Saline, Mich. — R&B Plastics Machinery LLC has entered the market for all-electric shuttle extrusion blow molding presses through a strategic partnership with machinery companies in Taiwan and South Africa, and the top R&B executive plans to push the all-electrics hard in 2019.
Fred Piercy, president and general manager of R&B, came to the Saline equipment company in 2014 after spending more than 20 years at blow molders Amcor Rigid Plastics and Amcor's U.S. predecessor company, Johnson Controls Inc.
"Coming from the consumer, the operator and the buyer of the machinery, if we never had to buy another hydraulic machine in the blow molding business, we probably wouldn't. It's that advantageous," Piercy said. "Aside from the [lower] electrical cost, it's the cleanliness of the machine, the repeatability of the machine. If you didn't have to have a hydraulic machine in that business, you probably wouldn't. Especially where you get around medical or food applications, all-electrics are the way to go. You just don't have the worries."
R&B is partnering with Sika Machinery Co. Ltd. of Taichung, Taiwan, and Seecor Blowmoulding Systems and Solutions in Cape Town, South Africa. Sika builds the components for the blow molding machines and does some pre-assembly, and ships the presses to R&B for final assembly and customer trails, Piercy said during an interview in Saline.
R&B did the engineering of the machines with Sika. The presses will be branded and sold as R&B machines, and R&B will handle sales, service and parts. The all-electric presses are equipped with Siemens controllers, and they meet U.S. standards for blow molding machines.
The deal covers North America.
As of mid-December, R&B had sold two fully-electric presses to U.S. customers, Piercy said. He declined to identify the customers.
At company headquarters, R&B is displaying a demonstration all-electric blow molder, a 650-millimeter stroke, dual-sided shuttle machine. The press is running bottles on four parisons with a 125-mm spacing between each parison. The full range covers all-electric shuttle presses ranging from 350-1,250 mm strokes, in both single- and double-sided configurations.
Piercy said all-electric machines make R&B more of a full-line supplier. R&B builds new blow molders and trimmers and single-screw extruders, as well as rebuilding and refurbishing blow molding machines. Up until now, Piercy said, R&B only offered traditional hydraulic extrusion blow molding machines. He said the Taiwanese machines have a lower price point, also making them competitive with rebuilt, used blow molders.
"We're doing the best of both worlds, because we're going to find a very competitive scenario, yet you're going to get the quality and support that you get out of a North American manufacturer," he said.
For the all-electric line, R&B is targeting its current markets, including automotive additives packaging, chemicals and household and personal care products.
As another diversification move, Sika also is supplying accumulator-head machines to R&B. Piercy said the company does rebuild accumulator-head blow molders, but until now, did not have a new-press offering in that segment.
The strong automotive market fueled accumulator-head sales, but as that has tapered off, the sector is still seeing demand for recreational and household applications, Piercy said.
"We've got several very, very positive leads and opportunities we're working on with some customers," he said.
In the partnership, Seecor of South Africa is R&B's technology partner. Seecor Americas, based in Saline, is run by a familiar machinery name: Joe Spohr, a former executive with Graham Machinery Group. According to Piercy, R&B worked with Seecor a few years ago when R&B developed an injection blow molding machine for small bottles. The company worked with Seecor to sell an IBM press into South Africa.
Seecor had a long connection with Sika in Taiwan, a manufacturer of blow molding machines that had sold presses to Asia and Australia. Robert Chang founded Sika in 2000, after years of experience in the blow molding industry.
Piercy said he has wanted to expand into new technologies since taking the helm at R&B Machinery.
"This partnership will result in the development of a new series of machine platforms that will incorporate R&B technology, engineering and know-how," he said. "This business arrangement will significantly expand our machine portfolio and enable us to compete with larger rivals, particularly in the all-electric market."