DALLAS, LONDON and MUSCAT, Oman– Octal (www.octal.com) has revealed details of its direct to sheet (DTS) APET plastic manufacturing process which constitutes a significant departure from traditional manufacturing processes – both in terms of manufacturing efficiency and product quality.
The new complex, located in the Salalah Free Trade Zone in Oman, is funded by an initial $300 million investment in proprietary technology and custom-made production lines. The 330,000 metric ton PET resin and APET sheet facility is scheduled to start-up in August 2008. Octal is focused on PET resin for bottles (150,000 tons per annum (tpa)) and APET sheet (180,000 tpa) as the continuing trend towards convenience living is driving strong growth in both beverage and prepared foods packaging. APET is emerging as the strongest overall performer from the standpoint of mechanical and optical performance as well as recyclability.
New Process Eliminates Manufacturing Steps and Reheating
Octal’s investment is based on a manufacturing process that provides a quantum leap in manufacturing efficiency and quality. This significant strategic innovation expands the universe of clear rigid packaging applications available to APET, growing opportunities for thermoformers and food and consumer product packagers, alike. Octal’s express intent is to rewrite the script for value in APET packaging by leveraging game-changing technology to produce a product that allows downstream processors to extract cost from their processes and benefit from APET’s superior mechanical and optical properties.
Octal’s proprietary DTS technology simplifies the traditional manufacturing process that typically requires the use of granulated resin from a third-party supplier. After delivery, the resin is dried in a four-to-six hour energy-intensive operation before being fed into the extruder. From there, the extruder compresses and heats the resin into a melt, which is then transferred to the die and onto the rollers to manufacture APET sheets.
“Octal’s new DTS technology eliminates two energy intensive processes: resin drying and resin reheating or remelting, which together account for the majority of energy consumption and resin degradation,” said Karl Stöger, SML Maschinengsellschaft of Austria, supplier of key sheet line components.
PJ Corcoran, Octal’s converted products manager adds, “With the melt already heated to the proper temperature, it arrives at the calendar stacks without having to be dried and remelted from the granular form. This means there is no chance for contamination to enter the system and ensures a finished polymer that is fully devoid of moisture, eliminating all moisture-related defects. This is especially salient for food processors, which can be absolutely assured of product purity. Only a direct to sheet system can make such a claim. Finally, there is absolute traceability as the resin is mechanically constrained to one source for a mono layer sheet – there can be no question as to the origin of the resin and its quality.”
“With less polymer degradation, we expect a pick up in both gloss, clarity and stiffness levels,” said Mr. Stöger. “The integrity of the polymer is ideal for the sheet casting process, as the tighter the uniformity upstream, the tighter the mechanical and optical properties downstream. The uniformity of the sheet also allowed us to design a winder that constructs precision rolls with virtually unnoticeable weave and nearly perfect formation. We know that thermoformers benefit from this by being able to minimize side trim, which is a direct material savings.”
Octal has engaged Fluor Enterprise, Inc. as its owner engineer and technology consultant. Fluor was also selected to manage the construction of the PET and APET sheet site in Salalah, Oman.
Mag Fouad, vice president of Chemical Technology for Fluor said, “The process linking the resin-making to the converting lines is proven in other applications and is highly robust. The uniformity of the resin fed to the sheet lines will be very tightly controlled, therefore the resulting sheet rolls will be uniform from lot to lot. This innovative approach introduced by Octal has clear advantages, not only in operating cost and low consumption of energy, but in being an environmentally conscious and forward-looking organisation.”
Additionally, the technology reduces the energy footprint and enables a very compact construction footprint for economies in construction materials and real estate.
Early Customers Already Converting Octal APET Sheet
Octal’s additional 300,000 metric ton per year site is actually the second step in a carefully planned phased investment process. In fact, Octal started initial operations with a smaller scale traditional extrusion plant in December 2006. With a capacity of 30,000 metric tons, it has been custom engineered to deliver superior quality APET sheet with consistent gauge, gloss and transparency. Octal has entered both the European and North American markets with this capacity and has been successful in validating the benefits of its precision sheet.
Numerous thermoformers in the United Kingdom, Europe, North America, India and China are experiencing sizable yield savings and appearance improvements. A large U.S. bakery, that has backward integrated into thermoforming its own trays, has selected Octal as its sole supplier for the sheet’s visual appeal and reliable processing. Octal’s scale will afford unlimited upside potential for supporting global packaging initiatives, and its reliable consistency will deliver the confidence for a large share of use at individual accounts.
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