Orlando, Fla. — ST Soffiaggio Tecnica srl, which refers to technical blow molding in Italian, is rebranding to better reflect the company's manufacturing footprint and growing global sales.
It's not the first name change for the Monza, Italy-based company, which originally was named after its founder Giuseppe Moi in 1950. The switch to ST Soffiaggio occurred after a management buyout by three members of the technical board in 1980.
At NPE2018 in Orlando, Martin Graziadei, a current managing partner, announced the business is now ST Blow Moulding srl. He said ST Soffiagio Tecnica was "a little too difficult" for some in the industry, and he pointed to the business's increasing international presence and expansion plan for its other production facility in Stabio, Switzerland.
"Today, we are a Swiss-Italian company to be precise and now we have only 5 percent of our sales in those two countries, so we are exporting 95 percent to international markets," Graziadei said.
All of Europe now makes up 50 percent of sales for ST's conventional and suction blow molding machines, while North America and Asia are 25 percent each.
"Until recently Asia was growing faster, but in 2018, for the first time, North America will be our strongest market," Graziadei said. "We had a couple really big machines sold here for automotive market. It's an exceptional year with exceptional events."
North American sales were also spurred by specialty applications like toys, patio furniture, sheds, stadium seats and child car seats.
The auto market makes up 60-70 percent of overall ST sales-followed by about 25 percent for specialty products and about 5 percent for packaging and fuel applications.
"Most suppliers to the auto industry use our machines," Graziadei said. "We estimate that in modern cars with turbo engines, every fourth car worldwide uses a duct produced with our machines."
The company's growth strategy calls for an even distribution of sales in the three end markets, starting with the industrial packaging segment, which includes storage drums, chemical containers, and fuel and water management, Graziadei said.
"We hired a team of three experts with long-standing experience and connections in the industry to bring more balance," he added.
ST has been on a hiring spree. The company tripled sales in the last four years by doubling the number of employees, Graziadei said. Machine production increased from roughly 10-12 blow molders a year to more than 30 a year.
ST also plans to double production capacity in Switzerland by moving to a new facility by early 2020.
"The growth is forcing us out," Graziadei said. "Right now, we have 1,000 square meters. We will have 2,500 square meters of production plant and 1,200-square meters of office space."
ST still might set up shop in the United States beyond its local presence through a partnership with ACIS Plastic Technologies, which handles after-sale services and spare parts.
"We're evaluating it," Graziadei said of the possibility of a U.S. site. "If business grows, it could make sense to have a production site in the U.S."
The machine ST is showing at NPE2018 is the ASPI 400.3, which is a 3D suction blow molding machine with a clamping force of 40 metric tons that can produce the turbo ducts.
"The main advantage is the ability to do really difficult, 3D shapes without any scrap material.
"You can have curves without any scraps," Graziadei said. "On a conventional machine, there'd be scrap on the sides, and for this application, that can be really expensive. Some materials are going from 5 euros to 9 euros per kilogram. A really precise machine like this can save 5-10 percent of raw material, and you have a payback in material savings."
The options include Industry 4.0 compatibility, parison marking for quality checks and parts traceability, and predictive maintenance. Other features include new safety devices and an app for remote data monitoring.
"This is the most flexible suction blow molding machine on the market," Graziadei said. "It allows you to run different applications, and you have a higher potential utilization rate. The more flexible you are, the more products you can run."
At NPE2018, ST is producing tennis racquets with a circular face and twisted handles made with the resin Zytel from its partner DowDuPont Inc. The giveaway is similar to the one from K2016, but Graziadei said the resin is new.