NPE2009 could become the greenest NPE yet, as machinery companies promote energy efficiency and energy savings as processors work to squeeze out every excess cost.
A tough economy is driving a new mind-set for processors, according to officials at injection press makers. Another factor: President Barack Obama's stated goal for the United States to be a leader in green technology.
Traditionally in the U.S., electricity costs have been highest in New England the California, so processors there have scrutinized energy consumption of their machinery. The industrial Midwest, which gets much of its power from coal-fired plants, has gotten a break. But that could be about to change, thanks to government regulations of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas which likely would jack up the price of energy from coal.
On April 17, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that carbon dioxide and several other greenhouse gases pose a major hazard to public health. President Obama has proposed a cap-and-trade system to set up an open market so industries could buy and sell emissions credits.
So energy is on the front burner in Washington and it will be a major theme of exhibitors at Chicago's McCormick Place in June.
Even so, many plastics processors historically have viewed energy as a fuzzy part of overhead. David Bernardi of Ube Machinery Inc. (Booth S32039) calls it the psychology of energy. They scrutinize the cost of resin, labor and purchased components but largely ignore energy as a separate cost category except once a month when they pay the electric bill.
But Bernardi and other machinery officials say molders are paying more attention to energy usage. Even though $4-a-gallon gas seems like a distant memory, most businesspeople agree that, over the long term, energy prices are headed in only one direction.
The cost of energy is not going down. It's an ever-increasing cost and you're not going to get rid of it, said Bernardi, senior sales and marketing manager of Ube in Ann Arbor, Mich.
In some areas of the country [energy] is of the utmost importance. However, I think the entire industry realizes the cost of energy is only going to go up, said Bill Duff, national sales manager of Negri Bossi USA Inc. (Booth S50020), of New Castle, Pa. Negri Bossi's new Janus machine at NPE is a hybrid that has one feature that sounds like the brakes on a Prius: A regenerative drive that recaptures energy when the clamp slows down during each cycle, for use later.
Energy savings is a prominent topic for the plastics industry now, said David Purcell, injection molding machinery manager at Wittmann Battenfeld Inc. (Booth S42000) in Torrington, Conn.
Because of the way the economy has trended, all manufacturing costs are being scrutinized, and the ability to save money via energy or any utilities that are used in the manufacturing process are critical, Purcell said. There's definitely a strong focus on saving money in every single cost stream in the manufacturing process.
Friedrich Kanz, president of Arburg Inc. (Booth S46048), agrees. I believe companies have a lot of room for savings, he said. We can cut a lot of costs if we really start thinking and doing our homework, and this energy topic can be really important, he said.
Arburg offers its Allrounder press in all-electric and hydraulic models, as well as a new hybrid, the Allrounder H, or Hidrive, which integrates electric and hydraulic components for energy savings of up to 40 percent.
Machinery executives said part of the problem is the difficulty of measuring actual energy use for individual pieces of equipment. It's sort of a cloudy area where nobody knows exactly what the true number is, Purcell said. It becomes kind of the last thing on the list to scrutinize.
All eleven injection press officials interviewed for this story said customers are more interested in energy-efficiency data when they buy machines. In general, it's becoming a bigger and bigger buying criteria, absolutely, because it's one of the costs that are in the control of the molder. It's something he can actually do something about, said Craig Reynolds, business manager of PET systems at Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. (Booth S36009) in Bolton, Ontario.
But it's not as easy as measuring individual injection presses, he said. You have to look at everything product handling, dryers, heating and air conditioning and more. You have to take a holistic view of it to understand, are you getting any savings? he said.
Husky has made a major push to help customers upgrade productivity and the energy efficiency of older presses with upgrades, Reynolds said.
Of course, when it comes to energy-efficiency claims, companies that supply all-electric molding machines say their presses are much more efficient than hydraulic machines a comment that sparks debate from the few remaining firms that do not offer all-electrics, like Husky and Boy Machines Inc. (Booth S50054).
There's going to be so many more electric machines shown at NPE. The driving factor is low energy consumption, said Tom Geddes, national sales manager for MHI Injection Molding Machinery Inc. (Booth S32060), a Bensenville, Ill., company that sells Mitsubishi presses.
At NPE 2009, Boy will show its new energy-saving E-series presses, with servo-hydraulic motor drives to run the hydraulic pumps. The motor only delivers power to the pump when needed, and then switches off when no pumping action is required. Boy of Exton, Pa., will run parts on a 90E press with 99 tons of clamping force. Boy claims the pump uses 50 percent less energy and the press is 20 percent quieter than pumps used on Boy's standard hydraulic pump.
Boy President Robert Koch thinks industry inevitably moves to becoming more energy efficient, no matter what actions the government takes. Consumers are fickle, but businesses have a different mind-set, he said. Today's economic climate demands businesses to be green and efficient. And so they'll continue to go down that path regardless of government policy and the price of oil.
Are manufacturers acting to help the environment or save money?
In buying machinery, there are different [areas] that a purchaser wants to be satisfied with: Is it helping the environment? Is it helping him make money and is it improving the quality of his part? said Jerry Johnson, general manager of Toyo injection presses for Markua USA Inc. (Booth S18014) of Rockaway, N.J.
Bob Columbus, sales manager at JSW Plastics Machinery Inc. (Booth S52010), said it's pretty cut-and-dried: I don't think green has anything to do with it. It's mostly about being efficient, improving productivity and using less energy.
But Stephan Braig of Engel Machinery Inc. (Booth S24000) thinks all the green publicity has an impact.
You have large companies such as Wal-Mart, which are demanding and asking their supply chain to reduce their carbon footprint. You even see it with some of the automotive companies, said Braig, president and chief executive officer of Engel in York, Pa.
In several states with high energy costs, electric utilities offer rebates for buying all-electric presses. Sometimes the rebate pays the difference between an all-electric press and a hydraulic one, said Peter Gardner, who heads sales of Niigata (S12056) presses for DJK-Global Group in Wood Dale, Ill.
Gardner said energy savings is in the news everyday, from plug-in cars to solar and wind power. It's becoming more of a factor, he said.
The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. will promote at NPE a green future for plastics. An Emerging Technologies Pavilion will highlight energy through the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, along with sustainability, bioplastics and nanocomposites.
There's a tremendous amount of interest in biodegradables, said Paul Caprio, president of KraussMaffei Corp. (Booth S36000). The company in Florence, Ky., is shopping an injection press to a customer for laboratory trials in bioresins, he said.
At NPE, KM will introduce its AX all-electric press, which the company claims cuts energy consumption by 60 percent, compared with a hydraulic machine.
All-electrics now account for about half of the U.S. market for injection presses. But Caprio said energy consumption is just one factor, accounting for around 10 percent of total part costs. KraussMaffei keeps an open mind when advising customers about which type of technology to use.
For example, packaging. We have customers that have proven that the most efficient machine in the marketplace for high-productivity is still a hydraulic molding machine, because you're measuring energy per kilo of product processed, Caprio said.
Braig said Engel has been focusing its product-development efforts on energy reduction in recent years.
We have seen increased interest from the market. We see that the customer today, more so than any time in the past, really looks at the cost of ownership of an injection molding machine, including long-term costs that go beyond the purchase price, he said.