He added that Cannon, while firmly rooted in the polyurethanes business is looking to expand its operations into other materials such as dicyclopentadiene DCDP, and expoxies.
“Our strategy is to keep the same volume with polyurethane while trying to produce new ways of doing business in other areas. Our experience is with polyurethane is 95% useful with other technologies. We want a complete portfolio, to get more width in our portfolio.”
“A DCPD [dicyclopentadiene] machine is not dramatically different from a polyurethane machine but there are different aspects,” Abba said. “We find epoxy mixing systems to be less critical than polyurethane,” he added. There are other problems, with epoxy, “though the hardeners are acidic,” he said.
“But,” said Abba, ”polyurethane mixing technology is more than enough to develop into epoxy mixing technology. We estimate that there is 5-6% growth in epoxies EACH YEAR over the next decade.”
Abba takes a methodical approach to growing his market, and has drawn up a matrix of his company’s technology strengths and how these can be applied to different market sectors.
He wants Cannon to be able to offer a complete range of solutions to customers from, mixheads to machines to moulds.
One of Cannon’s largest orders recently has been to supply machines to Maersk in Chile to build refrigerated containers. This was “a big project” said Abba. Cannon has good reputation with Maersk, after it delivered a plant to the shipping giant in 2000. “They wanted to repeat a positive experience and we won our biggest order in 2013 with 9 machines. When you have a big order price is always important, said Abba.
“Now we can say, at the end of the story, it was a positive experience” he added. Afros competes for every big order. We make over 300 machines year. A big order can be hard to digest” he said, but added that ”big orders help to smooth out the peaks and valleys in our normal production.”
Turning now to production mixture, Abba said that low pressure machines are only between 10-15% of turn over. Although low-pressure machinery is a small part of the product mix, Abba became animated when the discussion turned to wind turbine blades.
Here Cannon –- in addition to infusion dispensing units and in-line degassing units, which it launched at JEC 2014 -- has built machinery to dispense adhesives along the blade shells before they are assembled.
Abba explained that for Cannon low pressure machines are not that interesting “in the past low pressure machines were entry-level machines. There are a lot of small companies which can make low pressure machines in local markets. These are hard to compete with because of freight and import duties,” said Abba.
Cannon is much more interested in the machinery market for insulation products. The market for insulation is growing strongly because of energy-saving regulations around the world.
New technology is helping to grow business in this area, as a 16-plymerisation-line plant and ancillary equipment has been sold to Haier. “We are talking about new tech for refrigeration and for innovation in the insulation business,” Abba said.
Cannon produces all of its mix heads in Milan but has other production sites in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US and in Japan where the different electrical and pneumatic standards make it sensible to have a factory there.
Cannon also produces Shinnon-brand machines for the Chinese market in China near Guangzhou.
Cannon is also developing what it calls a “continuous” insulation panel machine. This features up to eight mixing pumps which can be modified on the fly to enable panels of different thicknesses to be produced with only very short breaks in production, possibly as little as a minute.