Düsseldorf, Germany — Ettlinger GmbH has started selling its injection molding machines in the United States — special machines that can make very thick-walled parts.
Ettlinger showed two of the parts — a big pipe fitting that weighs 85 kilograms, and a pallet — at K 2016. The company also introduced its Eco melt filter for PET.
“We started to promote [the injection press]. We basically are at the start of getting out in the [U.S.] marketplace,” said Ettlinger President Volker Neuber. “We have the first leads, the first discussion with clients. Some, we started here at the show. But it's really at the very beginning.”
Ettlinger, which builds injection molding machines in clamping force from 200 tons to 3,000 tons, has a 30-year history of selling the injection molding presses in Europe. But in the United States, the German company is best known for its melt filters, the ERF (Ettlinger rotation filter). The company opened a U.S. office five years ago, and had to explain the ERF technology to an industry more used to traditional filters with screens.
Now the company will do it again with injection molding machines.
“We started in 2011 with the melt filers and nobody knew the name Ettlinger. Now we're leading the market for high-end filtration in North America. So it does take time,” Neuber said.
Roderich Ettlinger, who founded the company in 1983, started out by making the injection presses, Neuber said. But because they serve a niche market — very thick-walled parts — business was uneven. “In some years we make 10 and then the following year we make three,” Neuber said.
Ettlinger developed the rotating melt filter in 2004, and the business leveled out.
Ettlinger is definitely not competing against the mainstream injection molding machine manufacturers with its press. The Ettlinger machines have a two-step injection. An extruder feeds a shooting pot, then a plunger pushes the melt into the mold. Each machine's injection unit is sized to the specific part to be molded.
At the company's K 2016 stand, Neuber pointed at the giant T-fitting for pipes.
“You have a huge shooting pot and you take all the volume of the material. But we have a tiny extruder, because we have half-an-hour cooling time, to plasticize the material into the shooting pot. Now, if you take a regular injection molding machine, where the injection unit is plasticizing and injecting, they have a gigantic injection unit on the machine, or sometimes two or even three. They build then super-long. And they suck a ton of energy to be able to generate all that plastic that needs to be injected at once.”
Neuber said the Ettlinger press is much smaller and uses a fraction of the energy on a much smaller machine. But the special machine is not for every part, he said.
“So we're also economically much better off. But, it works as long as you have a product like this pipe fitting. If you have a bumper or thin wall, light part, that's not for us,” Neuber said.
Ettlinger is starting to contact potential U.S. customers. Some of its customers are multinational, with operations in the United States, so they know the reputation of the company's molding technology.
The injection molding machines are too big to display at a trade show. At K, Ettlinger shared off its new Eco melt filter, designed as an alternative to backflush screen filters. “We are on the way to replace them step by step,” Neuber said.
Ettlinger sold its Eco filter at the K show stand to CarbonLite Industries LLC, a producer of food-grade, post-consumer recycled PET in Riverside, Calif.
The Eco filter uses a rotating, cylindrical filter screen with millions of conical holes. When melt flows through the filter, contaminants are retained on the outside of the screen. The unmelted waste particles are continuously removed from the screen surface of the rotating drum by a scraper.
It's the same process used by the company's ERF, with one major difference: how the waste is taken out of the filter machine. EFR uses an auger screw to move waste material, such as paper and aluminum.
But Neuber said that when recycled PET melts, it becomes liquid, so scraps of plastic attached to the contaminants would just pour out. So the Eco uses a hollow shaft with openings. “It absorbs the waste, and when it turns and it gets exposed to atmosphere, it pushes out the waste. And it gets filled back up again, and pushes out the waste. So there's no exposure to atmosphere,” Neuber said.
The Eco is designed to filter recycled material into a sheet line for direct thermoforming of packaging. Another market: strapping for packaging.
Neuber said backflush screen filters can lose 10 parts of PET for every one part of contamination. With the Eco, it's just one-to-one, he said.