Heilbronn, Germany — Mechanical engineering company Illig Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with an eye to the future.
The anniversary motto for the family-owned company, which is in the third generation, is "Next 75."
CEO Carsten Strenger and Jürgen Lochner — chief sales officer and chief technology officer — who were appointed managing directors by the Illig and Schäuble families in 2020, said they will continue to align the company with sustainable solutions called for by circular economy principles.
"Illig mold, machine and packaging systems are flexible in terms of materials. They process biodegradable plastics, recycled goods, plastic-cardboard combinations or post-consumer films in a process-safe manner, including pure cardboard applications," Lochner said in a news release.
Illig was founded as a mechanical repair shop on May 27,1946, by Adolf Illig. The shop grew into a company that focused on thermoforming technology and tooling systems for packaging. The company took off in 1956 after building the first Illig UA 100 model vacuum forming machine.
Other developments followed in the 1960s, including the world's first roll-fed automatic vacuum forming machine to produce lids from pre-printed film and the first automatic pneumatic quick-forming machine for combined forming and die-cutting operations.
In the 1970s, Illig expanded the machine program with the first packaging line that integrated the forming of basic packages with subsequent filling and sealing to produce finished consumer packaged goods.
In the 1980s, Illig invented mold tilting technology, which it says created a new standard for hygiene in packaging. The company also developed programs to automatically calculate basic settings for vacuum thermoforming machines for simpler operation.
The 1990s brought in-mold labeling decoration technology and the first fully aseptic form, fill and seal (FFS) machine with a daily capacity of 700,000 yogurt cups — a world record at the time.
In the new millennium, Illig increased machine productivity and the quality of formed parts through advanced servo-motor drives and motion control techniques, which also improved energy efficiency.
In this anniversary year and beyond, new developments are expected to set milestones in the thermoforming industry, company officials said.
"Challenges stemming from worldwide uncertainty in the markets due to the ongoing plastics discussion and the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic are well known," Strenger said. "It's a matter of being highly flexible and strategically focused in responding to customer requirements derived from these global market realities."