LOSSBURG, GERMANY — Around 5,000 industry professionals descended upon the small Black Forest town of Lossburg in March for Arburg GmbH + Co. AG's Technology Days 2013.
Arburg has been traditionally known as a maker of smaller machines. In the Lossburg factory's heritage center, the reason for this is clear. The company was founded in the 19th century and originally produced surgical instruments. In the 1950s it began to build camera flash units for amateur photographers. Finding that the units were sensitive to variations in temperature and humidity — they were reported to go off without warning in hot, humid climates — the company realized the units needed plastic shrouds to encapsulate the delicate wiring. Unable to find an injection molding machine small enough to make the part, the company developed its own: a simple, hand-operated unit that looked somewhat like an elaborate espresso machine.
From 1952 its future direction was clear: as a maker of injection molding machines.
But now Arburg wants to shake off the “small” tag, eager to demonstrate larger machines, such as the hybrid Allrounder 670H with a clamping force of 2,500 metric tons, and injection unit sizes up to 2100.
At the opening news conference, the company announced its financial performance for 2012, revealing an anticipated consolidated turnover at 488 million euros — an increase of around 4 percent compared with 2011.
Managing partner Michael Hehl anticipates future growth in Asia and South America, with most growth coming from the Far East.
Asked if the economic crisis in southern Europe would affect Arburg's business, Helmut Heinson, managing director of sales, contended: “Well of course, but not to the extent you might expect. In Spain we are keeping sales on previous years. France is fine, the [United Kingdom] is fine.”
Heinson identified the United States as Arburg's biggest foreign market. But he also considered the Far East as having the best potential for growth despite Arburg's machinery being relatively expensive compared with locally-sourced machinery.
The theme of the Technology Days was “production efficiency” with a dedicated exhibition — the “Efficiency Arena” — highlighting efficiency in all the stages in the process, including design, molds, machine technology, peripherals, configuration, process integration, process control and production planning
The Product Design station illustrated the importance of optimizing components from the outset. Working with CAD/CAM partner Men at Work, Arburg demonstrated how computer-based design and production, used in conjunction with injection molding simulation programs and computer tomography, could offer potential savings.
On to Mold Technology, mold-making partner Männer showed how precision, large production volumes and rapid cycles could be combined in a single concept. This was demonstrated with an electric Allrounder 470 A using a 64-cavity mold with near-contour cooling and hot runner needle shut-off system. Part geometry had been optimized for fast, reliable injection. The companies claim the system could make up to 450 million parts per year with a cycle time of 2.2 seconds.
At the Machine Technology stand, Arburg produced a PC valve housing on an Allrounder Golden Edition which it claims can produce 282,000 more components per year than a comparable older hydraulic machine, while consuming 14,200 kWh less energy.
To illustrate Peripheral Technology, partner firm HB Therm showed how increases in efficiency can be achieved by using appropriately dimensioned temperature control devices.
Arburg used the Configuration stand to demonstrate how important it is to make the right choice of injection unit and screw diameter — because the highest energy consumption occurs during plasticizing.
Process Integration was demonstrated by partner firm Zahoransky, using a vertical Allrounder 275 V with a robotic system to overmold injection needles for disposable cannulas for medical use.
Process Control was demonstrated with the production of a business card box in a system monitored with a central Selogica control system. Individually adjusted process parameters and integrated quality monitoring helps reduce cycle time by about 0.5 seconds and daily downtime by 10 minutes in this example.
The Production Planning stand was an opportunity for Arburg to demonstrate its host computer system, ALS. Arburg's experts explained how ALS-organized production compared with manual production. They demonstrated how computer aided-production reduced bottlenecks, improved machine availability (by reducing setup times by six minutes per order) and reducing downtime by three minutes per day.
In the company's Customer Center, Arburg showed over 40 Allrounder exhibits. Highlights included an Allrounder 470 C Golden Edition molding cups from a 100 percent bio-derived PET. Technical managing director Herbert Kraibühler, said that with the bio PET, “we are getting closer to traditional materials, except with a lower melt temperature.”
Also on a bio-materials theme, an Allrounder 370S was making boxes using PLA with a timber fiber content of nearly 60 percent. Kraibühler invited visitors to sniff the boxes — which smelt distinctively wood-like — but noted that there was further development to come as the boxes were too brittle for practical use.
Packaging has been identified as a growth market for the company. To demonstrate this, it showed off an Allrounder 570 H packaging version producing IML food containers in 4.5 seconds, with a material throughput of over 22 kg. per hour. To prove that the hybrid machine was precise in its movements, Kraibühler pointed to the floor and said: “Look! No labels have dropped on the floor!”
The exhibit featured a 2-cavity mold from ATS and used the IML process to produce the thin-walled food containers. The labels and the finished molded parts are handled by an IML system from Sepro.
Media attendees were given guided tours of the labyrinthine Lossburg plant, taking in every stage of the Arburg machines' production and the impressive warehousing facilities and inter-plant logistics systems. There is a high degree of automation. Machine cabinets are cut, folded and stacked on pallets ready for final assembly by co-operating robots. Arburg prides itself on producing the vast majority of its machines' components, including printed circuit boards, in-house. The tour terminated in the delivery hall where machines are tested in situ by the customers to optimize their performance before delivery.
Arburg also used its Technology Days to host their sixth annual Energy Efficiency Award. The 2013 prize was given to AMK, the Kirchheim, Germany-based maker of drive and control technology. Joining previous winners including Tyco and Lego, AMK was given the prize for its use of energy-optimized Allrounders in its own injection molding plant, which is used to make components for its drive technology which, in turn, is used in Arburg's electric-powered machines.