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Keywords of this article:  automotive 
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Mr Luca Moltrasio, Managing Director (left) and Mr Martin Graziadei, Managing Partner at S.T. Soffiaggio Tecnica S.r.l.
Mr Luca Moltrasio, Managing Director (left) and Mr Martin Graziadei, Managing Partner at S.T. Soffiaggio Tecnica S.r.l.

Blow-molding machine manufacturer S.T. Soffiaggio Tecnica s.r.l. is leveraging its constant R&D efforts and its strategy to become more localized in emerging major markets to seek a 30% increase in sales in 2018, AdsaleCPRJ was told at CHINAPLAS 2018 in Shanghai.

A 150.3 version of 3D suction blow molding machine under the ASPI series was displayed in the company’s booth at the show. Two demonstration sessions producing air ducts with DuPont’s Zytel BM74G18HS BK553 (PA6/66+GF18 alloy) were conducted daily during the four show days.

The main application of 3D suction blow molding machines is in the automotive industry,” said Martin Graziadei, a Managing Partner of the Swiss-Italian company, emphasizing that the company has put a focus on promoting this type of machine to the markets in Asia where there is a huge automotive industry. Some machines are being used in the white goods industry.

Mr Graziadei noted that the general automotive trend towards lightweighting, and hence the more utilization of plastics in car manufacturing, has resulted in an increase in the demand for the technology.

I would say that this trend started in Europe 15 years ago. It has also been evolving in the US and Asia since 1-3 years ago and is now gaining momentum,” he explained. “This is the main trend and we can therefore see an increase in demand from countries like China, Japan and Korea, and those in North America.”

3D suction blow molding also helps save materials thanks to its high precision and high production efficiency in the usage of raw materials, particularly high-tech materials such as PA.
The 150.3 version of 3D suction blow molding machine under the ASPI series displayed at CHINAPLAS 2018.
High-tech materials are very costly, going from 5 to 9 per kilogram. With this machine, you transform about 1.5-2 million worth of raw materials each year. So if you have the possibility with a precise machine to save raw materials, you’ll have an important, additional return on investment from such machine,” commented Mr Graziadei.

As an updated version of the previous model shown at CHINAPLAS two years ago, the ASPI 150.3 version features various innovations that were developed since then through its partnerships with clients, raw material producers, service providers, and alike.

These include: a smart heating control system to reduce energy consumption by heating up different machine components at different times during the same period of heat-up time; a user-friendly, interactive control panel to provide an easier way to operate the machine, hence reducing the demand for labor supply and capacity; the W-Print parison marking system which can “write text” on the parison for enhanced traceability and quality control; the availability of a ghost ink which allows marked characters to be visible only under the illumination of a UV lamp; and the quick login with RFID feature for easier login by operators, for limiting operators’ access to the machine according to their competence and for better tracing of problems happening on the machine.

We also have new developments for Industry 4.0,” emphasized Mr Graziadei, who asserted that Industry 4.0 is “a big thing”. According to the Managing Partner, all machines of S.T. Soffiaggio Tecnica have become Industry 4.0 ready, with a higher capacity to collect data from the machine for analytics use and hence achieving a more efficient use of the production capacity.

For example, all of our machines can be linked to an app which we developed and which can be downloaded on your computer and portable devices so that you can have instant, constant control of what all different machines are doing. You can also collect production data over the last day, month or year so that you can analyze and have a better control of your production capacity,” said Mr Graziadei.
The 3D suction blow molding machine demonstrated the production of air ducts using DuPont’s Zytel BM74G18HS BK553 (PA6/66+GF18 alloy).
According to him, S.T. Soffiaggio Tecnica’s machines can also give warnings to users when the machine performance drops to below a certain level so that maintenance can be better scheduled and unexpected downtime can be avoided.

The Managing Partner also observed the trend of reducing human operators.

Maybe 10 years ago you had one or two operators running one machine. The trend goes towards one operator running 4 or 5 machines and probably, sooner or later, the goal will be to have as limited operators on the production process as possible,” explained Mr Graziadei. “We have seen a couple of our clients that have almost completed the automatization of their production process. We have also seen factories with maybe 5-10 employees operating 20-30 machines. I would say that both our blow molding segment and the whole industrial world is going for more automationized production and integrated systems.”

S.T. Soffiaggio Tecnica recorded sales revenue of 23 million in 2017. It targets to raise it to over 30 million this year, a year-on-year growth of about 30%. In the next 2-3 years, it hopes to become more evenly spread in its sales in its three main markets in Europe, the US and Asia, which currently account for approximately 50%, 25% and 25% of the company’s sales revenue respectively.

To achieve these goals, the company has been strongly investing in the Asian market. In addition to having local partnerships in China, Korea and Japan to perform maintenance and after-sales services activities, last year it developed a local warehouse for spare parts in Shanghai for the Asian market.

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