ORLANDO, FLA. — 20/20 Custom Molded Plastics Ltd. bought four Uniloy Milacron structural foam machines, in a deal signed March 25 at NPE 2015.
It's part of a $13 million investment at the molder in Holiday City, Ohio, that includes the machines, Ranger robots, conveying equipment and installation, according to 20/20 President Ron Ernsberger.
“Our business is busy. We needed additional capacity,” he said.
In other machinery news from NPE 2015, Milacron LLC sold its new M-PET 300 PET preform injection molding system, from the trade show floor, to Bomatic Inc.
20/20 is exhibiting at NPE 2015 in Orlando, at Booth S32013 — a large booth showing off its structural foam pallets, collapsible boxes, flooring and other products. Milacron LLC is at Booth W2703.
20/20 is buying three structural foam presses with 500 tons of clamping force and one 1,500 tonner — a large press for the low-pressure structural foam industry. This will be 20/20's second 1,500 ton structural foam press.
The molder currently is running nine Milacron presses — five low-pressure structural foam Uniloy Milacron machines and four Cincinnati Milacron injection molding presses.
Ernsberger said the four-press order is the largest machine investment ever by him and his partner, David Rupp. As a custom molder, 20/20 needs to keep upgrading technology.
“We want the machines because of the new technology,” he said. “If you look at any machine — I don't care whose it is — that's 15 years old, screws and barrels are going to wear. Tie-bar bushings wear, that kind of stuff. And rather than keep putting money in old technology, it's better buy a new machine, with new technology. In our way of thinking that's the right thing to do. As a custom molder, that new technology keeps you a step ahead.”
The deal also marks Milacron's largest machinery sale at NPE 2015. Ed Hunerberg, Uniloy Milacron's vice president of structural foam, said the 20/20 sale is the largest single sale of foam presses ever for Uniloy Milacron.
For Hunerberg, who is retiring March 31, it put an exclamation point on a 44-year career. Hunerberg also was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame at NPE 2015.
Ernsberger and Hunerberg had talked about the investment in advance, maybe one or two machines.
“We didn't know how many machines there would be. I didn't know the magnitude of the order,” Hunerberg said.
So Hunerberg is going out with a bang, although he wants to remain as a consultant. He's handing the structural foam reins over to Eric Hallstrom, Uniloy Milacron's new business development manager and product manager of structural foam technology.
Uniloy Milacron is based in Tecumseh, Mich. Milacron will build the four presses for 20/20 at its main plant in Batavia, Ohio. The machinery maker will deliver two of the presses later this year, and the remaining two in early 2016.
Ernsberger is a structural foam veteran who worked at other companies before founding his own company, Vision Molded Plastics Ltd. in 1993. He sold Vision, then started 20/20, buying machines and molding parts in 2001.
Ernsberger, Rupp and Hunerberg talked about the investment in 20/20's booth, just after they signed the sales agreement.
Structural foam molding works by dissolving nitrogen gas into resin in an extruder barrel, which feeds the melt to accumulator. When the melt goes into the mold, through nozzles, the foam expands to fill the part. It's a low pressure process, unlike traditional high-pressure injection molding. So the presses can last for 30 years, although some mechanical components may have to be refurbished, Hunerberg said.
“When Dave and I went into business at Vision, there was no used machinery on the market, or I would've bought it,” Ernsberger said. “We bought new machines, and we learned a valuable lesson there: New machines run about 15 years and you don't have to put any money in them. But our machines, at roughly 15 years old, we know that, just normal wear and tear, we're faced with electronics that are outdated. We're faced with hydraulics that are outdated. For a custom molder, you want to go faster and faster and faster. You keep catching up with yourself.”
The Uniloy Milacron machines for 20/20 will be specially equipped with bigger drives, to give higher outputs. But most of the improved features are available on any of the company's structural foam presses, Hunerberg said, such as new hydraulics with proportional valves and faster microprocessor controls.
“Particularly the controls. He doesn't want obsolete controls. He wants to be at the leading edge, so he can run faster cycles, lighter weight parts, better quality than his competitors,” Hunerberg said of Ernsberger.
Rupp said the new technology allows 20/20 “to be able to mold bigger, more-complicated parts, faster.” The stiff platens on the 1,500 press resist deflection, so the company can mold thinner-wall parts that need quicker filling.
Now that 20/20's structural foam presses are reaching 15 years old, it's time to buy new ones, Ernsberger said. The company will keep the older ones.
“I have to figure out a way for my customers to be able to compete with his competitor, who may be making his own parts. I'm an additional markup to him. So we have to figure out a way to do it that allows him to compete, in a competitive price range. Rather than being overpriced because of the markup he's paying,” Ernsberger said.
Ernsberger and Hunerberg said huge growth in pallets and dunnage for shipping continues to drive new structural foam business. The structural foam process can use a large percent of regrind polyethylene, which helps fuel its “green” credentials and lower costs.
“I would say 90 percent of the request quotes I get from around the world, they want to make plastic pallets,” Hunerberg said.
20/20's first time exhibiting at NPE was the 2012 show, the first in Orlando.
“For a custom molder it's a lot of money to spend. But the exposure was excellent. We got business from that show. That's why we're back,” Ernsberger said.
Bomatic buys preform press
Milacron rolled out its new PET preform machine, the M-PET 300, running a 72-cavity mold on a 330-ton press at NPE 2015 — and Bomatic Inc., a blow molder based in Ontario., Calif., bought it off the show floor.
The servo-hydraulic M-PET 300 has new transfer station for post-mold part handling and cooling. At NPE 2015, the takeout robot was placing the molded preforms into the horizontal transfer station, where they remained during cooling. A removal system took out cooled preforms.
Rich Sieradzki, Milacron's vice president and general manager of PET systems, said the M-PET can run any standard preforms molds, whether from Milacron or other suppliers. “That is the first barrier to entry, and it's important that the Milacron machine demonstrate that flexibility,” he said in an interview at Milacron's NPE booth.
“This is monolayer and coinjection capable. And it serves as a platform for the future as Milacron looks to drive material conversions to plastics,” Sieradzki said.
The M-PET can do neck-finish crystallization, for hot fill products like juices and teas, right inline. Sieradzki said normally the preforms are molded, then stored, then brought back to an offline crystallization station.
“We can incorporate that where it's normally done offline, and we're integrating it into that system,” he said.
NPE 2015 is a big packaging show for Milacron. The show marks the first time Milacron has molded its Klear Can, the see-through replacement for the metal food can.
“We see a lot of opportunities for paper, metal, glass replacements in the retail space,” Sieradzki said.