Karen Laird, editor of Plastics News Europe, interviewed Darren Whittall, European technical support manager for Fanuc Europe GmbH.
Q: The Fanuc stand at Fakuma has grown again this year. Why the extra space?
Whittall: Fakuma is a very important show for the plastics industry, not only in Germany, but in all of Europe. For years now it has been growing into an ever more international show. In line with this we are also growing our presence. This year, our exhibition space is 240 square meters, and we are already planning for 400 square meters at the next Fakuma. We want to show more of our products and technology and have more space to engage with our customers.
Q: Tell me about the products you are exhibiting — what's new?
Whittall: We are showing our new a-S450iA 450-metric-ton injection molding machine with a 4,500 kilonewton clamping force for the first time in Europe. It has been designed and built based on customer needs and demands for bigger machines. Also, we are showing the Robano a-NMiA as an ultraprecision machining center.
In the plastics injection molding industry, the machine –— with its 0.1 nanometer command resolution — can offer an alternative to the manual polishing of mold inserts. In addition, we are demonstrating the new Euromap 77 interface, which will be replacing the Euromap 63 protocol. It is based on OPC UA, the new standard for communication between machines and other devices and establishes the connection between the injection molding system and the Manufacturing Execution System. Basically, Euromap 77 makes our injection molding machines Industry 4.0 ready.
Q: What kind of advantages does a big injection molding machine like the new 450-metric ton a-S450iA offer?
Whittall: Our customers have been looking forward very much to the release of the a-S450iA. It allows for larger platen sizes and can handle bigger molds with a higher number of cavities. It can be used in a broad range of industries like the automotive or medical industry. As an example at Fakuma, we show a part of an insulin pen that can be produced on our machine.
Q: The Robonano has been available in Japan for some years now. Why are you now bringing it to Europe?
Whittall: After introducing Robonano to the Japanese market, Fanuc realized a rising demand for ultraprecision finishing machinery — coming from Japanese customers but more and more from international customers, too. Industries like the medical sector, watch makers but also automotive have an ever-growing need for extremely precise machines.
After first answering Japanese customers' requests and collecting experience in the very demanding Japanese market, we now feel confident that Robonano will fulfill the high standards of the European market as well.
Q: In 2017, Fanuc opened a European Development Center in Neuhausen. Why?
Whittall: Our company's headquarters are in Japan, but we have been developing products at the request of our European customers for a long time now. Fanuc has always striven to be close to the customers. So it was only natural that we take a part of our research and development activities to Europe.
Q: What are your goals in the injection molding sector in Europe?
Whittall: We want to continually increase our customer's satisfaction by providing them with excellent technology, quality, delivery and service. It is most important to us to build long-term trusted partnerships with our customers and grow together with them in an expanding European injection molding market. To that end, we keep investing in new locations to satisfy our customers in terms of service, technical support and sales.