For Engel Machinery Inc., NPE 2003 was the largest of times and the smallest of times.
Engel showed its largest all-electric press, a 200-ton E-Motion, molding a coaster. The E-Motion series now runs from 60-200 tons, and Walter Jungwirth, executive vice president for North American sales and marketing, said Engel has plans to make larger all-electrics, up to 400 tons.
The tie-barless all-electrics have a five-point toggle that Engel said offers fast opening and closing thanks to a central, single-stroke lever, driven by an electric servomotor with a planetary gear. Engel showed three E-Motion presses at NPE in Chicago.
In the smallest category, Guelph, Ontario-based Engel displayed its smallest-yet two-platen press. The 720-ton Duo machine molded an automotive manifold, with fully automated parts removal.
Machinery makers at first came out with two-platen presses in large tonnages, but the presses steadily have come down in size. The reason is space savings. Steve Elliott, manager of machine sales for Engel Canada Inc., said the 720-ton Duo has a smaller footprint even than Engel's standard, 660-ton press.
Jungwirth said firms should look ahead, not back, and stop complaining about China. ``Frankly speaking, I cannot hear it anymore because this is the reality - it is the global situation,'' he said.
``North American industry needs technology,'' Jungwirth said, adding that visitors to NPE understood they can't stop investing. ``There have been a lot of inquiries about automation and special machines.''
Peter Neumann, president of parent firm Engel Austria GmbH, said Engel wanted to display plenty of new technology such as multicomponent molding and Watermelt water injection molding. Engel drew a steady stream of people to watch a 165-ton Victory press use Watermelt to produce a hollow automotive cooling tube.
Although some molders struggle with low capacity utilization, others are quite busy, Neumann said. ``The real issue is, are there new projects coming? Are there no new technologies?'' he said.
But Neumann said the overall U.S. machinery outlook still is uncertain. ``The investment climate is getting better,'' he said. ``But it's cloudy, not sunny.''
Engel molded a nylon roller, on a vertical-clamp insert molding machine, with vertical injection. Engel has made the ``vertical/vertical'' presses for two years, but NPE 2003 marked the first time the company showed one at a trade show.