Some blow molding machine executives report soft packaging business in 2015, despite the automotive industry pulling lots of boats and the industrial markets being pretty solid. And processors are investing in retrofitting and converting their existing systems.
“Many customers are converting their existing machines,” said Ron Krisanda, chief operating officer of Milacron Holdings Corp. “We see a lot more machine conversions than new acquisitions.”
Milacron’s Uniloy blow molding business in Tecumseh, Michigan has partnered with Consolidated Container Co. to launch the Dura-Lite gallon and half-gallon milk churns on November 10th. Expect the new lighter bottles in early 2016. Krisanda said such innovations are important to unlock the growth in the piston screw dairy market.
Jeff Newman, vice president of sales and marketing at Wilmington Machinery, said a weaker market for large-volume wheeled machines had encouraged the company to move to smaller, stand-alone machines.
“We’ve slacked off a bit on the blow molding side, and I think that’s because there is less demand for the high-speed rotary systems we focused on,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with the consolidation out there and the fact that some of the bigger companies are making their own machines.”
Newman said the Wilmington, NC company has “shifted our focus almost entirely to small bottle technology” and is also working on what he called a “linear industrial machine.” He believes there is some demand for new machines, but “since the financial crisis, I think people have been much more sensitive to ROI than in the past.”
Gina Haines, vice president and chief marketing officer of Graham Engineering Corp., said the blow molding machine market recovered in the second half of 2014, but “it was back down significantly in the first half of 2015”.
Graham manufactures accumulator head blow molding machines and wheel machines.
Haines said orders picked up again in the second half of this year. Graham, based in York, Pennsylvania, launched the Mini Hercules this year. It is a compact accumulator head machine that can handle shot sizes of 2.5, 5, or 8 pounds in a single or double head configuration.
When it comes to machine expansion, Nissei ASB Co., which manufactures single-stage presses for PET containers, is moving to a new, purpose-built building in Atlanta. Company officials announced the news on social media and trade magazines, but did not provide any further details in time for this story.
Interest in all-electric blow molding machines continues to grow, but continued lower US energy prices underscore their higher price tag, officials said.
Bekum America Corp. offers all-electric, but Gary Carr said more traditional hydraulic machines are still the company’s “core business”.
“The interest in all-electric devices is definitely in the medical field, anything that could be operated in a clean room environment. Obviously they go very well together, ”said Carr, national sales director. “It remains an interesting topic for the general blow molding community. But if we look at the investment numbers for equipment, hydraulic vs. all-electric, the all-electric premium is hard to compensate because we have affordable energy in the US for the foreseeable future. “
Carr said Bekum America of Williamston, Michigan was “consistent and fairly strong” [business] all year round. ”The company started 2015 with a solid backlog“ and went to the trade fair with full steam. We secured orders at the trade fair and since then there has been no turning back. “
The Italian blow molding machine manufacturer Plastiblow srl and Hamilton Plastic Systems Ltd. Established a sales office in North America in Mississauga, Ontario. NPE 2015 was the official launch, said President Steve Hamilton. “That’s when we started to be stockingists,” he said.
Plastiblow makes all-electric extrusion blow molding machines only, and Hamilton believes that all-electric technology will be the standard in the future. “It just makes sense for so many reasons: Saving energy. They have noise problems, housekeeping problems, hydraulic problems, ”he said. “None of this exists on an electrical machine. So if you can get rid of the everyday things of a blow molding machine, the versatility of the machine comes into its own. “
Robert Jackson agrees. All bottle blowing machines should be fully electric, he said. “An electric machine is capable of correcting itself,” said the owner of Jackson Machinery Inc. of Port Washington, Wis.
Jackson said the electrics were a lot easier to use. But he said the price remains an issue. “We need to build electric bottle machines at an affordable price,” he said.
And Jackson made an announcement: Jackson Machinery plans to begin building all-electric bottle blow presses in mid-2016.
The ailing business with accumulator machines is being boosted by the automotive industry. Jackson believes blow molded kayaks and potential new markets for large parts like fences or tanks could help. Thanks to the lightweight, the automotive industry remains a large industrial blow molding market, he said.
“We’re seeing some amazing changes that drivers are having to make to save weight, and that is plastics,” said Jackson.
Bill Farrant, president of Kautex Machines Inc., said sales to North America are “still strong,” mainly for multilayer automotive fuel tanks. Higher mileage and stricter emissions regulations make blow molding a winner for gasoline tanks, he said, because you can mold key parts inside the tank.
“The internalization of components has been one of the driving forces behind new equipment or upgrading existing machinery,” Farrant said.
Kautex Machines in North Branch, NJ, is busy, Farrant said. “We’re still adding new machines and expect more machines in North America in the next two or three years. This market looks pretty safe, ”he said.
The strong car and truck industries also support the accumulator press business at Davis-Standard LLC.
“We’ve seen a nice improvement in blow molding,” said Jim Murphy, president and CEO of the Pawcatuck, Conn. Company. “We probably had the strongest order backlog in a while – five or six”. Years. Part of that is being driven by reinvestment in the automotive industry. Another part concerns recreational products like kayaks.
Davis-Standard is moving production of its accumulator head blow molding machines from Bridgewater, NJ to rented space adjacent to its Black Clawson equipment factory in Fulton, NY