Thermoforming Systems LLC used NPE2009 as a platform to launch a product into the growing midsized trim-in-place machine market.
The market segment is dominated by European suppliers and offers great opportunities to sell machines worldwide, said James Naughton, president of the Union Gap, Wash.-based firm.
We are a U.S. alternative to European suppliers like Illig, Gabler and Kiefel, he said.
The firm's TSL FT3500 machine forms and trims parts up to 5.9 inches deep in a single station with a forming area of 30.5 inches by 17.7 inches.
The machine on display at NPE was the first one made and has been sold to an Asian customer that will be making 7-ounce polypropylene drinks cups.
TSL already makes trim-in-place tilting machines, but those are the large FT8000 and FT14000 machines, and are used primarily for dairy packaging like yogurt containers.
Customers had been asking for a medium-sized machine to produce cups when light-weighting is vital and PP is their chosen material.
The trend of switching out of polystyrene and amorphous PET is what is helping TSL sell machines, Naughton said.
An example of that trend is Starbucks' PP cups, which the coffee and coffeehouse chain claims now contain 15 percent less plastic than previous cups.
The sustainability trend has led retailers to demand the move into PP as they seek out advantages of lower-weight packaging and of using a single material to help with recycling.
TSL is reporting a better order book for the past three months, despite the economic downturn.
We've already seen the bottom and we're getting orders in, which means we need to add staff, Naughton said.
He attributed the improvement to new opportunities in sustainable packaging and the return of volumes that fell away at the end of 2008.
Most of the orders are for 2010 delivery, but TSL hoped to tie up two orders at NPE that would be delivered this year.
The FT3500 machine at TSL's NPE booth also showed off the company's partnering with what Naughton described as proven technology companies like automation specialist Mould & Matic Solutions GmbH of Micheldorf, Austria.
The machine has a 45-cavity tool made by Heilbronn, Germany-based Marbach Werkzeugbau GmbH and is equipped with a Mould & Matic pickup stacker adapted to the TSL machine.
Additional options for automatic packing are available. TSL also is working on a less-automated version of the FT3500 for those customers who ask for it.
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