Landau, Germany – Wickert Maschinenbau is changing from a manufacturer of customized presses to an all-around provider for composite manufacturing. The family-run company is thus reacting to the increasing demand for supplementary services revolving around the planning and development of press systems.
These services range from component development to concept and feasibility studies through to overall planning and general contracting for complete production lines, including turnkey solutions. In this way, Wickert wants to offer its customers highly productive composite processing from a single source.
The composite specialist expects to see new stimulus for growth from the increasing level of automation in production and the increased desire for greater system flexibility with the use of additional injection units. Furthermore, the company is anticipating a future rise in thermoplastic processing, and has also identified potential in the use of natural fibers and natural resins. Wickert believes it is well positioned to serve all four trends.
As Steve Büchner, sales and project manager at Wickert, explains, assistance is important, even in the early phase of component development and in the implementation of feasibility studies due to the fact that engineering resources are sometimes scarce for composite manufacturers: “Thanks to our experience in manufacturing, we are able to provide valuable advice in these early stages,” he said. In this regard, the machine manufacturer from Germany’s Palatinate region benefits from its vast experience with the integration of customized presses in composite production lines.
Wickert is now putting this know-how to good use by independently offering all-in-one systems, Büchner explained: “We know which supplementary components meet our high quality standards and how we can integrate these in perfect harmony.” This insight means that the company is also able to offer turnkey solutions to interested parties. And this can all be done without having to expand the company’s own product range.
The company’s own development department provides assistance in the planning of entire systems, and designs individual concepts for automation and customized solutions. This allows the systems to be implemented with fully automated production. “We are also able to link up presses and peripheral components with other parts of the system and the primary process control systems in line with a Smart Factory,” Büchner explained.
The company has seen an increased desire among customers to use composite presses flexibly for diverse applications. Even today, with relatively little effort, the presses can be extended by additional modules for injection processes such as RTM (resin transfer molding) and RIM (reaction injection molding), as well as polyurethane injection units.
Wickert also sees opportunities for growth from the increasing interest in the use of thermoplastic matrix systems. The company believes that the thermoplastic forming of organo sheets, in particular, is on the rise. This is because high-precision, mass-produced parts can be manufactured in stable, fully automated processes, and with significantly shorter cycle times than with thermosetting.
At least in the medium term, the composite specialists also see growth potential in the market for natural fiber reinforced plastics (NFRP) using fibers such as flax, hemp, jute, sisal and kenaf, as well as natural resins with a vegetable oil basis. In addition to the principle of unlimited availability, important advantages include their excellent compostability in comparison with glass or carbon fibers, as well as stable prices. However, Büchner believes the success of NFRPs will depend on broad acceptance among customers. The systems for production already exist, as natural materials can already be processed on Wickert presses.