New extruder maker may portend healthy market
Does the industry need another manufacturer of single-screw extruders? Maybe it does.
During the week after US Extruders Inc. opened for business, the telephone and email buzzed, said President Bill Kramer. These were not just people wishing him good luck on the new business. These were real requests for quotes.
Not a bad start for a company that has not yet built a commercial extruder.
US Extruders, launched by a group consisting of mostly former employees of Graham Engineering Corp., is the second extruder manufacturer to open in this country in the past three years. Uway Extrusion LLC, which has two plants in China, opened in Warren, Ohio, in 2015.
Timing may be on the side of US Extruders. A recent market report predicted extruder sales will increase by about 20 percent by 2022. Flexibility of use and low maintenance make single-screw extruders the most valuable market segment of extruders.
Kramer, a long-time industry veteran who was one of the founders of American Kuhne in 1997, agrees. “There is quite a bit of activity in the industry right now,” he said, explaining that delivery times currently are longer than average.
Graham Engineering acquired American Kuhne in 2012. Before helping to start American Kuhne, Kramer was technical director at Davis-Standard LLC.
Kramer said that he expects that good service and an industry-leading five-year warranty will give US Extruders an advantage in the marketplace.
“An extruder boils down to a screw rotating in a barrel,” he said during a telephone interview from his Westerly, R.I., headquarters. “It is hard to differentiate yourself based on technical features. The most important thing is the service a supplier provides to the customer.
“That means everything from the initial response to making sure the machine is actually delivered on time and accurately represents those little nuances and changes and custom features that were intended. That is probably one of the biggest issues in extrusion today.
“Our design has some nice features, like the way the barrel heater shroud handles the airflow. It has an easy-open feature.”
Seven of the nine employees are founders and have ownership in the company. Kramer said he expects total employment to double by this time next year. A laboratory-size extruder currently is being built, and it will go into US Extruders’ lab for trials and tests. Basic design work is underway for machines it hopes to sell.
Kramer said the plan is to offer robust, serviceable extruders from 1 inch to 8 inches, but expects there will be requests for 0.75-inch extruders.
The company expects to show off two or three new extruders at NPE2018 in May.
The goal will be to deliver a customized, mid-sized extruder within 12 weeks of the order being signed. Kramer said that is the accepted delivery time for extruder manufacturers. The company does not plan to build machines for inventory but said it will build up an inventory of basic components such as gearboxes, barrels and barrel heaters.
What parts will be customized? Kramer said the company will offer off-the-shelf options that can be ordered, but in addition, the extruders can be ordered with a specific screw socket, die flanges, barrel length and gearbox. “Sometimes, a customer will request a component that is not the latest technology, but, in the case of a control instrument, he may want it to match others in his fleet,” he said.
US Extruders plans to form partnerships with some component suppliers but has not yet made decisions on specific partners.
The five-year warranty is unusual. “The industry traditionally provided a one-year warranty, then American Kuhne went to three years, so the industry is now in the one-to-three-years range,” Kramer said. “But with the quality of components we will be using and the experience of our people, we felt we could go to five years.”
It is exciting to see a manufacturing business start up in this country or reshore manufacturing that had left. It gives processors new choices and fosters innovation. Those are great things.