Features

The Milling Report

By Kerry Pianoforte, Ink World Associate Editor | February 2, 2009

As a result of the economic downturn, milling and mixing manufacturers are further emphasizing the importance of service and new technologies.

Ink companies continue to face economic challenges and rising raw material costs. As a result,


Buhler’s MicroMedia Mill.
equipment purchases, such as milling machines, have generally been reduced or put on hold until there is an upturn in the economy. However, the outlook is not entirely bleak, as some companies, in anticipation of an economic upturn, are expanding their R&D capabilities.

“Due to current uncertainty, the majority of the companies in the ink industry, like others, froze their investment plans for capital equipment,” said Korkmaz Oz, sales engineer at Draiswerke. “However, we still see a growth in R&D applications as well as pilot plant productions for new products. R&D departments of the well-established companies look for a strong comeback once the economic slowdown is over. The demand for production equipment from small companies manufacturing specialty products is also noteworthy.”

“The ink manufacturers are hurting due to the raw material prices and shrinking margins,” said Rene Eisenring, GD sales manager, Buhler Mid-Atlantic office. “Their investments, if any, are scarce and likely not into equipment, but rather into the development and diversification of their products, even though improving their process could help them offset some of their production costs. Investing into efficient equipment always pays off.”

“In spite of all the negativity out there, our business has been fairly steady. Certainly we have seen some slow down in certain areas, but for every project that may be put off, their seems to be new projects to take its place,” said George Murphy, vice president sales and marketing, Hockmeyer Equipment Corp. “We continue to push our milling technology into new markets through R&D and product improvements that add value and a clear return on investment.”


Myers Engineering’s Basket Mill.
"Of course, like everyone we are working differently to attract our customers,” said Cathy Strahan, marketing director for Myers Engineering. “Sales in 2008 were steady and linked closely to 2007, but we expanded our technological breadth of equipment choices.”

According to Ms. Strahan, international business has been growing.

“We have seen a steady increase in our international customer base,” she said. “Though we have undergone some of the governmental restraints on shipping sophisticated equipment, we are instrumental in pushing through these rules to assure our customers are up and running in the shortest period of time.”

Jerry Tippett, president of Schold Machine, said his company has seen an impact on equipment purchases. “Last year was an anomaly whereby it was huge,” he said. “We are below 2005 numbers.”

Mr. Tippett added that smaller ink manufacturers seem to be having success, and there's

Schold Machine’s Hi-Vis Mill.
interest from foreign producers.

“There seems to be some more room for the small producers to move around these days in the domestic arena,” Mr. Tippett noted. “Foreign producers are asking a lot of processing questions these days.”

When it comes to milling equipment, lowering a company’s bottom line is a top priority.

“Lowering cost of operation, easy maintenance and user-friendly process controls are always important factors during decision making for new equipment purchases,” said Mr. Oz. “Nowadays, more than ever, people are asking questions about the number of service people as well as the quality of the service people before finalizing their decisions on the purchase.”

“They are simply looking for milling technology that meets their requirements and do the job and be reliable without costing them a lot of money to operate on a daily basis,” said Mr. Murphy.

In addition to saving money, ink makers also need their milling equipment to be able to keep up with the latest technologies.

“Most producers are looking for the two fs: faster and finer,” said Ms. Strahan. “With the industry bringing new chemicals and additives to the table, so must the equipment improve to meet those mixing needs.”

 

Hockmeyer Equipment’s HCPS Immersion Mill.
Providing top notch customer service is one way milling equipment manufacturers can stay afloat in these challenging economic conditions.

“There is no doubt that milling requires a detailed knowledge of running the equipment and what the expectations are related to product quality,” said Ms. Strahan. “Good, solid training in the start-up of a new mill will mean everything to the success of the milling operation. It isn’t rocket science by any means, but a healthy respect for the equipment, the process and the product will guarantee an improved product and an improved bottom line.”

“As a supplier we are maintaining a high standard of service,” said Mr. Eisenring. “But unfortunately the ink manufacture market uses this opportunity only in an emergency, mostly due to the costs, and preventative maintenance and services are still not an industry standard.”

“Service is always important, but these days the in-house mill mechanic is disappearing due to loss of talent, too expensive to keep on stall or their repairs are deemed of less value because they lack a factory warranty,” said Mr. Tippett.

“Selling equipment is the start of a partnership with our customers, and quality service in a timely

Draiswerke’s Nanostar 200.
manner provides for a long term partnership,” said Mr. Oz. “Good service is the base for future business. Close relationship with our customers and exchange of ideas to achieve better performance from the overall process also help us develop the right technology/machinery in the future.”

According to Stewart Rissley, national sales manager, Premier Mill Operation, SPX Process Equipment, customers want better quality faster with the most economical solution available. “Having experienced and technical selling channels and local factory support is key,” he said. “Customers deserve to get quick, decisive and accurate service.”

According to Mr. Eisenring, as a result of the state of the industry, suppliers to the ink industry have not been pressed to develop new processes. “New process technologies are available, however they are used by other industries rather than the ink makers,” he added. “Investments into new equipment do not seem to have high priority. Continuous production of printing inks is possible today. This is part of our new strategy to renew the industry process. The investment is into the future, at the present we are looking for partners to implement such a process into an ink plant.”

New Technologies



Milling companies have launched a number of new products to market.

“We have introduced two new products, the Hockmeyer HCPS and HCPN Immersion Mill,” said Mr. Murphy. “The HCPS offers our ink customers the ability to run higher solids, higher viscosities as high as 400,000 cps and is a true alternative to the 3 roll mills, with all the benefits of our standard line of mills. The HCPS comes with an additional shaft either a ½ helical for high viscosity or a single arm scraper for temperature sensitive inks like UV. The HCPS comes with bond shafts with both shafts and are interchangeable depending on the application.”

“The upper draft tube is also fitted with a removable upper auger that seals off the mill as well as control the feed rate and aids in feeding high viscosity,” Mr. Murphy continued. “The HCPS also comes with an optional portable discharge press that is easily lifted and placed on the top of the vessel to aid in discharging high viscosity.”

Myers has introduced so a number of mixing tools over the years, providing an array of choices to meet most ink producer’s unique needs. “More recently, we have focused on providing total solution packages,” said Ms. Strahan. “Incorporating the mixing tools themselves with added processing features and high end control packages really addresses their needs and simplifies the buying process.”

Draiswerke launched Drais DCP Nanostar, which is designed as the latest addition to its DCP Technology. “The Nanostar features larger discharge screen and dimensional changes to provide for higher centrifugal force resulting in higher flow rates without any pressure problems even when using small grinding media dow to 20 micron,” said Mr. Oz. “Short residence times – high flow rates in addition to superior cooling features of the DCP Technology ensure precise temperature control of the product, Nanostar seems to be the answer for production of nano-dispersions in the most economical way and without andy metal contamination.”

Schold’s latest product introduction is the Hi-Vis Mill and Premixer System. According to Mr. Tippett, it combines a higher energy, pre-dispersion unit feeding an aggressive high horsepower mill.

According to Mr. Eisenring, as a result of the state of the industry, suppliers to the ink industry have not been pressed to develop new processes.“New process technologies are available, however they are used by other industries rather than the ink makers,” he added. “Investments into new equipment do not seem to have high priority. Continuous production of printing inks is possible today, utilizing new technologies from Buhler, this is part of our new strategy to renew the industry process. The investment is into the future, at the present we are looking for partners to implement such a process into an ink plant.”

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