2020 in review: Staying on top of COVID-19 demand

Nov. 30, 2020
Processing machines are installed remotely; a new blow molding machine manufacturer tries the U.S. market; and Coperion develops an extrusion system for a new biomaterial.

Never let success overwhelm your business 

California molder Scientific Specialties Inc. (SSI) was already expanding its business to keep up with demand for products used in testing laboratories when the COVID-19 pandemic unleashed a deluge of additional orders. 

Within three months, SSI purchased seven new Arburg presses and five Sepro robots, commissioned five molds and expanded its Class 100,000 clean room to accommodate the new equipment. Total investment was more than $3 million.

“We have been slammed by work related to the coronavirus and are shipping testing product all around the globe as fast as we can make it,” said Anthony McCracken, VP of product development, in June.  

Read how the company handled an immediate tenfold increase in demand for some of its products. 


Has Zoom become the new normal? 

One thing the pandemic has taught us is that business can be conducted via Zoom and other online platforms. Sales calls, conferences and strategy meetings are now no-brainers.  But what about installing new processing machines? That too. 

GN Thermoforming, based in Nova Scotia, faced travel restrictions when a customer in Russia needed its new thermoforming machines installed immediately. If technicians traveled to Russia for the installation,they would not be allowed to return to Canada.

The machinery manufacturer ended up using WhatsApp Messenger, a freeware, messaging and Voice Over Internet Protocol service owned by Facebook.  

The installation, which normally takes GN Thermoforming technicians three to four days on-site, took about one week as they guided the customer’s technicians through the process. 

Despite the language issues, the remote process was a success and GN Thermoforming has used it to install several other thermoforming machines around the world. 


Welcome to the party 

Alphamac, an Italian manufacturer of extrusion blow molding machines, entered the U.S. market. The company, which was launched in 2019offers six all-electric machines in single- and double-shuttle models.  

Over the past year, Alphamacsaid it sold three of its energy-efficient machines to customers in Russia, two to customers in Dubai and two to customers in France.   

In May, the company was negotiating the sale of three machines in the U.S., according to spokesman. Alphamac has formed a partnership with Jackson Machinery, Port Washington, Wis., for sales and service support. It also is considering opening its own office in the U.S.  


Processing machinery keeping up with new materials 

Every extruder manufacturer has stories about odd materials someone has wanted to run through their machines, but Coperion has a great success story with a system it designed to process lignin for a new biomaterial. 

Lignin, a byproduct of the pulp and paper industry, is being used to make RenCom’s Renol, which can be blended with virgin or recycled plastic. RenCom plans to produce about 1,000 tons a year in Sweden. Renol is expected to be on the market in 2021. 

Germany-based Coperion designed a complete extrusion system consisting of a ZSK Mv Plus-series co-rotating twin-screw extruder, gravimetric feeders, a strand pelletizing system and a lignin bag-dump station. 


Previous installments of our look back at 2020: