Nylopack enters barrier films market


PHOTO: Nylopack MD Pieter Rossouw is dwarfed by the Rajoo 5-layer blown film line at the company’s premises in Roodekop. The roof at the plant had to be extended, an operation which was completed just in time for the assembly of the machine earlier this year. The Nylopack partners bought the machine off the Rajoo stand at last year’s K, where they were impressed by its speed, product quality, its consistency and high level of parameter control adjustment.

NYLOPACK, a new player, has entered the barrier films sector with the commissioning recently of its new 5-layer blown film line in Roodekop, Johannesburg.

A venture by seasoned entrepreneur Theo du Toit and extrusion specialist Pieter Rossouw, Nylopack’s entry to the co-extruded films market came as a result of its purchase in 2012 of Huhtamaki’s co-ex films production equipment, after that global business decided to exit the sector and sold off the extruders as well as bag and pouch making machines previously operated at its Springs plant.

But Du Toit and Rossouw found that the purchased equipment was not sufficient to compete in the sector, with the few other players in the barrier films business already operating high-performance, high-output equipment. It decided as a consequence to make a major investment and purchased a Rajoo five layer blown film extrusion system late last year.

The Rajoo line includes components, accessories and framework made at its plant in India and control systems for PlastControl of Germany. It is effectively a hybrid system of an Indian structure using European controls that “offers good value,” said Rossouw.

The system can produce 5-layer films, including the barrier EVOH or polyamide (nylon) layers, up to 1550mm wide and 250 microns thick. The EVOH (ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer) and/or PA layers achieve very low permeability and act as a gas barrier to prevent oxygen from penetrating the packaging and spoiling contents.

Prior ventures
The hiccup experienced after laboriously moving the Huhtamaki equipment from Springs, and then finding that the machines could not run at competitive rates, was really business as usual for Du Toit and Rossouw, who have been involved in a number of ventures before#.

Rossouw first worked for Du Toit at a blown film conversion business in the Eastern Cape in the 1980s, then relocated to East Rand Plastics in Brakpan in the early 1990s, where Du Toit had been running East Rand Plastics, a company founded by his family. Rossouw was technical director at East Rand in 2006 when he and Du Toit decided to embark on a joint venture and purchased Plastiprofile in Roodekop. Plastiprofile, as its name suggests, is involved in profile extrusion. This was an interesting challenge for both and, within two years, Plastiprofile became one of the leading profile companies in South Africa. Keen to expand, the partners looked for an opportunity to re-enter the film sector: this presented itself with the auctioning off of the Huhtamaki equipment in 2012, where they tendered and won.

They formed the new entity Nylopack, which now operates from premises adjacent to Plastiprofile in Log Road, Roodekop.

Hindsight is, as has again been proven, an exact science, but the Nylopack team soon realized the outdated equipment would not be competitive. This did, however, resulted in Nylopack entering the market gradually with a concomitant steady learning curve. Co-ex films are difficult to produce because of the different temperature thresholds of the polymers in the layers, with EVOH and PA processing at higher temperatures than the LD and LLD grades used in the other layers. Achieving a clear film running at optimum output is thus challenging; failure to do so results in streaky or milky films that don’t meet standards. The co-ex structures are far easier to run on the new line, with the standout feature being the ‘Navigator’ control system, where the Rajoo/PlastControl instrumentation team have succeeded in blending all the components into an effective, yet affordable, functional entity: the system is adept at coordinating and automatically controlling the various parameters (including thickness) and achieving steady and consistent film throughputs as well as faster start-up.

After at times struggling to supply its customers with the older lines, the new line has enabled to become a competitive player in the barrier films now, said Rossouw.

Nylopack, phone

# Theo du Toit has been involved in the plastic industry since 1972, managing East Rand Plastics, a company founded by his family. Pieter Rossouw joined the group in 1988 as a production manager at one of their plants in the Eastern Cape and then later relocated to Gauteng and took up the position of production manager at East Rand Plastics. In the years that followed, the group expanded and started Peninsula Packaging in Cape Town and purchased Packaging Consultants in Durban. At the time when these businesses were purchased by Astrapak in 1998, they were the leading suppliers of refuse bags as well as the biggest plastic packaging conversion group in the country.