Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. could jump back into the North American assembly of larger injection presses - machines with clamping forces from 500-2,000 tons - President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Schad said at K 2004.
He also confirmed that Husky eventually will center its small-tonnage press assembly in China. In the hot area of multishot molding, Schad said Husky is working on a machine with a spinning mold that will be targeted to automotive molding.
In technology introductions at K, Husky showed the HyPET press making preforms and announced its entry into the market for DVD packaging machines. Schad also handed out some tasty news tidbits during Husky's Oct. 25 news conference at K 2004 in Dusseldorf, and in an interview afterward.
Shipping costs and speed-to-market will play big roles in Husky's decisions about manufacturing locations, Schad said. ``To bring a 1,000-ton machine from Europe to North America costs us $50,000. And that is really the profit on a machine,'' he said.
Husky makes presses up to 750 tons at its headquarters in Bolton, Ontario, although the operation is better-suited to 500-ton machines and smaller, Schad said. The company currently builds larger machines at its factory in Dudelange, Luxembourg, for customers worldwide.
Husky did build large-tonnage machines in the United States during the 1990s - first at Epco Machinery LLC in Fremont, Ohio, then in Pittsfield, Mass., at GE Plastics' giant Polymer Processing Development Center. But Husky phased out the Massachusetts assembly in 1999 and moved all large-press production to Luxembourg.
At K, Schad acknowledged the former Pittsfield assembly. ``Yes, but that was not a good thing,'' he said after the news conference.
Schad did not provide any details on a new location, or give a timetable, except to say it will be somewhere in North America. ``We're looking at different scenarios right now,'' he said.
Husky has broadened itself beyond packaging machines, to include other markets such as automotive that need large-tonnage machines. Speed is important.
``A 2,000-ton machine, you have to deliver that in eight weeks to 12 weeks,'' he said.
Luxembourg will continue to make all the machines larger than 2,000 tons, Schad said.
``The very large ones are so specialized. It doesn't pay to make them somewhere else,'' he said.
Larger machines cost a lot to ship from Europe because they cannot fit into standard shipping containers. But small-tonnage machines can be shipped more economically - from China.
Husky this year opened its 124,000-square-foot Asian headquarters in Shanghai. Next year Husky will break ground on a hall to manufacture small-tonnage injection presses, up to 180 tons. At the K show, Schad confirmed a trade magazine report that said Husky eventually will produce all of the company's small Hylectric machines in China - and move that work out of Bolton.
But Schad said ``Bolton won't miss it,'' as he described the impact on Bolton as minimal. ``It's such a small business, it doesn't mean very much at this time.'' But moving the work to China can lower costs and boost volume of the small presses, he said.
During the news conference, Schad gave a sober outlook for plastics machinery.
``The market is now leveling out, and I don't think that it will get back to the heights that we had. Maybe a spike, but there's a lot of overcapacity on the manufacturing side,'' he said.
Husky's diversification beyond presses for PET preforms and other packaging is working, Schad said. The company reported sales of US$773.7 million for fiscal-year 2004, ended July 31. The sales declined 5 percent from 2003, but new orders increased by 17.5 percent. ``We now see some light at the end of the tunnel,'' Schad said at K in Germany.
PET continues to be important, since Husky claims to own about 75 percent of the global market for PET preform presses. The company reports strong orders for its new line of HyPET, and the Index machine, both on display at the K show.
Husky said it has sold more than 75 HyPET systems since introducing the machine earlier this year. ``The industry is switching over. Europe, especially, has led the charge in the conversion to HyPET,'' said Mike Urquhart, vice president of PET and closures.
Husky's former G-PET was only available in 300-ton and 600-ton models, but the HyPET comes in six options, from 90-500 tons. Each HyPET is designed to accommodate a larger number of cavities, so larger molds now fit in smaller machines. For example, a 96-cavity mold can now run in a 400-ton press and a 144-cavity mold can run in a 500 tonner. Before, those molds had to have a 600-ton press.
In other preform news, Husky introduced its HyFlo plasticizing screw for the HyPET and Index machines. Husky claims the screw delivers 15 percent more melt output, does better mixing and reduces the level of acetaldehyde, which can impact the taste of beverages in PET.
Schad noted that the market for preform machines keeps getting crowded.
``I am convinced that many of the competitors that are getting into PET are not making much money at it,'' Schad said. ``They're using it as an entry investment. But we are well-established. We have a lot of technology. And we are making money on PET.''
Schad said the company is replicating its preform success in new areas. One example at K was Husky's first complete DVD case system, made by partnering with German robot maker Ilsemann Automation and Swiss mold maker AWM. The take-out robot goes into the mold to grab eight DVD boxes molded every six seconds. A fixture then closes the boxes.
Husky also highlighted in-mold labeling, this time on a mold with only two cavities that turned out drinking cups. Matthew Brett, project manager of container molds, said the system is aimed at smaller markets such as Latin America, and also as an entry-level IML system for North American customers.
The high-speed label-placing robot is mounted within the gates of the machine, so it takes up less floor space than traditional robots, and it has highly accurate alignment with the mold on the same platen, the company said. Husky's SwingChutes remove parts from the mold and release them into a drop chute.
Husky also launched another in-mold automation device, called SlideChutes, for handling, orienting and stacking lids.
Schad said Husky is picking its targets in the automotive market and will not try to cover the entire sector. He gave as examples Husky's Thixomolding press for running magnesium parts.
Schad also gave a preview of coming events: Husky will come out with a press with a turning mold for large parts. He would not give any details about the mold maker.
In other news, Husky introduced a plant monitoring system called SmartLink, designed for injection molding. Building on Husky's Polaris machine controller, SmartLink integrates process monitoring, data entry, automated graphic reporting, remote access and instant notification via e-mail and paging.
Husky also launched its Flow Simulation Center in Luxembourg, for help designing parts and molds. A team of experts looks at specific part features such as wall thickness, the number of gates, gate location and size, and pressure levels to avoid short shots and problems caused by hesitation of the melt.