After 80 years in business, Kautex Maschinenbau GmbH officials know good old-fashioned word of mouth is often the best way to reach more customers.
To that end, the German machine maker partnered with Currier Plastics Inc. to demonstrate how to improve productivity for manufacturers looking to save time and resources with more sustainable packaging.
Currier, a custom blow molder in Auburn, N.Y., brought its newly acquired KBB60D machine to Kautex's Booth W1551. This is the first time since 2006 that Kautex is showing one of its extrusion blow molding machines in action.
After less than 10 minutes for a mold change, the all-electric machine was making 24-milliliter, cylinder-shaped shampoo bottles for the hotel industry in a 2x12 cavity configuration. With a 6.1-second cycle time, it yields about 14,000 bottles an hour.
“We put everything together for the customer to achieve the highest efficiency,” said Dietmar Michels, a Kautex product manager. “That means not only a machine that is fast in movement but has a quick mold change system and requires less maintenance time — no maintenance at all, really — because it is self-greasing. We're pretty sure it's the fastest machine at the exhibition.”
The KBB machines also meet the latest hygiene requirements for cosmetic and food products.
In addition, Kautex has developed virtual machines for training employees, which is a first for the company and industry, according to Christian Kirchbaumer, team leader of communication and marketing. The technology simulates work situations with a real control panel and interface but without risking damage to equipment. Virtual machines also eliminate material costs and downtimes of machines in production.
“No other competitor in our arena does such a thing,” Kirchbaumer said.
Always looking ahead, Kautex officials planned to announce at NPE that its U.S. subsidiary is moving from North Branch, N.J., into a larger technical center in Newark, where customers will be able to see machines, or run materials and mold tests on them. The facility will be open in the second half of 2015.
Kautex also has a new product development facility in Bonn, Germany, where the company is preparing to meet upcoming demand for composite pressure vessels. The decision comes on the heels of a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) container project for Supreme Industries Ltd. in India.
“We did a complete factory, including the design of the product,” said Andreas Lichtenauer, a managing partner at Kautex. “The customer had a vision this would be a successful product in India due to the fact that there are many deadly accidents due to explosions of the steel vessels. That was one of the drivers for him.”
When exposed to fire, the steel containers with LPG quickly explode while the plastic ones melt and then burn off the liquid gas. Lichtenauer said the new packaging technology not only makes the vessels safer, but lightweight, non-corrosive and translucent so users can see how full they are.
The new Supreme factory went into production last year but because of regulations in India, the company is exporting the composite LPG cylinders to a dealer in South Korea, Lichtenauer said. Even so, Kautex has seen an increase in inquiries about composite vessels from Southeast Asia, India, South America and Africa.
“In the U.S. you have this container mainly for your barbeque, but in other countries they are cooking, heating and doing everything with them. The demand is much higher,” Lichtenauer said.
Another on-going project for Kautex is related to compressed natural gas (CNG) containers for commercial vehicles.
“We believe it will also be interesting to North America, where there has been success with shale gas,” Lichtenaurer said. “We'll also be developing a project for storing hydrogen in a similar type container that is even higher pressure. This is still in the test phase.”
Kautex is already a leader in making plastic fuel tanks for the auto industry. Almost all U.S. cars have those tanks and Kautex has at least 85 percent of the market share, Lichtenauer said.
The company also is working on an industrial packaging machine — single and double station — to produce single- and multi-layer drums; an all-electric machine for jerry can production; and a new compact suction blow molding machine.
The company is sharing its booth with Meccanoplastica srl, which is running its new Jet120 injection blow machine but also makes stretch blow molding machinery as well as Includis Inc., a software company whose systems monitor machine production, processes and energy consumption.
Kautex celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. In addition to the packaging industry, customers include automakers ers and suppliers. The company says its sales total 100 million euros ($109 million), annually.