Injection molding machine supplier Engel Holding GmbH's sales in its 2011-12 fiscal year were its highest ever, at 834 million euros ($1.05 billion), an increase of 33 percent from 2010-11 and 133 percent from the recession years of 2009-10.
The Schwertberg, Austria-based company announced the results at a June 13-14 symposium in Linz and St. Valentin, at which it launched several new machines and technologies, including a new concept using in-situ polymerization to produce composite parts.
Asia has been a high-growth market for the company and it is aiming to increase sales in the region from 125 million euros in 2010-11 to 200 million euros in 2015. Engel's investments have led to capacity increases at its plants in Shanghai and Pyungtaek, South Korea.
Other investments in Europe have included 2 million euros at its Hagen, Germany, facility to support rising orders for its robots. This year, the company will also open a technical center in Stuttgart, Germany, at which systems and technologies can be demonstrated to customers.
Opening the two-day symposium, at which Engel expected around 2,500 attendees, CEO Peter Neumann contrasted the group's current high sales with the pessimistic atmosphere of three years ago. In the first three months (April-June) of this financial year, sales have continued to grow, he said.
However, Neumann expressed concern about the continuing economic impact in Europe caused by problems in the financial sector.
“Have we learned anything from the crisis? I personally doubt that, at least in the financial system,” he said.
He was critical of the banking sector's move away from its traditional role of financing trade and investment. Engel has used its own funds to support investments in production capacity and new technologies.
“Engel is a family business and has always been conservative in its financing,” he said.
The fourth generation is now represented by Stefan Engleder, great-grandson of founder Ludwig Engel, and his brother-in-law Christoph Steger. Engleder heads the Engel robotics plant in Dietach, Austria, and Steger became head of Engel's packaging business unit at the beginning of 2011.
Speaking to European Plastics News, Peter Neumann said Engel's continued investment has helped its sales success.
Investment in research and development has included formation of a technical center for development of lightweight composites based at the St. Valentin plant, where Engel makes its large-machine series.
Neumann said a team of 14 people from different departments are working together at the center. He said it is important for the process of innovation to bring these people together in one unified center, rather than having them working in their own departments.
The center will work on composite applications for the automotive sector, Neumann said.
Peter Egger, head of the lightweight-technology center, presented some of the composite production technologies Engel is developing. At the K 2010 show, the company demonstrated its use of pre-impregnated “organosheet” in the injection molding process. Engel is now developing that further with a prototype process that uses in-situ polymerization, dry carbon-fiber fabrics and injection molding.
Egger said Engel's target is to develop “one shot, one part” production of composite parts.
The prototype process was shown in the symposium exhibition, making inserts for brake pedals on an e-Victory 310H/ 310V/120 combi injection molding machine. In the process, a fiber pre-mold is created, which is insert-placed into the mold. This is impregnated with caprolactam by a newly developed, servo-electrically driven, high-pressure, resin-transfer molding injection unit. In the reactive process the caprolactam is polymerized into nylon 6 in the heated mold.
Engel developed the in-situ polymerization technology in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal, Germany.
Engel also launched new machines at the symposium. The company showed the large-scale, electric e-duo machine for the first time, plus a new duo pico machine. It also launched a new all-electric model, the e-Mac, which has been designed as a compact range for precision molders.