One of the best stories at NPE2015 was the resurgence of Milacron, the only American-based manufacturer of injection molding machinery, as well as substantial other plastics processing equipment.
A week after the show, Milacron filed paperwork with the SEC to go public, planning a listing on the NYSE or Nasdaq. It was a sign of the effectiveness of new leadership, the strength of US manufacturing, and the quality of recent acquisitions, such as Kortec and Mold-Masters. One investment source pegged the market value of Milacron at $350 million.
“We used to be like a bad high school band” with everyone playing out of tune, said Bruce Catoen, Milacron’s chief technology officer at a press conference on the opening day. “Now we are well coordinated.” Milacron went into bankruptcy in 2009, a victim of an outdated product line and the great recession. It was purchased by investors specializing in distressed properties and then acquired by investment firm CCMP, which has been investing in the company. The market cap of Milacron in 2008 was below $75 million.
Milacron had the biggest booth at the triennial national plastics show (in fact the biggest booth in the history of the show) and it was filled with innovations across its product lines: injection molding, extrusion, blow molding (Uniloy), hot runners (Mold-Masters), co-injection (Kortec), control systems (CIMCool), mold components (DME), auxiliary equipment, and fluid technology.
One of the show stoppers was its reentry into the PET machinery market, which is dominated by Husky and Netstal. Ironically, Milacron, then known as Cincinnati Milacron, built one of the first PET machines in the 1970s. The new Milacron PET System uses a servo-hydraulic preform molding system.
“We are already performing at industry level, and we feel like we can outperform the current industry,” Richard Sieradzki said in an interview as the machine pumped out preforms with cycles times flashing overhead. Sieradzki is VP and general manager MPET, Mold-Masters. He said the Milacron innovations were carefully vetted to make sure that no patents were infringed. The MPET system combines components across Milacron’s product portfolio: machines, clamps, injection units, end-of-arm tooling, hot runner, mold and robots.
Another show-stopper—and possibly the biggest innovation at this year’s show–was Klear Can, a clarified polypropylene (Lyondell Basel) food container topped with a conventional metal lid. The beauty of the can is that customers can clearly see the product they are buying on the store shelf. And the container does not contain bisphenol A (BPA) which is used in epoxy liners of metal cans. The technology was developed by Kortec, which is now branded as Milacron Co-Injection as part of the company’s new go-to-market strategy.
A barrier, which is less than 0.001-inch thick [0.02mm], is molded inside the PP and covers more than 99 percent of the part. Russell Bennett, director of sales and marketing, co-injection systems, said in an interview that the barrier can be controlled precisely in up to 96-cavity molds. Shelf life is extended by up to five years. The Klear Can is fully retortable up to 130 degree C. Existing downstream equipment can be used for filling, seaming, and retorting. At NPE, Milacron molded Klear Cans in a four-cavity work cell in less than eight second cycles. The cold half of the mold was built by Stackteck.
“The goal wasn’t to develop plastic containers, it was to develop cans,” Bennett said. The cans were developed with input from seven manufacturers. Use on supermarket shelves is possible next year.
Milacron also debuted another technology: the molding of thermoplastic and thermoset material in one machine, a Roboshot 150 LSR molding cell. An E-Multi auxiliary injection unit fitted with an LSR screw is used to mold an auto diaphragm with polyamide overmolded with LSR. The moldmaker is Roembke.
I previously reported on Milacron’s 3D printing demo at NPE2015, in which mold inserts were quickly created for fast turnaround parts.
“We’ve developed more innovation in the past two years than we had in the previous 10,” said CEO Tom Goeke.
Milacron is a portfolio company of affiliates of CCMP Capital Advisors, LLC.