There’s market confidence that pending projects, lightweighting optimisation and stepped use of PET regranulate will boost the injection moulding and extrusion blow moulding sectors in 2019, reports Susan Unsworth.
In concert with other industries, injection moulding and extrusion blow moulding activities have withered somewhat in the recent currency heat. The rand’s devaluation has had an impact on the entire value chain, increasing the cost of both raw materials and capital equipment.
But for 2019, optimism prevails, as it always seems to do among resilient South Africans. It’s tempered, however, by the concern that it’ll take some time to turn the wheel. ‘The recessionary conditions have slowed consumption of many items, and volumes are relatively stagnant,’ comments David Drew, head of commercial: sub-Saharan Africa for ALPA South Africa.
‘The introduction of the sugar tax has also had a negative impact on the beverages market. In the face of reduced growth, there’s generally less investment in new equipment,’ he adds.
‘In addition, it appears likely that some kind of packaging tax, potentially even a carbon tax, might be introduced in 2019. ’
These factors aside, ALPLA is keeping things exciting and innovative, as it sets out to prove that sustainability and attractive design are not mutually exclusive. The company’s extrusion blow moulded PET makes its début early in 2019, capitalising on PET’s growing popularity, while refining its functionality and environmental responsibility.
A host of Haixings
Ricky Lazenby of MJH Machine Tools agrees that currency instability was a major hurdle in 2018, but reports that his company enjoyed the benefits of a long-standing relationship with a supplier, who agreed to extended payment arrangements, and has also celebrated the opening up of markets in other regions.
And although currency conditions will continue to have the market at their mercy, Ricky and his team are starting 2019 on more than a good note: 14 good notes, to be exact, thanks to a new customer who took a liking to the latest Haixing machines and ordered multiple units for installation in February, ten of which will be fitted with five-axis robots. The order follows a fairly healthy 2018, during which the company supplied 35% of total units sold with robots, reflecting ‘huge new interest’ from customers.
As part of the installation, a central raw material supply system will be commissioned, which will further increase productivity and efficiencies, says Ricky. All waste will be recycled internally and fed via doser mixers back into the production line.
‘This complete system will massively reduce costs throughout the customer’s internal process and allow him to be extremely competitive.’
Servo energy-saving technology now accounts for 100% of MJH Machine Tools’ sales, which, depending on cycle times, can save up to 70% on electricity consumption, he asserts. ‘Because of these advantages, some customers have converted all their machines to servo in recent years.
‘We also have numerous other machines on order and expect the publicity we receive in February to increase demand even further.’
Raising the Mars bar with impressive order
According to Pierre Jurgens, MD of Cabletech Marketing, his company ended 2018 on a Haitian high, installing nine Mars IIS hydraulic injection-moulding units, stepping up reliability and precision several notches higher than previous models. Currency challenges notwithstanding, the company’s payment terms and solid partnerships made investing in Cabletech equipment an easy choice for customers, he confirms.
Haitian Mars has been on the market for more than 10 years and there’s currently a global installed base of more than 230 000 units.
‘The new Mars IIS series was introduced at Chinaplas and released for the export market in July 2018,’ says Pierre. Cabletech Marketing has installed more than 60 Mars II series in the past two years, including the recent installation of Mars IIS series machines.
The series boasts next-generation, optimised core technology: high-efficiency injection unit, high-precision control, high-standard drive system, and a durable clamping system, all guaranteed, reckons Pierre, to give even greater quality and production efficiency. ‘Refinements include an upgraded system pressure and injection unit, and design,’ he explains. ‘In addition, the oil tanks on the MA IIS have been downsized to lower consumption costs and increase eco-friendliness. A plug-and-play version suitable for 70% of all standard applications is available in clamping forces from 600 to 10 000kN.’
Promising projects pending
Corné Pretorius, general manager of Nissei ASB, is also a relatively happy camper, having enjoyed a better 2018 than 2017. ‘Although the injection stretch blow moulding market was slow, with buying decisions taking longer and investment costs higher because of the struggling currency, we have many projects pending and I believe there are still great opportunities in the PET market, with everyone’s attention on carbon footprint,’ he elaborates.
‘This year, we’re launching several newly-developed machines based on our proven technology. These include the latest power-saving machine options, servo control and air recovery options. Cycle time with our latest technology is 30% lower and the focus is on optimising container design at the lightest possible weight.’
Hot off the Nissei production line recently is the PF36 series step injection stretch blow moulding machines, the pinnacle of the 1.5-step moulding process.
Preforms are injection moulded in batches of up to 36, then partially cooled to ensure stability, before being temperature conditioned and transferred to a blow mould containing a third of the number of preform mould cavities. The PF36/36 model moulds bottles up to 600ml, while the PF36/24-1500 accommodates 24 preforms and eight blow cavities up to 1.5-litres, the PF36/18-2000 18 preforms and six blow cavities up to 2-litres and the PF36/12-5000 12 preforms and four blow cavities up to 5-litres, Systems for up to 20-litre bottle capacity are on the cards, Corné adds.
In his view, the choice of the PF36 series is a no brainer, when considering that it achieves a better end result than previous systems while occupying a third of the floor space, and promises lower product handling costs. The finish and neck quality are also superior because preforms never leave the system.
There’s no risk of contamination and bottle hygiene, a non-negotiable for beverage producers, is guaranteed.
Depending on the container, productivity could be improved by anything up to 80%, with a top speed of 17 000 bottles/hour, Corné states.
Back to business
From the words of these industry players, it seems that business in 2019 will be brisk, if not record-breaking.
Having made it through the traumatic and extremely violent strike action of late-2018, all eyes are on restoring morale and the status quo before the upcoming election weighs in on investor confidence.
After that, the industry can get back to converting that half-full glass to PET, while optimising lightweight options, stepping up use of recycled material and powering converters with the most efficient machines.
‘The never-ending battle is trying to satisfy the market’s desire for unique and advanced offerings,’ sums up ALPLA’s David Drew. ‘Generally these mean complexity, which can add costs if not offset by efficient technology and innovation. And, at a general level, the global backlash against the misuse of plastics is now a very real threat to packaging as a whole. If packaging is not seen as value-adding, it’s simply viewed as waste. This is something that needs to be addressed collectively by the industry and its customers.’