Watlow Electric Manufacturing Co. is exploring ways to extend its thermal expertise and achieve application-specific solutions in additional end markets.
``Watlow is getting back to core competencies'' solving specific problems for individual customers, said James McMillin, director of Watlow's Plastics Marketing Group, in an NPE 2003 interview at the St. Louis-based firm's Booth S144.
The change dates to 2000, when Watlow set up five market-driven solutions centers, including one for the plastics industry. ``We hope to develop new products based on customer feedback with our involvement,'' said Lori Morrison, marketing manager.
Looking ahead, Watlow is investigating a technology linking heater sensors and controls and lending itself to preventive maintenance and elimination of downtime for hot-runner injection molding systems.
``Watlow will understand if this technology is feasible in 90 days,'' McMillin said June 23.
At NPE, Watlow is exhibiting the PPC-2000 controller, which provides multiloop process and programmable logic control to extruders. A medium-size system with 16 high-resolution inputs costs $4,815, and the optional Anawin Human Machine Interface software costs an additional $2,500. An extrusion processor can quantify results of process changes, establish consistency and minimize scrap and downtime.
Watlow is exhibiting its Infosense sensor technology at a plastics show for the first time. Compared with traditional sensors, Infosense doubles the accuracy of thermal couples in precise applications, McMillin said. Watlow introduced the technology in late 2002.
Also, Watlow shows a low-profile TÃ½ nozzle heater targeting two-stage PET preform applications. The heater has an ultra-thin thermally applied ceramic dielectric coating.
Watlow's new line of thick-film hot-runner nozzle and manifold heaters facilitates uniform application of precisely calibrated heat at temperatures up to 925° F.
In January, Watlow formed a division known as Single Iteration to provide fee-based concept-to-completion thermal analytical consulting services. The division draws on Watlow's depth in engineers in material control and heat-transfer technologies.
Recently, Single Iteration conducted a $60,000 feasibility survey for a semiconductor maker's proposed plant. The report discouraged the project and is credited with saving the manufacturer more than $1 million, McMillin said.
The division has concentrated on semiconductor and life-science niches, but ``we are trying to see if there is interest in plastics,'' McMillin said. He noted that hot-runner firms provide finite element analysis and related services, but ``they look mostly on the mold-flow side, whereas we look mostly on the thermal side.''
Watlow was founded in 1922. The company employs 2,200 and had 2002 sales of about $250 million, of which plastics accounted for more than 10 percent.