Steve Post, VP of cast film at extrusion and converting system supplier Davis-Standard LLC, Pawcatuck, Conn., says about 80 percent of the total cast film machine market consists of stretch wrap, hygiene film (diaper back sheets, hospital gowns and bed sheets, etc.) and cast polypropylene. Stretch is by far the biggest part, hygiene film is growing and so is cast PP, TPU film, PE film, though almost all in Asia.
Suppliers of stretch film in North America are bullish about a market that's growing at close to a 3 percent annual clip, says Post. And, he points out, it's growing from a relatively large base. Suppliers feel resin prices will drop as natural gas supplies increase. Shipping film made in the U.S. to Europe is well within the realm of possibility.
Post says one familiar trend is continuing in the stretch film market — downgauging. A few decades ago film that was 25 to 30 microns, or around 1 mil thick, was considered thin. Post says his company's lines are now making stretch film as thin as 6 microns in the conventional process and the pre-stretch process, where the film is stretched in-line to make it stiffer and thinner. That's thin for sure, but the real breakthrough here is that the pre-stretching is being done in-line, on a station just before the winder.
Pre-stretch began in Europe about 10 years ago and began to take off about three years ago in North America, where currently it's growing at a rate of more than 15 percent a year. But as Post points out, no one is doing pre-stretching in-line now. It is being done off-line using rewinders. Aiming to change that, Davis-Standard launched its new dsX s-tretch pre-stretch cast film extrusion line at the K 2013 show in Düsseldorf, Germany, and made pre-stretch film in-line on a working line at its German facility.
Fast forward to now, when Post says Davis-Standard has perfected the process of doing pre-stretch in-line. Its first installation takes place this month in Southeast Asia.