Fit to battle - Side-entry à la Netstal - Presentation of the new PET-LINE

Netstal Maschinen AG Prof. Dr.-Ing. Otto Appel PETnology/tecPET GmbH, Regensburg, Germany

There are sometimes special moments in the PET packaging world. Moments in which developments are presented. When I received the invitation for the introduction of the new NETSTAL PET-LINE, I sensed that this was one of those moments, that a new era could begin.

I felt it right away, on the way from the reception on the Näfels factory premises to the production hall: pride. And the joy that was written on the face of the Netstal team, as radiant as the blue sky behind the incredible alpine backdrop. The team wanted to share both pride and joy with us on that day.

Piovan September

Chapter 1: An observer‘s perspective

The internal presentation of the machine took place a few days before our visit. A highlight, so to speak, for the entire staff: “side entry” was a “no go” in the NETSTAL world in the past. Now everyone was talking about “side entry” - no longer just the narrow core team that was involved in the strategy, development, construction and production of the new PET-LINE. To see a new PET machine - that even breaks with the old philosophy - to see an all-new PET-LINE, to hear it and to be able to touch it when it is in production for the first time, that is a significant moment for both doubters and pushers. Good signs for a good start.

Chapter 3: The PET injection moulding market calls for a strategic decision


Change of direction

In the core segment of PET application, the global CSD and water market, side entry to pick up the preforms from the mould has become established in the high-performance area of PET preform production. This concept accounts for around 80% worldwide and amounts to 500 to 600 PET systems with mould sizes from 48 to 144 times for the beverage market. The NETSTAL PETLINE has not been part of this area until now. (see fig. 1)

Chapter 4: A “No-go” comes down


Based on the challenges that have been worked out and described, the aim is to deliver turnkey systems under the NETSTAL brand - as in the past 20 years - by avoiding compatibility problems and with a significantly higher degree of networking and integration. The new PET-LINE has been in development for about three years, the microsite has been providing initial customer information since May, and the official promotion and release of the machine began on September 15, 2020. Two prototypes are already running in the customer test field.

Before Stefan Kleinfeld, professional for the technical features, goes into the details, Davatz proudly announces: “We can state that here: The new PET-LINE will be the machine for standard PET preform injection moulding. The competitors will orientate themselves on this machine It will take some time before they achieve this new performance.”

Has it been as quiet inside NETSTAL in the last few years as it appeared from the outside?

Davatz: There were certainly two perceptions. The external one, I agree with you: It was quite quiet. And the internal. A lot has changed, a lot has moved us. On the one hand there were management decisions at group level, NETSTALMaschinen AG disappeared as a company name. We first had to reorganize ourselves under the new name KraussMaffei High Performance. That challenged us all. At the same time, we delved into the development and reconsidered our top entry system.


Does a new development of this dimension have a special meaning in such a situation?

Davatz: For the internal direction, for our orientation - and by that, I mean both the management and the entire workforce - it quickly became clear to us that a kind of guiding star, a lighthouse, would help. The development work for the new PET-LINE and the perspective - that became exactly this guiding star. We want everyone to recognize that our plant here in Näfels has its right to exist here and that we are and will be successful as a team. We want to underline our claim “There is no getting around Netstal”. The new PET-LINE product range is one of the largest development projects in the company’s history. The new ELIOS series that we brought onto the market - incidentally unique in the thin-walled area - also helped us.


Has the market pushed you to move into side entry technology?

Davatz: Our customers have encouraged us to take the step. And you are right when you say that the market has pushed us to move into side-entry technology. Even a technically good unique selling point can be limiting for market access. It was a difficult decision to leave a development, a path that has shaped a brand. There are always people behind it who have driven these developments.

Has the thrill and enthusiasm spread to the workforce?

Davatz: Definitely, and we are particularly pleased about that. Because: Pride, in the context of such a development, is something that you need to feel from inside. Then it can also be carried outwards, to our customers. A brand feeling comes from within.


Would these developments have also been possible under the company name NETSTAL?

Davatz: From our point of view, the move from top entry to side entry has nothing to do with the company name. In retrospect, one could say that we should have had the courage to make this decision earlier. We may have tried too long - and also managed - to get better and better with top entry. And top entry undisputedly sets the market standard in these areas: Lowest footprint, lowest energy consumption.


Nevertheless, the side entry concept dominates the market.

Davatz: However, it is not always a question of the technical solution, but rather what will prevail best on the market in the long term. Our problem was that with top entry, we were caught in the compatibility issue and couldn’t expand our market share.


Has the pandemic hampered or mixed up your plans?

Davatz: Despite Corona, we stayed on schedule. The uncertain times have not led to any changes to the business plan. Our PET strategy is not wavering because of the pandemic. We will have access to a larger part of the market via side entry, and we will be able to increase our share. That is our deep conviction. And customers have confirmed that to us in many discussions. Besides: Due to the pandemic, there is a particular investment backlog in the industry. Sooner or later, it will come to an end. And we are ideally positioned for deliveries in the coming years.

Chapter 7: Summary, reactions, opinions


Fit to battle

The race for ever-higher numbers of cavities has been put into perspective in recent years. A 500 t machine today typically runs a 144 cavity system, a 600 t machine a 192 cavity system. Bottlers mostly use 128-144 cavity systems, while converters are more in the range of 72-96 cavity moulds. This is the technical basis for today’s competition between machine and toolmakers.

Against this background, the new PET-LINE is more than just a portfolio expansion for the NETSTAL brand. The question of product streamlining is, therefore, apparent because a complex product range requires ongoing product updates and produt support. So the question is justified how long the PET-LINE top-entry will be around. According to the current plan, Davatz says, injection moulding machines from the PET-LINE top-entry series will be available as long as there is a proportionate and economically feasible demand in the PET packaging market. “We will continue to serve our today’s top entry customers at top-level.”

NETSTAL is taking a big step towards a growth strategy. A push on the market that will certainly not go without reactions. NETSTAL embarks with the side entry system on the terrain of one hundred per cent comparability. As a consequence, more than before, comparability will move to the fore from the competitors’ perspective.


''The customer of the first machine - by the way, it doesn’t run with either an MHT or an Otto Hofstetter mould - took the machine into three-shift production after a few weeks of test operation.'' - Stefan Kleinfeld


With its new side entry machine Netstal is part of the game and is now sitting at the table with new cards. In terms of image and brand, the cards are being reshuffled in the competitive environment. The PET market will welcome the game with the new cards; customers expect that this game will provide innovative high-tech solutions for their daily business, preform production. Let us hope that they do not just rely on a price war like the one that took place in the blow moulding machine business.

Last year, but especially in 2020, many customers put a brake on investments. I assume that there will be a lot going on in the PET market next year. It’s going to be exciting: HUSKY mould on NETSTAL machine, OTTO HOFSTETTER mould on Husky machine etc. The side entry PET market won’t be dull. Fit to battle.

We did not go into more detail about why the top entry system did not take the position in the market that side entry now has. The key questions today are: How do the big manufacturers differentiate themselves? What makes a significant difference in the customer’s eye? What matters when the machines are once technically almost identical?


''I think people will have respect for what we do. Just as we respect the performance of our competitors.'' - Renzo Davatz


What makes a successful company? In any case, more than “just” developing a right product, building it under high-cost pressure and being able to offer it at fair market prices. Successful companies are also particularly good at convincing customers of the added value of product and service. Fit to Battle.

Finally, I have two more questions: Firstly: How are the reactions from the customers who have the machines running in the field test? Kleinfeld: “Can there be better feedback than this: The customer of the first machine - by the way, it doesn’t run with either an MHT or an Otto Hofstetter mould - took the machine into three-shift production after a few weeks of test operation. That’s a strong message.

And secondly: Have you already received any reactions from the competition? Davatz: “We don’t hear a lot yet, but I think people will have respect for what we do. Just as we respect the performance of our competitors.”

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