For more than two decades, Maillefer has been providing production systems for manufacturing multi-layer composite pipe with diameters ranging from 14 to 32 mm and from 16 to 63 mm. Today, our two model lines, the PCL32 and PCL63 that cover the two size ranges have evolved much.
Back then, the typical line speed for a DN16x2.0 mm pipe was between 30 and 35 m/min. We are now closer to 60 m/min, which first presented serious challenges to polymer and aluminum tape suppliers. They further developed their products in order to meet the higher performance requirements.
Composite tube demand is directly related to the building industry. In Europe that market is stable with little growth. With an installed base that satisfies demand, the priority is not for new capacity. Fortunately, manufacturers hold on to their markets by being proactive. They bring about enhancements to their equipment and look to improve performance and reliability.
Improvements include automation and robotization for increased line speeds and cycle rates, notably at the product conditioning step. Indeed, long coils destined for big construction jobs are reaching the 100 to 150 kg range and are not meant for an operator to handle. Industrial robots do the job, but within a larger footprint. With a stable market that lacks growth, manufacturers are hesitant to invest in additional factory space to make room for robot handling. Those space constraints open up opportunities for the machine manufacturer to develop creative compact solutions in close partnership with robot suppliers.
The increased speeds means that it becomes primordial to keep high quality levels in the long run and throughout each of the many process steps in composite pipe manufacturing (e.g. calibration, tape forming and welding, and pipe surface quality throughout).
PEX extrusion has a tendency leave deposit buildups on the extrusion screw, head and die tooling (e.g. die drool, gel deposits). Maintenance downtime is required for deposit removal, an operation manufacturers tend to postpone as much as possible. Therefore, the ability to automatically detect imperfections, to determine surface quality and to anticipate the next cleaning operation becomes a necessity. In parallel, the close cooperation we have with material suppliers brings about optimized polymer formulations that better withstand extended production runs.
Line operators have a varying range of skillsets. They require modern automation tools to augment their ability to respond to the higher line performances. The applications serve in detection and diagnostics as a way to assist, to avoid faults or to even remedy them. Manufacturers exploit their production data for optimizing the logistics and the production methods. We offer the platform and tools upon which access to new functionality becomes possible.
As the manufacturing tool becomes more sophisticated, the need to work closely and regularly with customers has never been so important. We see the emphasis is not on speed, but rather on the endurance, reliability, availability and intelligence which gets embedded into the manufacturing processes and which opens up the window for more production opportunities.Alain Schiess
Product Manager Pipe & Tube
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