SCHWAIG, GERMANY - Injection press maker Demag Ergotech GmbH wants to sell its hybrid electric/hydraulic machines, the El-Exis, to general-purpose molders.
Demag first showed the El-Exis at the 1998 K show, with a high-speed S line. This fall in Dusseldorf, Germany, K 2001 visitors can see the El-Exis E.
Meanwhile, the company continues to study all-electric technology. Helmar Franz, executive managing director, said Demag is considering building an all-electric at its factory in Chennai, India, to get the costs down. The company is working on a prototype, called the El-Ectric, there.
Demag, like several other European injection press makers, has advocated hybrid technology instead of all-electric machines. The goal of introducing an electric machine now, he said, is to build a lower-priced all-electric to compete against machines from Japanese players such as Niigata, Toshiba, Toyo and JSW, he said.
Franz outlined Demag's increasingly global world view at the company's pre-K 2001 news conference at Demag's Schwaig headquarters in June.
Demag and other German machinery makers are coming off a very strong 2000. Demag recorded an all-time high last year for new orders, at $275 million for 2,550 presses - up from 2,000 presses booked in 1999. The company's global market share exceeded 5 percent for the first time.
Sales in 2000 increased by 17 percent, to $265 million. This year, the global economic slowdown should reduce orders by about 10 percent.
Demag Ergotech wants to double its U.S. business in the next four or five years. Last year, Demag sold 208 presses to U.S. customers - a market share of 3.7 percent - through its Demag Ergotech USA business, which opened a new headquarters in Strongsville, Ohio, in the fall. The operation moved out of space it shared at nearby Van Dorn Demag Corp., a sister company to Demag Ergotech. Both companies are part of Mannesmann Plastics Machinery AG.
``Given the [economic] situation in the U.S. now, that subsidiary has not taken off,'' Franz said. But, he added, ``we don't believe the situation in the U.S. is durable. Things are going to look up soon, we believe.''
However, Franz added that the current downturn is not limited to the United States. The company expects worldwide demand for injection molding machines to decline 18 percent this year, he said. Only the market in China will grow.
Still, Franz is optimistic that the sales drought will be short-lived. The reason? Small-tonnage presses, those under 100 tons, have borne the brunt of the downturn. Customers easily can postpone buying small machines because they know they can get one quickly if business picks up. It's a different story for larger machines, with lead times of seven to eight months.
``The decline in medium and really big machines is not that great. That means the drop overall will not be that great,'' he said.
Franz said a major European decline in big-machine purchases would be reason to worry that the plastics industry is in a general decline.
Franz also spelled out Demag's global strategy to expand manufacturing outside of Germany, where it runs two plants, in Schwaig and Wiehe.
``We can't produce commodity machines in Germany,'' he said.
To ensure German quality standards, a common machine platform will be used at the two German plants and at Demag Haitian Plastics Machinery Ltd. in Ningbo, China, and L&T Demag Plastics Machinery Pvt. Ltd. in India. Using a common platform, engineers in China and India gain the flexibility to cater to their market needs.
Until now, the China and India factories have served their home markets. Starting in 2002, they will ship machines to other developing regions of the world, such as South America, Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
In technology news at K 2001, Demag has sold 140 El-Exis S high-speed presses since introducing the line at K '98. For K 2001, the company rolls out the El-Exis E, a lower-price machine for molding technical parts. The press will be offered in five clamping force sizes, from 66-220 tons.
Demag promotes the hybrid machines as using the best type of power for each movement - giving the precision of electric motors with the superior speed of hydraulics.
On the El-Exis E, independent electric motors run screw rotation, injection, and opening and closing of molds. A special new transmission system uses only one electric motor, linked to a hydraulic pump, to run screw rotation and injection. When the motor spins one way, it rotates the screw. When the motor spins in the opposite direction, the screw rotation disengages and, via a hydrostatic drive, rotary motion is transferred to the linear motion of injection.
The toggle-clamp is opened and closed with power from an alternating-current servo motor equipped with a patented, hydrostatic drive that converts rotary motion from the electric motor into linear clamp movement.
A very small hydraulic system powers three secondary movements - core pull, part ejection and nozzle contact and closure against the mold.
At the K show, two El-Exis E presses will mold a connector for cars and medical syringe bodies. One El-Exis S machine will mold pails using in-mold labeling, and a second S will form the center of a production cell for mobile telephone cases.
Demag announced it has equipped all El-Exis models with a mold-protection system. Using sensors, the device instantly stops the cycle if it detects any major variations in the amount of force necessary to move the clamp.
In addition to its push into hybrid technology, Demag also continues to move into higher-tonnage, hydraulic-clamp presses. In large-tonnage news, the company will offer its two-platen press, the Maxx, in clamping forces up to 3,300 tons. The previous high was 2,200 tons.
The moving platen on the Maxx rests on a newly designed roller track, which ensures precise guidance of the platen to reduce friction, wear and the need for lubrication.
During its pre-K news conference, Demag also dedicated a 2,800-square-foot technical center, which gives the Schwaig headquarters room for application engineering, mold trials and pre-delivery tests. Customers packed into the hall to watch eight presses crank out thin-wall containers, polypropylene cups and closures.