ORLANDO, FLA. — Arburg GmbH & Co. KG kicked off its NPE 2015 with details about its new U.S. headquarters offices in Connecticut, as the German injection press builder begins to sell its Freeformer 3-D printer in the United States.
Arburg is running two Freeformers at NPE, Booth W3729.
At a Monday news conference, Helmut Heinson, managing director of sales, said the United States is by far Arburg's largest export market, and the company continues to invest in America. Arburg has an installed base of 12,000 presses in North America.
Arburg will hold an opening ceremony June 16 at its new, nearly 27,000-square-foot North American headquarters in Rocky Hill, Conn., just a few miles from its current home in Newington, Conn.
“The market in the United States continues in 2015 on the same strong level that we have seen in the past three or four years,” said Friedrich Kanz, managing director of the U.S.-based Arburg Inc. “The American economy is very strong.”
Kanz said about 40 people will work at Rocky Hill. The new facility will house a showroom large enough to hold up to seven Arburg Allrounder injection presses for demonstrations, testing customer molds and training. Also at the headquarters: An area for turnkey projects, which Kanz said is a growing market.
The building will have ample space for storing and preparing stock machines, allowing for shorter delivery times from the company's production in Lossburg, Germany. Kanz said it will have a 38-ton crane.
Arburg employs about 35 at its two other U.S. technical centers, in Irvine, Calif., and Elgin, Ill.
Also in Rocky Hill, Arburg will have a Freeformer laboratory with its own “additive manufacturing manager” who has received intensive preparation at Arburg headquarters in Lossburg.
Kanz thinks the Freeformer will sell well in North America.
“In our market, we believe that there is huge potential for the Freeformer in many areas like manufacturing parts and small batches,” he said.
Heinz Gaub, managing director of technology and engineering, said the Freeformers at NPE 2015 are turning out key chains with built-in ball joint, and a flexible bellows from thermoplastic polyurethane — which he said is a first for additive manufacturing.
“The same material you use for injection molding is the material you use for the Freeformer, and that is a major advantage,” Gaub said.
Freeformer can run a range of materials, such as ABS, polycarbonate, nylon and thermoplastic elastomers. Arburg engineers have started to work with polypropylene for additive manufacturing, and are researching high-temperature materials like polyetherimide and polyether etherketone.
The plastic granulate is first melted in a plasticizing cylinder then discharged through a special nozzle generating tiny plastic droplets, measuring just 0.2 or 0.3 millimeters in diameter. It's a form of 3-D, offset printing, Gaub said.
The Freeformer is equipped with a base that moves below two stationary discharge units. Having two discharge units means you can process two materials, or colors, at the same time, including hard-soft combinations.
Working with BASF, Arburg has developed a material for supporting structures that can be easily removed in a water bath, once the 3-D parts are printed. The support structure also can be built of the same material as the part itself, with built-in break points so you can mechanically remove the support later.
Gaub said Arburg delivered the first series Freeformers earlier this month. Last year, the company placed some Freeformers with customers for pilot testing.
Beyond NPE, Arburg will show the Freeformer at the big Hannover Fair in Germany next month, linked with an injection molding machine.
Arburg generated record sales of 540 million euros ($575.9 million) in 2014, up from 2013 sales of 470 million euros ($501.2 million) and its previous record in 2012 of 488 million euros ($520.5 million).
Heinson said incoming orders increased by 15 percent. Arburg exports more than 70 percent of its machinery.
The company makes injection presses with clamping forces from 14-550 tons.
Also at NPE 2015, Arburg is demonstrating long-fiber direct injection molding, where the glass fibers go directly into the injection press. A 440-ton Allrounder 820 S press is molding a lever for an automotive pedal.
In packaging, a 260-ton Allrounder 630 H is cranking out polypropylene lids with in-mold-labeling, on a 3.5-second cycle.
Arburg also is showing a 165-ton all-electric Allrounder 520 A molding medical pipettes, and a 220-ton all-electric Allrounder 570 A molding two-component parts from polybutylene terephthalate and liquid silicone rubber molding.
NPE-goers also can watch a demonstration of fully networked production, called Industry 4.0, linking molding, assembly, laser marking, testing and complete record-keeping and part inspection.