Home FAIRS Chinaplas 2023: Extrusion specialist Reifenhäuser shows how sustainability, automation and digitization increase profitability in film and nonwovens production

Chinaplas 2023: Extrusion specialist Reifenhäuser shows how sustainability, automation and digitization increase profitability in film and nonwovens production

by tecnoplast
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The Reifenhäuser Group presents itself at Chinaplas 2023 (booth 10 J11) under the motto “The Time is Now” and shows how film and nonwovens producers master the three major topics of the industry: Sustainability, digitalization and productivity.

Reifenhäuser will be represented at the Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Center with three business units, “Blown Film”, “Cast Sheet Coating” and “Reicofil”, as well as its subsidiary Kdesign, which specializes in controlled air rings for blown film lines. Chinaplas is the largest trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry in the Asian region and alternates annually between Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Blown film line manufacturer Reifenhäuser Blown Film presents its EVO Fuison technology as the answer to one of the biggest challenges facing film producers. Legal regulations and global brand owners are increasingly demanding that recycled material be used in films for packaging. A major problem here is sourcing recyclate in good quality, sufficient quantity and at an economical price. As a result, the profit margin of film manufacturers decreases immensely. EVO Fusion enables blown film producers to become independent of expensive recyclate and instead use readily available, low- cost film waste and even printed laminates directly as raw material.

The EVO Fusion process is based on direct extrusion, eliminating the need for expensive thermal recycling processes. This means that fluff (film snippets) and all types of production waste and PCR material can also be processed directly if desired. Direct extrusion is made possible by a twin- screw extruder, which homogenizes the melt better, ensuring a stable process. In addition, processors can degas the system very easily and effectively, removing unwanted components from the recyclate.

Eugen Friedel, Director Sales at Reifenhäuser Blown Film, explains, “The market for sustainable manufacturing technologies and recyclable plastic products is increasingly growing in China. Against the background of today’s recyclate availability, EVO Fusion delivers an immediately applicable and, above all, economical solution.”

PAM option: producing flat film highly flexibly with fully automated die and feedblock
Starting up a flat film extrusion line requires a lot of experience and time. A whole series of individual operations is necessary until the feedblock and die are set correctly. With the PAM option (Precise, Autonomous, Mechatronic), Reifenhäuser Cast Sheet Coating will show at Chinaplast how flat film producers can fully automate this adjustment, which used to be mostly manual. This enables faster start-up of good production and improved overall equipment efficiency (OEE). Scrap and material usage are significantly reduced. In addition, recipes that have been set once can be stored and recalled at any time. Film qualities can thus be reproduced exactly – even by inexperienced line operators.

At the heart of the PAM system are motorized screwdrivers that automatically and highly precisely profile the film layers on the coextrusion adapter and set and control the die flex lip. The PAM option is available exclusively for Reifenhäuser’s Coextrusion Adapter Pro – the only coextrusion system on the market that allows profiling of the individual layers while the line is running. For flat dies, PAM is available as an optional feature for Reifenhäuser dies and also as a retrofit option for third-party systems.

Benjamin Pott, Sales Manager at Reifenhäuser Cast Sheet Coating, explains: “With PAM, our customers achieve fast changeover times and simplified line operation. High flexibility is a crucial factor for producers in China to keep their productivity high even with many product changes. Here, our automation option offers a unique competitive advantage.”

The manufacturer of nonwoven lines Reifenhäuser Reicofil is presenting its new RF5 XHL production platform for the first time in China. The suffix XHL stands for Extra High Loft. RF5 XHL is the evolution of the proven RF5 technology, targeted at super soft and drapeable nonwovens for the hygiene industry.

“Thanks to highly crimped fibers with reduced fiber size, our XHL nonwovens offer a new level of quality with super soft touch for nonwoven products made from them – such as top sheet and back sheet,” explains Markus Müller, Vice President Sales & Marketing of the Reifenhäuser Group. “At the same time, we achieve a huge improvement in the carbon footprint of up to 30 percent thanks to reduced resource use.”

The RF5 XHL technology relies on the specially patented BiCo process. This combines two different raw materials in one fiber in the spunbond process, creating a bimetallic effect and optimally crimping the fiber. This results in a weight reduction of up to 25 percent for fiber sizes at 1.0 denier. At the same time, thickness increases by up to 30 percent compared to state-of- the-art material.

The new RF5 XHL lines are also equipped with particularly energy-efficient components, enabling resource-saving nonwoven production at high line speeds. To reduce production waste to a minimum, all raw materials are made of polypropylene (PP), for simple and efficient inline recycling. In contrast, common mixed-material fabrics made of PP/PE or PET/PE are very difficult to recycle. In addition, to meet the ongoing demand for more sustainable nonwoven products, RF5 lines also process bio-based raw materials on request.

In addition to the Reifenhäuser business units, Kdesign – the world’s leading supplier of controlled air rings – will also be represented for the first time at the Reifenhäuser joint exhibition stand at Chinaplas this year. Kdesign has been part of the Reifenhäuser Group since the beginning of 2021 and will present how blown film lines with Kdesign components achieve more output, better film quality and less production waste. Special highlight: visitors to the booth will be able to try out Kdesign’s offline thickness measurement system “KDvision-Lab” on site.

“Participating in Chinaplas 2023 is a great opportunity for us to showcase our technology to blown film line manufacturers and film producers from China and across Asia. Steadily growing performance and quality demands in these markets will further increase the demand for Kdesign’s market- leading blown film technology,” explains Daniel Lamers, Head of Operations at Kdesign.

On top of this, Reifenhäuser is launching a digital offensive at Chinaplas that aims to sustainably support plastics producers in optimizing their overall equipment effectiveness. RE: GmbH, the digital start-up of the Reifenhäuser Group, has developed a solution that connects the entire production from the first to the last meter of the film or nonwoven roll – cross-vendor.

The core of this digital solution is the powerful c.Hub Middleware and the ExtrusionOS Suite. At Chinaplas, RE: and Reifenhäuser will show customers how to keep an eye on their data in real time, analyze it, quickly troubleshoot, and ultimately optimize their processes.

“Supporting our customers closely on their digitization journey from the very beginning is very important to us,” explains Daniel Kajan, Director Product & Operations at RE: GmbH. “We guide them on how to fully leverage their data and turn their insights into profit.”

And this is how Reifenhäuser’s new digital solution works: the c.Hub Middleware connects, gathers and harmonizes data from ERP/MES systems and assets as well as peripherals of different ages, types and vendors. Thus, the c.Hub becomes the “single point of truth” for all data. Whether management, quality department, maintenance or operator, anyone can access the data, add contextual information, and draw useful conclusions at any time and from anywhere.

Customers can choose between ExtrusionOS bundles for different use cases, such as quality management, maintenance, or troubleshooting. These bundles include features such as product-specific alarms, EFSA/FDA reporting, and helpful tools for operators, e.g., to optimize product changeover.6/9

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