Düsseldorf, Germany — WM Thermorforming Machines SA officials say they developed a way to make it easier for packaging processors to use their existing molds with the Swiss manufacturer's latest machine.
Founded in 1981, the Stabio-based company, which serves mainly the food sector but also the medical and custom packaging markets, has been focused on the interchangeability and adaptability of molds so businesses that want to transition to its technology can do so without a big investment in tooling, WM Sales Director Luca Oliverio said at K 2019.
WM's research and development led to the launch of the Flex 92, which ran a mold at K 2019 made for a competitor's thermoformer, Oliverio said. The machine is "universal," he added, saying it is the only thermoformer able to fit almost all steel-rule knife molds, which can save processors hassle and money when it comes to investing in new technology.
The few exceptions would be molds from start-ups or companies that are closing, Oliverio said. For "historical and well-known suppliers," the machine can use all their molds, he added.
"In the steel rule die application, nobody has done this kind of developing in order to create a flexible thermoforming machine for extensive mold matching," Oliverio said.
Seventeen months ago, WM officials were in the discussion phase about the Flex 92, he added. Four months ago, the first one was delivered. It was purchased in June 2019 by a toolmaker who tested it on a variety of molds provided by WM customers. This is how the machine builder studied and fine-tuned the technical aspects of using molds originally designed for other brands of thermoformers.
The machine meets the needs of processors who have wanted to add WM thermoformers to their packaging manufacturing sites but were deterred by the high cost of buying new tooling, Oliverio said. The Flex 92 is particularly suited for processors who want to change machine suppliers without investing in mold changes as well as processors that want to receive molds that are the property of their final customer, Oliverio said.
In addition, mold makers can use the Flex 92 to test molds internally.
WM officials are "satisfied" with the Flex 92's reception a K 2019 and may add to the series, according to the sales director.
"If the market will adopt our solution, we will create a dedicated series," Oliverio said. "We are always listening, evaluating and improving."
WM's machines are recognized for having reliable cutting stations and the Flex 92 is no different, according to Oliverio.
"A good cut means less problem in stacking and higher real productivity," he said. "The Flex is the evolution that is increasing our existing high-level cutting performance."
The new machine is flexible because of a "wide shut height regulation and a common electrical table where it's possible to connect plug assist, clamping frame or ejector movement connecting rods in different positions. That is the core of its adaptability," Oliverio said.
In the last two years, WM says it also upgraded the tilt-bed machine it showed at K 2016, Twist 700, with a plug assist force that enables thicker products and better cycle times. Nine have been sold and installed since the machine, which has a stacker and mechanical cams, came out three years ago, according to WM.
To increase sales in the U.S. and Canada, WM entered into a strategic partnership with Hyannis, Mass.-based SencorpWhite in September. The companies say the strategy combines leading technology with local market expertise and service.
Sencorp gets to extend its portfolio for thermoforming technology and WM gets a partner that has done business in the two countries for more than 70 years and has annual sales of about $25 million.
Founded in 1947, Sencorp has about 500 employees producing thermoforming machines and automated systems for storing, packaging, sealing and retrieval.
Sencorp will sell the Swiss technology in the U.S. and Canada under the co-branded name WM Thermoforming Machines-Sencorp.
The company says the new Flex series and tilt-bed thermoformers cover the needs of the food, industrial and medical packaging markets while the Twist series fulfill market requirements for high-volume dairy products, coffee capsules and cups.