Thomas Lengenberg, sales director at Windmoeller & Hoelscher, and Lennart Ederleh, head of technical customer consultancy, extrusion equipment, share their views on setting up and optimising blown film production
interview1“In general, the market growth for flexible packaging in the region is in the range of 3-5% p.a. We expect the business to grow at least at that rate”
With three-layer blown .film machines, when do you recommend the Optimex and when the Varex II?
Thomas Lengenberg: This depends greatly on the application. The Optimex is designed for standard PE films in three and five layers, very good output, but not sticky and not the widest formats (up to 2,200mm dfl). Varex II is intended for the highest output and very wide formats (up to 3,600mm dfl), special applications, sticky films, special winding requirements, and highest flexibility

What should influence the decision between a five- and seven-layer Varex II?
Five-layer today is mostly for PE applications. Only very few five-layer barrier lines have been sold in the past years. It is impossible to use the same diehead for barrier and PE due to the different layer ratio. Seven-layer today is standard for barrier, PE-tie-nylon-EVOHnylon- tie-PE. Swing lines for PE and barrier are possible with seven layers.

What is the market for nine-layer machines?
High barrier structures with nylon- EVOH-nylon, but two layers of PE on the skins for higher flexibility and further recipe optimisation. Nine layers also offers the widest flexibility when producing asymmetric structures with nylon on the outside.

What sets W&H apart from its competitiors?
We focus on the needs of our customers. This starts with the best-in-class film quality, highest profitability and a wide flexibility during production. We believe that we have a lot of advantages in our machines and can offer a customised system for every individual demand.

Do you see cheap Asian machines as a threat?
Due to the fact that most components of a blown film line are know-how parts, requiring deep technical knowledge and processing experience, we do not see a threat yet. Most of the Asian supplier are still offering equipment below the W&H portfolio as far as quality and performance is concerned.

What are the prospects for your new Aquarex?
We see large advantages wherever the softness is beneficial: thermoforming film as well as film for pouches. These films can be produced asymmetrically without curling. This drastically improves further processing because of the better sealing performance of the film.

What is W&H’s share of blown films in the MEA region?
We would estimate our share to be around 25-35%.

What business growth do you expect in this region?
In general, the market growth for flexible packaging in the region is in the range of 3-5% p.a. We expect the business to grow at least at that rate.CPP involves strong big machines with very big outputs. We just sold a line – 5.3m-wide – in Europe. The market here cannot adjust to these giant machines.

How does W&H help converters upgrade blown film machines?
We have a department in W&H that only deals with the upgrade of existing equipment. The standard retrofit covers either the replacement of obsolete electronic parts or performance upgrades on the mechanical side, such as new gravimetric systems, larger extruders, new dieheads, new gauge control in the cooling ring, calibration cages, haul-offs, winders. All of them fully integrated in one main operation system. We also offer this service for non WuH lines.

How quickly can converters switch between clear and white films on an Optimex and Varex II?
If the recipe is the same and the line configuration similar, the difference in changeover time should be negligible. Again, the total time highly depends on the polymers used.

How has TCS performed as a distributor in this region?
TCS has a wide setup in the region in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and Cairo and is taking care besides the sales activities also of service, with their own service engineers. We are very satisfied with their performance and success and glad to be able to work with them.

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