For many machinery companies, K 2010 did not seem like a typical K show, where new technology takes the spotlight. Rather, the main focus seemed to be on the improving market.
But Jean-Michel Renaudeau, managing director of robot maker Sepro Robotique, did his best to buck that trend.
K is not only the biggest show in the world, it also is a show about technology, Renaudeau said in an interview at the event.
Sepro's key introduction was the S5-25 Cartesian beam robot, designed for injection molding machines from 120-450 tons of clamping force. The La Roche-sur-Yon, France-based company, which sells in North America through Pittsburgh-based Sepro America LLC, also showed its S5-35 robot, which debuted in late 2009.
Both robots offer longer strokes and bigger payloads than comparable units, and feature a rigid structure designed for speed.
The S5-25 and S5-35 were displayed in a coordinated picking application that included a machine-vision system. One robot placed parts on a conveyer in random positions. The camera recognized their shape and orientation and the Visual 2 control instructed the other robot to organize them on a second conveyer.
Renaudeau said Sepro is a global company that is benefiting from the trend by molders everywhere that are investing in automation not only to save labor, but to improve quality.
In Europe, he said, the norm at most molders is to have a robot at every press. In other markets, the automation level is rising.
We have many good reasons to be optimistic, Renaudeau said, including the new range of robots, the company's strong position in North America, its fast-growing business in Brazil and its recent partnership with German press maker Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery GmbH.
Under the partnership, Sepro is producing robots specially designed to be sold with Sumitomo Demag machines. At K 2010, Sepro showed an SDR 11 robot at Sumitomo Demag's booth, on a 160-ton Systec injection press.
Sepro is a family-owned company, and Renaudeau said the owners are solidly behind the company's strategy. That helped during the 2008 machinery business downturn, when Sepro's sales slipped 10 percent.
I cannot say it was an easy time, he said. But now we have the fruits of our investment.
The timing of the downturn was painful in North America. In August 2007, Sepro bought Conair Group Inc.'s stake in what had been a North American joint venture. When regional sales slipped, Sepro bore the burden alone.
But now that sales are on the upswing, Sepro is enjoying the improvement, and seeing an improvement in market share, Renaudeau said.
We have a 35-40 percent share of the market in the United States, and that is growing, he said.
About 20 percent of Sepro Robotique's sales are in France, and the company exports the remaining 80 percent. In Europe, Sepro claims a 25 percent share of the market.