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Robert Naville, the new leader of German injection press maker Fahr Bucher GmbH, has a strong U.S. connection — he coordinated Bucher's entry as a supplier of thermoplastic molding machines, not just thermosets, to the U.S. market.

Bucher announced recently that Naville is its new chief executive officer of the machinery company in Gottmadingen, Germany. Naville replaces Hans Wobbe, who left Bucher.

A Krauss-Maffei AG spokeswoman confirmed that Wobbe has become the new chief executive officer of Krauss-Maffei. The Munich plastics machinery maker formally announced the news March 20. He will replace Burkhard Wollschl├Ąger, who left at the end of 1996.

Naville, a native of Switzerland, holds a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. He graduated in 1989 and went to work in Johannesburg, South Africa, for Kopp Plastics, a Swiss-owned injection and blow molder.

Naville joined Fahr Bucher in 1993, working briefly in a sales manager position. Then he went to Bucher's U.S. unit, Bucher Inc., in Buffalo Grove, Ill. He attended Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Although Bucher had made thermoplastic injection molding machines in Germany for many years, the company had not tried to sell them in the United States, instead focusing on the narrower thermoset press market.

Naville developed a strategy for the company to introduce a new thermoplastic line specifically designed for North America. Bucher unveiled the machines for high-speed, thin-wall products, such as packaging and medical products, at NPE 1994 in Chicago.

``Customers will have somebody in Germany who knows the [U.S.] market and what it demands,'' Naville said.

The company also still supplies thermoset molding machines to North America.