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Auto suppliers beefing up technology

By: Bill Bregar

February 25, 2013

WARREN, MICH. — North American automotive plastics plants are investing in new injection presses and are more open than ever to brand-new technologies such as spinning cube molds and multishot molding, according to executives at KraussMaffei Corp. and Proper Group International Inc.

About 90 people attended a TechDay event Feb. 1 at the Warren headquarters of Proper Group, an automotive toolmaker and molder. The crowd got the first look at KM's GX machine in the U.S.

"The reason they're looking to the next wave of technology is to help reduce costs, for the overall production," said Paul Caprio, CEO of KraussMaffei Corp., the U.S. unit of Munich-based KraussMaffei AG.

Automotive is one of the most important markets for the plastics machinery sector. Caprio said automotive generates about 50 percent of business at KraussMaffei AG. The German company generates order income of about $1.5 billion.

KraussMaffei Corp. is based in Florence, Ky. The machinery maker created a joint venture with Proper Group in 2010 to get greater visibility in Detroit. Proper Group gets access to new machinery technology at its mold-making operations and its Proper Polymers molding plant in Anderson, S.C., and at a new, smaller molding facility in Warren. Proper runs six injection presses in Warren — five of them KraussMaffeis — in clamping forces of 85-3,000 metric tons. The company's Anderson molding plant has 24 presses, from 55-1,500 tonnes; five of them are new KM machines.

Joe Grippe, Proper Group vice president, said the Anderson site is getting an 850-tonne KraussMaffei SpinForm press with a cube mold mounted on a rotary table. He said Proper wants to show how the technology can be used to mold automotive lighting and other multicomponent parts.

Proper Group plans to manufacture molds for the spinning-cube machines, Grippe said.

Caprio said SpinForm presses are molding automotive parts in other parts of the world. "It's time that gets to North America," he said.

Grippe also said Proper Group is looking to open molding plants in the Tennessee/Alabama area and in Mexico.

TechDay centered on the molding demonstration area in Warren. "This facility across the street is going to be a specialty facility for two-shot," said Joe Grippe, Proper vice president, speaking at the headquarters building. "We're running lenses in there, and really capitalizing on the technology that KraussMaffei brings to the table."

At the event, a 1,600-tonne MXZ multicomponent machine was running a two-color taillight, in clear and red acrylic.

KM used TechDay for the U.S. premier of its GX line of injection molding machines, which the company first showed at the Fakuma show in Germany last fall. A 400-tonne GX was molding parts in Warren. The complete line ranges from 400-650 tonnes

Caprio said KraussMaffei engineers wanted to develop a durable two-platen press for the middle price range. Features include a GearX clamping unit that uses a set of locking nuts, and a GuideX guide shoe that stabilizes the moving platen. GuideX uses a new type of fixed bearing joint that the company said greatly reduces friction.

KM and Proper also showed off a 180-tonne, all-electric AX press.

"We're an engineering-oriented company and always looking to go to the next technology, and be the differentiator," Grippe said.