CHICAGO (June 28, 11:10 a.m. EDT) — Wittmann KunststoffgerÃ¤te GmbH is expanding in Austria, Hungary, India and Mexico; opening its fourth U.S. technical center; and introducing new products that include RFID capability for end-of-arm tooling recognition.
Previously, the Vienna, Austria-based auxiliary equipment manufacturer disclosed plans for further growth at sites in Kunshan, China; KadikÃ¶y, Turkey; and Torrington, Conn.
“We are an international company,” said General Manager Michael Wittmann. “Our strength is our presence in so many markets.”
Wittmann attended NPE 2006 in Chicago. Here are the firm's upcoming changes:
c In late summer, Wittmann plans a two-day customer open house for its materials-handling department in a dedicated facility less than a mile from its Vienna headquarters. Wittmann refurbished a 30,500-square-foot facility and relocated the department in October but never announced the expansion. Products include DryMax dryers, SilMax hoppers and FeedMax loaders. The firm invested more than 3 million euros (US$3.8 million) for property acquisition and improvements, including fiber-optic and other communication links. The department employs 50-55.
c The firm is considering more growth in Mosonmagyarovar, Hungary. “The next expansion will occur in Hungary rather than Vienna,” Wittmann said. In late 2005, Wittmann began using an additional 20,000 square feet of space, bringing the Hungary plant to more than 54,000 square feet. The site employs 90.
c Wittmann will open a 5,800-square-foot tech center in Lake Forest, Calif., on Aug. 1. It will employ two, and provide sales, inventory, training and service support to West Coast customers.
c By October, the firm will establish a sales and service subsidiary in Chennai, India, for the many big companies moving into southern India, Wittmann said. Those companies include cellular phone manufacturers. An operation of Mumbai, India-based Larsen & Toubro Ltd. represents Wittmann in India.
c By early 2007, Wittmann expects to occupy a newly constructed 6,900-square-foot facility on more than 7 acres in Queretaro, Mexico. Wittmann has owned the land since 2003 and will begin construction in September. Twenty-five sales and service employees work there. The firm is creating 3,000 square feet for offices, and 3,900 square feet for training and technical centers and equipment inventory. Wittmann began distributing in Mexico in late 1998.
Although moving the material-handling department was helpful, the firm already is running out of room again at its 148,000-square-foot headquarters, Wittmann said.
“I do not understand why,” he said. “We have 20 percent more space (at the additional Vienna building), but there was only a short-term impact.”
The material-handling operation is “now optimized,” Witt-mann said. “In our headquarters, we cannot expand easily, and we could not satisfy the demand.”
Reflecting its global growth, the Vienna expansion took place during the same time that Wittmann set up its Kunshan, China, plant and made the significant changes in Hungary and Connecticut.
In Kunshan this year, Wittmann plans a 22,000-square-foot expansion, the site's third project, which will bring that site to 49,000 square feet. “There is a tremendous need for production space,” he said. “We begin construction in August for operation by the end of the year.”
Wittmann began operating with robots in Kunshan in April, and now has granulators there, and dryers and loaders are being installed this summer. Wittmann employs 75 production workers in Kunshan and may have 100 by year's end. “I can tell China will become our biggest facility,” he said.
The firm also has a sales and service office in Shanghai, China.
c Meanwhile, the firm's newly introduced radio frequency identification concept is “unique,” Wittman said. “No one has used this before. We see many more interesting uses of RFID in our industry,” he noted.
Over a nine-month period, Witt-mann developed the RFID end-of-arm tooling recognition concept, exploring various reader, antenna, transponder and tag technologies. It looks like a capsule and measures 1.25 inches with a diameter of an eighth of an inch and links a tool automatically to a Teach software program, he said.
“We store the Teach programs with the tooling data” so there is an automatic linkage between the software and the tooling, he said. “You still need to manually change end-of-arm tooling.”
Texas Instruments Inc.'s sensors and controls business segment is Wittmann's current RFID technology supplier. There is great potential for different applications, but challenges remain when requirements might conflict, he said.
“If you use RFID for identification of a few items with tags in the stock room, you need a short reading distance,” he said. Use of RFID tags with retail shopping carts requires reading distances of 10-15 feet and more costly antennas. “In our case, we had to find something in between,” Wittmann said. “You need a big reading distance to allow a transponder on end-of-arm tooling, but a smaller [distance] on mounting on the vertical arm of a moving robot.”
Wittmann has other product introductions as well.
c The W702 Series sprue picker includes a vibration-absorbing kick-stroke and a spring-loaded indexing pin for fast removal and precision repositioning along a press center line after a mold change. A pneumatic shock absorber unit on the vertical axis helps achieve vibration-free removal motions in and out of the mold. The W702 has a new microprocessor SA7 control with a graphical screen.
c The W746 robot is designed for fast part removal from stack molds in injection molding machines of 400-1,000 tons. Five high-performance servodrives are standard. Each of two vertical axes offers a payload of 55 pounds. A D-configuration has two identical vertical arms including wrist flips for placement of parts flat on conveyors or for presentation to secondary operations. The model extends Witt-mann's 7-series robot line.
c The redesigned DryMax P15 portable compressed air dryer is 40 percent lighter than the previous version and features a clip-on locking mechanism and carrying handle for use in transfers from one hopper to another. The P15 has a maximum throughput of up to 22 pounds per hour and can dry all types of resins. An operator can select a dry air capacity of 5 or 10 cubic feet per minute.
c The Wi-Connect concept allows a processor to tie together material handling, dryer and robot information systems using object linking and embedding for process control. OPC is a universally available platform for process control. For technical support, Wittmann incorporates OPC in offering remote access and equipment monitoring capabilities for troubleshooting and keeping track of material consumption and machine or device status.
A redesigned just-in-time JIT-2606 loader has a reusable Dutch weave filter for high airflow and more efficiency and an improved Venturi nozzle design. Wittmann said the removable filter provides increased airflow vs. other filter media. The chrome-plated mild steel construction resists corrosion. A hopper mount version is also available.
Globally, Wittmann employs 800, including 280 in Vienna.