Following its North American debut at MD&M Minneapolis in October 2013, the all-electric e-mac molder from Engel (Schwertberg, Austria) headed south for its first showing on the West Coast at the company's technical center in Corona, CA, on Dec. 10.
Available in 55-, 85-, 105-, 145-, 165-, and 195-tn sizes, the machine is described as a compact and energy-efficient system that delivers precision and quality at an economical price point. At the open house in Corona, the 105-tn version on display was running polystyrene needle holders for safety syringes on a mold manufactured by Swiss tooling maker Fostag. Visitors to Plastec West in Anaheim, CA, in February will have an opportunity to see the molder in action on another medical application. "We are still finalizing the plans," says recently appointed regional sales manager Markus Lettau, "but our intention is to mold a medical silicone part that was featured at the K in October." The e-mac was introduced in Europe at the end of 2012 and had its global debut at the massive plastics show in Düsseldorf, Germany.
The e-mac is suitable for a number of molding applications within the technical, tele-electronic, automotive, medical, and packaging industries. The small footprint, modular construction, and all-electric operation combined with a comparatively low price point have a natural appeal for a range of manufacturers. Beyond that, this machine gives users the freedom to address an array of applications with a high degree of flexibility, says Lettau.
The e-mac shares a number of features with Engel's signature e-motion line—all of the control systems, notably—but to trim costs some compromises had to be made. "There are some limitations," concedes Lettau, noting that the toggles are not sealed, for example. "The e-mac is designed for what we call standard molding," says Lettau. "It's not designed for multicomponent molding. But the fact of the matter is that it can handle the vast majority of applications for less money than more-sophisticated machines while achieving the required precision and quality."
The machine on display at the technical center featured 22 m/s2 acceleration—setting a new global standard in its class, says Engel—running a 5.5-sec cycle with a 16-cavity mold. The syringe needle holders were molded from Styron 678E polystyrene.
Medical is one of the target markets, says Lettau, which is not surprising given the concentration of medical manufacturing in Southern California (for more on this, see our infographic on the top 10 medtech states), but automotive has also been a strong driver for Engel, as has tele-electronics. The company also has packaging on its radar, where it sees significant growth potential going forward.
A recent report from Freedonia Group forecasts almost 7% growth for global plastics processing equipment through 2017, with injection molding accounting for 50% of that volume. The macroeconomics are sound, agrees Lettau, who points to Engel's recent performance as validation. "We went from $60 million in 2011 to $200 million in sales today in the United States," crows Lettau. Globally, Engel surpassed the billion-dollar mark last year, he adds.
At the open house in Corona, the company also ran two e-motion systems: A 200/60 US fitted with an Engel viper 6 robot and a 310/110 US machine. The latter seemed to get the most attention, thanks to the boldly designed in-mold decorated iTouch covers it was producing. Jonathan Drake, CEO of Zomaz (Monterey, CA), was on hand to demonstrate his company's digital in-mold decoration technology, following a successful partnership with Engel at K 2013. You can expect to hear more about this company and what it claims to be its one-of-a-kind technique for in-mold decoration in a future article on PlasticsToday.