Reducing waste is important as well, Wootton explained. ‘The crosscut saws used to cut panels to length can generate a lot of dust,’ he said. ‘Now by using a new technology blade, this has been reduced. Some of the dust can be re-incorporated into the panels, and this reduces the overall amount of dust to be dealt with through the waste system.’
Rigid polyurethane foam is sometimes used for its structural strength, as well as its insulation properties. Wootton outlined an unusual application that survived the uncertainty that coronavirus caused in global industrial goods markets, making insulated aeroplane hangar doors.
‘This was negotiated for five years and, it looked likely that coronavirus was going to kill it,’ he said. ‘But the client decided to go ahead with the contract for us to supply a plant to produce metal faced insulated aircraft hangar doors. These are huge. The doors are as wide as the wingspan of the plane.’
He said that CTM supplied a laydown system that overcame some of the problems with the earlier production process. It involved injecting PU into the panel at a set point, Wootton said. ‘The foam distribution was poor in the door, and there were issues with air trapped against steel,’ he said. This could lead to delamination in hot countries, and they solved the problem by using a high-pressure machine. ‘It traverses left to right on the door while we’re translating the door into the press. Then we close the press, and reattach the upper skin before the foam comes over the top.’
For CTM though, big contracts like this have been the exception, rather than the rule. ‘Turnover has come from retrofitting and reconditioning old machinery,’ he said. ‘We’ve seen a couple of customers who, historically, would have bought new machinery, choose to avoid buying it, and found another way around their problem.’ This could be by retrofitting a control system to existing plant, he said.
Saip’s Ceresa said that, like CTM’s hangar door machine, his company had won a similarly rare contract: to supply machinery to make special panels for an LNG tanker project. ‘In China, we recently delivered a special line for flexible facing boards for the LNG industry,’ he said. ‘The line has a 2.2m wide special double belt. This is a new concept, and is out of the standard. The panels are fibreglass reinforced and thicker than usual. They have to be 2.2m wide because that is the standard width for LNG carriers. Depending on the situation, we have plans to install this line by the end of 2021 or start of 2022.’