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Press maker Athena expanding in Ontario

By: Michael Lauzon

June 2, 2014

Robert Schad’s injection molding machinery company is growing to a new level.

Athena Automation Ltd. broke ground in early May on a new systems center next to its existing plant in Vaughan, Ontario, on Toronto’s northwest edge. The 155,000-square-foot facility, due to open in the second quarter of 2016, is nearly four times the size of its first facility.

The $40 million center will boost injection press assembly and integration and open the door for production of larger presses.

Athena spokesman Aron Szasz Gabor said in an email that Athena will start making presses with up to 450 tons of clamping force in 2016. The company now makes 150- and 300-tonners, mainly for PET preform production, although the machines can be customized for other markets.

The center will showcase Athena’s trademarked lightsout plant automation technology. The facility will be packed with environmental features, echoing Schad’s green philosophy developed at his former company, Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. in nearby Bolton, Ontario.

Athena claims its new center will be 41 percent more energy-efficient than conventional new buildings. A rooftop solar array will deliver 300 kilowatts of electricity. A geothermal system will provide 300 kW of heating in winter and 350 kW of cooling in summer. A 125-seat cafeteria, fitness center and medical office will help employees pursue healthy living.

The center will have a dedicated area for mold trials and extended runs, a quality-control laboratory, automated high-density part storage, high-efficiency resin conveying and drying systems, and dedicated chillers for each machine testing station.

Athena has been improving its injection press technology since Schad started it in 2008. Recent additions are a 300-ton press that can run up to 96 cavities and a new stack mold carrier that hikes mold weight by 70 percent to 9.5 metric tons.

Athena is streamlining its current plant to increase capacity to four to six presses a month. Over the next year it will add more options for customized features, such as rotary cube, in-mold assembly, higher speed injection, roundtables for multi-material molding and high-speed robots with specialized tooling.

Vic de Zen, owner of ZZen Group, attended Athena’s groundbreaking ceremony. Athena has retained ZZen for construction and engineering of the new center.

De Zen also owns Vision Group, which has vinyl profile extrusion operations in Vaughan. De Zen was founder and majority owner of vinyl extrusion major Royal Group Technologies Ltd., now owned by Axiall Corp. of Atlanta.