ORLANDO, FLA. (May 17, 1:30 p.m. ET) — A New Year's holiday gift tradition at Thai machinery maker Labtech Engineering Co. Ltd. has given the company a new product — what it says is the world's smallest fully-functional blown film line.
The company's research and development engineers have a tradition of each year giving President Peter Jurgensen a very tiny version of different type of plastics machinery that they make.
Previous gifts were more like toys, cute in the eyes of an engineer but not practical.
This year's version, however, for the first time can do everything a larger version can. So the company is putting it on the market, unveiling it at the NPE show, held in Orlando April 1-5.
“Every year I get a model — they build it in secret and every year they do it they get more and more sophisticated,” he said. “This one is 100 percent functional. We thought this could be good enough to sell.”
The blown film line is easily small enough to fit on a kitchen tabletop, with Lilliputian specs — an extruder with an 8 mm conical screw, handling pellets that are half standard-size.
Its spiral mandrel die has a die lip diameter of 20 mm, the film tower has a width of 150 mm and it can accommodate a film of a lay flat width no more than 90 mm.
“Even ExxonMobil wanted this for their research facility,” he said. “I didn't think there was such a good market for this but there is.”
Labtech, in Samutprakan, Thailand, specializes in making laboratory-scale plastics processing machines, including extruders and compression molding machines.
The company was also showing at NPE what it said was the world's first fully-electric and fully-automatic laboratory scale compression molding press, with 20 metric tons of clamping force and an 8 inch by 8 inch platen.
“We have been working on this for two years,” he said.
Labtech's business has been good lately, and the company plans to add another 43,000 square feet of manufacturing space that will boost its capacity 50 percent, Jurgensen said.
The company built its current 54,000 square foot factory in 2008 but it's now finding that space too small, he said.
“What we need is at least a 50 percent increase,” he said. “Our delivery time is still very long, about six months.”
The North American market has been a big source of the new business, he said: “There is still a lot going on in the United States. Compounding is still very good here.”
The company has 180 employees now and plans to add another 50 when the expansion is finished in 2013, Jurgensen said.