Friedrichshafen, Germany — At Fakuma 2021, the Reifenhäuser booth looked a little different from previous years. Part of that was because its highlighted products — the new MIDEX 11-2500 cast film line with MDO, and the EVO Ultra Stretch unit from Reifenhäuser Blown Film — were not physically present but were on display virtually.
But there was more to it than that.
Next to the focus on components such as the hard-metal screws and barrels produced by Reifenhäuser Reiloy, visitors' attention was mainly drawn to the prominently displayed question mark on the wall. According to Ralf Pampus, managing director at Reifenhäuser Reiloy, it was part of a new campaign launched by the company at Fakuma 2021 in Friedrichshafen.
Aimed at educating customers about wear resistance, the campaign is centered on the questions that customers need to ask when it comes to barrel liner protection. "So, we started with a question mark," he said.
That question mark — bright orange with a blue-lined dot — was a dominant feature at the company's booth and on information distributed at the show. It represents, said Pampus, "the question that we first asked ourselves and the questions that our customers need to ask in their search for wear-resistant barrels."
Wear resistance is an issue in plastics processing. Reifenhäuser Reiloy, known for the high level of wear resistance its components provide, decided to determine what differentiated the hard-metal alloys it uses from those of its competitors.
Many customers think that hardness is equal to wear protection. That is not the case, according to Pampus.
"There are amorings that are extremely hard, but their wear protection is nothing," he said. "To understand how well a liner is protected against wear, it is necessary to look further: at the microstructure of each liner in the barrel."
The Reifenhäuser Reiloy team purchased a number of barrels from each of the company's competitors and tested them in a plastic extrusion application, aiming to find out what was the greatest factor that influenced the wear behavior of the liner. The company discovered that, as it expected, hardness was not what counted when it came to wear protection.
"We found it was the size of the carbides we used in our nickel-base alloys that made the difference. And that it was the density of the ceramic phases that determined the wear resistance provided by its iron-based alloys," Pampus explained.
These results were borne out by the results of independent tests carried out at a university laboratory, he said.
Armed with the data, the company has now launched a new information campaign aimed at providing customers — OEMs, manufacturers of injection molding machinery — with a knowledge of the right questions to ask when shopping for the level of barrel liner wear resistance they need. The idea is to educate the customer so they know what to pay attention to when they talk about wear resistance.
"It is an issue that is becoming increasingly important, as the transition from a linear to a circular economy gains pace," he said. "The use of recyclates and some bio-based materials result in new demands on components and production lines. Abrasion is a big problem when using resins with fillers such as titanium dioxide or calcium carbonate."
Reiloy offers a premium, top-of-the-line product that can handle whatever material a processor feeds it. But the company now also offers a more standard barrel with a level of wear resistance more on a par with competitors' products.
"We wanted to give our customers a choice," Pampus said. "Why spend the money on a premium product if you don't need it? If you don't use material with fillers or with a lower percentage of fillers, you are fine with our standard product."
He noted that in the overwhelming majority of cases, customers chose to go with the premium model.
"It's a way of providing added value to their end customer," he explained. "It provides peace of mind to know that the machine they buy can 'eat' any plastic you feed it, especially in these days, when more and more alternative materials are being used. Especially with the advent of the circular economy, our premium liner is an investment in the future."
Reifenhäuser Reiloy's customers have for many years included all the major plastics injection molding machinery manufacturers here, he added.
"We're now getting new customers from Asia, as well. We even sell our components to Reifenhäuser competitors — something we started doing two or three years ago. Because 'Reiloy inside' means something in the market," he said.
The marketing campaign will be further rolled out in the months to come, both in Europe and the U.S., and will play a prominent role at the upcoming K 2022.
"We launched this campaign here based on the three questions about hardness, carbides and density of the ceramic phases, but this is just a start," Pampus said. "Next, the results of the independent analyses will be published so that everybody can see that our claims are true. And more will follow."
And that's not a question, but a promise, he said.