I recently wrote about a revival of injection molding machinery manufacturing in the United States. Now there is good news to report north of the border.
Robert Schad, a Twentieth Century legendary entrepreneur for his founding and scale up of Husky Injection Molding Systems, is off the ground and running with his new machinery startup, called Athena Automation. Schad’s plan to re-enter the injection molding machinery business was first reported by Matt Defosse in Plastics Today three to four years ago.
Schad’s new company is selling hybrid injection molding machines with clamping forces ranging from 100 to 400 metric tons for three markets: PET preforms, medical and packaging. The design of the machines reflects Schad’s decades of engineering experience and personal predilections, such as a strong tendency to “green” features where they make sense.
Key features include:
- Servo-driven gear pumps operate on demand for plasticizing, injection, clamp force build up, mold break, shutter, nozzle pressure, nozzle opening, ejector assist, and auxiliary motions.
- Electric servo drives operate the mold stroke and ejector,
- Conversely, there are no servo valves, which are sensitive and expensive,
- The hydraulic oil tank is small and only requires changes at five year intervals. Interestingly, the machine is slightly elevated to easily reveal any leaks, and for easy cleaning. That’s a real Schad feature – the machine is good and I’m not afraid to make that very visible,
- Power, water and air connections are all at the injection end of the machine base,
And the beauty of the design continues. The hybrid platform has more than 50 pre-engineered options for rapid market-specific customization. A few examples include high-speed side entry robot integrated into machine base, stack mold carrier, dual injection with in-mold assembly, and one-touch auto shutdown and startup.
Of course, Schad has some high-powered development partners. One that has been disclosed is SIPA, which will manage the sales, service and integration of all Athena PET preform machines on an exclusive worldwide basis. SIPA, which is based in Italy, manufactures blow molding machinery. The Athena/SIPA machines will be sold as an integrated set to the PET container market.
Schad, a German immigrant, founded Husky in 1953, and built it into a powerhouse in the PET preform market with rugged, dependable machines loaded with engineering features. He was a pioneer in the stack molding business.
Schad took the company public in 1998, while still retaining 44% of ownership. Stock market types and Schad were like oil and water, however. They wanted short-term payoff; he was always long-term and do it the right way. Schad wanted out and the company went private in 2007 with a friendly buyout from Onex Corp., a Canadian private equity investment firm. Timing of the sale was excellent from Schad’s perspective as the Great Recession clobbered the injection molding business. He pocketed well over $400 million from the transaction and used the cash to start Athena in 2008. Husky now has new private owners, 3,000 employees and sales of $1.2 billion.
Schad held an open house last week in Vaughan, Ontario (near the Toronto airport) to show the world that he is back in action—big time. Don’t be surprised if annual machine-capacity at the facility is at 60-65 units in 15 to 18 months. The first emphasis will be on supplying SIPA.