By Bruce Geiselman
Ferruccio Giacobbe was born into the blow molding machinery business. His father, Piero Giacobbe, founded Magic MP SpA in Monza, Italy, in 1959.
Now the owner and GM of Magic, Ferruccio Giacobbe has worked his whole life in the industry, and the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Blow Molding Division selected him for its Lifetime Achievement Award for 2023.
The presentation will be part of the 38th annual Blow Molding Conference in Wheeling, Ill., on Oct. 24.
Ferruccio Giacobbe, after graduating from high school, studied mechanical engineering at a technical institute and studied languages.
“After military service, at 22 years old, I went into the family business, starting, as they say, from the apprenticeship, from the lower parts of the business sector,” Giacobbe said.
In 1997, Giacobbe conceived of a groundbreaking idea, the first all-electric extrusion blow molding machine. In 1998, Magic exhibited the first electric machine, called the Baby Electric, at the K Show in Düsseldorf. It was a small machine to produce small containers.
Nowadays, many manufacturers are producing electric blow molding machines.
Recently, Giacobbe answered a series of questions via email submitted by Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing Senior Staff Reporter Bruce Geiselman.
What is your reaction to receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award?
Giacobbe: I am very proud to receive this award and to see my contribution to the extrusion and blow molding machinery market recognized. I have always worked for this industry. I have dedicated all my time and resources, and I am very honored to see that the value of my work and my inventions has been recognized.
What prompted your decision to devote your career to blow molding and Magic MP SpA?
Giacobbe: Blow molding machines are my life. I took over the business from my father and carried on the innovation he started over 65 years ago. I should mention that my family has been in plastics since 1958, and my father started with the first phenolic and Bakelite plastics just after the Second World War.
I have dedicated all my resources and knowledge to this technology, in order to improve the production process and radically change the way bottles are made. I had a very clear vision all these years, i.e., research and development. It is only through research and development that we improve our world, and I have applied this drive to my company.
What was your first job out of college?
Giacobbe: I have been educated in a technical-oriented institute. I did not go to college. My main school was the factory, where I have been able to put into practice and develop my technical skills and other skills as well. In order to lead a historical company, which is over 65 years old, you need a lot of skills. After my technical studies, I immediately joined the company.
Could you describe the progression of your career at Magic?
Giacobbe: First, I was employed as a general worker for the finishing of blow molding machine parts (with a short course on machine tools), and then I was in charge of blow molding machine final assembly. About two years later, I dealt with machine commissioning. Then I started a career in commissioning blow molding machines around the world, assembling and testing machines for Italian and foreign customers, mainly in South and North America.
After this training period, which lasted about nine years, I went to the sales office alongside my father, Mr. Piero Giacobbe. My career continued to focus on sales and organizing new agencies and acquiring new customers in new countries including China, where I was one of the first in our sector to advertise Italian machines more than 30 years ago.
In 1986, I decided to create a new company, besides Magic, designing the first single-stage PET machine in Europe with Magic Biaxial, which has produced hydraulic machines for about 30 years selling about 400-500 of them.
In 1997, with my father’s approval, I started the adventure and the design of the electric machines for which I own different patents including for clamping [technology].
In 1998, we exhibited the first electric machine, called Baby Electric. It was a small machine for the production of small containers like mascara [tubes]. It was exhibited at the K Show in Düsseldorf. Then from this small electric machine, the whole project came up, and during K2001, we exhibited the first 2-liter electric machine — the EP Series.
From there, there have been a succession of new projects with higher-performing machines due to the strong market demand … bringing unimaginable advantages and energy savings.
A few years ago, having already the knowledge of mechatronic movements, the new styling of single-stage PET machines was designed with the first full electric single-stage PET machine, of which we have already produced a hundred machines.
What are your daily responsibilities as owner and GM of Magic?
Giacobbe: The role of owner and GM has diversified responsibilities. I, obviously, have to deal with the financial management of the company, but, having a technical background, I am always involved with the technical department on new research and development projects.
I am by nature a restless person. I am always looking for new applications for my business.
What type of growth has Magic experienced?
Giacobbe: Magic has become a very important group. We have acquired several companies and established new ones in order to diversify our portfolio. At present, we have about 180 employees spread over three plants. In the past, we acquired a competitor of ours, which built blow molding machines called Automa. We reorganized it and nowadays it is producing hybrid machines using some of Magic’s patents.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
Giacobbe: Mainly the research and development area. For me, it has always been an incentive to look ahead and invent new applications that could improve the world of extrusion. Of course, the biggest achievement is still the invention of the electric machine. This patent changed the extrusion blow molding industry.
What trends are you seeing in the blow molding industry, especially in North America?
Giacobbe: The trend that I currently see is a complete generation change from hydraulic to electric machines. This trend and our futuristic vision led us to conceive larger electric machines because even in the sector of big containers and in the automotive sector, the demand for energy savings is increasingly pressing. For example, on a machine to produce 220-liter [58-gallon] drums in double station, the savings is approximately 150 kW/h, and if you multiply this by 6,500 working hours in a year, it becomes a small fortune.
On the other hand, as far as the North American market is concerned, I think that there is still a lot to be done. Despite the great and enormous advancements in technology, in North America, for incomprehensible reasons, the electric machine in blow molding has been only partially accepted and in a small percentage. Perhaps this is due to the fact that in the United States there is no urgency for energy savings, considering that the cost in kilowatts is much lower than in Europe. But a vision limited to energy savings is not accurate since the electric machine gives many other advantages. I’m not going into all the details on this subject. I will just mention one of the main points — spare parts. On an electric machine, the savings in spare parts is approximately 50 percent to 60 percent less than on a conventional machine for the same number of operating hours.
I am proud to have introduced electric technology in applications that were unthinkable until five years ago. For example, let’s think about machines with an accumulator head. The advantages of using electric technology are amazing. We offer a reduction in consumption of more than 50 percent. That savings has greater significance in these times when we are experiencing very high energy costs in Europe. Twenty-five years ago, it was certainly an innovation. Nowadays, energy savings is a moral commitment toward our planet. Therefore, I am proud I was so far ahead of the times.
Has your career always been in plastics or have you had other experience?
Giacobbe: I like to say that I feel like a farmer. As a matter of fact, apart from my absolute dedication to Magic and the blow molding industry, my other passion and activity is agriculture. I have two farms. On one of them, I cultivate olive trees to produce extra virgin olive oil, organic and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), which is a mark of origin granted by the European Union to agricultural products and foodstuffs with a certain quality, reputation or other features linked to their geographical origin.
On the other farm, I breed a very old breed of pig, called Cinta Senese. This is a protected origin species that was recovered a few years ago by some breeders including me. The meat and salami of this pig are exclusive and niche products.
Who was your mentor during your early years in business?
Giacobbe: My father. His dedication to the company and the people who have allowed it to grow have been an inspiration. Our company is not only one of the market leaders, but it is my family, and I am very proud of that.
What is the greatest challenge you faced in your career?
Giacobbe: Apart from all the problems that you have to face to keep a company alive for 65 years, the biggest challenge was to overcome the great reluctance to switch from a totally hydraulic technology to a non-existent technology that no one knew, not even the people who had to supply the components. Consequently, there was also the education of technicians and machine operators, who literally refused this change of technology.
What patents do you personally hold?
Giacobbe: All the patents obtained by our company are under my name. As I mentioned before, I have a big involvement in the technical side of the business. The first department that I visit every morning is the technical one.
What hobbies do you have?
Giacobbe: As I said before, agriculture is my great passion. I also have a stable, and I breed racehorses.
How would you like to be remembered? What legacy would you like to leave?
Giacobbe: I do not want to be considered presumptuous, but I would like to be remembered as an honest and loyal person. In business, I would like to be remembered for my technological contribution and for inventions in this field. This is my greatest satisfaction.
Bruce Geiselman, senior staff reporter
Just the facts
Who is he: Ferruccio Giacobbe, owner and GM of Magic MP SpA
Employees: 180 spread over three plants
Career highlights: Developed the first all-electric extrusion blow molding machine; recipient of Lifetime Achievement Award for 2023 from the SPE Blow Molding Division