Three machinery players are making their first-ever all-electric injection molding machines at production sites in Europe and the United States: Netstal-Maschinen AG, Van Dorn Demag Corp. and Negri Bossi SpA.
Netstal will debut its e-Jet, an all-electric addition to its standard Discjet line of presses to mold optical discs, at K 2001, Oct. 25 through Nov. 1 in Dsseldorf, Germany.
At Netstal headquarters in Nafels, Switzerland, they're calling it a milestone. ``After a period of 55 years with hydraulic machines, Netstal officially steps into the e-power time period,'' said Bernard Merki, managing director of marketing and sales.
Netstal leaders pulled off a dramatic unveiling at a June 19 pre-K press conference in Nafels. Two team leaders threw back a curtain as colored lights sliced through a thick fog, revealing the gleaming white, softly rounded e-Jet. A 55-ton e-Jet disc molder will debut at K 2001.
The optical discs business is a key market for Netstal, which claims to have a global market share of more than 45 percent. Disc machines account for 41 percent of total company sales.
Even so, in Nafels, Netstal executives made it clear they want to extend electric power beyond disc machines. At K, the company plans to show a prototype, 120-ton all-electric machine based on the line of standard SynErgy presses. That prototype will mold battery housings for cell phones.
Netstal also is moving to add an electric screw drive to the SynErgy, a hydraulically powered toggle- clamp press.
Merki said the biggest growth for all-electrics will be for presses with clamping forces of 440 tons and smaller. In that part of the market, he predicted, all-electrics will increase 35 percent a year over the next three years. In 2003, Netstal thinks 30 percent of all machines in that tonnage range will be electric.
At the news conference, Merki said e-Jet machines will be priced higher than regular hydraulic Discjets, but he declined to say how much higher. E-Jets can run one-, two- or three-cavity molds.
Netstal revealed some technical details about e-Jet. Servo motors will power clamp movement and injection stroke via a crank mechanism, developed specifically for the fast, short-stroke demands of disc molding.
Linear guidance of the moving platen and injection unit, set up on the machine frame, keeps both machine functions precisely aligned.
Details were not available about the prototype all-electric, dubbed ``e-power.'' Merki said Netstal will not talk about the drive mechanism for that press because of patent issues.
Van Dorn Demag of Strongsville, Ohio, will debut its IntElect 110-ton press at Plastics USA, to be held Oct. 2-4 in Chicago. After the 110-ton press, Van Dorn Demag plans to add an 80-ton model in December and a 50-ton IntElect press in the first quarter of 2002. Other future sizes will come in clamping forces of 165, 220, 330, 400 and 500 tons.
``The IntElect series has broad-based application-appeal and is designed specifically for North American market requirements,'' said Larry Doyle, product manager for the IntElect series.
Van Dorn took its first move into electric presses when it added an electric screw drive as an option several years ago. The new, 100 percent electric IntElect boasts a five-point toggle clamp, run by an alternating-current servo motor, linked to a ball screw via a belt. Another AC servo motor runs the ejectors.
A direct in-line electric motor powers the clamp tonnage and adjustment.
On IntElect's injection unit, another AC servo motor and belt and ball screw drive runs the ejectors. Customers can choose from three packages for the injection unit, each one with three barrel and screw sizes.
Quick-change features mean a complete changeover of screw and barrel can be made in just 20 minutes, the company said.
Van Dorn Demag claims it took the lead at its parent, Mannesmann Plastics Machinery, in design and engineering of electric machines.
The company will continue to produce its complete family of injection molding machines, including hydraulic-clamp presses and hydraulically driven toggle machines, said Bill Carteaux, vice president of sales and marketing.
Van Dorn Demag will not display at the K 2001 show
Italian press maker Negri Bossi will show its first all-electric machine, dubbed the VE series, at K 2001. Presses in both of the first two clamping-force sizes will be molding in Dusseldorf - a 176-ton machine molding polypropylene cosmetic caps from a 32-cavity mold at a five-second cycle and a 231-ton VE molding PP detergent caps in a 16-cavity mold on a 12-second cycle.
Negri Bossi is not releasing many specific details about the press, except to say it uses Canbus technology from Bosch, like that used on Negri Bossi's traditional presses. ``Almost all other machine components are new, and many of them have been patented or have patents pending,'' according to the press maker's K 2001 news release, which was issued in July.
Negri Bossi created a North American headquarters last fall, in Concord, Ontario. The company will not exhibit at Plastics USA, according to Larry Pascucci, director of sales and marketing.