Injection press maker Engel Holding GmbH continues to invest in North American technical centers and push new technologies despite the region's weak market for industrial machinery, officials said at NPE2009.
A big reason: With a North American market share of only 12 percent, Engel has a lot of room to grow, said Peter Neumann, CEO of the company based in Schwertberg, Austria.
Engel has a 27 percent share in its home market of Europe, where Neumann said the company probably will top out at 30 percent.
The U.S. market for injection molding machines has dwindled to 2,444 presses in 2008. That's less than half the level of a decade ago.
This year, Engel has opened a technical center in Corona, Calif., to serve the western United States and parts of northern Mexico, and broken ground on a sales, service and technical center in Querétaro, Mexico.
Neumann said North America remains an important market.
We see our chances now. We are investing at this time, preparing ourselves for better times, he said.
Even in the very, very depressed and difficult time for all machinery manufacturers, we have invested a lot. And that's one important message: Engel is able to still invest in new technologies, even in such hard times. The message also is: Engel is a stable partner for the future, Neumann said.
The facilities help Engel get closer to customers, said Stephan Braig, president of Engel Machinery Inc. in York, Pa.
It's one thing to talk about technology. It's another thing actually helping our customers implement it. That's really the primary reason to invest in these tech centers, he said.
Engel is family owned a fact that Engel executives promote, especially in these economically uncertain times. Engel officials outlined the company's overall strategy and products at a press conference during NPE2009, held June 22-26 in Chicago.
In Chicago, Engel focused on energy savings where it showed four all-electric molding machines and introduced the Ecodrive technology on its midsize two-platen machine, the Duo Pico. A Duo Pico with 550 tons of clamping force molded crates at Engel's NPE booth.
Engel also showed an energy calculator, available as an option on its CC200 A02 machine controller.
During machine setup, the software helps you choose machine settings for the most energy-efficient operation, calculated based on individual settings like clamp motion, injection, cooling and part ejection.
NPE2009 marked the global introduction of the energy calculator software, which Braig said can give energy savings of 15-25 percent versus setups by technicians working without it.
On all-electric presses, the calculator measures torque in the motors that drive specific functions. On hydraulic machines, the software measures flow and pressure off the hydraulics, he said.
Braig said manufacturers are scrutinizing all manufacturing costs, including energy consumption. As a technology leader, we have designed machines and systems to offer considerable energy savings, as well as flexibility and performance, he said.
The Ecodrive is a hybrid injection press that provides energy savings similar to an all-electric machine, according to Engel. It features an all-electric injection unit, with servomotors to run molding pressure, screw rotation and injection stroke. A smart hydraulic pump runs the platen movement, nozzle contact force and core pulls.
The hydraulic pumps are run by a servomotor and only operate when the machine needs hydraulic power. So during injection, that pump shuts off, Braig said. We really feel that we have the best of both worlds here.
Ecodrive is not a new technology: Engel introduced it more than 10 years ago, before energy savings was such a hot topic. It's a revival of the technology, now that everybody is talking about this and using it, Neumann said.
Engel demonstrated core-back expansion molding on a 1,000-ton Duo two-platen press, under a partnership with Trexel Inc., which supplies the MuCell process. The press molded prototype door panels from long-glass-filled polypropylene. Other core-back MuCell applications include automotive dashboards and pillars.
The combination of MuCell and core-back molding can reduce part density and weight and still make a stiff part. Lighter weight is an important feature, as automakers are under pressure to boost fuel efficiency, Engel said.
Engel has the core-back machine at its technical center in York, where the company has run more than 20 sample projects during the past year for Tier 1 automotive suppliers and custom molders, according to Jim Moran, vice president of North American sales.
Electric machines also dominated Engel's NPE booth.
A 420-ton E-motion press molded closures on a 72-cavity mold running a 5-second cycle.
Also, a 110-ton E-max press molded medical pipettes on a 32-cavity mold on 6-second cycles. The parts are extracted by a side-entry robot, inspected by a vision system and deposited on racks, all sorted by cavity.
Engel said high-speed injection is needed, since the pipette tips have extremely long and thin mold cores. E-max presses maintain high injection pressure. The E-max medical application is equipped with Xaloy's nXheat induction barrel heating, for energy savings and better temperature control than conventional heater bands, according to the company.
Engel also showed liquid silicone rubber molding on a 110-ton E-Max machine.
Engel also launched its own version of the cash for clunkers program.
Engel is offering an incentive to buy new machines that's borrowed from the auto industry: From now through Sep. 30, if you buy a new Engel and scrap out an old machine, Engel will give you a $5,000 bonus.
Braig said Engel wants to encourage molders both to upgrade their fleets and to boost energy efficiency.
He said U.S. molders also can take advantage of the bonus depreciation tax incentive to buy new machines and in some regions utility company rebates for energy-saving machinery.
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