Although its name is established in Europe and Asia, German specialty machinery maker Ettlinger Kunststoffmaschinen GmbH still has a way to go in establishing its brand in North America.
That makes events like the Oct. 6 demonstration of Ettlinger's rotating melt filter at KraussMaffei Corp.'s Florence headquarters essential, according to General Manager Volker Neuber.
“We're a small company, but we want to make sure that we engineer a product with a good reputation,” he said. “We know we have an excellent product, but we have to get the brand known as well as it is in Europe, where it is already proven.”
Accompanied by Thorsten Ettlinger, the firm's general manager of engineering, and Mike Diletti, its North American sales manager, Neuber and a team of KraussMaffei extrusion engineers ran the stainless-steel filtration system through its paces on a KM ZE 60A UTXi twin-screw extruder at the open house, running polypropylene and high density polyethylene as the main material and loading handfuls of PET chips, rubber bands, wood and aluminum scrap into the hopper from time to time.
At the end of the line, pellets of clean resin rushed from a Gala underwater pelletizer into bins under a high-pressure air hose.
The filter, mounted on a rotating drum, is scraped clean by a knife edge, with the pressure of the knife and speed of the drum controlled by temperature and pressure sensors.
While the primary material flows through holes in the screen, foreign matter is cleaned off and removed from the device by a carryout screw.
The ERF — Ettlinger rotation filter — can handle up to 15 percent contamination, officials said.
“The finest filter we offer is 180 mesh,” Neuber said. “There is no limit to the coarse side.”
The filter has a one- to five-month life span in typical operations, and the knife — which needs to be kept sharp so it clears debris, rather than forcing it down into filter pores — can be quick-changed in five minutes.
Thorsten Ettlinger said development of the ERF — which was done in the 1980s by his father, Roderich Ettlinger, the K"nigsbrunn, Germany-based firm's founder and general manager of research and development — centered on the ability to meet varying levels of contamination.
“Most [stationary] screen filters are limited to 1 percent of contamination in the input material,” he said.
Neuber said the ERF cannot process PVC, and metal scrap larger than 4 millimeters and abrasives like sand and glass present a challenge, as they can cut the surface of the screen.
Both KraussMaffei and Ettlinger officials said plastics recyclers are joining compounders and converters as their customers.
“Europe is probably more advanced [in the use of recycled materials], because they have very advanced collecting systems in place for post-industrial and post-consumer materials,” Neuber said. “That is still something that needs to be established more in the U.S., and definitely would lead to more business for us.”
Martin Mack, vice president of R&D for KM's extrusion division, said bringing value from nothing to 50 cents on the dollar for recycled material vs. virgin resin is the name of the game, but challenges remain when using recycled materials.
“In earlier years, PVC was in the polyester stream,” he said. “Now fillers such as calcium carbonate are problematic.”
At the end of the day, it is up to the extruding customer to decide whether screen changers, disc screens or the ERF systems are the most economical means to separate contaminants, he said.
Ettlinger has marketed the ERF since 2003 in Europe and Asia. Neuber, who bought control of the company in October 2010 after working in Europe as an executive at Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. and GE Plastics, is taking the ERF and Ettlinger's line of injection presses to this year's Fakuma show in Friedrichshafen, Germany, and to 2012's NPE in Orlando, Fla.
Meanwhile, Diletti, another ex-Husky official, is working to establish a sales office and technical center in the U.S. Officials plan to use the second testing center to supplement work that is done in K"nigsbrunn.
Ettlinger employs 25 and has sales of $8 million to $10 million annually.
KraussMaffei Technologies GmbH, the Munich-based parent of KraussMaffei Corp., will also display at Fakuma and NPE.
See a video of an Ettlinger rotation filter at work with a KraussMaffei ZE twin-screw extruder during the Oct. 6 open house demonstration.