German-centric show for machine makers

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The Fakuma show, held in Friedrichshafen, Germany, from 14-18 October, attracted 45,689 visitors from 117 countries and 1,772 exhibitors from 36 countries. This was the best show, according to spokesperson of Fakuma, Ulrich Eberhardt. While a majority of visitors were from Germany, almost 33% came from abroad, up from 31% in 2012. Meanwhile, machine makers expressed strong interest in the Asian market.

Companies seek market expansions in Asia

While almost 30% of its business comes from Germany, injection machine maker Arburg expects to expand its markets in Asia, especially Vietnam and Philippines, said Managing Director of Sales Helmut Heinson. “Our customers are moving there and we need to have sales and service presence, just like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, where we have added on more presence,” he said, speaking at a press conference.

As for its overall sales, having achieved a turnover of EUR470 million last year, it expects to hit EUR500 million this year. “It’s going to be quite a bit above, a figure worth mentioning,” projected Michael Hehl, Managing Partner.

When asked to predict sales for 2015, Heinson said, “The US market will remain the same, while sales for Mexico and China will develop positively.”

Another company with an optimistic outlook was Austria-headquartered Engel. As the world’s largest injection moulding machine maker, based on its sales, it expects sales to hit EUR1 billion by March 2015, up by 7%. “The increase in sales will come from Asia, especially through our facility expansions in China and Korea,” said CEO Peter Neumann, adding that this year it captured a 12% market share in the region.

It has started up its second machine plant in Changzhou, China, under its subsidiary Wintec. With a capacity of 300 machines/year, the facility will produce commodity-type machines.

But Germany and Europe are still where Engel’s heart is, accounting for 54% of its turnover, while the US accounted for 25% and Asia, 21%.

As for sectors, Neumann said that packaging and medical exhibited global growth, while the lightweight trend is behind the increasing investments in innovation in the automotive sector, with composite fibre engineering to grow strongly. But he added that the biggest challenge in composites is to develop manufacturing processes that allow for low unit costs despite high-volumes.

As for German machinery maker KraussMaffei Technologies, it expects good growth in China next year, above that in 2014. Though its sister company Netstal has not done well in the PET and packaging sectors, Hans Ulrich Golz, President of injection moulding machinery at the group, expects further growth in China, especially in the automotive sector.

For Wittmann Battenfeld, sales slowed down in Asia the first half of the year but it now sees a pick-up. “We would like more business in Southeast Asia but competitors from Japan are hurting our growth,” said General Manager Michael Wittmann, adding that China still showed potential for growth. However, the local production (the company has a facility in China), has helped. “Though we are only making robots, temperature controllers and dryers now, we will eventually start manufacturing injection moulding machines,” he said, adding that the company is in the process of setting up a facility in Hungary where the allelectric Ecopower machinery will be produced and will focus on adding on this product range in China next.

Overall, the company had sales of EUR295 this year, up by 7%, which Michael said was the “strongest” year, adding that Europe accounted for 57% of the sales and Asia, 14%. “Next year, due to new innovations we have launched, we expect higher sales of EUR310 million,” he said, adding that this year 30% of its output was accounted by the Ecopower all-electric series.

Technology updates

  • Arburg has sold 20 pilot units of the 3D/additive manufacturing Freeformer machines it launched with great pomp last year at the K show. The machines have been purchased by customers and not placed for trials or research, stressed company officials. Now, it is ready to receive orders for the machine, with the first batch to be delivered in Germany/Europe next March/April, followed by the US (with its showing at the NPE 2015 in March) and in Asia (after Chinaplas in May).
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  • The Freeformer features a discharge unit with a patented nozzle that opens and closes up to 100 times/ second and deposits drops of liquid plastic to build up parts layer by layer using 3D CAD data. The interest for the machine is from customers from the automotive and medical markets, said officials, adding that a product can be realised in several hours using the Freeformer. It is also designed for small batches and is particularly suitable for companies specialising in prototypes, requiring a system as an alternative to injection moulding, which may be too expensive.
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  • One of the Freeformers shown was demonstrating mass customisation producing personalised office scissors, in combination with an electric Allrounder 370E. The second Freeformer was showing the latest development of supporting structures that can be removed in a water bath or mechanically, after the sliding lock part is printed.
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  • The Lossburg-based machine manufacturer said it was the only exhibitor to present the entire spectrum from additive manufacturing to injection moulding. Thus, a highlight at the booth was the particle-foam composite injection moulding (PCIM) process on a production cell. For the first time, a bead foam moulding system was integrated with an injection moulding machine, using a six-axis robot to transfer foam components to the mould and to demould finished parts. The part produced was a socket consisting of a circular EPP foam part and a solid PP component that was moulded inside the foam. Arburg says it is now possible to achieve a permanent bond between the bead foam and solid PP using the PCIM process.
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  • Engel was celebrating the 25th anniversary of its tiebarless machines of which it has sold 60,000 units to 10,000 customers. A reason for the “above average” growth of the series is due to the ability to allow bigger moulds on smaller machines. At the show it was flaunting the newest addition, the E-motion 50TL, which like the 30TL introduced at K2013, features a one-piece machine frame that makes it lighter and more compact with comparable all-electric machines, said Engel.
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  • It also introduced the improved e-flomo water manifold that automatically monitors water pressure and temperature and adjusts water-flow valves to compensate for filter clogging and system pressure variations. Others were a new Duo machine with improved ergonomics; and it has also done a makeover to its Viper robots to better integrate its new CC300 control unit. Another highlight was the new e-pic standardised pick and place robots, for smaller machines and half the energy of linear robots of the same size.
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  • In processing, it showed a technology incorporating both its Engel foammelt process (using Trexel’s MuCell foam technology) and its variomelt, variothermal injection moulding, to make a centre console for a car from PC/ABS. The mould was supplied by French mould maker Roctool. To be commercialised next year, the process allows for high gloss surfaces with no weld lines and 7% lower weight of finished parts. It is also targeted at appliances and household products.
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  • With its main focus being on large machines in the past few years, KraussMaffei (KM) choose to showcase small machinery: its improved CX series (35-160 tonnes) with 25% more efficiency and a smaller footprint. It now features optimised hydraulics and is said to run 15% faster, uses 10% less energy, is 30% less noisy and uses 20% less oil.
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  • It showed three CX machines at its booth including the compact CX35 with a sprue picker, something it said competitors are not able to do. Another CX80 hybrid model was demonstrating how strip conductors with press and hold functions can be integrated directly into a thermoplastic component. The IMKS procedure is used for a two-component part (integrated plastic-metal injection moulding), in which a first shot of PC was overmoulded with metal. The small metal injection unit on the side of the machine is built by mould partner Krallmann.
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  • The German firm has also expanded its AX all-electric series to include larger sizes of 450 and 550 tonnes for the packaging sector.
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  • It also has a new SPX10 servo picker, with a rotary axis and telescoping vertical arm, that operates within the machine’s protective enclosure and is designed for low-ceilinged factories.
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  • Another highlight was the Adaptive Process Control system (APC) function developed and patented by KM. It adjusts the changeover point and the holding pressure profile in each machine cycle to the current melt viscosity and current flow resistance in the mould. This makes it possible to compensate for deviations in the same shot. It also lowers fluctuations and any fluctuations triggered by external factors, such as changing temperatures, climate conditions or batches, can reliably be compensated. Though it comes with a high price tag, KM officials say processors can expect ROI in less than a year
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  • Wittmann Battenfeld launched the servohydraulic SmartPower series, in sizes from 25-120 tonnes, to replace the conventional hydraulic HM series that will be discontinued in 2015. Officials said the series costs about 20% less than all-electrics for equivalent energy consumption. A 120-tonne model was shown producing a PA connecting rod for a compressor, with the latest WS80 servo sprue picker (with a rotary axis and two linear axes) from parent company Wittmann. On the second machine, 120/350, a penholder was produced from LSR in a four-cavity mould supplied by Elasmo Systems, Austria, which allows sprueless parts to be made.
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  • Another technology highlight was shown on an all electric EcoPower 240/1330 and combined the firm’s Cellmould (structured foam process) and Variomould with the HiP (High Precision Opening) programme to enable the production of automotive interior foam parts. The temperature controller required for the variothermic process is operated directly via the machine’s control system. The application is a further development of the cooperation between German firm Schaumform, which started at the K2013.
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  • It also showed auxiliary equipment such as its new ultrasonic flow monitor for Tempro plus D series TCUs that now operates at higher temperatures (160-180°C). Also new is the Flowcon plus water regulator, which controls either temperature or flow rate for each individual water circuit. According to Wittmann, more than half of its mould temperature controllers are now sold with a flow regulation device.

(IMA)

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