Zoomed in / Arburg It's all about moulding

Editor: Barbara Schulz

Germany - In November 2016, Lossburg, Germany-based company Arburg was named the most innovative SME machine building company in Germany, ranking 8th overall following companies like Rimowa, Leica or Lamy.

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Arburg produces all machines, including its Freeformer AM machine, in Lossburg, Germany.
Arburg produces all machines, including its Freeformer AM machine, in Lossburg, Germany.
(Source: Arburg)

The family-owned company with its headquarters in the Black Forrest is renowned for its injection moulding machines within the global plastics processing industry. But only very few end-users are familiar with the company's Allrounder injection moulding machines, which produce many products we use everyday, including tooth brushes, yoghurt cups or car keys.

In fact, Arburg is one of the leading global manufacturers of plastic processing machines. The product portfolio encompasses Allrounder injection moulding machines with clamping forces of between 125 and 6,500 kN, the Freeformer for industrial additive manufacturing and robotic systems, customer- and industry-specific turnkey solutions and further peripherals.

Arburg is represented by its own organisations at 33 locations in 25 countries and by trading partners in more than 50 countries. The machines are produced exclusively at the parent company in Lossburg, Germany. Of a total of roughly 2,700 employees, around 2,200 work in Germany.

From the manufacture of precision instruments to injection moulding

In 1923, Arthur Hehl established his company, the “Feingeräte-Fabrik Hehl”, in Lossburg, Germany. Initially he produced precision instruments for medical applications. The company’s long-term success is attributable to his sons Karl and Eugen, who complement one another perfectly: Karl is the tinkerer, while Eugen is a born salesman.

After World War II, the company made a wide range of consumer products needed as Germany rebuilt, such as hairpins and wire baskets for potatoes. Karl took decommissioned anti-aircraft guns and helped Arburg convert its production machinery from belt drives to single drives, according to a company history.

The story of how Arburg got into building injection moulding presses is well-known. In the 1950s, Arburg was making camera flash devices, but the metal plug connectors corroded when they were shipped overseas. Karl thought, why not encapsulate the plugs in plastic? And in 1954, Karl designed a basic, hand-operated injection moulding machine. Two years later, Arburg began series production of injection presses.

Seven years later, Arburg engineers had the innovative idea of designing an injection moulding machine with a pivoting clamping unit and interchangeable injection unit. The Allrounder idea was born. This was the origin of today’s modular Allrounder philosophy, enabling customised solutions. By breaking with the principle of a rigid design, the Allrounder proved extremely flexible, enabling the overmoulding of inserts and the processing of elastomers and thermosets, for example. A combination of a horizontal and vertical injection unit made multi-component moulding possible in 1962.

50-year company anniversary sees more than 10,000 sold machines

By 1973, more than 10,000 injection moulding machines had been sold and over 700 patents and registered designs filed. The machine manufacturer moved into a building with a floor space of 24,000 m2, and in 1976 completed a multi-purpose building for administration. At this time, Arburg employs over 500 staff.

In 1975, an Allrounder H became the world’s first injection moulding machine to feature microprocessor control and hydraulic proportional valve technology. In 1993 the Selogica control system was introduced onto the market. Customers were impressed with its graphical sequence programming and automatic plausibility check. In 1979, Arburg was nominated as an “IBM pilot company”, and presented the first injection moulding machine with graphical user interface in 1982. The CMD series could be fully integrated in a production cell. This allowed Arburg to develop fully automated injection moulding production and production optimisation with a host computer system in 1986.

Since 2001 the company has also been supplying electric injection moulding machines, which, like the hydraulic and hybrid Allrounders, can be expanded on a modular basis. In 2006, the largest Arburg machines to date were introduced, with a clamping force of 5,000 kN.

In 2005, the third generation of the owning Hehl family took on the management of the company, in the form of Juliane Hehl (Marketing), Renate Keinath (Human Resources Management) and Michael Hehl (Premises Development, Spokesperson for the Management Team).

In 2013, Arburg taps into the additive manufacturing market. The company introduced its unique Freeformer and Arburg Plastic Freeforming (APF). These revolutionary developments open up new possibilities in the field of additive manufacturing. Now, for the first time, fully functional plastic components can be produced in small-volume batches without a mould. Furthermore, Arburg is a pioneer of Industry 4.0 and uses individualised office scissors to demonstrate how the combination of an Allrounder machine, freeformer and "Industry 4.0" technology can produce high-volume products in batches as small as one unit in a flexible, automated, digitally integrated production system.

On 22 March 2015, Eugen Hehl was inducted into the “Plastics Hall of Fame”. Together with his late brother Karl Hehl, today’s senior Partner made Arburg into a global leader in the manufacture of injection moulding machines.

At K 2016, Arburg launched its largest injection moulding machine. The hybrid Allrounder 1120 H features a clamping force of 6,500 kN, a new design and the new Gestica control system.