When the economy slows, so do orders for new equipment. And while companies are less likely to reach into their pockets for new machinery, mixing equipment manufacturers say it becomes more necessary to keep a close eye on their current technology to avoid production slowdowns and unscheduled maintenance.
The mixing equipment market has been feeling the squeeze of the overall sluggish economy in the U.S.
"Over the past year or so there has not been a lot of capital available for new equipment purchases," said Todd Kritzer, vice president, Kady International.
While it is prudent to keep a tight leash on spending during lulls in the economy, smart companies also use the time wisely and assess future needs and find new ways to lower manufacturing costs.
Improving the Process
"In a lean economy, many corporations take this time to reassess most aspects of business. With regards to manufacturing, that assessment boils down to streamlining processes now to save time and money," said Kritzer. "When production is down, engineering groups have an opportunity to take a step back and look at how they can improve their manufacturing processes. Reengineering or enhancing a process now will also help prepare for much higher demand which is right around the corner."
Companies that are spending money are looking for the best bang for their buck, and according to Kritzer, there are options that can help them stretch dollars further.
"Many times, that value can be found in refurbished equipment," he said. "This is the type of value many are in search of as the economy continues to recover."
Many times, an upgrade can keep a coatings company competitive.
"Upgrading existing equipment is always an issue and is desirable within the constraints of budgets," said Stanley Goldberg, director at Glen Mills. "Better, quality mixes to stay ahead of competition, lower operating costs and ease of operations are considered when viewing new installation."
Stewart Rissley, national sales manager at Premier Mill, also noted the importance of evaluating older mixing and dispersing technologies.
"We encourage our customers to look at upgrades to their existing equipment�Our customers want to speed up their process with better results while costing less," Rissley said.
While some decisions can be postponed, some changes are necessary, regardless of what's in the budget. "In most cases the safety issues and environmental mandates make a change mandatory," said Goldberg.
Mixing equipment manufacturers are always improving their products to help coatings companies in their quest for greater reproducibility and lower processing costs.
Glen Mills is offering the dyna-MIX, a three-dimensional shaker mixer. This patented machinery is based on controlled three-dimensional movements generated by using a hinged universal joint for mounting of the container and two vertically superimposed rotations. The movements ensure a gentle, constant and reproducible mixing process, according to the company. One advantage of the dyna-MIX is that mixing takes place in existing containers, which can eliminate cross-contamination and dust emissions. In addition, a container-specific clamping device can help save time by allowing for quick changes.
Kritzer reports that Kady has had great success with its inline/continuous flow model OCF. The OCF, which can easily be added to a conventional dissolver/media mill process, turns a premix into a pre-milled base ultimately reducing mill passes and in some cases eliminating milling altogether. The OCF is also used to clean up poor sawtooth dispersions and eliminate filtration and batch rework, according to the company.
Draiswerke, Inc. is offering a range of products based on its Turbulent technology, including the TR 200 E Turbulent mixer/reactor, which is suitable for applications which include both mixing and drying. According to Korkmaz Oz, sales engineer, a high impeller-to-tank diameter ratio results in high intensity mixing action, which ensures rapid recirculation and intimate mixing of the material in all zones of the tank. Material surges and dead spots are eliminated, which contribute to a uniform end product quality.
Netzsch's newest product is the -Mix. This new disperser delivers "unmatched homogeneous pre-dispersion results with precise, reproducible qualities," according to the company. Within a controlled process environment, finely dispersed powders come in contact with a large liquid surface and are wetted under shear. By effectively improving the wetting of solid particles and the dispersion of high solid contents, the -Mix system ultimately ensures higher pigment concentrations and guarantees more efficient and higher quality dispersions, according to the company.
Hockmeyer's HSD immersion micro mill is built on a bench mounting stand with a counter balanced column for easy lifting and lowering. It comes complete with patented HSD immersion mill head, an interchangeable high speed disperser shaft and blade assembly and one process vessel.
Premier Mill's line of VMS series machines improve high shear and dispersion, and the company offers various configurations of multi-shaft and planetary mixers for hard to mix and disperse material with viscosity up to three million cps. The VMS vertical max shear rotor/stator mixer features a close tolerance rotor/stator mechanism that provides a powerful combination of both high flow and high shear. Also featured is a large internal stator shearing surface area with fine slot openings for efficient homogenizing, emulsification, grinding and particle size reduction capability. Premier's HydroMix planetary mixer is well suited for processing of fully homogeneous materials of medium to extremely high viscosities, according to the company. With a variety of planetary mixing blades, the mixer blends the full mass of material through the vessel and ensures continual product feed to the centrally located and independently controlled high-speed dispersion blade. Vacuum capabilities make it suitable for applications ranging from high solid coatings to adhesives/sealants to putties, as well as plastics, chemicals and gel formulations. In addition, a hydraulic ram press is available for discharge of non-flowing materials.