With K 2022 closing in on its final days, it's safe to say that, despite the twin challenges of COVID and travel disruptions, the turnout at the show is impressive. And, as always, the KraussMaffei stand is thronged with staff and visitors crowded around the various exhibits.
According to Stefan Fenske, director global application owner IMM, that's not surprising.
"People are keen to meet in person again. It is great to be able to be face to face with people again," he said, during a brief interview with Sustainable Plastics.
His colleague Carl Pöpel, director of global product management, agreed: "People want to get back to normal — which is great. Because we have a lot to show them."
Q: What is, for you, different about this K, compared with previous shows?
Fenske: The strong focus on circular economy, sustainability and climate protection — it is the first time these have been actual K fair themes.
For us, K has always been the show to introduce innovations and new developments and this show is no different, with our introduction of additive manufacturing as a completely new technology. Of course, next to the new product lines, we are focusing on the pain points of our customers, and one of these is energy efficiency and sustainable processing to save as much CO2 as possible.
One example of this is our precisionMolding demonstration, where we are processing a bio-based PE. One tonne of that material binds three tonnes of CO2, so we are even showing solutions with overall CO2 reduction impact.
Pöpel: Also, as we said in the beginning, people are just so very glad to be back, because they — customers and colleagues — missed the 'family' feeling we have here at KraussMaffei. That makes this K special, as well as the fact that it is the 70th anniversary of the fair.
Fenske: As far as difference in attendance is concerned: It is a little less, but very much better than expected, given the fact that COVID made it almost impossible for the Chinese to travel, who tended to be a noticeable percent of our visitors.
Q: Your big news announcement here was your entering the additive manufacturing arena. Why did KraussMaffei decide to step into AM? Why now?
Fenske: We chose to enter this area now because it is time to open up additive manufacturing technology for industrial, serial production. This is our aim. There are a great many solutions on the market for prototyping or to quickly print a mold for testing purposes, for trials. But now it is really moving towards industrialization and mass production.
Pöpel: It is targeted at lot sizes of only one, where it makes no sense to make an injection molding tool. The powerPrint has a build volume of 10 cubic meters and can print items as large as the cast platens we use for our machines in a relatively short time. Big products, highly customized products, or even a big fitting or a one-off design product. It's a niche, as only one or two competitors have this size.
Q: Was the development of the new printers in response to customer demand?
Fenske: Yes, definitely. For us, this is about taking our capacity for productivity, quality and efficiency in industrial plastics processing and applying it to additive manufacturing solutions. Customers are facing increased and rapidly changing demands — faster time to market, lightweight design, individualization — and additive manufacturing can address these demands, filling the void. As one of our colleagues says: Where injection molding comes to an end, additive manufacturing starts.
Pöpel: Right now, we have the three pillars of injection molding, extrusion and resin process machinery, all three of which are supported by our Digital & Service Solutions area, and now additive manufacturing is the fourth one. Adding this to our technology portfolio also means we can advise our customers on the best technology that matches their application.
Q: How long did KraussMaffei work on the development of its new additive manufacturing solutions?
Fenske: Three years. But we always had the K 2022 deadline in sight! Without it, we might not yet have come so far.
Q: How are economic factors such as the cost of energy impacting customers' purchasing decisions?
Fenske: The substitution of older machines with new, way more energy-efficient machines is definitely a trend that we see in the market. In fact, energy-efficiency is a huge topic. However, the rising interest rates and the geopolitical situation in Europe — the huge cocktail of problems we have at the moment — are all very challenging for our customers and this is causing some postponed investments in new machines. We are responding with a strong focus on energy-efficient and overall sustainable solutions. Three years ago, carbon emission reductions were all anyone was talking about. And now, its all about energy efficiency because of the soaring cost of energy, even though basically, it comes to the same thing.
At the same time, we now have a very cost-attractive machine in the electric field: the precisionMolding, our new baby. Customers can now choose between the sophisticated and energy-efficient PX that does everything, and the standard model, with fewer options that requires considerably less investment — and is also energy-efficient.
Pöpel: When it comes to extrusion, our 28 BluePower is the most energy-efficient, premium compounder in the world; it's why we called it BluePower when it was introduced six years ago. But has the highest gearbox efficiency and so on.