JSW counters complex challenges of the European extrusion market with optimal solutions
The EU was already more buoyant once, economic growth in Germany stronger, trade relations with the USA better, the environmental issue more manageable and a Brexit not in sight. Now the fat years are probably over, plastics are under more pressure than ever and Great Britain is on its way home. In this difficult environment, the extrusion division of Japan Steel Works (JSW) established in Düsseldorf has to hold its own. The recipe for this is a mix of a marketing philos-ophy and concrete components and measures designed to stabilise the standing of the young European subsidiary: Strengthening brand awareness, stimulating publicity, boosting customer service, supporting environmental projects, exhibiting at trade fairs, refining technology - these are the most important ingredients.
The Japan Steel Works, Ltd. was founded by the Japanese government in 1907 as a joint venture among two British firms (W.G. Armstrong and Vickers) and one Japanese company with a focus on production of military equipment until the end of World War II. Henceforth, JSW transferred technologies to meet peacetime needs and branched out into new business electronics, shipbuilding and petrochemicals. The company focused on fields such as materials and equipment for automobiles, concentrated over the last three decades on proprietary specialty steels and steel products, plastics and other industrial machinery and defense equipment. JSW’s HQ is located in Tokyo, Japan, with four plants and approximately 20 offices worldwide. JSW has three Extrusion Technical Centers in Hiroshima/Japan, Detroit/USA, and Dusseldorf, Germany, and they are sharing a lot of information regarding the polymer processing technology and timely customer support.
In 1969, JSW established a local business office in Dusseldorf/Germany to cover European business and enhance aftersales service. The office mainly handled steel products and plastics machinery.
To focus the plastics machinery business in the European market, and to bring customers and JSW close together, the company opened the extrusion technical center in Belgium in 2010 to carry out various trials for customers using latest JSW lab extruder equipment.
In 2012, the office became a local subsidiary “Japan Steel Works Europe GmbH” to focus further enhancements of services to the European market. In 2017, JSW relocated the extrusion technical center into Dusseldorf/Germany to achieve more special trials such as reactive processing and devolatilization, and to improve accessibility of customers. With new facility, JSW can provide the technical solutions for challenging demands such as creating new possibilities of plastics products and improving the existing capability together with the customer.
The Extrusion Technical Center operated by Japan Steel Works Europe GmbH was relocated from Overpelt/Belgium to Dusseldorf/Germany and started sales operation in January in 2017 and completed the ready of performance trial for customers in September 2017. Hayato Hobo: "Our customers and interested parties confirm that this is now more convenient. In addition, the upgraded trial facility has been realized to conduct the wider range and more difficult trials in cooperation with the customers. We also hope to further strengthen our team here, e.g. with process engineers, in order to provide the advanced solutions against the growing requirements. Our strength is to be able to respond to customers’ challenging requirement flexibly. The new Extrusion Technical Center "TEXenter" in Dusseldorf-Benrath (www.jsw.de) is fully equipped with three laboratory extruders, TEX25αIII, TEX30α and TEX44αIII, for the trial-based production of a wide variety of plastics material types. The Dusseldorf team of experts is therefore well equipped when customers come to experiment with extremely complicated or new material formulations. The most challenging trial series would be, for example, chemically reactive processing and devolatilization processing. The TEXenter complies with ATEX for solvent handling to achieve the process which is hard to deal with and high value. This facility provides solutions for the customer’s challenges according to a lot of special technologies as well as experiences accumulated over many years.
Proximity to the market is imperative. The performance area of JSW Europe covers all 47 countries, in particular the EU with 28 states, encompassing Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Spain as well as Eastern Europe as very important markets. The company's credo is "solving customer-side process problems through developing challenging new process topics together with customers". Based on this, JSW's extrusion division concentrates on specific applications, R&D with regard to extrusion processes, compounding / preparation, chemically reactive processing, dewatering, devolatilization, pelletizing, etc. - i.e. the isolation process technology upstream of plastics processing, i.e. production of a wide variety of polymers through to super engineering plastics.
JSW's European extrusion division can look back on a successful business year 2018, a satisfactory real and expected order situation from the process performance trial series with customers. A special mention should be made of an order in April 2018: a new customer from France replaced an existing machine (which did not sufficiently meet the expected customer support by the existing machine supplier) with a medium-sized TEX77αIII extrusion line. The usual resentment regarding the distant origin of the technology (Japan) was followed by respect for the results on the trial extruder in the TEXenter and high satisfaction with the commissioning of the purchased line as well as the after-sales service. Hobo: "The sales success would not have been possible - despite higher initial costs in comparison with other European makes - without the high availability of our TEXenter". In plain language: a French customer comes to Germany to buy a Japanese system.
At the beginning of 2019, JSW Europe GmbH recorded a stable order/request situation despite a slowdown in the economy in Central Western Europe, strong environmental discussions, the threat of Brexit, etc. The number of enquiries for "special" material types/recipes and super engineering plastics is increasing. Hobo: "In order to receive the award of contract from the customer, we have to be prepared for all special tasks here in the TEXenter. We can measure our situation by the number of trial series in the TEXenter which we opened in 2017. From this perspective, we are well positioned." JSW had a total of 17 customer trials in 2018. As a reminder: the Technical Center in Overpelt/Belgium (2011 to 2017) managed two to three trial seriesper year (mainly for Europe-oriented Japanese customers). In March 2019, the first material tests took place in the TEXenter in cooperation with a Spanish customer. Now there are already five reservations for 2019 from European customers, from Germany and Belgium as well as a global player from the Middle East. Hobo: „In the past, we sold our extruders to Japanese customers with subsidiaries in Europe. Now we are slowly but surely adding business with European customers. We do everything by our own power from Dusseldorf or from the TEXenter in Dusseldorf-Benrath, our most important asset for the support of the European market".
There are approaches to tie up external capacities. Kakizaki: "Unlike JSW's injection moulding machine division, which cooperates with agencies, our demands on external employees are many times more complex in view of the special process technology and its challenges. It is not enough to be able to sell extruders. Our customers demand specialist knowledge in process technology and comprehensive service knowledge as the most important prerequisites. glad".
JSW increases its efforts to make the name JSW and the possibilities of the TEXenter better known and to achieve sales success through targeted marketing and presence at trade fairs and other events.
A further chapter in the concept of measures is the cooperation in the MMAtwo project. Among the 13 partners, JSW is active as a core technology provider in this ambitious environmental project.
Original statement in www.mmatwo.eu – The MMAtwo Project aims at constructing a novel and fast growing PolyMethylMethAcrylate (PMMA) recycling value chain based on the production of « Second Generation MethylMethAcrylate (MMA) » from post-consumer and post-industrial PMMA based products. It is funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (project Number 820687). The main goal for the MMAtwo project is to create a new value chain for PMMA depolymerization. This four-year European project comprises 13 partners from six different countries representing all the stages of the PMMA value chain. MMAtwo partners have mobilized € 8.9 M, including a €6.6 M funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program centered on three priorities: scientific excellence, industrial primacy, and societal issues.
Strong interest is likely at K 2019, which is expected to boost the present number of trial requests. JSW is participating in the fair with 225m² of exhibition space in Hall 13, Stand B 45. A laboratory extruder TEX25αIII will be exhibited, together with an injection moulding machine and a blow moulding machine. Tojo: "The TEX25αIII is an upgrade version, especially in terms of its control system and software, with the advantage of simpler operation via comfortable touch screen. Only two inputs are required - target throughput and screw speed - after which the software automatically and gradually boots the extruder to the set output.” One of the reasons for developing the new software was the criteria of Industry 4.0 - interface-compliant with the usual factory management IT systems. Tojo: "Remote maintenance ex Japan or ex TEXenter and diagnoses as well as predictive maintenance, software updates and process optimizations can also be carried out on the customer's systems viainternet
“In addition to K 2019 and other trade fairs, which are also accompanied by our parent company, we have a full program in 2019 to intensify our presence in this special market segment - for example Compounding World Expo in Cleveland/USA in May, AMI Plastics Recycling Technology Conference in June in Düsseldorf, ChemShow in October in New York," explains Jun Kakizaki.
Technical Features: Fundamentally, the TEX25αIII compounding range covers all general purpose/engineering plastics recipes and extends to super engineering plastics such as PEEK, PPA, PPS, LCP, PEI, and PI, also rubber/elastomer compound such as TPV. The TEX25αIII design allows the lab extruder to process material in all shapes and physical forms, e.g. liquid, powder, pellet, flake, chip, regrind etc. This makes the compounder ideal for research and development with frequent material and process changes, as cartridge heaters and a barrel clamping mechanism enable easy and rapid barrel section block changes., The total screw length/diameter (L/D) ratios can be selected from 42 with 12 blocks, 52.5 with 15 blocks, and 70 with 20 blocks. The machine accommodates vented or closed barrel sections and side feeding of abrasive reinforcements, heat- or shear-sensitive compound additives and materials into the melt via a downstream barrel section. Wear resistant LSP-2 modified tool steel screws and barrels in N60S nickel‑based alloy made by JSW promise long life of barrel and screw (high wear and corrosion resistance) for various kinds of compounds containing abrasive and/or corrosive materials and additives.
TEX25αIII series advantages include a new gearbox design combined with enhanced gears and bearings, screw shafts and barrels as well as individual barrel temperature control. The result is a surprisingly high torque of up to 194 Nm per shaft (or 387 Nm in total) combined with wider processing windows as well as more aggressive kneading and mixing. Its torque density value (Td) is 18.2 Nm/cm³ i.e. reduced screw speed without reducing the throughput and keeping the temperature at an optimally maintained level. A standard torque limiting function disengages motor and gearbox to stop the screw rotation and protect the machinery.
A TKD Twist Kneading Disc screw element with a twisted tip developed for energy-efficiency of kneading and mixing supports this “tip-clearance technology” by ensuring fast material conveying and relatively low material temperature while retaining appropriate mixing efficiency. “Such features make the TEX25αIII the worldwide highest performance compact twin-screw extruder,” says Jun Kakizaki, JSW Europe General Manager since July 2016.
JSW’s patented TEX-FAN Flow Analysis Network R&D support tool developed for TEX25αIII analyses polymer melt pressure, temperature, residence time and fill factor with special dedicated software developed by JSW.
The NIC special kneading barrel is in the development phase as a possible option. It achieves good mixing/dispersion at repeated high-low shear rate and high viscosity for good compound material properties – without dead zones at the mixing zone through the introduction of several longitudinal grooves of particular geometry on the inside barrel surface for more screw‑to‑barrel clearance.