Competitors are closely watching one of the biggest machinery stories of 2008 Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. has stopped actively producing large-tonnage injection presses, to focus only its core strength of packaging and PET preforms.
Machinery executives interviewed at Fakuma 2008 said the news will break two ways. It removes a competitor for large presses for markets like automotive. On the other hand, Husky can concentrate fully on packaging, making it even more formidable.
``It's definitely an opportunity for us,'' said Dietmar Straub, chief executive officer of KraussMaffei AG of Munich, Germany, and a player in large-tonnage machines.
Husky holds more than 50 percent of the market for PET preform molding machines. The Bolton, Ontario-based company also is a major producer of preform molds.
Husky founder Robert Schad launched a diversification move in 1997 to transform Husky into a broad-line supplier of machines citing as a major reason competitors crowding into the PET business. Schad sold Husky in December to Onex Corp., a Canadian private equity company. Now Schad's strategic decision has been effectively reversed.
Netstal-Maschinen AG stands as Husky's biggest competitor in PET and thin-wall packaging machines. Bernhard Merki, Netstal's president and chief executive officer, said the foray into automotive and other large-press markets did not mean that Husky lost focus on packaging.
``This is not really changing the entire picture,'' Merki said. ``The point is that, we are still growing in PET, due to the fact that many of the worldwide PET producers are looking for an alternative to the market leader. We get this benefit. Big companies like to have more than one supplier and that's positive for Netstal.''
Netstal is based in NÃ¤fels, Switzerland.
Neither Netstal nor Husky displayed any PET preform machines at Fakuma Husky, in fact had no machines at all in its booth. But Merki said Netstal is in good shape, with three PET-press platforms covering all major mold-cavity requirements, from 24 to 192. ``We have really today a very competitive offering. And we are profiting from this,'' he said.
Several companies got into PET preforms in the late 1990s but unlike Netstal, they never made a serious dent in the Husky juggernaut. KraussMaffei unveiled its PETForm machine at the 1998 K show in Germany. Straub said KM today only makes a few preform machines a year.
Niche player Arburg GmbH + Co. KG of Lossburg, Germany, also sells just a handful of PET presses.
``As we see the market, Husky and Netstal are the main players,'' said Helmut Heinson, Arburg managing director of sales.
Engel Holding GmbH launched the MacPET preform press in 2003, after serving as the exclusive supplier of presses to blow molding machine company SIG Corpoplast.
``We're still making PET machines, but I have to say it was not as successful as we expected,'' said Peter Neumann, chairman of Engel's managing board.
``We have a very wonderful injection molding machine in PET, but what we really see is that Husky has the advantage, with having the molds in-house. They have a system competence which is good and excellent.''
Engel sources its preform molds from Mold & Hotrunner Technology AG in Hochheim, Germany.
``Our goal would have been really to be stronger [in PET preform machines], but we didn't reach the goal. Netstal reached the goal.''
But Husky leaving big machines is good news for Engel, which has several projects in autoglazing and other large-tonnage auto applications.