DALE, IND. - Thermwood Corp., which makes computer-controlled machines for routing and trimming in the plastics and wood industries, announced a new technology it said will make its five-axis plastic trimming machines much easier to set up. The Dale-based equipment supplier also reported higher sales but lower profit in the first half of its fiscal year, ended Jan. 31.
The company's new five-axis probe system is used for programming plastic trimming operations. Setting up the complex trimming machines can require creating complex computer programs so the trim tool can follow the shape of a plastic part, a process that could take several days. Now, using an electronic sensor attached to the tool end, a setup technician manually traces the part. Dimensions are automatically put into the computer.
The technology should dramatically cut setup time and free up the machine for production, Thermwood said.
The company has applied for patents on the probe.
For the first six months of fiscal year 1996, Thermwood reported profit of $483,333, a 10.1 percent decline from the year-earlier figure of $537,468.
Sales increased 10.6 percent, to $7.1 million, from $6.4 million for the first six months of fiscal 1995.
Thermwood stock is traded on the American Stock Exchange. Sales are split about evenly between plastic and wood forming. On the plastics side, most of Thermwood's customers are thermoformers.
``A softening in the U.S. economy has resulted in a slowdown in orders for automated machinery systems in the woodworking and plastics forming industries,'' said Kenneth Susnjara, president and chief executive officer.
``Thermwood has maintained its revenues by increasing market share, but we have found it necessary to offer certain discounts during this difficult period, which resulted in a narrowing of gross profit margins during the first half of our current fiscal year.''
He also said Thermwood boosted spending for research and development, which had a negative impact on earnings.
New technology, along with increased income from retrofit equipment, should help sales and earnings improve in the second half of Thermwood's fiscal year, Susnjara said.
Susnjara also said Thermwood plans to open a European office within the next few months.