Thermoforming machinery producer Illig Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG has officially opened its new 7 million euro ($10.2 million) customer center at its headquarters in Heilbronn.
Managing Director Karl SchÃ¤uble said the center which opened the week of Sept. 21 will ensure the family-owned company is able to continue to support and develop thermoforming systems in the highly competitive packaging marketplace.
If a thermoforming machine fails, the next yogurt cup will be an injection molding, he said.
While there has long been competition in the packaging sector between thermoforming and injection molding, SchÃ¤uble said recent declines in automotive and other technical injection molding markets mean injection molders are especially keen to look at thermoformed packaging.
Illig itself has not escaped the impact of the global financial crisis.
SchÃ¤uble said a five-year period with an average 4 percent year-on-year growth came to an end for the company in April 2008, when order intake slumped. Orders for the full year were down by 30 percent.
While the business situation has stabilized in 2009, SchÃ¤uble said, it has been necessary to introduce short work schedules at Illig's plant.
Companies would like to invest in modern machines, but finance is lacking, especially in Eastern Europe and the [Commonwealth of Independent States], he said. But there are some signs of a possible pickup in business, especially outside the European Union area, he said.
With the average age of installed thermoforming machinery estimated by Illig at around 20 years, there are compelling reasons for packaging producers to consider new investments, SchÃ¤uble said.
Aside from potential productivity gains, the new third-generation Illig machines can provide a 25 percent reduction in energy consumption, and up to 10 percent reductions in material consumption on round products, the company claims.
Illig and its competitors have made the move to servo-electric drive technology, and SchÃ¤uble sees potential in the future to make use of technologies such as regenerative braking on the vertical machine movement to generate electricity.
Speed is itself an energy-saving feature in the thermoforming sector, he said, pointing out that because the sheet is heated in an open environment, The faster you run, the more effective the energy use.
Six of the nine machines at the Illig customer center opening were third-generation models, running at speeds of up to 55 cycles per minute using amorphous PET, recycled PET and poly- propylene materials to make various food and beverage trays and cups.
New features on Illig's latest machines include separate supply of forming air to each cavity, savings in the volume of forming air used, and simultaneous cavity filling.
Close contour cooling makes it possible to run with water at 65°F instead of the usual 46°F, saving energy, while improved process control makes it possible to move material from the lip into side walls to enhanced strength and save material.
The company demonstrated its in-mold labeling system on an RDM 54K machine producing a rectangular PP yellow fats tub.
Also at the opening, Illig demonstrated its Thermoline monitoring and control system, which can link together individual machines.
That will be a major focus of Illig's exhibits at the 2010 K show in Dusseldorf, Germany.
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