Over the course of the last few months, major machinery manufacturers have exhibited at some of Europe’s biggest trade shows, showcasing their latest technology, developments and upgrades. In the following article, Leanne Taylor looks at those reporting a successful 2014, highlights the key markets, trends and competition, as well as looking ahead to what’s in store for 2015.
Engel reports a steady sales high and says innovation will drive further growth
Engel has reported it has sustained the high levels of growth it saw in 2012/13 with a projected seven percent increase in turonover when its current financial year ends next year.
Speaking at Fakuma in Germany, Engel CEO, Dr Peter Neumann, said that the company has generated some €935 million Euros in sales revenues so far worldwide in 2014, but remained tight-lipped about his feelings on potentially breaking the €1 billion mark by the end of March 2015.
“We will have to wait and see,” said Neumann. “Our financial year concludes on 31st March, so we will look at the figures and make an announcement only then. For now, we are satisfied with the projection of a seven percent increase.”
Neumann reported that the order situation “was good” and that despite political conflicts weakening individual regions such as Russia, the growth of formerly weak markets is compensating the decline.
China, the USA and Mexico continue to be the company’s fastest growing markets and Neumann told BP&R that the UK market had performed “very positively.”
“The UK has been a very positive surprise in Europe,” he explained. “There have been a number of projects for us with the major automotive manufacturers that have returned to the country.”
Engel said that automotive is an area driving sales for the company due to the rise of investment in innovations, with lightweight design one of the most important drivers.
"We have only seen the beginning of lightweight automotive engineering," said Neumann. "In the field of fibre composite engineering in particular, we can look forward to strong growth in the injection moulding industry in the next few years."
The company reported that the demand for complete production systems, as opposed to individual machines, is driving innovation due to the complexity of the integration required, as well as driving sales.
"The requirements are becoming increasingly complex," as Dr Stefan Engleder, the CTO of Engel, commented. "Low unit costs, maximum productivity and sustainability can only be combined if all components of a manufacturing cell optimally mesh."
Process integration and automation were reflected in the company's exhibits at Fakuma, with the company premiering the new ‘Engel e-pic’ at the show, an efficient pick-and-place robot for small moulded parts and sprues.
The company also focused on 25 years of tie-bar-less innovation, as well as its ‘flomo’ system for process control.
Arburg highlights UK market as positive example of growth
At Fakuma 2014 Arburg said that it was enjoying “particularly positive” results from its UK subsidiary thanks to the continued re-shoring of production to the country.
Speaking at the trade show in Friedrichshafen, Managing Partner, Michael Hehl, said that the UK contributed to what was shaping up to be a extremely positive year that has seen continued expansion of production sites and sales figures expected to top €500 million.
“We do not like to speculate on figures,” said Hehl. “However, what I will say is that it is likely to be a bit above €500 million; it will be a figure worth mentioning.”
In terms of projections for an equally successful year in 2015, Head of Sales, Helmut Heinson, said he expected to see positive developments in China and the USA, with a slightly slower development in Europe than in the current year.
Although he was cautious to speculate on forecasts, said he imagined sales would stay fairly level, with “no serious deterioration.”
Arburg spoke at length about its development of the Freeformer, which as of Fakuma is on general sale to customers in Germany, with delivery of the machines due in March next year.
Haitian and Zhafir get to the ‘point’ with application-focused technologies
At Fakuma 2014, Haitian and Zhafir introduced their latest products especially for the European market.
Both the Zhafir Zeres and Haitian Jupiter II Series are designed with a strong focus on application and are equipped strictly for performance in the production of standard parts.
“Haitiain aims to serve machines for the production of standard applications,” Uwe Baer, General Manager of Haitian Europe, told BP&R at the show. “Our ‘Technology to the Point’ slogan emphasises this, as we don’t have ‘over-equipped’ machines, simply those that are perfectly suited to what they do, which is fulfilling the core functions of modern injection moulding technology.”
Both Haitian and Zhafir say they intend to give processors machines with high dynamics, speed and precision, short set-up times, great flexibility and savings on resources.
In the first six months of the year, more than 14,000 machines have been sold and delivered. In the process, the proportion of electric machines has risen considerably; the fully electric Zhafir Venus II Premium Series achieved an increase of 49.7 percent in turnover with a sharp growth in export trade.
Professor Dipl.-Ing. Helmar Franz, Board Member and CSO of Haitian International, confirmed this: “Also this year we can again see growth in the electric machine sector. I’m glad to say that more than 800 Venus II Series machines are already on the order books in 2014, increasingly from abroad. More than 40 percent of our electric machines are exported. And it is on the rise.”
With the new Zeres Series, Zhafir says it is expanding the versatility of applications for the electric series, ensuring noticeably greater flexibility by adopting the dynamics and precision of the successful Venus II Series, as well as offering integrated hydraulics.
“The Zeres is perfectly tailored to the European market and we can already see the positive feedback,” said Baer. “Electric designs are increasingly in demand, especially in the small and mid-range clamping forces. And with the integrated hydraulics our customers now have more options for reacting more rapidly to new demands also using existing core pull moulds, for example.”
The second exhibit is a ‘new-generation’ version of the two-platen Haitian Jupiter II Series, which the manufacturer says it has introduced as a reaction to increasing demands, especially from the automotive industry.
The space-saving two-platen machine had already been upgraded in terms of design and technology for the last K-Show and is now also available in “small” tonnages starting from 4,500 kN. Externally, it is now much more compact and requires about 30 percent less footprint.
“The feedback for the Jupiter II has been extremely positive at Fakuma.
Visitors are certainly surprised at how small the machine is and they are most impressed with the positive price-performance ratio,” Baer added. “We have sold both the Zeres and the Jupiter directly off the stand and we have been very pleased with the enquiries we have had.”
KraussMaffei expands injection moulding portfolio and puts small machines to the top of the class
KraussMaffei has expanded its range of injection moulding machinery with additions its says makes its portfolio “more powerful, more energy-efficient and more versatile.”
The company launched two new sizes in its all-electric AX series, with clamping forces of 4,500 and 5,500 kN. In addition, it is adding three new machine models for its GX series of hydro-mechanical twin-platen injection moulding machines. Both were unveiled for the first time at Fakuma.
"Our customers are increasingly asking for high-performance, energy-efficient and simultaneously space-saving solutions,” explained Dr. Hans Ulrich Golz, President of the Injection Moulding Machinery segment of the KraussMaffei Group. “With this in mind, we are working continuously on the expansion and continued development of our broad portfolio of all-electric, hydraulic and hybrid injection molding machines.”
The two new AX series product group additions, the AX 450 and the AX 550, have been developed as a result of increased demand for all-electric injection moulding machines with large locking forces, explained Jochen Mitzler, Head of Strategic Product Management for KraussMaffei.
Within the GX series the new GXH, GXL and GXV variants are said to offer the “perfect platform” for multi-component injection moulding. The feature a new, integrated turntable and a servo-electric drive unit to ensure especially fast rotations, parallel movement and precise positioning.
In addition to the new moulding machines, Krauss has reworked its CX small machine series, in the 350 – 1600 kN clamping force range and says it has “taken advantage of every opportunity to increase efficiency.”
“Big machines are still important,” Golz told trade press at Fakuma. “In the last few years we have been very present in the market for large injection moulding machines, but we have a strong portfolio in the small machinery range and wanted to demonstrate that at Fakuma,”
KraussMaffei said from hydraulics and control software to automation, almost every component in the CX machines in the small clamping force range has been subjected to testing in a bid to refine efficiency, productivity and space.
"The CX series is already a successful product line. Our goal was to align this series more consistently with customer needs,” explained Golz. “Plastics processors should have the option of producing plastic with outstanding cost efficiency and flexibility."
Specifically, the CX small machines are said to benefit from 10 percent less energy consumption, being 15 percent faster, 30 percent quieter, oil volume reduced by 20 percent, and 25 percent greater efficiency thanks to automation and faster set-up times.
“Additional highlights specifically for small machines include the new sprue picker, the ejector coupling and the BluePower Vario Drive concept. Like all machines from KraussMaffei, the new CX is equipped with the new Adaptive Process Control system (APC), which can immediately compensate for fluctuations in the injection moulding process,” explained Golz.
In terms of performance for this year, Golz told BP&R at the show that he was “very satisfied” with the results so far, with North America performing “very strongly’ in overall sales worldwide.
As for the performance of the UK market, Golz said it had been pleasing for KraussMaffei and Netstal. “Automotives have of course been a big driver for us in the UK this year,” Golz told BP&R. “However, medical has been a particularly interesting market for us too.”
In terms of the company’s progress and expansion, Golz said that there was no immediate plans for building expansion, however, it would be “ramping up production” in its production facility in China.
Billion makes a splash with In Mould Assembly technology
Billion chose to highlight the complex process of ‘In Mould Assembly’ (IMA) at Fakuma, producing a part combining plastic and water in a single cycle.
Partnering with MIHB, the company produced a hollow part from Eastman’s transparent Tritan co-polyester which was fully sealed, encapsulating water and a floating dice inside.
“The in-mould assembly process allows finished hollow products to be moulded on conventional or twin-shot injection moulding machines, using a double turning table,” explained Billion’s Marielle Bourgeon. “Overmoulding, clipping or riveting within the mould secures the joint between the two halves. The product can also integrate an inserts, filters or other components inside the tool, all in the same cycle.”
Billion says the main advantages of the process are repeatability without defect, a very good welding thanks to overmoulding providing a perfect joint seal and a high internal pressure resistance. IMA also helps to achieve productivity gains, with shorter cycle times and no manual operation. The process also benefits from cleanness, reproducibility and reliability.
The demonstrator produced on Billion’s stand at Fakuma was made of two transparent parts, a body and a lid, injected simultaneously with the first injection unit in two different parts of the mould. During the mould opening phase, the body and the lid moulded during the previous cycle were brought together in the central position of the mould, before the dice and water were integrated into the part and combined. In the last stage of the cycle, the overmoulding takes place with the second injection unit sealing both parts together, before removal by a robot.
“The outstanding innovation is the ability to encapsulate a liquid inside the injected part during the injection process,” continued Bourgeon. Applications for this technology in the market include fuel tanks or windscreen wiper components for the automotive industry, as well as numerous household products such as irons.
“Multi-material know-how is definitely what Billion has specialised in developing over the past few years,” Bourgeon told BP&R at the show. “Twin-shot moulding is a something we will continue to develop alongside our customers.”
Bourgeon said that 2014 had been a “very busy” year for the company, with export markets such as Europe and Africa providing some 60 percent of sales. The UK market, she added, has been “great” for Billion this year, with the packaging sector performing particularly strongly.
15 percent sales growth for Wittmann thanks to an “automation year”
Wittmann Battenfeld said its forecast for overall sales in 2014 at some €295 million was “pleasing”, however, the company was hoping to break the €300 million barrier.
Speaking at Fakuma, Michael Wittmann said that with a 15 percent increase based on figures from September 2014 against the previous year there was “no complaints” and that predictions for 2015 sales stood at €320 million.
“This year has most definitely been an automation year,” said Mr. Wittmann at the show. “Strong sales of our automation systems, including temperature controllers, as well as our EcoPower, MacroPower and vertical machines have been especially pleasing. In the coming year we expect that our new SmartPower and MacroPower lines will drive sales.”
Mr Wittmann said that he was “very pleased” with the sales performance in the UK market, stating that markets that had previously been fairly weak were performing “very strongly”.
The company is currently expanding its production capacity in Europe, by building a new hall for a machining centre for platens for its large machine ranges, as well as a completely new facility in Austria specifically for its materials handling equipment and robotics systems.
“We are building the new plant in Austria to enable new production capacity for our robots, as we have seen a strong demand for automation,” explained Company Director, Georg Tinschert.
During the trade fair the company launched a new machine in its ‘SmartPower’ series, on display for the first time at Fakuma.
The ‘SmartPower’ is equipped with servo hydraulics as standard and is the youngest member of the company’s PowerSeries. “It combines the advantages of hydraulic machines with those of all-electric machines: energy efficiency, precision, user-friendliness, compact design, high speed and cleanness,” explained Mr Wittmann.
During the exhibition the company also introduced its latest innovations in process control technology, as well as an App for monitoring production from a smartphone.
Mr Wittmann said one of the company’s aims for 2015 was to increase its market share in Asia, where he said there was “huge potential” for the company, however, the fact that the company does not have a dedicated plant for the manufacture of injection moulding machines in the region was one of the major factors preventing them gaining further market share.
“The Asian market is a strong, as well as a huge market, but at the moment we are a small player there,” explained Mr Wittmann. “Customers in China want us to produce machines in China and so this is something we will have to introduce there in order to increase our presence.”
Mr Wittmann added that the construction of such a plant in China would not come before the company’s current expansion of production facilities in Hungary is complete.