By: Bill Bregar
September 20, 2012
WILMINGTON, MASS. (Sept. 20, 8:35 a.m. ET) — Trexel Inc. is growing globally by opening a new subsidiary in China and has expanded its working relationship with Austria-based injection press maker Engel Holding GmbH.
Trexel’s MuCell technology adds tiny bubbles to the melted plastic by bringing nitrogen gas to a supercritical state. When the melt comes out of the barrel, the bubbles are released inside the mold.
The low-pressure process cuts cycle times and allows parts to be molded in smaller-tonnage machines. Other benefits included reduced part weight, material savings, less warpage and better dimensional stability, according to Trexel.
President and CEO Steve Braig said the company in Wilmington, Mass., has quadrupled its engineering staff over the past several years. “Today we can do applications that were impossible three or four years ago,” he said.
One example: large MuCell instrument panel parts for Ford Motor Co. That won a top award at the Society of Plastics Engineers 2011 Automotive Innovation Awards.
Braig said MuCell offers automakers a way to reduce weight, as they try to meet federal highway standards of 54.5 mpg for cars and light trucks by 2025. “It’s a technology that can be implemented today,” he said in a Sept. 17 phone interview.
Trexel is enjoying good sales, Braig said. He declined to give a dollar amount, but said: “We finished our fiscal year at the end of June, and our revenues are up 48 percent. So we’re pretty excited about that versus the year prior.”
In China, Trexel is expanding its customer base to include domestic processors. Trexel has been supporting China from Hong Kong, and conducted the transactions from the U.S. headquarters. That was fine when Trexel was dealing with multinational companies with operations in China, but now Trexel also is targeting domestic Chinese-owned companies, he said.
Trexel runs two mid-sized injection molding presses at an office in Shenzhen. In late August, the company announced plans for a technical center in Shanghai that will have larger press capacity.
“We are looking for a location to have large-tonnage machines, so we can do molding trails,” Braig said.
Roger Cheng, the technical manager of Trexel’s Hong Kong office, has become general manager of Trexel (Shenzhen) Technology Co. Ltd. The Hong Kong unit will support Australia and Southeast Asia.
Trexel has hired an automotive account manager, who is building a team to focus on that industry.
“We’re still hiring staff (in China), so we’re still ramping up,” Braig said. “This is not to manufacture. This is to support the local markets with processing knowhow and ultimately with equipment and spare parts.”
Automotive is a major market for Trexel. But other manufacturing sectors in China also are adopting MuCell. Braig said Trexel sold 10 systems for a manufacturer of industrial cleaning equipment in China, which molds the large spinning disc that the polishing brush attaches to, for a floor buffer. The park has to be perfectly round. MuCell helps another customer, a Japanese company’s printer manufactured in China, mold precision housing parts for a laser printer.
Braig said Trexel is working in China with some global packaging suppliers to use MuCell to reduce costs of food containers and closures.
Trexel offers a more-basic, lower-cost version of MuCell for the region.
“It’s an education process. We’re participating in a lot of conferences there, and we also have developed a partnership with Haitian and Borch,” Braig said, referring to Chinese injection press makers Haitian International Holdings Ltd. and Guangzhou Borch Machinery Co. Ltd. Those agreements cover China and Southeast Asia.
In other news, Engel is now fully integrating MuCell units into its Victory and e-Victory molding machines. That means the MuCell control is tied into the machine controller, reducing cost and making it easier to setup the press.
The Engel presses are tie-barless, so you can use larger platens, allowing relatively small machines to accommodate large molds—and take full advantage of the MuCell process that requires less clamping force tonnage, the two companies said.
Engel said that, in many MuCell applications, a 500-ton Victory press can replace a larger, 700-ton Engel Duo press, for a significant cost savings.