Michael Ladney's Gain Technologies Inc., scored a gas-assisted body blow in Europe against a rival, as Gain has wooed away a German distributor for Cinpres Gas Injection Ltd.
The deal with Factor Maschinen & Anlagentechnik GmbH beefs up Gain's presence in Europe and gets the company into the water-assisted molding arena, through technology developed by Factor.
Ladney said Gain, of Sterling Heights, Mich., wants to raise the profile of Factor products in North America.
Gain has the rights to manufacture Factor equipment in the United States, although no decision has been made yet, Ladney said.
Just a few months ago, at the K 2001 show in Dusseldorf, Germany, Factor was molding water-assisted parts under the banner of Cinpres Gas Injection of Nantwich, England. (A story about water assist on Page 11 of this issue incorrectly says Factor is linked to Cinpres. The article was written before the latest announcement.)
Gain announced March 1 that it signed a joint venture agreement with Factor of Hainburg, Germany. Factor will sell Gain and Factor equipment for gas-assisted and water-assisted injection molding. Factor also will promote licensing agreements in Europe for the Melea Ltd. patents from Gain.
The often-caustic Ladney has a reputation for tweaking the nose of Cinpres, which merged last year with another British gas-assisted company, Gas Injection Ltd. Gain and Cinpres Gas Injection regularly attack each other in news releases. An official of Factor acknowledged that Ladney ``made an interesting offer'' for cooperation.
But Factor decided to switch partners based on a nuts-and-bolts issue - the strength of Gain's patents - said Andreas Janisch, manager of Factor.
Gain's Melea patents consist of about 40 patents that cover gas-assisted molding, including the so-called overflow technology. Gas-assisted injection molding creates hollow parts by shooting gas into the molded part, forcing the melted material out against the mold walls.
Janisch said Factor was not happy with the constant patent wars between Gain and Cinpres.
``We are tired of this patent fight and want to have a clear situation for our customers,'' he said.
Janisch also pointed to agreements Gain signed with Battenfeld GmbH, a German injection press maker, and with a German company that makes Maximator gas-assisted products. Both companies agreed to offer Gain licenses to their customers.
``Our patent lawyers told us the Gain patent was the strongest one,'' Janisch said.
Terry Pearson, chairman of Cinpres Gas Injection, downplayed the news that Factor jumped ship. In a news release, the company said it is expanding its relationship with another distributor, Stieler Kunststoff Services, of Goslar, Germany. SKS has represented Cinpres in Germany since mid-2000.
``[Factor] has not been successful in obtaining orders over the last six months. But our other German distributor has been successful,'' Pearson said.
Owned by Ulrich Stieler, SKS is adding employees and will move to a larger facility that has a molding development center.
On the patent situation, Pearson said Cinpres Gas Injection holds to its longtime position that Cinpres already was using its own version of the overflow technology in 1987, several years before the Melea patents.
Cinpres Gas Injection also is pushing other methods for gas assist, including the plastic expulsion process as an alternative to the overflow process. The company has applied for patents for PEP.
Pearson said SKS has developed its own technology, for chilling the gas before injection and circulating the gas inside the part.