In Asian countries, Hoong adds, while they are doing that “some companies take the opportunity to bring in new production lines in order to expand their markets.”
Abba at Cannon sees the position simply. He said: “Growth is being driven by energy-saving, which is closely linked the installation aspect on one side and the CO2 equivalent emission reduction.
“The less we spend to heat or cool down buildings, the less CO2 we will emit. This is very important not only economically, but also environmentally,” Abba said.
According to Abba Cannon approaches energy saving in a number of ways such as improving isolation processes and customer efficiencies as well as production efficiency.
Abba said his firm’s vacuum-assisted mould filling concept can help with both sides of the equation. “This is used to produce top-class refrigerators, A 4+ class with vacuum technology. This gives better cavity filling; low materials consumption; better insulation; and far higher efficiency in terms of production, he said.
“Today we are not only working on refrigerators but also on panel side of the business,” he concluded.
Blowing in the wind
Another variable which can alter the efficiency of polyurethane insulation is the blowing agents chosen by appliance and insulated board makers.
Piero Corradi of Cannon explains: “We have two pictures and they are both quite different, one for panels and one for refrigerators.”
Taking panels first, Corradi said all the blowing agents like methyl formate, formic acid, n-pentane and water blown formulations can be used.
“In this case, at the end, after the regulations, the price is the driver,” Corradi said. “So,” he continued, “fluorinated blowing agents or the fourth-generation HFOs are not used because of their price. The situation is still open on panels.”
Corradi added: “The situation with domestic refrigerators is very much more defined. “More or less, everybody will use a blend of pentane or cyclopentane and HFO’s,” he explains.
There are good technical and cost reasons for using a blend, Corradi explains: “A 50-50 blend of pentane and HFO gives a lambda close to 100% HFO but with a cost reduction. The price of Cyclopentane is approximately 10% of that of HFO.”
“Many refrigerator makers have pentane in the factory already, so they only need to make a small investment for the HFO pre-blending phase,"
Piero Corradi, Cannon
Corradi said: “Many refrigerator makers have pentane in the factory already, so they only need to make a small investment for the HFO pre-blending phase and they can be state-of-the-art on PU foam insulation technology.
Using a pentane-HFO blend has performance advantages over the lifetime of finished refrigerators, Corradi said. “The difference between the lambda of fresh and aged foam can be marked. With Pentane alone we have some diffusion of the Pentane gas through the cells to be replaced by air. So insulation class drops with time. After one month we see a 10% difference at least.
“This can almost be stopped with HFO’s. These are bigger molecules: the diffusion effect is very, very small,” Corradi added.
According to Corradi, this leads to an improvement in the insulation values of older rigid foams blown with HFO/pentane mixtures, he said.
A blending approach looks sensible on other grounds, the respondents seem to be saying.
Trippler at Hennecke puts the generally slow penetration of HFOs in to the rigid foam market down to several reasons. “HFO is significantly higher in price than pentane and on top of that the content of HFO in polyol must be higher compared to pentane,” he said.
He continued: “One more reason, beside the price, is that foams blown with HFO must normally be poured into closed moulds. For cabinet foaming that’s not a problem, but it is for door foaming.”
He added that if 100% HFO formulations were to be used for door foaming “all companies that use pentane for door foaming today would need to change their equipment.
In the insulated board sector, building regulations, with stricter requirements on the flammability of insulation materials, have seen an increase in interest in polyisocyanurate panels.
RIM Machinery’s Hoong explains: “Some countries have strict regulations when comes to building panels. Isocyanurate is the way to meet the safety class requirements.
Cannon’s Abba said: “the only advantage of isocyanurate formulations is fire resistance so the driver for this growth is the fire resistance of the foams.
However, PIR foams process differently to rigid polyurethane materials, interviewees said.
Amodeo at KraussMaffei said: “There is increasing demand for isocyanurate foams in panel production. Customers are asking for production systems which started off with closed pour and moved to an open pour with isocyanurates.
He explained that “An open pour system allows for better distribution of the isocyanurate foam in the mould. The flowability of isocyanurate foams is not as good as in isocyanate foams, therefore you need open pour."
Cannon’s Corradi suggests his firm’s vacuum technology could be helpful to counteract the greater viscosity of PIR formulations. It could “reduce pressure on the cavity we have to fill, helping to open the process window.
Corradi continued: “This gives is more freedom on chemical formulations.”
KraussMaffei’s Amodeo adds that: “In the past, 5% to 10% of the market for discontinuous panels was interested in isocyanurate foams because of their flame retarding feature. Now this foam is becoming more important because it has better insulation properties. As a matter of fact, current demand for isocyanurate foams in the sector peak to about 40% to 50% of new requests.”
The increasing penetration of PIR into the rigid board market will mean that rigid board machinery will have to become more sophisticated said Trippler: All new equipment must handle both.
The changing face of refrigerator manufacture
The world of fridge manufacturing is increasingly complex and driven by the need for increased production efficiency.
Maurizio Corti of Cannon said that for insulation foam flow laminarity is very important. For fridges, demoulding time is increasingly important. Turning to refrigerators first, he said “Typically five years ago the de-moulding time was four minutes or more. Now the target is 100 seconds.”
Corti continued: “In production terms that means we’ve gone from a typical five minute cycle time down, to about 180 seconds today in updated production plants.
Cycles are likely to get shorter in the future Corti said: “We are testing de-moulding times of 100 seconds” for fridges. In discontinuous panels, Corti said “We see the same trend, we are going to half the demoulding time.”
He explained that not all of this time saving flows through to the bottom line, because the other steps of the process stay the same in practice “efficiency has is be increased by 30 to 35%.”