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Practical Solutions On Equipment Simplified – A Know Your Supplier Special

At Rubber Machinery World, we understand your information requirements. Our effort on this portal to share authentic information to help you source your machinery wisely remains incomplete without notes on equipment suppliers from whom you source your rubber and tire equipment.

Hence, ‘Know Your Supplierseries is one of our advertorial initiatives to bring to you information on the machinery supplier ecosystem – Manufacturers, OEM Suppliers, Machine Rebuilders, Used and Pre-Owned Equipment Buyers & Suppliers, and Agents.

In Know Your Supplier editions, we cover an equipment supplier’s Competency, Capacity, Commitment, Culture, Communication, Market Presence, Technology, Solutions, amongst other details that you seek; so you know these organizations better and reach them quicker.

In this post, I introduce you to an equipment supplier based in India but wired globally. Read on to know why.


Pracsol Chemicals & Machinery is into trading of Machinery, Raw Materials and Chemicals since 2007 and is growing in reputation in machinery business. We understand from our conversation with Harish Nene, Chief Executive, that in the last 4 years they have secured landmark orders for Used Machinery from Indian Rubber and Tyre industry.

Pracsol is now fast building on this rising confidence and customer trust to extend practical equipment solutions to the industry in new machinery as well.

Flip through this Special Edition using the link – http://is.gd/UHPT5U

In this conversation, Harish Nene outlines on a wide array of his business aspects right from the genesis of his company name to his experiences in rubber and tyre industry, partnership with JM Machinery USA, recent successes and new products on the anvil. Harish also informs us the unique service proposition Pracsol offers to their customers, their competence and comprehensive range of machinery offered to buyers.

I reproduce for you a few snapshots of our conversation here. (For full story, please do read and download here, this special edition of Know Your Supplier)

  • Pracsol is a strange name. What is the story behind this name?

Pracsol is derived from the words ‘Practical Solutions’. Through my experience of last 20 years in International Business, I would state that solution for a problem is possible if looked at it practically not by just following procedures.

Pracsol Logo

  • Having started in 2007 how has been your experience so far in this industry?

Business Ethics, Honesty, Transparency and Hard work is important. Customers who do business with me recognize that they can expect these from me and have helped me succeed in the rubber and tyre industry. I also have good support from my principal company. This makes things simple and gives me time to focus on delivering value to customers. From my last 7 years experience, I would opine that doing business with Private Companies is easier than doing business with Public Limited Companies.

  • Purchasing machinery is a major investment for most buyers and they would need technical inputs and customization. What level of pre-sales support do you offer?

We provide all the important technical details about the machinery with photographs. Through JM Machinery, we can aid in design and engineering from concept thru completion of the desired machine. If the customer insists on Physical Verification Report then physical verification is carried out by our principals’ engineers and a report is provided. The client has the liberty to visit for physical verification if the machines are available at our warehouse in USA.

  • Are you launching any new products?

We are targeting the rubber industry in Europe & USA to export our range of new machinery from India. We have recently bagged an order to design, manufacture and supply a NEW BATCH OFF for Europe. This is expected to be despatched by end of September 2015.

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For full conversation and other details of Pracsol, access this special edition of Know Your Supplier in PDF here.

Meanwhile, here is a quick overview of industries covered by Pracsol and Harish Nene’s contacts if you would like to reach him quickly.

Pracsol-Small-Ad


Know Your Supplier is an advertorial initiative of Rubber Machinery World and all information are as provided by the supplier. If you desire to know more, kindly reach out on the contact details provided or write to me stating the additional details you seek on this supplier.

And if you would like your organization to be promoted on Rubber Machinery World, please see the opportunities on Partner Me or Contact Me at rubbermachineryworld@gmail.com for your customized offering.


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Tyre Machinery Industry: What to Expect?

At a recent event organized by a major automation brand, I had the opportunity to sit through a customer presentation (a leading tyre brand). A well articulated presentation, the speaker outlined the challenges that the tyre producers are facing in business today – increased competition on price, quality and delivery, pressure to reduce the tire development life cycle, enforcement of modular processes, perform with fewer employees and frequently changing product demands.

I bet that a tire producer three or five-year back would have presented these same set of challenges as the major concerns for their business. So what’s new and why are these concerns still valid?

It’s the fast pace of change!

Tug-of-War

Image from Web

Competition Galore

Tire manufacturing is a highly competitive field and faces volatile changes. The whole ecosystem of tire manufacturers, raw material suppliers, and machinery manufacturers are affected by industry consolidation, innovations in technology, labeling and safety requirements, increasing government regulations, shifting customer demands, and the pressure for lower customer prices.

For example, car manufacturers are focusing on energy-saving technologies. Translated to tyre, machinery experts feel energy-saving tyres will be a major focus area on the tyre equipment sector over next few years. As a machinery manufacturer, you must ensure the tires produced using your machinery has the highest manufacturing accuracy to meet the customers’ specifications in their local markets and overall quality standards.

Tyre manufacturing is a complex process. A fault or improper procedure at any of these stages threatens the structural integrity of the tire. And, tyre manufacturers demand the highest productivity from every stage of their manufacturing process. This means as a machinery manufacturer, you must cater to their demands of machines that offer high production output, manufacturing accuracy, reliability and product quality with low processing and maintenance costs and lowest possible manpower.

Over the next few years in tire machinery sector, you will have just two segments – “Chinese” & “Non-Chinese”. This thought first occurred to me a few years back. But in the recent times, I have heard this statement echoing strongly from peers in the industry. There is a handful of technologically strong tyre machinery manufacturers in China and some others are fast growing. I would not get into the industry perceptions because then I could digress.

However, this means that every tyre machinery manufacturer is continuously challenged to evolve rapidly in technology offered and differentiate globally. Also, the machines that you manufacture should possess the flexibility to adapt to changing trends in tire dimensions and complex designs.

Tyre Building Machines (TBM’s) and Curing Presses will be under intense scrutiny by tyre manufacturers for various reasons.

Tyre Building Machines

In TBM, it would be more to do with design and automation. A TBM assembles all components such as tread, sidewall, inner liner, body ply, bead, and cord body together to build green tyres. Each cycle is programmed to carry out the various operations automatically and concurrently, to give a balanced building cycle.

VMI_TBM

Image: VMI Holland

Automation of TBM especially for quicker synchronization of machine sections, including let-off, feed cutter, splicer, and wind-up; achieve better tension and edge control, ergonomics and operator safety, higher accuracy of cut-to-length independent of machine speed, slip correction between belts and tire building material; and capability to make adjustments in tire dimensions with demands for advancements in fault diagnosis would be more rigorous.

Tyre producers are regularly involved in either green field or brown field projects to meet their growing market demands. They demand from you the lowest set-up time for TBM integration, mechanical and electrical optimization and wiring. Leading TBM manufacturers like VMI have advanced models for cycle times of 36 seconds, full hands-off/eyes-off production, with automatic splice checking systems, a robot for green tire removal, connection to a green tire transport system, apexed bead unstacking and loading.

Tyre Curing Press

Curing is the process of applying pressure to the green tire in a mould in order to give it its final shape.  This is traditionally the bottleneck of every tyre manufacturer. For curing presses, the emphasis would be on enhancing the process efficiency and reducing the energy consumption.

One visible trend among tyre manufacturers is to produce smaller lot sizes. This will require more moulds and more frequent mould changes. Quick mould-change devices will become a unique selling feature for machinery builders to compete on. Leading manufacturers like HF have models that achieve the mould-change-time in less than 30 minutes.

HF_curing press

Image: HF

Hydraulic curing presses are preferred (over its mechanical counterparts) because they have repeatable accuracy over their life time. Secondly, they offer higher output which keeps the tyre manufacturers process cost under control. To improve the process efficiency and reduce curing time, post cure inflators are desired.

Curing presses occupy a large real estate space within a plant. So when the curing press manufacturers offer equipment with high-efficiency, tire manufacturers save substantially – not only by reducing the investment in quantity of machinery required (CAPEX) but also in terms of space utilization. Jacob Peled, Executive Chairman of Pelmar Engineering, foresees that split curing (tread and carcass separately) will eventually dominate the industry.

Summarizing, it’s the rapid pace of change faced by tyre producers that is driving the tyre machinery manufacturers to invest more in R&D, evolve rapidly in technology and offer customized automated solutions for maximum output to their customers. For tyre manufacturers, the consequence of increasing the automation to eliminate human errors will be that stringent testing on 100 per cent of tyre production will be a binding procedure in future.


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The Ultimate Guide to Asset Management

If you had read my earlier post “A New Hope: Top 6 Things I Learnt At NRC 2015 Mumbai“, then you would have also read my learning from Naushad Shikalgar of J.N.Engineering – ‘Proactive Machinery Maintenance is not an expense and is an investment that has long-term benefits’.

Maintenance is important in any organization. Without proper maintenance, assets deteriorate over time reducing the quality of your output produced. It can also impact the safety of your asset or your people who operate it.

Traditionally, maintenance has been viewed as a cost center in an organization because it costs you money to hire maintenance technicians and purchase the spare parts to keep your systems running smoothly. Too often, senior executives ignore the value-add that maintenance can bring to your organization. These include:

  • A reduction in reactive maintenance costs
  • Reducing costs to restart production after a breakdown
  • Limiting production scrap
  • Costs of downtime such as missed orders and lost revenue
  • Customer perception/satisfaction
  • Improved quality of products
  • Reduced environmental impact

 

By definition, Asset management is a systematic process of deploying, operating, maintaining, upgrading, and disposing of assets cost-effectively.

During his talk, Naushad spoke extensively on Asset Management Strategy-Plan-Execution including the various approaches to maintenance that I found interesting and hope you too would like it when you read. Hence, I have reproduced the 34 slides (click on the picture below) here that effectively forms a comprehensive guide on asset management.

Asset Management

Click on Image

Summarizing, asset management focuses on assuring your people, parts and processes are optimized to improve asset performance. Reducing inventory, maintenance costs and the number of downtime events raises your productivity, while simultaneously driving financial performance and predictability. It also helps your employees with the right tools to make good decisions about driving your plant performance.

Do you agree? How do you look at Asset Management?


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What the Heck Is Total Cost Of Ownership of A Rubber Machinery?

“What the heck is total cost of ownership of a rubber machinery?”. If this question has popped up in your heads after reading  Prof. Dr.-Ing Andreas Limper’s interview, you are not alone.

Neither is this concept new.

Dr. Limper explains, in his interview, that the inability of a customer to see the ‘holistic perspective’ and evaluate machinery on ‘ownership cost’ basis is frustrating. This is because, most buyers select a rubber machinery on the ‘initial cost’.

“So what?” you may ask me.

And at this stage of our conversation, if I add that your ‘initial cost’ (basis which you made the strategic capital purchase) represents not more than 13-15% of your ownership cost!

TCO - Iceberg

Reference Image Only

Well, do I have your attention now?

Let me explain.

Simply put, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is the total cost of your rubber machinery over the whole of its life. You can also complexly word it as ‘sum total of your purchase, ownership and post-ownership costs of your rubber machinery in a quantitative and qualitative manner’. (jargons?)

This means in your TCO calculations, all your obvious and hidden costs of ownership across the full life cycle of the rubber machinery has to be considered. There is often room for judgement and sometimes different opinions, in deciding what is the appropriate lifespan for you to analyse.

This is because some of your costs will be one-off, others will be recurring – so you need to know how many years you intend to use this machinery. For example, you could consider Depreciable Life (i.e the number of years in which the machinery is depreciated) or Economic Life (i.e the number of years in which the machinery returns more value to you than it costs to own, operate, and maintain) or Service Life (i.e. the number of years the machinery will actually be in service).

In some cases there may be some residual value in the machinery or parts. However, you will also have costs associated with its disposal.

Here’s a typical compilation of all costs associated with the purchase of your rubber machinery.

Purchasing Costs (includes but not limited to)

  • Market Research including business directory purchase
  • Consulting or specialist advice for machinery assessment and its appropriateness for your use
  • Supplier identification costs like administration costs, telephone calls to discuss, travel, accommodation costs for factory visit and negotiations, etc.
  • Purchase Price of the Machinery & its required accessories
  • Delivery Costs (freight) and insurance
  • Warranties
  • Installation, erection and commissioning costs
  • Trial run and Training
  • Licences for software and automation
  • Insurance costs

Operating Costs (includes but not limited to)

  • Consumables, ‘Wear & Tear’ Components
  • Regular Maintenance or Servicing (Self or Outsourced)
  • Spare Parts
  • Energy/Electricity Consumption Costs
  • Breakdowns & Repair Costs
  • Extended Warranties
  • Operator Costs
  • Cost of replacement service during a breakdown such as hiring (another) machinery or outsourcing the work.
  • Licence renewal/ software upgradation costs
  • Insurance renewal costs

Disposal Costs (includes but not limited to)

  • Decommissioning costs, involving technical specialists.
  • Transportation of the machinery away from the Plant
  • Disposal Fees of machinery and/or its parts as per your country laws
  • Data migration costs from existing control instrumentation and records
  • Other related cost of change of machinery after its life
  • Site clean-up costs

Resale Value: You should remember to add back any money received on the resale of your rubber machinery and its accessories.

Your formula for calculating the TCO thus becomes

TCO = Purchase Price + Regular Recurring Costs + Irregular One-off Costs + Disposal Costs – Income Generated – Revenue on Disposal/Resale Value. 

Do you get the ‘drift’ now?  

Do you agree with me that your decision to buy a rubber machinery only on the basis of initial purchase price could be a flawed strategy and need a rethink (…..if you are doing this, like the majority of other rubber machinery buyers!!).

Having outlined these thoughts, let me also caution you that the success of your evaluation depends on the type of the machinery you buy.

For example, you would not want to get into the same evaluation techniques when you buy a relatively simplistic (or one-off) machinery like bale cutter or sheet feeder as compared to a project investment of a mixing line or rubber mixing room.

Do let me know!

Summing up, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is the total cost of your rubber machinery over the whole of its life and, I think, should be the most important criterion when you invest in projects and/or strategic capital purchases.


Contact me if you seek more details on this topic. Or if  you are looking for New or Used Rubber Machinery?

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Injection Moulding Machinery Is All About Reliability – Dr. Hans-Joachim Graf

Injection Moulding Machinery is all about reliability. If you assess well and decide now to stick with one (maybe two) machinery suppliers, then this time spent is a very good investment by itself, says Dr. Hans-Joachim Graf, Rubber Industry Consultant at H-JG Consulting, Germany in an exclusive interview with Rubber Machinery World.

Esteemed readers, as you know, I started “Know A Rubber Leader” series with Jacob Peled, the renowned Executive Chairman at Pelmar Engineering. The interview was widely read for some rare nuggets that Jacob chose to share on this site.

In this post, I present you an intensely thoughtful chat with Dr. Graf.

Dr. Graf was awarded with the Erich-Konrad Medal for commendable achievements in rubber-technology instituted by DKG (German Rubber Society) during DKT’12 edition. With over thirty years experience in the rubber industry, he has authored over 60 publications and paper presentations. He has over 15 patents in his name. A member of the American Chemical Society, Deutsche Chemische Gesellchaft and Deutsche Kautschuk Gesellschaft (DKG), Dr.Graf received his diploma degree from University of Mainz and his doctorate in polymer chemistry from University of Freiburg, Germany.

Know A Rubber Leader

Here is Dr. Hans-Joachim Graf’s full interview reproduced for you.

  1. Hello Dr. Graf. First of all thank you for accepting an interview with Rubber Machinery World and sharing your thoughts. Your journey started from pharmaceuticals and subsequently moved to rubber industry. Was this a planned move?

After finishing my PhD in macro-molecular science I decided I did not want to stay in university and become a researcher. I am more of a hands on person. My first job was with the owner of a small company as I felt that fit me best. I put my nose in almost everything from tooling to compound development. I even established the first manufacturing quality control system in this company. There were new challenges every day and I had fun. I cannot say it was planned. It happened.

  1. From Design Process (at Kloeckner Desma) to Director of Materials (at Cooper Standard Automotive) and now as an active educationist has been a long and varied one. Which is the position that you enjoyed the most?

There were two positions I enjoyed most. The most innovative group I worked with was at Desma. We developed many innovations, which you can find even today in different publications. I utilized my group’s expertise from mechanic to engineer, and electrician to chemist. The group did not depend on anybody else in the company. My boss protected me from the administration. We achieved the respect of a lot of customers and that was our motivation.
The second position I enjoyed most was with Cooper Standard in Canada. I was the elder in a very young dynamic group, but the most multi-cultural I have ever seen in any company. We had Asians, Europeans, North Americans and even Canadians in the group. Whenever I come to Canada, I still get together with many friends. Here, I utilized my engineering and chemist expertise in this group. This group created one the most advanced mixing centres in industry. The bad thing is, upper management never recognized it.

  1. Would you say that rubber compounding has undergone change in the last 3.5 decades that you have been with rubber industry? What were the drivers for this change?

The 50’s and 70’s saw the big polymer and ingredient suppliers work out the basics of compounding. Significant technological advancements were seen and a large amount of literature was produced at this time. It was needed because of the tremendous growth of the rubber industry after World War II. Following the first economic crisis, along with early retirement programs and more crises – for example, the breakdown of the Comecon (specifically Europe) – technical knowledge to a large extent was lost and polymers became commodities. Leadership in the supplier industry changed from technical to sales. From this time forward, rubber parts manufacturers had to take the responsibility of development in their own hands, but with limited resources.

  1. What role has machinery played in this change?

This is a difficult question for me. The machine industry has followed the same trend as the polymer industry. We had sophisticated machines in the 80’s but slowly this position has worsened. This is very different with the technology for the machines used in the thermoplastic industry. At one K’show, machines were presented that had a cycle time of less than 3 seconds! It is different with rubber parts – because of its inherent slow heat transfer qualities; the major influence on the cycle time is the rubber. As a result, engineers believe that machine time does not play a big factor. There is no real optimization of compounds going on to accommodate machine and mold necessities. Engineers and Chemists do not work together. Both parties see more differences than similarities between rubber and thermoplastic processing.

  1. Design of Experiments [DoE], though being a standard tool in optimization of materials and processes in many industries, has not many takers in rubber manufacturing industry. Why?

In my opinion, it is the fear of failing. If an experienced compounder is doing a DoE, he has to design the experiment and leave it up to a series of mathematical equations. He cannot interact with the experiments as he is used to do when performing trial and error procedures. The DoE results of the experiments may be a confirmation of his existing knowledge, but it may not. It may challenge and force him to question that longstanding knowledge.

  1. How does rubber compound development benefit with software? Do you see a trend of increased use of software in this field?

Around the time the Design of Experiment was invented some companies (Cabot, Bayer beside others) performed some superficial trials on filler / oil designs. After more than four decades this tool has not penetrated the field of compounding as it should have. Its growth is much too slow, and I would not call it a trend. Software exists today (like FEA), for the engineering of rubber parts. This is standard. However, interaction between part design and compounding is still trial and error. While properties of a compound are an input for the FEA calculation, it is rare to design a compound to fit the FEA requirements for the part.

On the other hand, compounding groups have created a lot of recipes, but most of it is based on trial and error. From my perspective, it is lost knowledge, because DoE Software cannot make any use of it. I felt that I had to help to somehow utilize this data not only for my benefit but for others. This is the basic idea behind the “GrafCompounder” software. I have the experienced compounder in mind, who would like to use his company’s historic compound date base instead of filing it away.

  1. What are the various tools and methods of recipe development and its advantages? Which of these is the most optimized method that has clear economical advantages?

Preferably, the strategy for initial recipe development should be the analysis of the compound in various machines and during its part life. We call that: data analysis, time series analysis, correlation of root cause and effect via observations. You have to work with the compound – process system. This can only be done successfully if the statistic experimental design approach is taken. The economic advantage of this is clearly superior when you take into account the reduced costs for statistical design experimentation versus trial and error, minus the cost of the final result.  A second development area of similar importance is to ensure secure supply. This needs material replacement and multiple approval strategies. It depends on raw material, process and service life knowledge. This knowledge is attained only again, through experimentation.

Upper management needs to understand that development sometimes means failure and they have to allow for this. We all learn from failed experiments. We never learn if everything is running at a steady state.

  1. In 2004, you had stated that the extruder has been around for some time and changed very little. And you viewed the extruder as a black box analyzing the energy and mass (input and output). Is the extruder different today?

I have been out of the extruder industry for some time and have not followed the ongoing developments here close enough to comment. What I can say is: the combination of an extruder and gear pump truly has its advantages, because it is a volumetric pump and it pressure dependence is zero. This provides superior straining of a compound without changing its properties. Is a gear pump is useful for compounds with very high viscosity? I do not know its limits.

  1. What are the key changes and trends happening in injection moulding?

We have been quite successful in decreasing energy consumption during moulding. Next we need to focus on developing a much faster process to stay competitive with TPE. The technique to induce heat into the compound by shear is developed, but control of the vulcanization process is urgently needed. We have come a long way with heating time regulation (Barber Colman) to inline temperature history and heating time close loop control (CAS-Jidoka) and its linkage to cross-link density, but injection molding machines should be faster. Hopefully we see more development as seen in the machine industry for thermoplastic processing.

  1. Great! And one last question. What advice on “machinery selection” would you give to buyers in rubber industry?

I can comment on injection molding machines only. One topic in my “Injection Moulding” seminar is about machine assessment. With a couple of experiments one can analyze the capability of an injection molding machine. It is not rocket science. It needs about two days of intense experimentation. Another topic I would like to comment on is maintenance and spare part management. This is all about reliability. If you decide now to stick with one (maybe two) machine suppliers, then this time spent is a very good investment.

Download the full interview in PDF here.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this interview.


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A Beginner’s Guide to Autoclave

You use an Autoclave or Vulcanizer (Vulcanizing autoclave) to convert natural rubber into a cured and chemically cross-linked rubber product. A vulcanized rubber is less sticky and gives you superior mechanical properties.

Rubber Vulcanization (a term coined by Thomas Hancock) “process” was discovered accidentally by Charles Goodyear in 1839.

If you are curious about history, this is how it goes – Charles Goodyear left a piece of natural rubber mixed with sulphur on a hotplate one evening. Overnight, it turned into elastic rubber and that caught his attention! Since sulphur and heat were associated with the ancient Roman god Vulcan, the process was named vulcanization (or vulcanisation).

Your friends in rubber industry use autoclaves to cure tires, hoses, and many other products but not limited to vulcanization and forming of extrudates (like car radiator hoses), rubber mats, sleeves, joints, gaskets and boots. Typically these are products that you cannot achieve on a standard press-based compression molding process.

Depending on the type of your rubber, the vulcanizing process can occur from room temperature (as in Silicone) up to 350°F (170°C) or more like in case of Tire.

Autoclave 2

The Machinery:

Autoclaves are predominantly cylindrical pressure vessels with lids or doors to process your rubber parts that require exposure to elevated pressure and temperature. They are available in a wide range of sizes and design pressures in horizontal (or sometimes vertical) configuration.

The key component of your autoclave is the door. For a manufacturer, this is also the critical component in cost of autoclave construction. On one hand, your operator must be able to open and close the door quickly and easily; on the other, the door must satisfy stringent safety requirements of manufacturing and usage.

Let me explain.

Rubber vulcanizing is a batch process. Your autoclave door must be of full diameter to allow easy access to the chamber inside. So you need a fast-acting door to reduce batch change time and increase productivity. Depending on the size of your autoclave and manufacturer’s offered features, there are several types of fast-opening doors.

An autoclave design is driven by various safety standards, primary among them being the ASME Pressure Vessel Code. Of all safety-related concerns, the most critical are those which relate to the door’s operation. The manufacturer of your autoclave should ensure that the door seals tightly against rated pressure at the highest shell temperature; operate readily and quickly and meets all safety guidelines of a pressure vessel. Regular testing is a must along with foolproof interlock mechanisms to prevent door opening under pressure.

Autoclave 1

Leading manufacturers deploy Solid-Modelling and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to design and validate autoclave pressure vessels and quick-opening doors.

CE Standard in Europe applies to vessels as well as to electrical controls.

The process medium in autoclaves may be steam, a combination of steam and air or inert gas, “Dry Heat” produced by electrical heaters, steam or hot oil autoclave jackets, or circulating hot gases. Despite electric heat being 100 per cent efficient, most precise to control, and lowest maintenance; the cost per kilowatt-hour makes them expensive for your use. And because rubber vulcanizing cannot be done in an air atmosphere, you mostly use steam.

Two types of autoclaves are in common use – Non-jacketed and Jacketed.

In the non-jacketed type, steam is introduced directly into the autoclave chamber. The steam condenses on the walls of your autoclave and on the surface of your rubber products under vulcanization. However, this leaves behind a mark on the surface of your product. And when you adopt preventive measures, you end up getting a dull finish on your rubber products. For some products like Radiator hoses for cars, you can cure in open steam.

Autoclave 4

The jacketed autoclaves has a double wall. Steam is circulated in the jacket to provide heating. There is  no direct contact of steam with your rubber products. An inert gas (like Nitrogen) is then introduced in the autoclave to eliminate oxidation. (Oxidation aids polymer degradation and hence you need to eliminate them). Gases are normally poor conductors of heat and thus increases the curing time. You may also come across this process referred to as “gas curing” by technologists.

Additionally, if you have brightly colored articles, the jacketed autoclave lends a good surface finish on your rubber product.

The vulcanizing process in an autoclave is a function of temperature and time. Traditionally, in most applications there is no indication of when your cure is complete. For this reason, to ensure that all components in the autoclave have been universally cured, your process cycle times are usually longer than is necessary.

Modern autoclaves come with PLC controlled systems and offer extended features including variable temperatures, pressures, cycle times, cycle and system alarms, multiple cycle recipe storage and selection.  Operator Consoles with HMI provide an operator friendly interface with touch screens, for cycle parameter entry, cycle/system/alarm status monitoring, operating and diagnostic messages.

pc smart autoclave

When you invite offers to purchase an autoclave, you should not be surprised if price variations confuses you or you are unable to comprehend immediately – be it prices among manufacturers and between features.

Price is sensitive to some factor and insensitive to others. For example, doubling the design pressure might increase the cost of the autoclave by over fifty percent. And doubling the diameter might more than double your purchase price. On the other hand, you may find that increases in length are inexpensive (relatively).

So, your purchase price varies as a function of what has been designed and built into your proposed autoclave. Options of features offered by your suppliers has to be carefully decided so as to optimize your overall investment.

Operation Cycle

Your typical cycle of autoclave curing has the following steps.

The autoclave is loaded with your rubber component, and the connections are made to the autoclave. The door is closed and locked. Pressure is applied until the required level is attained. The circulation fan starts. Heating begins and is maintained at a specified ramp up rate. Once the required temperature is reached, a timed soak at that temperature begins and runs for the necessary duration. At the end of the soak period, the cooling function brings the temperature down to a set value at a specified ramp rate. The vessel is depressurized and the circulation stopped.

Steam curing requires a great deal of manual work from one processing stage to the other, and this also contributes to the high cost of your autoclave cured products. Hence, some of your new generation peers advocate the more advanced microwave process (more on that later…).

Summarizing autoclaves are pressure vessels for rubber product vulcanization, available in a wide range of sizes.  A discontinuous curing method, the curing of your rubber component takes place in a vessel (autoclave) where pressurized steam is the medium of heating.

Let me have your comments to add; or contact me if you seek more information on this machinery and their manufacturers.


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Rubber Machinery and Make In India

The new government of Narendra Modi has enhanced India’s image in the world economy. And a new thrust is being built-up in our manufacturing arena. The flavor of the season has been the rising roar of lion (read “Make in India” logo). Their Facebook page has garnered 2.1 million ‘Likes’ while “#EASEOFDOINGBUSINESS” is popular hash tag on Twitter, reflecting the aspirations of a billion dreams.

And why not?

We have a stable and strong pro-industry government. Global economy is picking up, and India’s core advantages continue to be strong. The government has started well, and already made few minor yet important changes to improve manufacturing sector. Their intent to address obstacles across infrastructure, labour reforms and ease of doing business along with marketing of Brand India are much awaited heartening measures.

Industry Scenario

Rubber machinery comprises of equipment used for Compounding, Mixing, Shaping, and Vulcanizing.

This industry in India manufactures mixers, mixing mills, calenders, extruders, tyre curing presses, tyre moulds, tyre building machines, bias cutters, injection moulding machine, etc.

Estimated at USD 405 million (in 2014), the total market in India is expected to grow at 20% CAGR to USD 580 million by 2016.

According to the Ministry of Heavy Industries (MHI), currently there are 19 units in the organized sector for the manufacture of rubber machinery required for tyre/tube industry. The Indian rubber machinery manufacturing industry is a net exporter. Up to 100% FDI is allowed under the automatic route. Technology collaboration is also freely allowed.

The Indian Rubber Machinery industry is mostly a cluster of SME’s that epitomises the famous “jugaad” entrepreneurial spirit. Over the years, some have grown and compete globally. I wear the name of one such home-grown brand on my chest – Bainite Machines.

Today, some leading global brands in rubber machinery have manufacturing presence in the country through JV’s, wholly owned subsidiaries or technology license arrangements.

Opportunities Galore

Industry has witnessed growth in tandem with our growing economy in the past. Domestic manufacturers have 60% share in the machinery market. Share of imports is 40%, mainly from Far East on account of low price and shorter delivery.

An accepted approach to purchase equipment today follows this thought process – customers need to look West (Europe) for advanced technological machinery if the price tag is affordable or look to China for a low-cost replica.  Another option is to import used-machinery, which is being discarded by the developed world, at an attractive price tag.

Should this approach be refined? Yes, let me explain.

Increased deployment of used-machinery will render our domestic rubber processing industry inefficient in the long run. Because, rubber processors in the developed world are replacing the older machines with new technology machines under the compulsions to reduce the carbon footprint. Old/Used machinery has high operating cost, higher energy consumption as well as loss of productivity from higher maintenance. One industry friend said this aptly “its wishful thinking to assume another enterprises’ liability (used-machinery) can be your long-term asset (productive machinery)”.

Is it then China? Wait!

Recent statistics are interesting. They reveal China is slowly loses its manufacturing edge. And the reasons are multiple. The labour there aspires to work in hi-tech factories creating workforce shortage for labour intensive machine shops. Wages are rising over 10% per year higher than Indian labour cost increase. The rising Yuan (over 7% against dollar in last three years) makes China’s exports costlier while dropping Rupee (over 26% against dollar in last three years) makes India’s imports costlier. Reports of various forex experts suggest China can afford to let the Yuan strengthen a little bit more while Rupee will remain currency competitive as along as India’s trade-deficit is under control. Also for world-wide importers, shipping costs out of Chennai or Mumbai to most ports of the world are competitive (sometimes even lower) to that from Chinese peers.

Most tire producers around the world and few rubber product manufacturers standardize their production processes across their multiple plants. They adopt one machinery manufacturer for one particular production step and develop them to their customization requirements. This is a win-win situation for both the machinery manufacturer and end user.

It’s an acknowledged fact that Indian machinery manufacturers meet 95% of domestic rubber processing industry needs on technology and product range. Our product technologies are at par with leading brands of developed world albeit offered at great cost advantage.

This is also because leading manufacturers know their fundamentals well. We understand machinery and also rubber processing.

The importance of metallurgy, selection of the right material technology, process technology and appropriate designs that bring out machine systems which are long lasting is paramount to us. And hence, we can design and manufacture customized equipment for our customers. This is definitely our niche as compared to competitors of Far-East.

So, I feel, Indian rubber machinery industry is well positioned on the technological and logistical fronts to offer customized USPs in both domestic and export markets.

Sprucing-up

Indian machinery manufacturers have undertaken capacity expansion, upgradation in technology and adoption of best manufacturing practices to compete effectively – both in the domestic and export markets.  At Bainite Machines, we had started a phase-wise replacement of conventional machines with CNC’s since 2011. We invested in latest design and simulation software to build newer machineries like TSS from scratch, introduce latest B-Turbo tangential rotors, and offer value added sophistication to our regular machineries.

The focus is shifting to automation to create customer value. Smart automation on rubber machineries improves productivity of our customers and enhances operator safety. For example, we developed fully automatic Mixing Room technology requiring only one operator and have highest levels of safety interlocks in the complete processing line. For a large rubber processor, adopting technology and automation is sustainable because the benefits include lower cost of production (cost/kg), consistence in quality, superior aesthetics and reduce defects in throughput production.

Operator-friendly, energy-efficient, machinery that are safe, meets global compliance standards and satisfies the technology appetite is the need of the hour. Bainite Machines recognizes this and design customized machinery. Our recently built Hydraulic Ram in Mixers has a Ram up and down time of less than 3 seconds which in conventional mixers used to be 7 – 8 seconds. In a mixing cycle, there are 2–3 Ram Up and Down operations and hence this 4 seconds saving in each stroke is a tremendous boost to productivity.

Our tagline “Technology That Drives Industry” encapsulates Bainite’s dreams to be a technology driver and is equally fuelled by a passion to position an Indian Machinery manufacturer as a significant force to reckon within the global rubber/tire machinery market. Similar aspirations prevail among my industry friends.

What Next – Two Way Bridge?

Indian Rubber Machinery Industry requires further investments to raise the production volumes and technology to global scale. Volumes will give price competitiveness that our customers expect from us. Government has taken few initiatives to fuel growth and support manufacturing industry.

Equally important is the Indian customers’ recognition of the fact that machinery manufacturers must invest a part of the revenue to R&D efforts. This helps them to improve consistency, improvise continuously on quality, innovation and development of new machines. More importantly, customers can expect prompt after-market (spares and service) support when the machinery manufacturing is local.

So, squeezing the domestic machinery manufacturer to unviable price levels during commercial negotiations citing Far-East competition kills all future advancement efforts. This could then become an impediment to your progress as well tomorrow. Indian Rubber Machinery Industry needs your patronage today more than ever.

We have already demonstrated our competence and quality to the world. Rubber processors across the world are regularly reposing their faith on the Indian Rubber Machinery Industry, eventually making us a net exporter. So, there is no restraint that you could think of to establish this two-way bridge for mutual benefit.

A tinge of extra patriotism to “Make in India” can lead to a sustainable partnership between domestic Rubber Processors and Indian Rubber Machinery Manufacturers for the future and boost the domestic economy further.

Make In India

Snap shot of article as it appeared in Rubber Asia Jan 2015 Special Edition

 

(This article by Prasanth Warrier first appeared in the Rubber Asia, IRE 2015 Special Edition) 


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