KIRION® technology: growing success in the retrofitting business

For companies in the plastics industry, modernisation of their existing equipment presently plays an increasingly more important role. This is among the findings of a new study published by market research institute Frost & Sullivan on the latest trends in plastics processing. According to the authors, processors are simultaneously striving to significantly reduce material and energy consumption in production and to adapt to shorter market cycles with more flexible production strategies. This means that suppliers of machinery and other primary equipment need to fundamentally re-think their business strategies. On one hand, co-operation between producers and processors as well as their suppliers are gaining importance, while at the same time, innovative technologies are becoming increasingly important.

As a leading supplier of blown film extrusion lines, KIEFEL Extrusion GmbH in Worms, recognised the signs of the times a long time ago. Apart from the sales of new complete lines, sales of retrofit packages for existing machines has developed into a second major business segment of the worldwide operating company. At last year’s K, the world’s largest plastics fair, a North American and a Chilean customer demonstrated this by ordering packages to update and enhance their existing lines. KIEFEL has continued to record steady demand for retrofit packages in 2005, too. The increasing turnover in this area enables KIEFEL CEO Edgar Gandelheidt to speak of “a quite particular success story”.

With its KIRION® technology, KIEFEL can offer an entire range of state of the art enhancements. Karl Häusler, Director of the Service Department at KIEFEL, mentions as one example extruders that no longer optimally meet the requirements in the production of certain films. This is because of innovative film applications and/or new raw material developments; a line bought years ago was often intended for a different application than what the market demands today. A simple change such as an enhancement of the extruder or just a new screw design often helps here, so that modern materials can be processed better in order to obtain a more homogenous melt.

By an enhancement to the automation system, Karl Häusler continues, it is possible to achieve better gauge profiles with a modern profile control, together with fine adjustment of the thickness ratios using a modern gravimetric dosing system. This system also allows for dosing smaller quantities with confidence and obtaining noticeable savings of additives. Use of higher performance blown film dies increases the output of the line. In the case of multi-layer films an appropriately designed blown film die enables production of thinner inside and outside layers, and as expensive materials are typically used here, cost savings can be significant. New air rings with thermal gauge control using a modern design ensure higher output and a more stable bubble. The customer that retrofits his line with the KIEFEL C2 profile control system obtains narrower film thickness tolerances, saves material, and can run printing and converting faster. The film flatness improves when the usual bare wooden slats in the take-off are replaced by more slowly wearing plastic strips, or bare aluminium rolls are exchanged for brushes.

Processing of completely new products is possible by equipping take-offs with side gusseting devices. The use of a winding shaft puller guarantees easier handling of the winding shaft. New film applications are often the reason behind the decision to buy a new winder; with the improvement of roll quality as a further positive “side effect”.

Individual solutions
With all these capabilities, KIEFEL is able to find a solution that is tailor-made for the processor, so that he can improve the quality of the film demanded by his customers or adjust to the products demanded by the market. This is also the case with a complete upgrade of a mono line to a 3-layer one. It clearly sets higher demands on KIEFEL as retrofitting specialists – they have however already proved on a number of occasions that they are without doubt matched to the task. What solution is the best is determined by the staff of KIEFEL’s worldwide sales and service team (for enquiries, visit the KIEFEL website at in close co-operation with their international customers, who have come to appreciate the advisory function that KIEFEL Extrusion fulfils here.

Apart from that, they can depend on the installation of the modularly designed components proceeding quickly and smoothly with only a very short interruption of production. Without hiding their pride, Edgar Gandelheidt and Karl Häusler refer to the fact that film producers that operate lines from competitors meanwhile also call upon the KIEFEL retrofitting service to improve these lines.

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