Kottingbrunn, Austrian-based Wittmann Battenfeld GmbH, an auxiliary equipment and injection molding machine maker, recovered from sluggish sales in the second quarter and is seeing an "incredible" pickup in business despite restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19.
Although 2019 sales are expected to drop by 17 percent to 310 million euros ($364.5 million), the company is growing in certain markets, such as medical and geographies, including Canada, France, Poland, Taiwan and Singapore.
Managing Director Michael Wittmann said he is encouraged by recent sales, during an hourlong virtual presentation on Oct. 7.
"We had a strong first quarter. The second quarter was affected by COVID-19, and then afterward it picked up and now it is just incredible," Wittmann said. "There's a very, very strong recovery in recent weeks — up to the point actually of our best weeks in the last quarter of 2017 or even the first quarter of 2018. The question certainly is how long will this last?"
Demand is stable across all sectors for Wittmann Group except for higher-value capital goods in the automotive sectors. Even so, the company says its U.S. sales are at the level of 2019.
"I believe it is because the medical industry is rather big in the U.S. and this is compensating for the slowdown in the automotive market," Wittmann said, adding he is satisfied with the company's U.S. performance.
"This year will be one of the first years where the U.S. market in revenue is bigger than the German market for us," Wittmann said.
The company, which has 2,250 employees, expects to do some hiring to keep up with demand.
"For the expected turnover for 2021, we do expect an increase because of the order backlog. However, there is uncertainty behind any forecast because of the health situation," Wittmann said. "If there is potentially another lockdown coming, it won't affect the entire world. It will be geographically limited and it might not affect us too much."
The company's product portfolio includes robots and automation systems, material handling systems, dryers, gravimetric and volumetric blenders, granulators, temperature controllers and chillers.
To show off its latest innovations, the company put a spotlight on 11 products, including Ingrinder, an injection molding system for recycling plastic waste that is also energy efficient.
The production cell consists of a sprue picker, granulator and vacuum conveyor. It was developed for machines from the EcoPower series, which has clamping forces of 110 metric tons, and the SmartPower series up to 90 tonnes. These machines are used with molds incorporating cold-runner technology, which produces sprue that must be scrapped or recycled.
The Ingrinder's sprue picker with a swivel drive removes sprue during processing and passes it through an ejection chute to a modified G-Max 9 granulator. A vacuum conveyor then transports the recycled material to the machine's material hopper. A two-component switch enables alternate loading of virgin material and regrind so the materials are thoroughly mixed.
Wittmann Group also showed:
• The EcoPower Xpress, which is an all-electric machine primarily for thin-walled applications in the packaging industry, such as polypropylene margarine tubs. The company showed a video of it equipped with Wittmann's new Sonic 131 top-entry robot, which has an optimized gripper with a removal time below one second.
• The MicroPower 15/10 production cell for medical applications, such as the production of micro parts in a clean room. With 15 tons (150 kN) of clamping force, it was demonstrated producing PC retaining rings with a part weight of only 2 milligrams for miniature tubes. The machine comes with a rotary unit, an integrated robot and a camera for complete parts inspection. Following removal and camera inspection, the parts are transferred to transport containers.
• Liquid silicone rubber application on a servo-hydraulic SmartPower 120. The company says the injection unit in open design enables easy integration of the LSR metering unit. In the mold, the latest cold-runner technology is used, including Flowset needle shut-off control. Parts removal and depositing is handled by Wittmann's W918 robot.
• Updated integrated MES TEMI+ This human-machine interface has new framework technology for production and maintenance planning. The optional IMAGOxt package creates graphs for energy or material consumption.