Sustainability and energy efficiency are key themes for NPE2009 for PET blow molding equipment maker Krones Inc. (Booth S46067).
At the top of the list of new introductions for the Franklin, Wis., firm is its NitroHotfill process, which David Raabe, Krones' director of blow molding technology, said has the potential to eliminate the traditional paneled hot fill bottles in use today.
This technology allows freedom of design. You can have a round bottle, you have 30 percent less material and you can run it faster. It's like a step between hot fill today and aseptic because it is able to take a real weight reduction, he said.
The NitroHotfill process uses the firm's Relax-Cooling concept, which incorporates a nitrogen doser just before the capper to create a positive pressure within the bottle. This pressure compensates for shrinkage in the product volume downstream of the recooler, preventing distortion of the bottle due to it being under pressure and eliminating the need for complex panelled bottle designs.
Aside from the material savings, the process also requires reduced blowing air pressures and can significantly reduce flushing air consumption, further adding to processing economies.
Raabe said the company already has the NitroHotfill process running in 14- and 28-station versions at a bottling facility in Asia.
Improving the sustainability of the PET industry is also the thinking behind Krones' introduction of its new compact bottle-to-bottle recycling technology. This takes a slightly different approach to post-consumer bottle recycling by using small localized recycling units.
The recycling plants are designed to accommodate bottlers, converters and brand owners that want to incorporate vertically integrated recycling into their bottle production.The plants are large enough to support a one or two-plant size operation, said Jon Larson, Krones' product manager for recycling technology.
The industry norm, and I think it's the preconceived idea, is that the economics work for big systems. What we have done is create a system that is smaller. And because we keep the PET in flake form there is not a huge amount of energy consumption and you don't need a huge amount of manpower to operate it, he said.
The technology is designed to manage up to a ton of resin an hour, delivering a recycled flake that is equal in quality to a virgin PET pellet. The technology has a letter of no objection from the Food and Drug Administration.
According to Krones, a key advantage of the the system is that because it is sized for lower throughputs, it can operate on a localized supply of post-consumer bottles rather than having to buy in material on the open trading market. This, Larson said, results in more consistent feedstock quality and that makes output more consistant.
It's the Coca-Cola model stripped down, Larson said. We source the plant from a local region, and, because we are using it to substitute virgin PET, our goal was to make sure that the output is at least 15-20 percent lower cost than virgin PET. It becomes not just a sustainable option but a cost saving.
Krones, the U.S. division of Neutraubling, Germany-based Krones AG, is in the process of establishing whether the technology delivers these anticipated cost savings. Raabe said that three of the compact recycling units are being installed, one each in Europe, the United States and Asia. The European unit is already in operation; the U.S. facility will start up in the first or second quarter of next year, he said.
One of the biggest entertainers of this technology is the bottled water industry. They are the ones that are taking the flak and they need to have some way of combatting that. They are doing that in two ways, through lightweighting and through recycling, Raabe said.
Since adding mold design, manufacturing and evaluation to its facility in Franklin last November, Krones has been much better positioned to support its customers' development of new lightweight designs.
Now [that] we are self-sustaining in mold manufacturing in North America, we can get closer to our customers' needs, Raabe said.
Krones has set itself a target of producing 800 molds this year at the Franklin site and has already turned out close to 250.
The most important thing is the lead time being able to turn around a product in a short amount of time, Raabe said.
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