NORTH BRANCH, N.J. — German machinery maker Krupp Kunststofftechnik GmbH is building its new U.S. factory one machine line at a time — first with industrial blow molders, then adding ``long stroke'' packaging machines, officials said at a Sept. 15 open house.
About 100 customers toured the 38,500-square-foot North Branch plant, the new home for Krupp's U.S. unit, Krupp Plastics & Rubber Machinery (USA) Inc. KPRM President John Antonopoulos said Krupp invested $5 million in the headquarters factory, which employs 56. Employment could reach 100 within three or four years, he said.
Local government officials in Branchburg Township already have approved plans to expand up to 85,000 square feet on the site's 81/2 acres, Antonopoulos said.
The North Branch operation marks the first full-scale U.S. assembly for Krupp, based in Essex, Germany. Production began in February to make large Krupp Kautex machines that blow mold industrial parts, like drums, that weigh as much as 150 pounds, can hold up to 500 gallons and have as many as three layers.
The New Jersey plant recently began making a second machine — the Fischer-W. Muller FMB4 series of long-stroke shuttle machines. These blow molders can make 10 or more bottles at a time.
KPRM has closed its former headquarters in Edison, N.J.
The U.S. operation will continue to import German-made Kautex six-layer machines — used for molding plastic automotive gas tanks — as well as the Krupp Corpoplast PET blow molders.
Imports will remain a substantial part of KPRM's business, Antonopoulos said.
``We will never manufacture in the United States everything the company offers,'' he said.
Antonopoulos did say there have been early internal discussions about manufacturing Corpoplast blow molders in New Jersey. During a demonstration at the open house, PET bottles flew out of one of the machines at a rate of 14,000 per hour.
``We've also talked — but only talked — about making the PET machines here. ... We are considering that, but I want to make it clear that there are no immediate plans to do that. It's just discussion,'' Antonopoulos said.
He said about 1,000 Krupp blow molders, including both industrial and packaging units, are in operation in the United States. The company has sold machines here for more than 30 years.
Antonopoulos stressed the New Jersey-built Krupp Kautex extrusion blow molders, called the CP Series, is a true ``U.S. machine.'' KPRM sources the gearbox, screws, cylinders and other components from U.S. suppliers.
``We're building everything here except the [blow molding] head,'' he said. Germany continues to supply heads for the accumulator-head machines and coextrusion-head machines for as many as three layers.
The Kautex machine was redesigned for U.S. molders. They are smaller than earlier models.
``I've lost orders just because of floor space,'' Antonopoulos said. A simpler design also means the machines are easier to maintain.
A Barber-Colman Maco 6500 is the standard controller; a Siemens controller is optional.
KPRM's goal is delivery in three to five months.
Antonopoulos declined to give a sales amount or say how many machines the U.S. plant hopes to build its first year.
In Germany, Krupp manufactures Kautex extrusion blow molding machines and one-step PET machines in Bonn, and Corpoplast PET machines in Hamburg. Krupp acquired the Fischer-W. Muller line in 1996 when Krupp bought the Battenfeld Fischer Blasform technik GmbH factory in Troisdorf.