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50 Years Foam Machines

50 YEARS KURTZ PARTICLE FOAM

A sustainable journey through time.

On December 19, 1971, the first EPS molding machine left the Kurtz Maschinenfabrik. A good 50 years later, more than 7,000 particle foam machines are to the credit of the market and technology leader from Kreuzwertheim. Kurtz Ersa Magazine had the opportunity to talk to Harald Sommer, former General Manager Kurtz Protective Solutions, about “50 years of Particle Foam Machines”.

Of the 50 years of particle foam machines, you have been with the company for a proud 47 years. What distinguishes the sales work today from the past?

 

Harald Sommer: Clearly, speed and complexity have changed dramatically compared to the 1970s. Back then, there were many small family businesses that were active regionally, perhaps even nationwide. Today, the Internet, WhatsApp and video calls are the new communication tools. This fits in with our global business as a pure mechanical engineering company with an export share of over 80 percent. Of course, in international business it is also extremely important to have a local presence with branches and representatives and to support customers in their own language.

What were the milestones?

 

Harald Sommer: After initial positioning, the company moved relatively quickly to nearby foreign countries – France, the Netherlands and the UK. The absolute milestone was, of course, to see how an idea sketch turned into a project and finally the first 610D EPS moulding machine developed and built in Germany on the test stand. “D” stood for Duo Machine, which had two forming surfaces and thus delivered double productivity.

 

7,000 installed EPS/EPP lines have now descended from this first. That is impressive in itself. Other important milestones were the development of transfer machines and, in the early 1980s, our pre-expanders and block moulds. Another milestone was the use of vacuum technology in the manufacturing process..

 

With Johann Friedrich Jegelka, the construction of machines for processing expandable polystyrene began at Kurtz in 1970. At the end of 1971 the first Kurtz moulding machine (type 610D) was delivered
With Johann Friedrich Jegelka, the construction of machines for processing expandable polystyrene began at Kurtz in 1970. At the end of 1971 the first Kurtz moulding machine (type 610D) was delivered

How have markets shifted over the years?

 

Harald Sommer: In 1983, we started building block moulds, and one year later Kurtz North America (now Kurtz Ersa, Inc.) was established in Plymouth as the first overseas subsidiary. As the founder of the EPS machinery industry, the expansion of the target market Europe to include North America was an important strategic step, which was followed by others – such as the establishment of Kurtz Far East in 1987, further international subsidiaries and Kurtz Zhuhai Manufacturing in China in 2003.

 

On the way to becoming a global player - Walter Kurtz and Erich Streichsbier and their Asian colleagues in Hong Kong, where the Kurtz Far East branch was founded in 1988
On the way to becoming a global player - Walter Kurtz and Erich Streichsbier and their Asian colleagues in Hong Kong, where the Kurtz Far East branch was founded in 1988

Is it too muchto call Kurtz a cradle of patents?

 
A lifetime of professional activity for Kurtz GmbH: Harald Sommer (left) with Kurtz Managing Director Uwe Rothaug
A lifetime of professional activity for Kurtz GmbH: Harald Sommer (left) with Kurtz Managing Director Uwe Rothaug
 

Harald Sommer: Particle foams were and are materials with many positive properties – to name just two: They are lightweight and provide excellent insulation. Characteristics that have led to worldwide use. Of course, you have to look at this holistically in terms of a circular economy. Our machines are the result of ongoing research and development to continuously make our systems even better.

 

Our current systems have long been developed on a resource-saving and energy-efficient basis, for example to process recyclable or biodegradable materials. With patented processes such as LTH technology (low-temperature foaming, 1993), Kurtz finally made a name for itself as an innovation driver in the industry, with which energy requirements in EPS production could be reduced by up to 70 percent. This was very well received by white goods manufacturers, where we equipped entire factories with it. Most recently, the revolutionary RF technology for particle foaming with radio frequency caused a sensation, enabling potential savings of natural resources and 70% less CO2 emissions..

Do turnkey projects play a significant role?

 

Harald Sommer: Increasingly, we have not only built good machines, but have also developed more and more a comprehensive approach as a general contractor, through which we provide our customers with holistic support – including, for example, energy supply, factory layout and materials management. Over the years, Kurtz has made a name for itself as a complete solution provider and stands for well thought-out concepts and quickly implemented turnkey projects.

What is Kurtz doing to convince its customers of sustainable technologies?

 

Harald Sommer: We all live with the need to jump on the “green wave” – everyone and anyone is called upon to make his or her contribution. For us, this means bringing “green” systems onto the market as far as possible. We are, of course, operating in the area of tension between politics and legislation, which in turn include climate protection movements in their considerations and decisions.

 

Definitely, everything must be done against the rampant plastic waste, so that future generations will find an environment worth living in. Kurtz is making sure of this with new technologies. Customer interest is high and the first projects have already been implemented, with many more to come.


Is it a burden to be the world market leader?

 

Harald Sommer: I would like to respond to this with an example: With our RF technology, we have succeeded in dramatically reducing water consumption. Considering that clean water is becoming one of the most important factors of the future, I think this is a good environmental protection measure that also benefits us as a company in terms of market opportunities and growth. Growth today only works from a sustainable point of view. RF´s novel welding process also allows us to process newly developed materials that are biodegradable and renewable. As the world market leader, you also have the chance to set the future path of the industry.

What trends can be observed

 

Harald Sommer: Foams are the future. This makes the products lighter, provides excellent insulation, and very stable products can be manufactured with special designs. Nature provides many solutions here. With new technologies, we have also succeeded in creating top surfaces. In addition, foams are particularly resource-friendly due to their low weight.

With our particle foam machines, we enable innovative solutions in terms of lightweight construction, use of recycled materials, surface properties of molded parts, resource-saving packaging design and in many other areas. We have been an essential partner to industry over the past five decades and will continue to be so in the future.

 
 

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