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Golden Electric machine on display at the Arburg hall 22 opening ceremony
In this feature for Plastics News Europe, David Vink reports from Arburg's 2016 Technology Days event on the family-owned group's new production hall and new electric drive machine.
A record 6,500 participants from 54 countries visited the 2016 Technology Days open house at the Lossburg, Germany headquarters of injection moulding machinery producer Arburg in March. Many of the participants attended the official opening ceremony of the new assembly hall 22 in the evening before the event started.
Thorsten Kühmann, managing director of the VDMA KuG association of German plastics and rubber machinery producers, spoke about the importance of family-owned and -run companies such as Arburg to the success of the German machinery industry.
Kühmann said 110 of the 220 member companies of VDMA KuG are family-run. They take the long view and instead of being “concerned about their quarterly results, they look beyond that to the next generation”, he said.
He praised Arburg, which – along with many other family-run companies – did not cut back on staff during the financial and economic crisis in 2008-09, despite a 60% drop in injection moulding incoming orders at the time. It was this approach, Kühmann said, that resulted in Arburg leaving many of its competitors behind when the crisis ended and was followed by an upturn in business.
In his address by video link from the US, Bill Carteaux of the Society of the Plastic Industry presented a global manufacturing competitiveness ranking chart, with China leading, followed by the US, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the UK. But he pointed out that the US is expected to top the chart in 2021, followed by China, Germany, Japan and India, with the UK expected to be overtaken by Mexico by then. The study was made by Deloitte consultants and the US Council on Competitiveness.
Arburg’s new assembly hall 22 adds a further 18,600 square metres production area floor space. Managing partner Michael Hehl put this in perspective by telling Plastics News Europe that the available production area has now reached 165,000 square metres as a result of adding the new hall.
Technical director Heinz Gaub said it has been the rapid growth of business in larger (250-500 tonne) machines that has driven the need to increase production capacity with the new hall. The previous investment in a new assembly hall had been in 2000 with hall 21, which has 22,100 square metres floor space and is equipped with four assembly lines using 88 cranes.
Cranes previously installed at Arburg have not exceeded 20 tonnes lifting capability, so the presence of a number of 40-tonne cranes in hall 22 led to speculation among journalists that this could indicate Arburg will introduce a new larger machine at K 2016, exceeding its present 500-tonne limit.
Referring to K 2016 the day after hall 22 was opened, Michael Hehl said: “The only thing I have to say on this subject is that there is a time and a place for everything. The Technology Days are the Technology Days and the K is the K. And as an injection moulding company, we have to ‘dose’ our information.”
But he continued: “The one thing you can be sure of, however, is that you won’t be disappointed by the surprises we have in store at the K. Anyone who knows us will be well aware that Arburg is always full of surprises – especially at the K.”
Gaub hinted Arburg may use K 2016 to reveal an enhanced version of its Selogica control system, which would overcome Selogica’s drawbacks of lacking hot-plugging and self-configuration capabilities.
At the hall 22 opening ceremony, Gerhard B?hm was introduced as the new managing director for sales, with Helmut Heinson retiring after 11 years in the position. Heinson jokingly made the handover to B?hm by passing on the crystal glass ball that he has used at press briefings in the past to illustrate that business developments cannot always be foreseen.
Heinson and B?hm jointly announced a new Golden Electric 5-point, double toggle-clamping, electric drive machine at the ceremony. Like the Golden Edition series, introduced on the occasion of Arburg’s 50th anniversary in 2006, the Golden Electric is also competitively priced. Heinson said the Golden Edition has been a success story, and accounts for one-third of all machines produced at Arburg today.
There are four clamping forces of 60, 100, 150 and 200 tonnes for the Golden Electric and Heinson said the machine “covers 70-80% of applications”. He described the machine as “a German workhorse for the international plastics processing industry, made by Arburg in Lossburg. It has the same price as an equivalent hydraulic machine and you can order it tonight.”
This is quite an achievement, as electric drive machines have been faced with hydraulic machine prices falling over the years.
Main innovations of the new machine are a central greasing unit and an injection unit that swivels out for ease of maintenance and machine adjustment – a similar approach to that used for extrusion machinery barrels. These innovations mean “the machine is always in movement with little down-time, which means more profit in the pocket”, B?hm said.
Michael Hehl referred to both the Golden Edition and new Golden Electric series as “entry-level” machines with attractive price/performance ratios, the latter machine meeting customer demands for high performance, energy-efficient production of demanding parts.
Arburg put all four sizes of the Golden Electric machines on show running live during the Technology Days open house. For example, The 60-tonne 370E moulded Akroloy ICF40, a 40% short carbon fibre reinforced PA66/PA61/6T blend developed by compounder Akro-Plastic with recycled carbon fibres from, for example, BMW i-series car production.
The black part produced was a standard letter opener, traditionally used by Akro-Plastic to demonstrate its compounds. The letter opener weighed 12g and was moulded in a single-cavity mould with 23s cycle time. The 150-tonne 520E moulded a thermostatic radiator valve cap in Styrolution’s Terluran GP35 grade of ABS, as a part weighing 24.5g, in a 4-cavity mould with 32s cycle time.
Hehl said Arburg does not want the Golden Electric to cannibalise existing Arburg electric drive machines – or the company’s hydraulic machines, for that matter – but that the aim is to “take on additional market share with the new machine series, not just in terms of price, but also technically”.
Gaub said: “As is known, foreign sales account for 70% of Arburg’s turnover and although the US and Japan are markets where customers always bought electric machines for high precision moulding, these have not always been from Arburg.”
Arburg is not seeking to convert customers from hydraulic to electric drive with the new machine, said B?hm, but is aiming at those who have always used electrical drive machines – “that’s where the growth will come for the Golden Electric”, he said. Arburg expects it to become clear in 2017 how much Arburg’s share of electric machines will have been increased with the Golden Electric introduction.
The lightweighting highlight at the 2016 Technology Days was a live demonstration of foam moulding a car glove box cover using the Profoam foam moulding process, developed jointly by Arburg and the IKV plastics processing institute in Aachen.
The glove box covers were moulded in a Krallmann mould partially laser-textured by J & F Kruth on an A630H hybrid drive machine in Covestro’s Makrolon SF 800Z, a 5% milled glass fibre reinforced flame retardant medium viscosity polycarbonate. Covestro showed the part at Fakuma 2015, where it had been moulded in its Makroblend PC/ABS material.
Both examples have featured use of Integrat segmented variothermal rapid heating and cooling (RHC) temperature control from GWK in order to provide high gloss and closely replicated textured surfaces on the one part. As IKV also showed at its biannual Colloquium in February, Arburg demonstrated the effect on the high gloss and textured surfaces caused by switching off the close contour RHC temperature control at one end of the part.
The glove box moulding weighed around 190g and was produced in a single-cavity mould with 60s cycle time. Heinz Gaub stressed Profoam advantages of being able to use a standard Arburg 3-zone plastification screw and the high retention of glass fibre length when processing long glass fibre reinforced plastics.
The weight of the glove box had been reduced from 279g for a compact moulding to 190g with Profoam. The low viscosity of the process helps here by cutting wall thickness down from 2.5mm to 1.5mm, although this characteristic can also be used to increase strength with higher fibre content.
In a Technology Days presentation on latest trends and developments in lightweight construction, Manuel W?hrle, Arburg senior sales manager for lightweight projects, talked about a range of processes, including Profoam, PCIM – particle foam injection moulding, which Arburg also demonstrated at the event – overmoulding organic sheet and the fibre direct compounding (FDC) process that Arburg has shown with PP and PA on previous occasions.
W?hrle gave an example of how using FDC can cut compound material cost to €1.48/kg compared with €2.65/kg for ready purchased 30% long glass fibre reinforced PP compound. He based the calculation on €1.40/kg for PP resin (67%), €1.30/kg for glass fibre rovings (30%) and €3.50/kg for bonding agent (3.5%). He warned, however, that although there are flexibility benefits when the moulder uses FDC, it also takes over responsibility that would otherwise be carried by a compounding company, as “changing the process changes the part”.