Dutch extrusion equipment manufacturer MEAF Machines BV is a long-standing exhibitor at K. It was hectic in the runup to the show this year, Assistant General Manager Elwin Houtekamer said.
"We're looking forward to doing good business in Düsseldorf," he said.
Although the year started out relatively calm, the pace has since picked up strongly. K 2019 promises to be a good show for the company, Houtekamer said.
MEAF produces extruders and complete extrusion lines for plastics film and sheet. In line with the circularity theme at K 2019, the focus at the MEAF booth, Houtekamer said, will be on recycling and, more specifically, on PET recycling. "It's what we believe will be the future," he said.
"Here at K, we are showcasing our 90 millimeter H series APET extruder, complete with an in-line IV measurement device with a capacity of up to 1200 kilograms per hour, which, since the beginning of this year, we can supply with a combined crystallization and drying system developed by our partner Kreyenborg."
The quality of recycled PET produced with this system is extremely high. "It meets the criteria established by the FDA and by EFSA, which means it is approved for food contact" Houtekamer said. This, he said, was the reason for the focus on PET: Because of its high melt temperature, PET can undergo a decontamination process that will render it suitable for food-contact applications — something that is impossible with PE or PP, according to Houtekamer. "Concentrating on PET allows us to close the loop, which is what the future is all about," he emphasized.
The new system, called IR-Clean — where IR stands for infrared — was developed specifically for the drying and decontamination of post-consumer PET flake. These PET flakes are extremely hygroscopic and easily absorb moisture from the ambient air. If heated, the moisture will hydrolyze the PET, lowering the molecular weight and intrinsic viscosity, thus increasing the melt flow. The mechanical properties of the material will deteriorate. It is therefore vital to ensure the material is well dried prior to processing in the extruder.
However, drying is not the only important step. PET flake from post-consumer waste is likely to be amorphous rather than crystalline, which means it is required to be crystallized before drying, as it will otherwise clump together.
"The IR-Clean system does it all: It crystallizes, dries and decontaminates the [recycled PET] flakes," Houtekamer said, while maintaining the IV-value of the PET flakes, producing PET sheet for thermoforming food-grade packaging.
It does so, he added, while "retaining the main advantage MEAF extruders already offered," such as energy-efficient operations. The Kreyenborg system uses only 0.14-0.16 kilowatt-hours per kilogram.
In combination with the MEAF 90 mm PET extruder, with an energy consumption of 0.18 to 0.20 kWh/kg, this is one of the most energy-efficient recycled PET food packaging solutions in the industry.
MEAF was founded in 1947 and is still run as a family-owned company, as is Kreyenborg. In that respect, the two companies share a business culture, making collaboration that much easier.
The company builds between 10 and 12 complete lines — extruder, roller calender, haul-off, winder and more — a year. MEAF's customer base has traditionally consisted of small to midsized companies, although the price/quality ratio of the company's products and technology are now also attracting larger clients as well. "We sell to customers around the world," Houtekamer said. "Around 40 percent are in Europe, Asia, Russia and the Middle East are all markets that we see are growing."
The company has also noticed another trend as well.
"Demand for lines able to process bio-based materials is also rising," Houtekamer said.
At K 2019, therefore, the company would also like to emphasize that the 90 mm H series APET extruder on show is equally capable of processing a wide range of bioplastics — for example, PLA.
"Bioplastics are the other answer to the plastic waste issue, next to recycling and using recycled material, and we don't know which will ultimately win out," Houtekamer noted. "But something has to change. When our customers buy an extruder, they use it for 10-20 years. So we have to consider very carefully when designing the machines we sell today now, as they will continue to be used for many years yet. Thinking ahead, our machines can therefore handle both types of material."