Orlando, Fla. — A strong U.S. economy and pockets of growth elsewhere have GN Thermoforming Equipment feeling bullish about its decision to extend its thermoforming machinery product line.
So much so that the Chester, Nova Scotia-based company is planning to extend its line by two more models in the near future.
With the success of its GN800 thermoformer, which has on display for the first time in North America at NPE2018, the company is looking to establish additional machine sizes for the plug-assist thermoforming line.
GN Thermoforming built a business on the contact heat method of thermoforming, a simpler approach with a smaller footprint than the GN800's plug-assist approach.
Since introducing the GN800 at the K show in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 2016, the company has sold 17 of the new models.
"It's better than we expected for us. This type of machine is relatively new for us," said Jerome Romkey, business development manager for GN Thermoforming.
Momentum in the United States is being created by recent business tax cuts as well as changes in federal rules that allow companies to accelerate the depreciation of equipment into a single year, Romkey explained.
"A lot more people want to take advantage of that — at least that's what we're hearing," he said.
"The market started to pick up shortly after K, and the U.S. is very strong," he said. "Everything is going in the right direction."
GN Thermoforming, which also has a technical service and sales center in Jihlava, Czech Republic, is seeing growth in Central Europe and Russia as well. Romkey points to organic growth as drivers for the company in those markets.
GN Thermoforming is also preparing to re-enter the market in China because of a growing middle class that is demanding better packaging for their products, he explained.
The company had been in China years ago before exiting that market, Romkey said.
"Now it's time to make that move again into China," he said.
GN Thermoforming sells products all over the world — some 70 countries in the past 35 years.
To show off the GN800, the machinery company is producing a meat tray using a PET/PE laminate with a 12-cavity mold at the show.
The GN800 can operate at up to 55 cycles per minute, meaning the machine can push out more product than the company's traditional machines, which run at about 15-20 cycles per minute, Romkey explained.
While the GN800 has certain advantages, like higher volumes, there is still a market for both types of machines.
Plug-assist models account for about 88 percent of the thermoforming machinery market, so GN thought it was important to enter that arena. Contact heat models account for about 12 percent of the sales.
Building the GN800 marked a new approach for the company, but GN Thermoforming thought was necessary to grab a piece of that larger market.
"It was challenging but very exciting from my point of view," Romkey said. "We knew we were entering a market where there is a lot of players.
"It makes a big difference in the company. We are in a growth mode now," he said. The smaller machines, he added, are still growing for the firm, "but at a different rate."
Extension of the GN800 line will include models that are both smaller and larger than the current offering, Romkey said.