DEVENS, MASS. — Swiss press maker Netstal-Maschinen AG sold 320 Discjet compact disc injection molding machines worldwide in 1997, a 40 percent increase over Discjet sales the year before.
Netstal also passed a milestone in 1997, selling its 1,000th CD molding machine.
Netstal is based in Nafels, Switzerland. Its U.S. unit, Netstal Machinery Inc. is based in Devens.
Netstal shipped about 40 of the 320 Discjet systems to CD molders in North America, according to Dan Morris, director of sales and market development.
Netstal built its first CD machine in 1984. In 1995, the firm introduced the Discjet, a complete system of injection press, mold, robotic parts removal system and a mold temperature control unit.
Netstal claims to have a 36 percent share of the North American CD molding market. Of about 875 machines molding CDs in North America, 318 of them are Netstals, according to the company.
Bob Hayes, manager of sales and market development for data products, said CD cycle times have been cut to less than four seconds.
Netstal also claims to be the top choice among companies known as CD integrators, firms that bring together pieces of equipment and sell the package to molders.
``In North America there are 12 major integrators and Netstal is the machine of choice for nine of them,'' Hayes said.
Netstal also makes its standard SynErgy presses. In North America, the company also has started to sell machines to injection mold PET preforms.
Morris, interviewed in Devens March 4, said 1997 North American sales of SynErgy presses were about the same as Discjet sales — 40 of each type of the machines.
He said Netstal expects to sell about 40 Discjet presses again in 1998, and that 40 CD machines is considered a good year.
SynErgy sales have picked up in North America, and Morris thinks Netstal will sell twice as many SynErgy machines in 1998 as it did last year.
Morris declined to release dollar sales figures. Netstal in Switzerland will release its annual report in mid-1998. Companywide, Netstal built more than 700 machines last year, he said.
Morris said improvements to Netstal's Nafels plant helped the firm shorten lead times to North American customers in 1997, to three or four months. In late 1995 and early 1996, lead times had stretched out to 12 months.
He said the parent company used to build all three types of its machines in the same manufacturing space, which caused orders to back up. In mid-1996, Netstal created a space for the Discjet CD machines in a separate building.
This year, it is adding an expansion to house its PET preform machines. Details on the addition were not available.
Last year, Netstal's North American operation moved from Fitchburg, Mass., to a new 25,000-square-foot building in Devens on the grounds of the former Fort Devens military base. The custom-designed building cost $3.2 million.