Ferromatik Milacron Maschinenbau GmbH's exotic injection press that features a double-turning stack mold with two rotating cubes drew the K show crowds - and signaled that Milacron Inc. is solid after refinancing its debt earlier this year.
The twin-cube press was one of the ``must-see'' machines at K 2004. But Milacron had a broader story to tell. The Cincinnati-based company and Ferromatik Milacron, its German operation in Malterdingen, used K to show off its technology in all-electric machines, large-tonnage presses and high-speed packaging technology. A major theme: the flexibility of Milacron machinery.
Milacron also showed a pre-production model of its new global controller, the Mosaic, which will become standard equipment on all models. Chief engineer Ronald Hertzer said Milacron engineers in the United States, Germany and India designed a controller that uses both a touch screen and manual buttons.
Buttons are associated with machine movements, Hertzer said. That's because when a technician is moving parts of the machine, say the injection unit, that person normally is actually looking at the machine, not the controller. Buttons are easier to feel.
The touch screen is for displaying data.
Ease of use is important. The ``help'' section includes the entire manual and is intuitive. For example, if the injection-unit screen is on display, that section of the manual pops up.
Milacron had a display for the Mosaic controller in a quiet ``inner sanctum'' of its booth. It was the opposite for the double-turning stack mold - which was parked front and center near the aisle.
The K-Tec 250, with 275 tons of clamping force, did it all in one machine: in-mold labeling, molding and then in-mold assembly. Two molds from Foboha GmbH Formenbau of Haslach, Germany, spun hypnotically throughout the show. The packaging product was offbeat - a two-part, two-color lid to hold snuff - but the technology was unique, Milacron officials said.
The twin-cube stack mold has four core sides on each cube, each with 16 cavities. One cube molds the lid while the other molds the body of the small container; both parts are polypropylene. When the mold opens, both cubes turn 90 degrees, moved by servo-electric drives mounted on top of the press.
The cube molds allow for additional cooling. But the real action takes place on the center parting line. When the mold closes for injection and the mold halves come together, a precise mechanical core snaps together the container and lid, assembling the part.
Marc Tesche, Ferromatik Milacron's packaging team leader, said a double-cube press fits well with the trend of convenience packaging. ``Consider the clip-on caps, which are increasingly replacing the conventional screw caps on sports bottles, or the sealing caps on containers for all kinds of body lotions and cleaning agents,'' he said.
Another innovation: the second injection unit is mounted at a 45-degree angle on top of the moving platen. Milacron said it does not actually rest on the platen itself, but rather on a carriage mounted to a linear guide, which is supported by the stationary platen.
Milacron declined to name the buyer. Guess you'll have to visit your local tobacco shop to find out.
In other K news, Milacron:
* Showed a three-color, 880-ton Maxima press with one of Ferromatik Milacron's Monosandwich coinjection systems, molding a large radiator cover for a truck, with a core of recycled PP and an outer skin of virgin PP. A second retrofit injection unit molded-in a sealing lip made of thermoplastic elastomer.
* In all-electric presses, Milacron molded a two-color automotive roller blind on a 200-ton Elektra Evolution. The second injection unit came in vertically. The press at K had the same tie-bar spacing normally found on a 330-ton press - generous, to allow for larger molds. Also, the company said a 33-ton Elektra Evolution for micromolding has a special feedthroat, so it can use standard-sized resin pellets instead of costly micropellets.
* In packaging machines, Ferromatik Milacron introduced new injection units for the K-Tec series. Changes include high-performance hydraulics with a large-capacity accumulator and a much larger valve diameter. The company claims the presses now have about five times the injection speed and pressure of the standard packaging press.
* In big presses, Milacron announced its largest two-platen Maxima press to date, a Maxima 3900 machine with 4,400 tons of clamping force. The company said the press was engineered by Malterdingen and its headquarters plant in Batavia, Ohio.
The new design accommodates two injection units for multimaterial molding with a spinning stack mold. It also can do coinjection.
``The new metric Maximas utilize globally sourced parts,'' said Karlheinz Bourdon, Milacron's vice president for machinery technologies.
Uniloy Milacron has teamed with Kortec Inc. of Ipswich, Mass., to offer coinjection blow molding systems to produce multilayer bottles and packages specifically for the medical/pharmaceutical market.
Milacron sold a new six-shot Uniloy structural web gas-assist unit to Innova Packaging Systems NV of Ieper, Belgium. The mobile unit allows Innova to mold structural web parts on three of its low-pressure, large-ton presses.
Milacron executives outlined their strategy at a news conference Oct. 22. In March, the company refinanced its debt with a $100 million investment from a Japanese bank and a Swiss natural resources group.
Ronald Brown, Milacron's chairman, president and chief executive officer, said the twin-cube press shows the company kept moving forward during its search for new money. ``We've continued to invest in research and development, in engineering for new product development and new technologies,'' he said. ``We've invested over $100 million in the last four years in R&D.''
Brown said Milacron has no major debt due until 2011, and has a strong balance sheet.
Noting the upbeat feeling at K 2004, Brown said, ``Certainly it's more fun being here than was in 2001. All I can say is, what a difference three years makes.'' Milacron said its sales at K 2004 increased 25 percent from K 2001, and its booth attracted 50 percent more qualified visitors.
Bourdon gave an upbeat presentation. He said Milacron produced about 1,400 injection presses last year - 42 percent of those, or about 580 presses, were shipped to the United States. For 2004, the firm expects to produce about 1,600-1,700 machines.
Milacron is preparing to make presses in China this year. ``But the good news is that in all parts of the world, [plastics] shows significant growth rates,'' he said. ``So the growth is not limited to certain regions, but it will be a global growth story that we can expect out of plastics for the future.''