DUSSELDORF, GERMANY — One of Europe's larger PET preform mold makers, Otto Hofstetter AG, is doubling the size of its factory in what it says is a direct challenge to Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd.'s dominance of the 96-cavity market.
The 10 million Swiss franc expansion ($7.3 million) will give the company 48,000 square feet at its plant in Uznach, Switzerland, and equipment to produce 20-25 such mega-molds a year in 2000, Executive President Otto Hofstetter said at K'98 in Dusseldorf.
``On the market now, only Husky is accepted at 96 [cavities],'' he said. ``This gives an opportunity to customers in the States who run 96 cavities. ... They have a chance to chose from another supplier.''
Husky has about 65 percent of the world market for PET preforms, while the Swiss company has about 9 percent, Hofstetter said. A Husky official estimates it has 50-55 percent of the preform market.
Ken Halsall, business manager for preform systems for Husky in Bolton, Ontario, said: ``We're not after the 96-cavity market. Most effort is going into the 48-cavity on the index system.''
Next year, Hofstetter will be able to make about 10 of the molds, which are double the size of the industry-standard 48 cavities, he said. In 1999, the firm will not sell directly to customers, but will require customers to work through Netstal Maschinen AG and put the mold on Netstal machines, he said.
The two companies have a very close relationship, he said.
The 96-cavity mold will be delivered to its first customers in spring, after field-testing, Hofstetter said.
The company, based in Uznach, needs to expand and add equipment because its production of 48-cavity molds shot up from 50 units in 1997 to 70 so far this year, and because the 96-cavity mold weighs 81/2 tons, more than double the 31/2-ton weight of the 48-cavity, he said.
``It is not that we want to — the marketplace says we have to,'' said Hofstetter. ``We had to do something.''
The firm employs about 160. Sales figures were not released, but Hofstetter said his company does about 80 percent of its business in preforms and 20 percent in thin-wall products.