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April Roundtable on Extrusion Equipment

Scott Mellen
4 years with Pearl Technologies
Extrusion Technical Sales Manager / Business Development
As found in Flexible Packaging Magazine, April 2018 Edition

 

What’s new and/or notable with your company? Have you released anything new recently? Do you have any new releases planned to coincide with NPE or any of the other industry shows.

Process solutions and new product development are a significant part of Pearl’s business. At any given time during the year we have several new products and materials in the works for both blown film extrusion and film converting markets. Pearl will be showcasing its next generation retrofit bubble cages and bubble guides for the blown film extrusion industry at the 2018 NPE in Orlando.

For decades, customers worldwide have enjoyed Pearl’s scratch-free bubble control as a direct result of using Pearl bubble cages and bubble guides. The key to better film in these units is Pearl’s SM24 rollerless cage arms, which possess both the lowest COF material and hardest surface finish available in the industry. This ensures high quality film production without scratches, tracks, or blemishes like those seen from cage arms with Teflon rollers. Our newest cage designs introduce a state-of-the-art touch-screen actuation control system with digital positioning feedback and recipe storage/retrieval. This new system makes film processing repeatability a matter of just pushing a button and are installed as a standard feature in all Pearl bubble cages and bubble guides going forward.

 

With blown film extrusion equipment as one of the more expensive investments a company will make, how do you communicate the value proposition of such purchases to your customers?

We think it is necessary to have discussions with the customer about market limitations due to poor film quality and limited output, pointing out that investment in the proper extrusion line upgrades typically results in significant improvements in both.

Beyond the initial immediate savings related to reduced maintenance and increased output, Pearl customers find that these advantages open the door for new product sales, new markets, and new customer opportunities. All of those facilitate revenue growth, ultimately gaining return on their initial investment.

 

We’ve heard that blown film is likely to replace many cast film applications. First, is this something that you’re seeing?  If so, why do you think this is?

We believe that there are probably three main reasons for this –

1.) Cost – From strictly an equipment cost standpoint, blown film extrusion equipment is about half the cost of equipment for a cast line. Further, cast lines typically require longer setups and production runs while producing significantly more scrap than blown film lines. This will have a significant cost impact when running expensive coextrusion films.

2.) Flexibility –  Any one die on a blown film line can run several different widths and sizes without significant trimming, giving blown film processing much higher product flexibility. Cast lines offer higher film output and can hold tighter thickness tolerances, however they are typically limited by die size and require longer setups and production runs. This makes them difficult to manage in a multiproduct environment. Blown film extrusion is capable of shorter runs, allowing more frequent changeovers and less scrap.

3.) Film Durability – Blown film extrusion offers more balanced mechanical and structural film properties as a function of the process itself. The film is drawn in both the machine and transverse directions, so multi-directional thinning and stretching already inherent in the process results in a much more durable film.

Pearl’s history of understanding industry trends and innovative product design positions us very well to react to changing market dynamics. New challenges for extruders who are trying to change a certain product to a new process create opportunities for Pearl to partner with them and create value.

 

Is there anything that concerns you about the state of blown film extrusion equipment? What can be done to alleviate these concerns?

We think the biggest concern with blown film extrusion equipment is the ability to upgrade the line in order to meet the performance requirements put forth by new film types and new packaging schemes. It has been our experience that many extrusion lines were developed and installed long before many of today’s film requirements were even conceived, and insomuch are not configured to run many new products without some sort of retrofit upgrade.  In many cases there is just not enough space available to make the required upgrade. Despite the fact that Pearl has a significant arsenal of materials and equipment solutions, we seem to always be working on another new solution for a new process requirement.  If extrusion line manufacturers could have the foresight to offer more free space in and around the core equipment to allow for upgrades, it would save a lot of expense and headaches downstream.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to share about extrusion equipment?

When the customer realizes that the blown film extrusion equipment that they are using is not sufficient for their needs, Pearl Technologies has a wide range of products for the right upgrade solution.


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