Arburg aims to be more than a machine supplier

Feb. 19, 2024
The company's commitment to its customers extends to problem-solving, training and building customized turnkey work cells.

By Ron Shinn 

Arburg is a major player in the worldwide injection molding machinery market, but the new head of U.S. operations believes the company has to offer more to its customers than just being a seller of high-quality presses. 

“As a capital equipment supplier, you cannot just focus on delivering a high-performance machine,” said Martin Baumann, president and CEO of Arburg Inc. in Rocky Hill, Conn. “You actually have to be more than just the machine.” 

To Baumann, who came to Arburg just nine months ago from the Maag Group Americas, being more than just the machine means things like solving problems for customers and making their businesses more efficient, providing completely engineered turnkey work cells and training shop floor employees and molding plant leaders.  

Baumann, 57, said a razor-sharp focus on customers’ needs is important. “Traditionally, engineers always think about innovation in terms of mechanical components,” he said. “I see an equal opportunity in thinking about innovation in terms of bringing better services that our customers need.” 

One example is Arburg’s hiring of additional application engineers to help U.S. customers optimize their molding processes. “We have invested in a large application team that is available to our customers,” Baumann said. “That is an investment in the future. We have been seeing a skills gap building, and we can help with that. 

“Some of our guys go in, and suddenly the cycle time is two or three seconds less,” he said. “That two seconds doesn’t live on just for that day. It lives on for the foreseeable future for that part. We are literally putting money into the pockets of our customers with these services.  

“That’s what I mean by being about more than just the machine,” he said. “There’s an opportunity for us to keep building on that.” 

Simon Blum, Application Support Team leader, said his team handles a wide range of molders’ problems, from helping get new molds operating smoothly to solving part quality problems. The application engineers who work for Blum also teach classes and man the processor hotline for molders needing help. 

Wide range of presses 

There is no published ranking and companies generally do not report sales by individual countries. But Arburg believes it is one of the top three molding machine sellers in both total units sold and total dollar value of machines sold in the U.S. and Canada. It does not sell huge, multimillion-dollar presses.  

The company has a reputation for building modular, high-quality, precision and durable processing equipment. It has a broad portfolio of injection molding machines (IMMs), additive manufacturing machines and robots. Its Allrounder line includes hydraulic, hybrid and electric presses from entry-level to highly customized models, plus vertical, rotary table and cube machines. The company also manufactures a line of flexible robotic systems. 

Hydraulic presses are available with clamping forces from 14 tons to 560 tons. Shot weights go up to about 70.5 ounces. Arburg says these presses are especially suited for molding parts in the mobility and electronics industries and for multicomponent and thermoset applications. 

Hybrid presses come in 16 sizes and configurations, ranging from 39 tons to 730 tons of clamping force. 

Electric presses in three series range from the Allrounder Golden Electric series with 65 tons to 220 tons of clamping force, the Alldrive series with 280 tons to 560 tons of clamping force and the Allrounder More with 163 tons to 204 tons of clamping force. 

In addition, Arburg was the first IMM manufacturer to offer industrial additive manufacturing machines, debuting the Freeformer series at the K Show in 2013. Freeformers are available in three sizes, starting with the 200-3X, which has a build chamber of about 6.1 inches by 5.3 inches by 9.1 inches, up to the Freeformer 750-3X, which has a build chamber of about 13 inches by 9.1 inches by 9.1 inches. Freeformers use standard resin pellets. 

The company also sells two 3D printers manufactured by its innovatiQ subsidiary that use fused filament fabrication (FFF) technology and two for liquid silicone rubber that use liquid additive manufacturing technology (LAM)

Baumann said in the U.S. market, the biggest demand is for electric and hybrid molding machines. In Europe, Arburg sells more hydraulic IMMs. 

There are Arburg Freeformer additive manufacturing machines running in the U.S., Baumann said. “We are having a pretty good year, with respect to Freeformers,” he said. 

Freeformer buyers tend to be highly specialized companies that are likely using them in clean-room settings but not necessarily medical-level clean rooms. They are not always injection molders, he said. 

“We see the biggest opportunities in high-end applications,” Baumann said.  

Arburg’s traditional molding machinery sales force was responsible for selling Freeformers when they were first introduced, but eventually the company transitioned to a dedicated additive manufacturing sales team. “We found out that it is a different market. It is different customers,” Baumann said. 

Because they cover such a large range, Arburg's molding machines have wide appeal and applications in nearly every end market. Baumann said the company’s biggest market segment in the U.S. for its IMMs is medical molding. He believes the packaging segment also offers good opportunity for incremental growth. “We build a very robust and precise machine, and we have a hydraulic option,” he said. “I think there is an opportunity to move a little bit more in that direction.” 

The switch to electric vehicles presents another long-term opportunity for Arburg, he said. “It’s not just about the car. It is about all the infrastructure that goes around it,” he said. 

DNA of solving problems 

Arburg, based in Lossburg, Germany, was founded in 1923 by Arthur Hehl. Today, it is run by the third generation of the Hehl family. It reported 2022 sales of $900 million. It does not report U.S. sales. It has 3,600 employees worldwide and 110 in the U.S.  

In its early years, Arburg manufactured metal medical instruments and some metal household items. Then, in 1956, it built a hand-operated molding machine and small insert mold to make a plastic part it needed to improve one of its metal products, a flashlight. By 1961, it was building an automatic press to sell to other companies. 

“That’s where it all came from,” Baumann said. “We have a problem. We need a solution.” He said that today, customers come to Arburg with the same request: "We have a problem. Can you help us?" 

“When you think about it, that is really what Arburg is all about,” Baumann said. “We are a bunch of hard-core engineers. You will still find the DNA of Arthur Hehl and his sons, Karl and Eugen, with us.” 

The entrepreneurial spirit of second-generation managers Karl and Eugen Hehl shaped the company that exists today. That includes one central production facility in Lossburg, operating a robust apprenticeship program and a forward-looking corporate strategy that consistently makes investments toward long-term goals. 

The current leaders of the company are Eugen’s children, Juliane and Michael Hehl, and Karl’s daughter, Renate Keinath. 

Even during the current period where machine sales worldwide are down significantly, Arburg continues long-term investment. “We manage money responsibly, but our philosophy has always been to continue investing for the future even when others stop,” Baumann said. 

He said that despite the slowdown in sales, he has not been asked to reduce employees. “I am actually increasing headcount,” he said. “So, long-term investment is important. I have open positions for service techs, and we just hired some inside salespeople. Arburg is in this market for the long haul.” 

Arburg develops and manufactures key components in-house. A wholly owned subsidiary manufactures all electric molding machine drives. Another subsidiary manufactures end-of-arm tooling. Arburg even makes its own circuit boards. Overall, it manufactures more than 60 percent of the components that go into its IMMs.  

“I don’t think you will find many injection molding machinery companies that go that deep on what we consider core components of our machines,” Baumann said. Arburg does not perform metal casting in-house, but it does all the machining on castings it buys. 

Baumann said when a company owns that much of the manufacturing process, it can invest in technology to keep manufacturing costs down instead of continually pushing suppliers to lower costs. 

Arburg also builds its own HMI control system. The current model is called Gestica. “The human machine interface is becoming more important,” Baumann said. “It is a core differentiator. That is really how we value it because we are putting more and more assistance into the software to help our customers.”  

Specialized work cells 

Baumann declined to say how much Arburg’s machinery sales are down compared with a year ago, but he did say that orders for customized machines and turnkey molding cells have increased. 

Customized molding machines are built in Lossburg, but specialized cells can be engineered and built in Rocky Hill. This lets the customer come in for testing and approval before the cell is shipped to the customer’s plant. 

“We take over responsibility for the entire cell,” Baumann said. “We have local suppliers in the U.S. so we can buy the components that Arburg does not manufacture. We have engineers who can work with the customer to execute a complete system.” 

In addition to turnkey cells for new projects, he said he gets requests for new cells built around older molds. The mold might be 10 years old but is still working well. “They say, ‘I can’t find an operator anymore’ or ‘That person doesn’t show up on Mondays. I need something that does what that person did.’ “ 

Unfortunately, that is a growing issue nowadays, he said. 

Venkateshwar Rao Koka, Turnkey/Automation Team leader, said Arburg has been creating turnkey work cells in the U.S. for 20 years or more. “We have expertise in material handling, automation and everything that goes into a work cell,” Koka said. “We integrate, debug and test a cell for the customer.” 

Koka said processors save money by letting Arburg build cells. During a recent visit, he was building a complete work cell that included a Class 8 clean-room enclosure around an IMM and its auxiliary equipment. That saved the molder from having to build an entire clean room. 

Spare parts from U.S. 

Arburg has 36 technical centers around the world, with three in the U.S. In addition to its Rocky Hill headquarters, there are tech centers in Irvine, Calif., and Elgin, Ill., near Chicago. The Rocky Hill office is responsible for Canada, the U.S. and the maquiladora region of northern Mexico. There are more than 13,000 Arburg machines installed in the U.S. and Canada. 

There are generally 80 to 100 molding machines warehoused at the tech centers for quick delivery to U.S. and Canadian customers. The U.S. staff can configure those machines as needed.  

The 50,000-square-foot Rocky Hill facility also stocks 7,600 spare parts, and 90 percent of orders are shipped the day they are received. Spare parts manager Jeffrey Goodwin said overall, 93 percent of spare parts needed in the U.S. and Canada can be shipped from Rocky Hill, with the rest coming from Lossburg. Rush orders go to the nearby Hartford, Conn., airport. “The cutoff to ship the same day is 5 p.m., so we can make a fast delivery when it is needed,” Goodwin said. 

Arburg’s European apprenticeship has been frequently held up as the model for similar programs. There are currently 330 apprentices in the three-year program at the Lossburg plant. Apprentices are paid while in the program. In the past 70 years, company has trained 2,200 apprentices.  

Many of the apprentices stay to work for Arburg; over a dozen have worked in the U.S. 

In Rocky Hill, the annual training-course calendar for Arburg customers is fully booked every year. Classrooms are located next to the machinery display and testing room, and students go back and forth between the classroom and machines.  

Blum said 100 training sessions ranging from two days to five days each are scheduled in Rocky Hill this year. “We train everyone from machine operators to plant managers,” he said. 

A significant amount of mold and material testing is performed at the Rocky Hill facility. Baumann said recently more biomaterial testing has taken place, another part of the service Arburg offers customers.  

“When we think about service, we don’t just think about fixing something or installing something,” he said. “Service is also about how we can help our customers improve their processes. The need for that is actually becoming bigger and bigger.” 


Arburg Inc., Rocky Hill, Conn., 860-667-6500, 

About the Author

Ron Shinn | Editor

Editor Ron Shinn is a co-founder of Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing and has been covering the plastics industry for more than 35 years. He leads the editorial team, directs coverage and sets the editorial calendar. He also writes features, including the Talking Points column and On the Factory Floor, and covers recycling and sustainability for PMM and Plastics Recycling.