Plastics processing equipment manufacturer Wittmann Group has seen a long-held wish fulfilled this year at K.
The company has successfully acquired more meters and a different location for its automation exhibits and is now amply represented with a technology stand (F23) in Hall 12, the Wittmann Battenfeld booth (C06) in Hall 15, exhibits at the VDMA Circular Economy Forum, not to mention two machines on show at the stands of partner exhibitors. Injection Mold Making
With seven production cells running in Hall 15, another two at the VDMA Circular Economy Forum and more than 60 exhibits including five robots on the expanded technology stand in Hall 12, Wittmann is offering a comprehensive overview of the range of its portfolio of technologies.
The company, said Michael Wittmann, president of Wittmann Group, speaking at a news conference just before the show, has also expressly aligned the focus of its exhibits with the main themes of the show: sustainability, the circular economy and digitalization.
"For us, these three themes are very important and very many of the developments over the past couple of years have been in this direction," Wittmann said.
This K show is taking place under wholly different conditions compared with K 2019.
"In the first place, visitors and exhibitors are unable to attend from certain regions of the world, which means that the number of visitors from Asia is much lower. In fact, in advance I expected total attendance to be down by around 30 percent, so it remains to be seen what the final numbers will be," Wittmann said.
"However, K is still a good platform to meet important customers and to have discussions with them, and we are excited to present our exhibits here."
And while in 2019 the main geopolitical disquiet in Europe resulted from the protracted process of Brexit and the uncertainties this was causing, in 2022 the war in Ukraine and concomitant increase in material and energy prices have played havoc with the order intake. In the fiscal year 2021, the group realized €376 million in sales, the third-highest figure in its corporate history, while the order intake figure also reached an all-time high.
"This year, we saw a very good and really a consistent order entry until July, August, which started to slow in September and continued to do so into October," Wittmann said.
He expected sales in 2022 of between €360 million and €380 million, but this was directly dependent on material and parts availability — "the most pressing issue we are facing."
However, the current very high number of orders in backlog means that any impact of a slowdown will not be felt until around mid-2023, he added.
"There are so many uncertainties that we are not able to give you any kind of forecast for next year, what with all the talk of recession and stagflation in some countries. I would say that, if we reach the level of this year — because of the huge backlog that we will be carrying into the new year — it would be a big success; but most likely it will be a little bit less."
It is also the first K at which the group is exhibiting under the Wittmann name alone, without the Battenfeld brand — a deliberate choice aimed at presenting the group as a single company and a one-stop shop. The name change has been gradually implemented across the group since Jan. 1, and it is now complete. The change is one of branding only: the Battenfeld name continues to figure in the company names where it is used. Previously, the Wittmann name was used for auxiliary and robotics products, while Wittmann Battenfeld applied to injection molding machines and injection molding processes.
The new branding strategy highlights the significance of the injection molding machine for the future development of the company, Wittmann said.
The strategy is reinforced by the company's tagline at the show: "It's all Wittmann."
"I think the message towards the customer is quite clear," said Michael Wittmann.
Since last year, the Wittmann Group has embarked on several new construction projects, both with the aim of expanding existing facilities as well as adding new ones. In Kottingbrunn, the construction of a new hall added more than 3,000 square meters of floor space. It houses a fully automatic pallet shelf warehouse with 1,700 storage locations, an assembly area for large and vertical machines, as well as a new electrical workshop. A 1,604-panel solar power system is being installed on the roof, with a total capacity of 651.8 MWh per annum.
Wittmann Technology, the group's research and development facility in Vienna, was extended, while investments were also made in the technical labs at Meinerzhagen and Nuremberg, Germany.
In the U.S., a major investment project is underway at Plant 1 in Torrington, Conn., which will see the addition of 1,000 square meters for automation systems and complete injection molding cells. A solar power system consisting of 539 panels and a total annual capacity of 322.9 MWh is also planned, as are further expansions at the neighboring Plant 2.
The group is also building an entirely new facility in Poland, close to its existing site; a new robot plant at Mosonmagyaróvár in Hungary, which is scheduled for completed by the end of 2022; and a new plant in Törökbálint, also in Hungary, for sales, service and training.
The array of exhibits brought by Wittmann to the show is impressively extensive, ranging from a new granulator series; a new virtual device operation concept dubbed Holoverse based on Microsoft's Hololens; and a thin-wall injection compression molding process that allows for the production of extremely thin, precisely reproducible wall thicknesses and the accurate reproduction of surface structures that the company is demonstrating with a coffee cup application.
Truly innovative is the development of technology allowing the machine to run on solar power, which the company is showing at K 2022 on a new, all-electric EcoPower DC 180/750+ molding machine. The machine is equipped with a Wittmann WX 142 robot, which draws DC power directly from the molding machine's intermediate DC circuit.
Developed in collaboration with Wago, it allows the continuous current generated by solar cells to be used directly for driving injection molding lines, without loss by first passing through inverters, transformers and high-voltage power lines. The concept not only enables energy costs to be kept down by direct use of solar electricity, but direct current is also easy to store in conventional batteries, said Wittmann, thus providing an excellent way to handle current peaks.
Another advantage is that the inherent synergies between energy storage device, energy consumer and energy generator, even complete power failures, can be bridged within a DC grid for a certain length of time. This would ensure, for example, that production could be maintained even at locations with an unstable power supply, preventing unplanned production standstills and reducing energy losses caused by otherwise unavoidable power conversions and transfers.
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