DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — Customers are willing to spend more for injection molding machines if the supplier gives them higher technology that can reduce the total cost of ownership, said Christian Renners, chief sales officer of Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery GmbH (Hall 15, D22).
That's a change, and it's happening in markets around the world, he said at Sumitomo Demag's K 2013 press conference on Thursday.
Renners said machinery makers have to develop customized solutions to meet individual customer demands. And customers want energy-saving machines, to help their bottom line as well as the environment, he said.
That's a major strategic focus of Sumitomo Demag, which builds 5,000 to 6,000 injection molding machines a year at two plants in Germany, one in Japan and one in China. The company, based in Schwaig, Germany, employs 3,000 people and racks up sales of about 600 million euros ($825 million), he said.
"Customers expect IMM suppliers to supply high-performance technology, so we need to respond to this," Renners said. "Many customers are, of course, global players, so we have to be a global company."
Sumitomo Demag's K 2013 motto is: "Think green — act blue," a reference to the VDMA machinery trade association's Blue Competence campaign. "We're moving towards more electrical drives or hybrid drives," Renners said. He also pointed out that blue is the company's machinery color.
Renners cited some "megatrends" that signal limited natural resources in the not-too-distant future. "There are studies saying that 20 or 30 years from now, only one out of two people on this planet will have access to clean water," he said.
And climate change is a looming issue, he said.
All those social and environmental changes have a big impact on industry, especially in emerging markets, Renners said. That's a major reason molders in China and other developing countries are looking at high-level machines, especially injection presses, he said.
Consumers also are getting more solid information about the impact of their consumption. Renners showed a slide of a food package with the amount of carbon dioxide used in its production marked right on the label. "This is a very strong trend, and of course it is a plastic part," he said.
At the K show in Düsseldorf, Sumitomo Demag is delivering, showing speed for color changes, fast-cycle packaging molding and the SL plastification system, which works without a compression zone in the barrel. And the company is showing a 9-year-old molding machine that has been retrofitted with state-of-the-art technology.
Here are some highlights of Sumitomo Demag's K 2013 booth:
* The new Systec SP, a 280-tonne model from a new line of packaging machines based on the Systec platform. The "SP" stands for speed performance. The press, with a hybrid drive, is molding polypropylene buckets on a five-second cycle, doing in-mold labeling.
* An El-Exis SP molding caps on a two-second cycle.
* A demonstration of molding a touch display using PET-based coating foils with metallic conduction structures inserted into the mold, then sprayed with acrylic in an IML process. Sumitomo Demag showed in-mold production of touch units for the first time at the Fakuma show last fall.
Andreas Schramm, chief technical officer, said the new touch-screen one-step molding technology is catching on in automotive and consumer electronics. "We see a trend in the market with more and more functional integration," he said.
* ActiveColourChange, which is a pigment dosing system for very fast color changes, The liquid pigment is dosed directly into the metering zone of the injection screw, which is equipped with a special mixing section. The feed zone and the compression zone remain totally free of pigment. As a result, a shorter length of the screw must be rinsed clean during a color change.
* Sumitomo Demag has been selling the SL plastification system to Japan for several years. Now the company is targeting it to the European market. SL allows a low-feed screw without a compression zone. Material feed gets controlled using an upstream dosing screw. The highly controlled operation produces a very homogenous melt, with no variations in viscosity, Sumitomo Demag officials said.
Combined with a switch-controlled non-return valve, this plastification without compression is especially effective for molding high-precision, technical parts and optical parts, which demand a high purity level.
Schramm said about 15 percent of the company's injection press sales to Japan have the SL technology.