Sandretto turns over a new leaf with 3D printer; eyes South Asia for expansion

Traditionally a manufacturer of injection moulding machines, Italian firm Sandretto launched a range of heavy-duty industrial 3D printers at the recently concluded PlastMilan show. This makes it the second injection moulding machine manufacturer to enter the additive manufacturing sector. The first was Germany-based Arburg that premiered its Freeformer at the K show in 2013, with the Freeformer now to make its Asian market launch at the May-held Chinaplas in Guangzhou.

Sandretto has gone through a change over the past two years and is now owned by Photonike Capital, a French company that is listed on the stock exchange. As a result, it has a new management team that is enhancing its production facility in Pont Canavese, Turin, which spans 40,000 sq m, with 25,000 sq m roofed and which is undergoing extensive restructuring.

The company that was founded in 1946 by the Sandretto brothers has had its fair share of upheavals. In 2008, Romi purchased Sandretto but downsized it in 2011, and in 2013 disposed of a facility where Sandretto machines were previously produced. At the Plast 2012 show in Milan, some Italian employees of Sandretto staged a protest at Romi's booth on the company's restructuring plan. Late last year, Romi issued a statement that starting from 2015, it would adopt the Romi brand.

Hence, Sandretto is starting off on a new chapter. According to Luigi Sorice, Sales Director, “After four bad years, we are now back on track. We have developed some new machines, including the 3D printer.”

Sorice says the 3D machine was based on a “commercial decision and will not substitute Sandretto’s injection moulding machinery range but provide another alternative. If a customer needs to produce 10,000 products or more, then they will have to use injection moulding. But if a customer cannot wait for a mould to be produced, then 3D printing is an option." Sorice explained that the 3D printers have been specifically developed for heavy-duty industrial products.

The Delta printers introduced at Plast use 1.73 mm filament and have been tested with PLA, ABS, TPU, HIPS, SEBS, PET and PETG and are currently available in three different sizes. “We have had good feedback on the machine. All the components were developed in-house in six months.”

Sandretto has set out an “aggressive” marketing plan for its 3D printers, aiming to capture markets from hot wire deposition for plastic materials to polymerisation of loaded resins and sintering of metal of powders. “The era of additive manufacturing solely for prototypes is drawing to a close and 3D printers will tend more to move from a design element to manufacturing,” says the company.

The company expects to cover the whole 3D printer range and will launch it by the end of 2016. It is also building a new testing laboratory, known as the Sandretto Skunk Works Lab, in Latium, Italy, to focus on the new development.

When asked about its focus on Asia, Sorice, said that the big markets for Sandretto are South Asia. “Yes, the Chinese market is an important one but at the moment we are focusing on selling in South America, Europe and Asia,” he said, adding that the company is represented in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Vietnam.

While expansion into China may not be on the cards soon, India is. “We are looking at tying up with a few agents in India, to cover both the north and south of the country,” said Sorice.

“We would like to maintain the high quality branding that goes with our made-in-Italy concept for our machinery. By keeping our headquarters in Italy and cooperating with national partners, we are blending design and manufacturing skills together,” said Sorice.

Plus, by the end of the year, Sandretto expects to set up branches and technical assistance centres in 15 other countries, apart from 40 countries it is already present in.

The company also displayed the newly upgraded Serie Dieci (Series Ten) injection moulding machinery, with clamping forces between 30 and 500 tonnes . The series, which is covered by two patents, features an electrical-hydraulic machine system for energy savings of 25%, significant noise reduction, the new SEF 3000 Gefran control units and chamber temperature monitoring system. The plasticising chambers on these machines are heated by means of magnetic induction, thereby reducing heating time by up to 40%.


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