Injection molding machinery producer Engel Austria GmbH is well-acquainted with companies active in liquid silicone rubber processing in and around Wels, Austria, as it is headquartered in nearby Schwertberg.
Like the LSR molders and toolmakers in the region, Engel stressed the importance of training apprentices as a measure to compensate for a severe shortage of qualified and experienced staff.
Leopold Praher, Engel's sales manager for elastomer, liquid injecting molding and thermosetting plastics processing machinery, said his company has 50 apprentices.
LSR processors in the area have plenty of apprentices of their own: Rico Group has 25, Elmet Elastomere Produktions- und Dienstleistungs GmbH has 30, and Starlim Sterner Group has 60. Plus, Praher said, Elmet also is renowned in Upper Austria for training staff for other companies, too.
Praher, who has been on the Engel staff for 30 years, talked about companies such as Rico, Elmet and Starlim, which all got their start in LSR toolmaking before adding molding, while retaining mold making as a core competence, too.
"I think they will sometime want only to mold, as there is more money in molding than in tool making with all its more complex problems," Praher said.
Starlim's mold shop, which is exclusively fitted with Engel molding machines, was described by Praher as an air-conditioned facility with cleanliness not far off clean room standards. Aside from having more space in production by placing mixing and dosing units in the cellar underneath the injection molding machines, Praher said it also means more stable processing temperature.
By including camera inspection and control, Praher said Starlim has perfected it all, not forgetting use of computer tomography, primarily in development and prototyping.
"Many companies are trying to get to this level," Praher said.