Uniloy North America is breaking new ground by shipping the first-ever low-pressure structural foam machines to China, Russia, Poland and Thailand, said company executive Ed Hunerberg.
“In the U.S. because of the economy, there's not a lot of growth. We're flat. So we've been working hard to try to find new customers, and take what normally in the past has been a North American technology, outside of North American to the rest of the world,” he said.
Uniloy also is delivering a used structural foam press to a customer in Colombia.
The export machines will make traditional structural foam products like pallets, collapsible bins and mop buckets, but also unconventional applications like an underground manhole chamber molded at a plant in Poland.
Hunerberg, vice president of structural foam technology, reviewed Uniloy's recent global sales during an early-July interview at the Holiday City headquarters of one of his customers, 20/20 Custom Molded Plastics Ltd. Uniloy North America is part of Milacron LLC.
The machine to Poland is going to a factory in Kartoszyno, in the Gdansk area, run by Austria-based Pipelife International GmbH. The company makes a lightweight, durable manhole chamber to give utility workers access in urban areas, replacing steel and concrete with a series of telescoping sections that interlock together.
“It used to require a crane to pick them up,” Hunerberg said, of the traditional products, “They're like a meter in diameter and they interlock with one another. And they might weigh like 30, 40 pounds. So one man can take it and put all of these things together onsite. You don't need a crane.”
Pipelife Polska issued a press release saying it invested 2 million euros ($2.5 million) on the press, which has 500 tons of clamping force and can deliver a 154-pound shot of plastic. The company's largest single component is a manhole that weighs 57 pounds.
“Poland is modernizing its city and rural sewer networks and we are responding,” said Michal Mierzejewski, Pipelife marketing manager. “Demand for our sewer products has increased.”
The first structural foam machine in Russia is molding collapsible bins at iPlast Ltd., based in Nizhnekamsk. The machine is a Uniloy USF Series press.
Hunerberg said the sale “recognizes the adoption of world-class plastics manufacturing technology in the former Soviet Bloc countries. Until fairly recently, the structural foam/web process was primarily a technology used in the Americas.”
Uniloy delivered the complete production system for iPlast, including resin handling, mold design and manufacturing and other auxiliary equipment.
Hunerberg also reported these sales:
* A second machine to a customer in China, which Hunerberg would not identify. Last year, Uniloy shipped that same customer its first press — which he said marked the first structural foam molding machine in China — to make pallets and material-handling machines. The Chinese processor has started making commercial products such as mop buckets and ringers, and utility carts, he said.
* A major pallet manufacturer in Thailand is taking delivery this summer of a 500-ton Uniloy press. “Traditionally they were making pallets out of high-pressure injection molding. … But here it's like testing the waters [with low-pressure structural foam]. They want to see it and try it out,” Hunerberg said. He would not reveal the customer.
* Uniloy is delivering a used 500-ton Uniloy Springfield machine to Colombia, where a customer will make pallets. Although he is unable to name the customer, Hunerberg said the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which became effective this year, should bring more business for the machinery maker.