Optical-disc replicators are gravitating to all-electric machines from hydraulic-driven units, according to executives interviewed at the Aug. 21-22 DVD Entertainment conference and showcase in Universal City, and in telephone interviews.
``Until 2001, customers preferred hydraulic,'' said Koichi Kasamatsu, domestic sales director and manager for optical-media disc systems with a unit of Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. in Norcross, Ga.
Electric machines accounted for about 40 percent of Sumitomo's sales in the United States last year, but almost 80 percent since January.
Virtually all of the 381/2-ton electrics replicate digital versatile discs, Kasamatsu said. A processing line costs about $500,000 for a package that includes two Sumitomo all-electric presses, molding subsystem, tool, disc-takeout robot and temperature-control units.
All-electrics are quieter, avoid the use of oil, require fewer hookups and consume less electricity than hydraulic machines, Kasamatsu said by telephone.
Netstal-Maschinen AG is installing beta units of its first fully electric injection molding machine at five European sites replicating optical media. Commercial production of the e-Jet is planned in early 2003.
Netstal's hydraulic Discjet and other optical-media machines play a major role in replicating compact discs as well as DVDs.
``We haven't yet sold the e-Jet,'' said Paul Ackermann, area optical-disc sales manager with Netstal of NÃ¤fels, Switzerland. ``Our electronic engineers are mostly driving an optical-disc plan [because] they are more familiar with electrics than hydraulics.
``Netstal has never had a fully electrical machine,'' Ackermann said. ``This is the first.''
Netstal showed an all-electric study module at K2001 in October and is developing a general-purpose all-electric machine for possible introduction in about a year.
Netstal sees all-electrics as the future in optical media.
``All the major replicators in the U.S. - for instance, Technicolor, Cinram, Ritek - are using fully electric molding machines,'' said Paul Hebert, account manager for data products with the Netstal Machinery Inc. unit in Devens, Mass. ``In North America, the trend seems to be very strong for all-electric machines.''
While optical-disc makers have become more interested in all-electric machines in recent years, it still is a slow-growing process, said Chris Van Dyke, West Coast sales manager in Westlake Village, Calif., with Singulus Technologies Inc.
Parent firm Singulus Technologies AG acquired e-mould of Wurselen, Germany, in October and now operates the all-electric press maker independently as Singulus e-mould GmbH. In July, e-mould said it had tripled machine production compared with last year.
The e-mould machine, based on Fanuc Roboshot technology, recently achieved a U.S. presence, going from zero sales last year to 25-30 units in 2002, Van Dyke said. ``We realize electric machines are the way the industry would go.''
About 60 percent of full-service Singulus optical-media lines delivered in the United States this year will include electric molding machines from e-mould or others, Van Dyke said.
Use of electric machines ``seems to be the way to go,'' said Marcel Tuchner, executive vice president of publicly traded replicator Cinram International Inc. of Scarborough, Ontario. ``All of our latest installations are electrics.'' About 40 percent of Cinram's injection presses are all-electric.