Lossburg, Germany—Although Germany was hit this week by unseasonal cold, wind and snowstorms, shutting down Frankfurt's airport and causing traffic chaos around the country, at Arburg, deep in the Black Forest, visitors from around the world were nonetheless arriving via whatever mode of transport was still running to attend the company's annual Technology Days.
This year, there were more than 40 exhibits covering a broad range of applications and industries, with an overarching theme of 'production efficiency'.
According to Michael Hehl, managing partner at Arburg, more than 5000 visitors had registered for the event, including over 200 participants from the U.S. "The broad product range is one of the factors that contribute to the success of the Technology Days, which have been a magnet for the international plastics industry for many years," he said.
One of the highlights was the specially designed Efficiency Arena, an area where visitors were shown the key aspects involved in achieving optimum efficiency in the production process and the various solutions available, complete with practical demonstrations. Under the slogan "Knowing what counts", customers could talk to experts from Arburg and participating partner companies, to ask for advice or suggestions on how to improve cost effectiveness in eight important areas of the value-added chain - from product design, mold technology, machine technology, peripheral technology and configuration to process integration, process control and production planning.
Among the innovations being showcased were the 2500 kN electric toggle-type clamping unit for the new Allrounder 630 H machine size, the servo-hydraulic drive concept for the large Allrounder S, the productivity package for the Golden Edition and S machine series, in-line printing, long-fiber direct injection molding and Particle-foam Composite Injection Molding and the "Packaging" version for electric and hybrid Allrounders.
Packaging as a growth sector
A total of three different packaging applications were being shown this year at the Technology Days. Packaging is a growth sector for Arburg, said sales director Helmut Heinson. "We've been active in this sector for around four years now. When we got into it, we knew it was a highly competitive one, but we were confident we could meet this challenge." In order to better meet the demands of their packaging customers, Arburg has now developed a new packaging version for both the hybrid Hidrive and the electric Alldrive machines.
The machines have been enhanced to produce complete, high-performance solutions and are optimized in virtually all areas. This includes, for example, adaptation of the distance between tie bars, clamping force and opening stroke to suit the performance characteristics required by the packaging industry. The torsionally rigid, steel machine base longitudinal supports accommodate heavy mold weights and compensate for high load changes during mass movements. The FEM-optimized mounting platens combine the necessary rigidity with low weight. Together with servo-electric toggle-type clamping units, this facilitates extremely fast opening and closing movements, leading to shorter overall cycle times. At the same time, energy recovery during braking ensures that the energy applied is used even more efficiently. Energy savings of up to 30% can be achieved in comparison with hydraulic clamping systems. Special features are available in the "Packaging" version of the Allrounders that enable the machines to be adapted to particular applications for the production of thin-walled items and screw caps.
The Allrounder 570 H in the Packaging version on show had a clamping force of 1800 kN and a size 1300 injection unit, and was using IML decoration technology to produce a thin-walled plastic food container, with a cycle time of 4.5 seconds.
At the conference prior to the opening of the event, Michael Hehl, flanked by Helmut Heinson, Herbert Kraibühler, managing director technology & engineering, and Jürgen Boll, managing director finance & controlling, also talked about some of the developments at Arburg since the previous Technology Days in 2012.
Over the past year, Hehl said, various changes had been observed in the incoming orders regarding the different types of machines. One development was the ongoing rising demand for large Allrounder machines, with clamping forces from 2500 to 5000 kN. These machines accounted for 17% of sales in 2012, up from 15% the year before. The share of multi-component machines expanded from 11% to 13%, while the project business rose from 12% to 15%. However, as Heinson pointed out: "The project business was especially strong in Germany: it's still a fledgling business in the international markets."
And, while fewer Golden Edition machines were sold last year, the percentage of Allrounders with electric drives - electric Alldrives and the hybrid Hidrives - rose from 34% in 2011 to 37% in 2012. "The U.S. and Israel are where we sell the most electric machines," said Heinson. "Yet Asia, and then specifically China, is where the growth is. In these markets, the demand for hybrid and hydraulic machines for packaging applications is very strong. Interestingly, we started in Asia because we followed our customers there, and they needed a service network for the Arburg machines they worked with. These days the situation is completely the opposite - 80% of the companies we work with today are Chinese firms. For us, Asia is the future."