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Amcor refreshes manufacturing assets with Kautex machine

As it grows through acquisition and reputation, Amcor Rigid Plastics of Ann Arbor, Mich., is adding machinery and technology to meet packaging demands for personal care, food and health care products.

Investments in an injection blow molding (IBM) machine from Italy's Meccanoplastica Group and an extrusion blow molding (EBM) machine from Germany's Kautex Maschinenbau are part of a new effort to update manufacturing operations.

And there are many.

Amcor is the No. 1 blow molder in North America, based on estimated 2017 sales of $2.26 billion in the region, according to Plastics News' latest ranking.

With a focus on two segments, Amcor's global business, Amcor Ltd., has 69 production sites in its rigid packing unit and 131 sites producing flexible packaging. The company says it saw overall sales of $9.1 billion in 2017, including $2.9 billion in rigid packaging sales of PET products as well as containers and closures made from other resins.

At NPE2018, Amcor joined Kautex at its booth, where the first Kautex machine it purchased, the KBB40D, is producing an HDPE stock oval package for the personal care industry. Amcor officials say that their expanding technology and capabilities are an important growth driver.

"We're looking around and we're trying out new things," Chuck Simpson, manager of household and personal care products, said at the booth. "Certainly, a really nice thing about this machine is it's all-electric and the quick changeability of the molds. From what I've seen you can change these molds in 30 minutes to an hour. That's substantially different than other machines out there."

Suresh Krishnan, senior director of platform strategy for Amcor Rigid Plastics' Diversified Products division, referred to the purchases of IBM and EBM platforms as investments that "enable us to refresh our manufacturing assets, delivering greater quality with the latest technologies to meet today's demands of the packaging industry."

Amcor says its Jet series IBM machine will produce polypropylene and HDPE health care packaging in the form of 7-ml to 50-ml vials and the KBB series EBM machine will produce 4-ounce to 32-ounce containers for personal shampoo, body washes and bathroom cleaners.

Push into packaging

Kautex officials are pleased to add another packaging customer.

"We're pushing very hard into the packaging market now," Bill Farrant, president of Kautex Machines Inc. in North Branch, N.J., told Plastics News after an NPE2018 press conference. "We always were a packaging company. That was our roots but we're coming back to it in a strong way. We opened a new 5,000-square-meter production hall just to build packaging machines in Bonn in our existing facility."

Kautex showed its first all-electric KBB machine for the North American market (KBB60D) at NPE2015. This year's demonstration with Amcor shows the double-station KBB40D with 10 cavities in the three-layer process. The inner layer uses virgin materials to minimize migration of impurities. The middle layer uses post-consumer recycled materials to save costs and resources. The outer layer has the color.

The machine also features short dry cycle times, reduced energy use and quick-change systems that Kautex says enable "by far" the fastest product changeover in the EBM machines segment.

"We can change a mold in 10 minutes each side, which is the industry best in the market," Farrant said.

North America represents 36 percent of Kautex sales, which is about $62 million of the $170 million global total. The automotive market is the big customer and new emphasis is on packaging, but Farrant said Kautex is also making inroads with manufacturers of specialty items like Lifetime Products, which bought several machines for garden furniture, sheds and deck storage boxes.

Another new U.S. customer has ordered more than 10 machines for household goods mostly and those are being installed now, Farrant said.

"We're still holding our own in the auto market, but the number of machines has probably leveled off now," Farrant said. "The market is probably saturated a bit with capacity."

As a result, Kautex is retrofitting older machines to take advantage of new technologies.

"We might upgrade the extruder capacity or change the die head to give an extra layer," Farrant said.

With other European machine makers also coming into the U.S., Farrant said Kautex plans to "stay strong" on service.

"We want to stay ahead of them and say buy our machine. You've got a support network behind you of spare parts and technicians."

Get your fill

In a related development, Amcor also has a subsidiary called LiquiForm Group that is working on forming and filling technology for a broad range of liquids, materials, packaging sizes and processing systems. LiquiForm is showing samples of containers made of PET, HDPE and PP produced on its lab machine in Saline, Mich., at its Booth S16078.

LiquiForm technology combines the forming and filling processes into a single-step machine that uses liquid product rather than compressed air to form a rigid plastic container. The company says the process is more sustainable and efficient than traditional blow-and-fill technology.

In addition to Amcor, the technology's licensees include KHS, Krones AG, Sidel and Yoshino. The process eliminates the need for high-pressure compressed air, which LiquiForm says reduces energy consumption, space requirements, and equipment, maintenance and service costs.

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» Publication Date: 14/05/2018

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research, technological development and demonstration (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [606572].

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