John Galt, the top executive at Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., said a more-focused Husky is well positioned to withstand a tough market for new-press sales.
Husky demonstrated high-speed closure molding on a new HyCAP machine at NPE2009, held June 22-26 in Chicago. Galt said Husky also is expanding its offerings in hot runners, production monitoring and preventive maintenance.
Earlier this year, Husky formally got out of making big-tonnage injection presses for automotive and other large-part molding, to concentrate only on smaller presses for packaging, historically its strongest area. The company also has targeted medical and consumer electronics markets.
Those essential services markets that we're now serving, they're less impacted in a down economy, Galt said in a June 22 news conference.
Galt, president and CEO, said Husky had fiscal 2008 sales of $1.2 billion, which marked the company's third consecutive year of profitable growth. Husky employs 3,300.
Despite the good financial results, Galt said Husky is facing the new reality for plastics machinery: Fewer companies are buying new capital equipment.
About half of the booth is really talking to how our customers can maximize the value of their current investments. What this industry has typically been characterized by is investment based on added capacity, added demand for plastic parts, he said.
Of course, in many parts of the world today, we're not seeing a growth in the demand for plastic parts. What our customers need is to get better efficiency out of the assets that they have.
So the Bolton, Ontario-based company is helping customers improve the performance of existing machines. Galt said Husky has found that, after five or 10 years of operation, an injection molding machine can lose 15 percent of its energy efficiency, productivity and reliability.
To develop its monitoring software, Husky is studying two industries that have experience in predicting and preventing problems before they happen: aircraft engines and locomotives. Husky hired a consultant from the aircraft service business as a result.
The idea behind the study is to merge machine control with close monitoring of the molded part. Galt added that improving spare parts and service is one of the top priorities at Husky. The company will add service vans equipped with diagnostic equipment, tools and parts.
Galt said Husky has maintained its investment spending during the economic downturn, refocusing it into technology for packaging and medical products.
This year, the company will spend more than $35 million in research and development and another $30 million to improve manufacturing and the sales and service network, he said.
More resources are available for those core markets now that Husky has exited large-tonnage machines.
Because of that move, Husky ended manufacturing of injection presses at its factory in Dudelange, Luxembourg, although the facility continues to be its European headquarters. Husky engineers developed some exotic machines, including a Quadloc- Tandem-Index press for automotive, with a revolving mold that could turn out two-component instrument panels or door panels.
Galt, a mechanical engineer and 24-year Husky veteran, admitted they were wondrous machines, beloved by the Husky-ites. We're gearheads at our core, he quipped. But I don't believe the market is at this time ready for that technology, necessarily, or there's a large enough range of applications to warrant the kind of investment in a solution like that, he said.
Galt added that Husky has no plans to re-enter the big-press segment.
Husky has been the leader on high-speed presses to mold PET preforms, so it's only natural that the company expand into a closure press, said Jeff MacDonald, vice president of marketing.
We've really taken a page out of our PET systems playbook and developed a dedicated machine for the closure market, he said in a news conference before NPE.
The HyCap press at Husky's booth, which had a clamping force of 300 tons, ran a 72-cavity mold making closures for water bottles at a cycle time of less than 2.5 seconds. The shorter, lighter-weight caps weighed 0.98 gram.
Husky said that cycle time is a significant improvement over the industry standard of 3.4-4 seconds on a 1.6-gram closure.
Husky designed the HyCap as an integrated system for tight-tolerance molding with faster clamp cycles, features to cut cooling time and tighter integration of hot-runner control.
A lot of the focus was on the entire melt stream to condition and deliver the melt to each cavity of the mold, MacDonald said.
On the HyCap, the company also demonstrated a beta version of a new semi-automated approach to color change.
Husky is offering the HyCap in clamping forces of 248-550 tons.
In another packaging application, Husky molded PET preforms on a 300-ton HyPETpress with a 72-cavity mold, like the HyCap, with cycle time of 5.5 seconds.
In an exhibit next to Husky's, high-speed robot maker CBW Automation did in-mold labeling of a polypropylene salsa container on a Husky HyPAC press.
MacDonald said IML can enhance the barrier properties of food packaging.
There are label technologies that, combined with the right manufacturing approach to applying that label, can improve the barrier layer very effectively and extend the shelf life of that product, MacDonald said.
Galt said Husky is designing technology around specific customer parts: It All Starts With the Part was Husky's theme for NPE. Future machine designs will not fit any industry norm, he said.
We really believe the next generation of improvements in technology will come from looking at the part first and the application first and simply adapting the technology even if it doesn't fit the guise of the traditional injection molding process around the goal of maximizing total return on investment, Galt said.
He also gave an update of operations in India and Russia. Husky has purchased 12 acres of land in Chennai, India, where construction will begin this fall. The facility will handle spare parts and service for injection presses and refurbish molds and hot runners. In Moscow, the firm will support molds and hot runners.
At its NPE2009 booth, Husky:
* Launched the Altanium Neo2 hot-runner temperature controller, designed for fewer zones from two to 24. Husky has packaged the Neo2 features normally found on high-end temperature controllers, such as a large color touch screen, the ability to store up to 24 mold setups internally and to support external storage via a USB key, automatically creating custom control for each zone and the ability to quickly make corrections.
* Doubled the scope of its quick-ship Pronto line of hot runners, by now offering more than 100 manifold layouts. Husky has expanded nozzle options, including Ultra 350, 500 and 750 nozzles. Hot-tip and valve-gate options are available for all three nozzles. Pronto now offers significantly increased flexibility of plate sizes and pitch spacing. MacDonald said customers wanted Husky to offer Pronto for more molding applications.
* Showed UltraSync, which actuates the valve stem for hot runners using a plate, instead of a conventional valve-gate system that fires at different times. This synchronized action eliminates variability, MacDonald said.
* Introduced Shotscope NX, a real-time process and production monitoring system that helps molders characterize and report on statistics on each machine, and over the entire plant. Improvements for the NX version include an enhanced user interface, and Web access to the data.
* Launched the Pro-Act maintenance program that helps keep injection presses running at peak efficiency, over time. Husky offers a standard version of Pro-Act, or company technicians can customize it to specific customer needs.
MacDonald said Husky also is promoting its expertise in factory planning. We talk to customers about the parts and challenges of getting it to the market, at the best cost. We're not only talking about tie-bar spacing and tonnage range, he said.
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