems on most of its wheel machine functions, and this continues in the Mini Wheel.
Only the parison programmer is hydraulically-driven and this consumes less than 5 percent of the installed machine power requirement.
Traditionally the wheel machine has been the workhorse for large-volume production and the shuttle has been the machine for smaller volumes. But [with the wheel] you don't have the complexity of the multiple parisons to deal with and you don't have the expensive multi-parison head, Yenor said.
Mini Wheel users may sacrifice a little flexibility over a shuttle where they need to produce a wide variety of different container sizes, he said. But where the container range is more restricted, they will gain from faster mold change times.
Graham can supply the Mini Wheel with co-extrusion configurations of up to six layers. The 28:1 L/D extruders and flow heads can be customized to accommodate unique layer structures, including separate materials for the inner and outer layers.
Mini Wheel extruders, like all Graham machines, feature CMG motor gears from K. & A. KnÃ¶dler GmbH of Ostfildern, Germany: a thrust bearing; a simple water hose for cooling; a plate to cool the motor and gear; and a standard controller and encoder with over 2,000 points for position and movement control.
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