Away from niche markets in commercial cold chain and refrigeration, Hennecke machinery will be helping campervan enthusiasts keep their beer cold. ‘We won a contract for Thetford, based in Etten-Leur, Netherlands, to make machines building very small cooler and refrigerators for bars and campervans,’ he said. Thetford is a sister company of Norcold Refrigeration of the US, which makes mobile sanitation products for the RV, marine, camping and truck markets. Greco explained that the system has two special foaming stations for different sizes of cabinets, and a rotary carousel for door foaming operations.’
Meanwhile, in North Africa, Tunisian-based company Grand Ateliers du Nord (GAN) ordered a pentane conversion for its existing refrigeration line. In China, it has won an order for refrigeration foaming fixtures from Haier. The company has also supplied machinery to Daikin in Germany for making polyurethane-insulated water heaters.
Keep it cool
Returning to the cold chain, Cannon’s Abba said his company has been working with Manni to develop a foaming station for rigid truck panels. The Manni 2+0.5 is designed for container trucks with 13.5m-long sidewalls. The press is 16m x 3m wide and, Abba said, it is very important to get the foam evenly distributed in the panel.
‘[The machine] gives users good flexibility and enables insulated side panels to be made in a single pass,’ he said. ‘It lets beginners in the market have an efficient plant to build rigid truck panels.’
A developing trend in the market is towards more flame-retardant insulation materials, and therefore some customers want PIR. This is difficult to apply because the mixtures have limited flow, but this technology gives much more even distribution in the panel,’ he said.
Refrigeration is, for most people the most tangible, if invisible, way that polyurethane touches the lives of consumers, but increasingly in different parts of the world regulations are driving the use of higher-performance building insulation.
Orders for machinery in the rigid polyurethane and PIR markets are holding up well, according to Hennecke’s Greco. ‘We started the year strongly after a busy 12 months in 2019,’ he said. ‘We had installations in North America, Europe and Far East as well. At the moment we have three turn-key lines which we are due to start building soon. And we are about to install a complete insulated panel line in Lithuania starting from the unwinders through to the packaging panel line.’
He added that the company’s sales activities continued throughout the lockdown period. ‘We focused on orders for our regular customers, and we have won orders for four PU/PIR lines in North America,’ he said. ‘Our teams will be installing these lines in the next few weeks. The market is still placing orders, despite coronavirus. It was very quiet through February, March and April, because no one was sure what to do or how to do it. People were at home for two months, but orders started to pick up from May onwards.’
Ceresa said the situation was similar at Saip. ‘I thought that during coronavirus everything would stop,’ he said. ‘But we got new orders for sandwich panel production lines. We got a very big order to supply new lines in the US, and one in China. The two in the US are for rigid facing with PIR and mineral wool. The Chinese one is for flexible facing in a very special application that we developed at Cedepa.’
Cedepa is a joint venture between Saip and Dow, with a full-sized rigid foam panel production line in Spain, where both companies can test out new concepts under realistic production conditions. It is also available to third parties. Ceresa says this order confirms the usefulness of the setup. ‘Without Cedepa, we could not have proved the new product concept,’ he said. ‘We are in discussions for some other orders, I’m favourably surprised, but it seems that the projects are still going on. Some entrepreneurs are making investments.
Ceresa believes this is a sign that they are helping to keep the industry moving, not least in response to the EU’s plans to encourage better energy efficiency. ‘I still see possibilities of improvements of investments in sandwich panels,’ he said. ‘During coronavirus, the demand for building insulation and local subsidies for energy efficiency has been on the rise. ‘I think that there will be demand for new lines in the next few years. Northern Europe is always more active than southern Europe, but in the end, this is a trend. There are incentives for public and private sectors to invest in building insulation. I am optimistic.’
Cannon’s Abba said that his company is already working on a system for insulated panels. The new Vertipas system dispenses foam into a retarding device, and flattens it before it starts to rise. This helps to improve the insulation properties of the board, he said, and the process is undergoing customer trials.
Looking ahead, Saip’s Ceresa said that the company is trying to adapt to the current situation. ‘With remote control of the lines and other special working parameters, things will be different in the future,’ he said. ‘We must be ready for new challenges. We are making a lot of internal studies and discussions to manage what the future will tell us in terms of machinery, technical support and software. These could be key points for the future.’