DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - Arburg GmbH & Co. is taking its modular approach into the age of electric injection molding machines.
At K 2001, the German company cracked into the hybrid hydraulic/electric market, debuting the Allrounder A. The ``A'' stands for all-drive, which means customers can mix and match the type of drives. The K show press had 88 tons of clamping force. All of the main axes are driven by servomotors, including injection and the five-point toggle clamp. Hydraulic or electric power can be used for auxiliary motions, such as the part ejector, core pulls and nozzle contact force.
Spokesman Christoph Schumacher said Arburg will begin building the hybrid Allrounder A in the second half of 2002. The next step will be an all-electric machine - essentially an Allrounder A with all modules driven by electric power.
Several machinery executives have said that all-electric technology will sweep through smaller-tonnage presses. Schumacher admits Arburg felt pressure to join the movement.
``We were forced from our customers to have this [hybrid] machine. We were forced from the market. We were forced from the competitors,'' he said in Dusseldorf. ``But I think this is an original Arburg solution, not to just build an all-electric machine and here it is. But the modularity of the system is the key word for all our thinking.''
Modular production - mass-producing components separately, then bringing everything together in final assembly - helps Arburg keep its costs low. But Arburg modularity also empowers the customer to decide what type of machine is best for each specific molding job, Schumacher said.
Market research showed 90 percent of Arburg's customers do not need an all-electric press, Schumacher said. That made modularity and customer choice even more important.
``They can tell us what their needs are and we are able, in a very detailed, pre-sales service, to find out what they need from our side,'' he said.
Arburg's top U.S. official, Friedrich Kanz, said U.S. molders are being bombarded with information about all-electrics. ``But it's not so black and white. It's much more complicated. And that's what we have to tell in order to be serious and reasonable with our customers.''
Even so, all-electrics now account for 25 percent of the U.S. market for injection presses.
``Of course, I'm very pleased that we introduced this machine, because we needed it in the U.S.,'' said Kanz, president of Arburg Inc. in Newington, Conn.
Arburg's other big K-show news was its continued push into larger-tonnage machines. The company has built a name for itself in smaller-tonnage presses, with clamping forces up to 275 tons. At K 2001, Arburg launched a 352-ton Allrounder S - a step on the way up to a 440-tonner.
``Our customers want us to have larger machines. Most of them are working in automotive, and they have the need for bigger machines,'' Schumacher said.
To expand into midsize presses, Arburg built a 389,000-square-foot expansion at its headquarters complex in Lossburg, Germany.
Also at K, Arburg ran PET preforms on a vertical-clamp Allrounder C press.
In e-commerce news, Arburg announced it has begun selling spare parts on the Web. German customers could buy online during K 2001. Arburg plans to expand the service to other countries in the second half of 2002.