Makers of optical-disc injection molding machines reported equipment sales, technology upgrades and a vertical expansion in interviews at the Media-Tech Association's 2005 exposition, held May 10-12 in Las Vegas.
Uncertainty about future formats - high-definition DVDs, Blu-ray discs or a compromise - pervaded discussions. Numerous machine makers and replicators are speculating and preparing for a possible market resolution of the current technology imbroglio.
For the first time, a Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd. unit showed a space-saving Thermal Care ICTU thermalator within the footprint of its all-electric SD40E injection molding machine for optical-disc applications.
The compact Thermal Care unit is exclusive with new SD40E machines, said Koichi Kasamatsu, vice president of disc systems with SHI Plastics Machinery (America) LLC in Norcross, Ga.
Kasamatsu said Sumitomo has a global market share of more than 70 percent for machines molding DVDs for pre-recorded and recordable applications.
For its e-Jet molding machine, Netstal Machinen AG has added zones to the mold temperature control system and elevated consistency of the process technology for compatibility with either next-generation format.
During the show, Netstal reported the sale of 14 e-Jet machines, including six to a South American customer.
During 2004, Netstal sold near 400 optical-disc machines, 20 percent more than in the previous year, with e-Jet units accounting for two-thirds of the 2004 volume, said Thomas Robers, Netstal general manager of marketing, sales and application technology.
In 2004, a Singulus Technologies AG unit sold about 500 E-mound injection molding machines as part of its Spaceline and Skyline optical-disc replication systems. About 90 of the Spaceline II systems - each with two E-mound presses and related downstream equipment - were sold in North America, said Neil Brokenshire, president and chief executive officer of the Singulus subsidiary in Windsor, Conn.
Singulus is moving toward the future formats. A new Spaceline II has capability for single- or dual-layer production of read-only-memory DVDs or next-generation HD DVDs. In late April, Singulus with Sony Corp. qualified a Blu-line system, developing prototypes for two methods of applying a cover layer on Blu-ray discs.
Alpha Sweden AB showed a HD DVD-capable Sirius-brand DVD replication line including its revamped hybrid 66-ton Electra injection molding machine. Each Electra uses electric and hydraulic components, has a molding cycle time of less than two seconds and fits in a smaller footprint that a typical all-electric machine.
A Toyo Machinery & Metal Co. Ltd. unit reported the successful installation of two inaugural vertical Disc Box molding machines to replicator Q-media of Vancouver, British Columbia, and the additional sale of four Disc Box machines to a customer in Greece.
Toyo engineers began developing the new fully electric machine in 2002. Each basic unit costs 25 million Japanese yen ($233,700).
A Disc Box has mechanical and process stops and flexibility to adjust the production between a 1.2-millimeter-thick compact disc and a DVD's dual 0.6-millimeter-thick halves without a mold change. One molding machine is deactivated during CD production. Axxicon supplies the proprietary mold with each Disc Box machine.
During 2004, Toyo sold 38 optical media molding machines in the United States and Canada to small to medium-size replicators, said Paul Hebert, a Toyo representative in Gorham, Maine.
Meantime, Toyo has other involvement. In a vertical expansion, M2 Engineering AB aims to deliver commercial versions of its new SQ200 optical-disc production system by August.
Stockholm, Sweden-based M2 and Toyo began collaborating in early 2004 to develop the M2-branded 55-ton injection molding machine using Toyo technology as a basis, said Lars-Gunnar Nilsson, a M2 sales and marketing director.
M2 demonstrated SQ200 production of HD DVDs at the exposition. M2 began as a supplier of optical-disc finishing equipment, expanded into glass mastering units and adds a new chapter as a maker of injection molding machines.