Niklas Rad, Team Leader of Material Development at Berry Superfos in Bremerförde, a Berry Global Inc. company, was certain that things could run better. Every product change on the thermoforming line for multilayer barrier films felt like a strenuous hike except that there was no reward on arrival at the peak. The cause was the installed bolt coextrusion adapter. Whenever a new product was changed, plant operators had to fiddle around for a long time to adjust the layer distribution for the new product but in the end, they had to accept high tolerances. Today, this all runs faster and more smoothly.
Convert a third-party line to integrate a Reifenhäuser ReicoFeed Pro IE coextrusion adapter.
The quality of our products impacts on the efficiency experienced by our customers. The better we manage our layer distribution, the more attractive we become as a supplier.
Niklas Rad himself experienced that it is a real challenge to optimize shift distribution adjustments - at least without the right equipment. He made multiple tests in collaboration with his company’s production and engineering departments before he knocked on Reifenhäuser's door. But nothing culminated in the success he was seeking.
Experiments to influence the flow of layers using different materials and process parameters failed or had only a marginal influence. Although it was possible to optimize the installed feedblock by machining the profiled bolts, the results only applied to a specific product. It proved to be irreversible and too inflexible for the entire product portfolio. With a more sophisticated solution - the lamina coextrusion adaptor - Berry Superfos managed to fine-tune profiles, but had to accept a whole day's production downtime when the feedblock profile was changed.
Only a ReicoFeed Pro IE coextrusion adapter from Reifenhäuser promised the desired combination of pinpoint layer distribution, high flexibility, and changeover speed. But two issues remained up front: How could they convince Headquarters to approve the investment and was it at all possible to convert a third-party line consisting of components from different manufacturers?
Production employees and technicians at the Berry Superfos location were quickly convinced of the Reifenhäuser solution. But would Headquarters also agree as they have to approve projects of this magnitude? The key here was safety. Berry Superfos tested the coextrusion adapter under production conditions at the Reifenhäuser Technology Center using their own materials and a number of composite films. The test results confirmed the improvements expected from the system and, incidentally, provided concrete data to calculate a sound business case to convince Headquarters.
"Reifenhäuser offered us the testing facilities at their Technology Center and, with their cooperative negotiation style, they gave us the certainty we needed to get the investment approved. Today, we are well on our way to implementing the business case."
Rüdiger Kierstein, Production Manager Extrusion at Berry Superfos at the rebuilt thermoforming sheet line
One of the special challenges on the path to optimizing layer distribution was the feedblock – it had to be integrated in an existing line. Niklas Rad recalls: "Unlike on a new line, the extruders were already there, of course. However, a coextrusion adapter requires certain feed geometries. Reifenhäuser therefore redesigned the entire melt line, with excellent results." Berry took over the actual installation of the coextrusion adapter and it took about two weeks to complete the conversion work.
Production was up and running again just half a day after installing the new Reicofeed Pro IE. "The basic operating principle of the Reifenhäuser coextrusion adapter is very simple, so that start-up is fast. After one week at the latest, we had the necessary experience on how the system interacts with our materials in order to leverage the adapter’s full potential." Today, Berry Superfos produces top-quality barrier films with improved layer tolerances and switches from one product to another without line stoppages or reset times. The former hikers have swapped their Goretex boots for spikes - for fast direction changes and sprints with the certainty of reaching the finish line.
“A Reifenhäuser ReicoFeed Pro IE coextrusion adapter is worthwhile for all producers of multilayer films where the uniformity of the individual layers plays a major role and for producers who run a large number of recipes. We are already checking whether an investment is feasible for other lines."