Italy, Germany & The Netherlands
The 2018 tour ended up being an incredible mixture of unique experiences, some of which started with another unique partnership of the affiliates within ARMO working together to benefit all our members. When Italy’s IT-RO asked me to come and present at their conference, I never expected the final outcome could be a visit of Rototour to Cracking Art’s incredible warehouse eighteen months later. Each of the animals in the group’s installation have specific meanings, usually to remind us of our effect on the natural environment and they have deliberately chosen polyethylene because it comes from the past and creates the future. Cracking Art usually don’t open their studio and warehouse, however because of the great connection, fostered by IT-RO, Rotoconnect was able to secure a visit and I couldn’t think of a better way to begin a tour and we were even able to have a sneak preview of their latest installation being created while we were there. Cracking Art’s pieces are moulded by Roplast, the first factory on our schedule who also use extrusion moulding at their site outside of Milan. Roplast manufactures tanks and parts of industrial machines, floor coverings, vases, furnishing accessories, tanks for agricultural use, hoppers, double-walled objects, boats, pallets and, in general, items of large dimensions and complex shapes. They have several machines and also robots on site. After a fantastic visit with Roplast the group returned to Milan for an amazing dinner under the shelter of the city’s beautiful Duomo before heading to Bergamo, an ancient walled city just outside of Milan where the group enjoyed a slice of Italian life including a garden exhibition filled with rotomoulded products!
Amsterdam was the official start of the full Rototour and here we met the rest of our group for a very quick tour of the city and its famous canals. Pentas Moulding is a highly technical and innovative company that has grown from producing surfboards to producing over 700 different products, most of which are in the automotive sector. The company is one of the most modern and advanced companies in Europe using rotational moulding and the Rototour delegates were treated to a privileged look at how this company balances an almost incredible range of machinery, moulds, spiders and even a “world’s only” product marking system. Having attended a previous Rototour, the company’s owners took full advantage of having a group of experienced moulders visiting and wowed the group with their expertise and innovative solutions to common moulding problems. Travelling between Rotomoulding plants is often a challenge on a tour because they tend to be located in rural areas, so following the Pentas visit the group had a ten hour bus trip to Heidelberg for a break and then on to Karlsruhe to start the German leg of the tour.
The group’s visit to Maus showed them the pinnacle of what’s possible in every aspect of mould design, using any technology necessary and available to achieve outcomes that highlight that while in house mould making, maintenance and use are all possible and sometimes cost effective, there are options available to the global industry that can really be claimed to be “on another planet” and our tour delegates were astonished at seeing what the company can do and is doing.
Rototour doesn’t always include partners, however this year we did have a small and important group that took advantage of the day to see some of the amazing tourist sights close to the companies the rest of the group were visiting including Maulbronn Monastery and Ludwigsburg Palace.
For the rest of Rototour, the next factory visit was to Speidel, a medium-sized enterprise but a fairly large moulder with over 140 employees. They invest in the most modern technology and manufacturing plants as well as in the best possible training for employees. Besides rainwater containers Speidel produces tanks for wine, mashing tanks, variable capacity tanks, fermentation tanks for beer (very popular with some of the tour participants for home brewing), tanks for transportation and technical pressure tanks. The group then had a quick flight from Stuttgart to Leipzig in Eastern Germany for the next leg of the tour. Tourism opportunities on Rototour have to be fitted into a technically challenging schedule that centres around where we can stay, when factories can see us and travel times but we do like delegates to at least experience a little of what the various places we visit have to offer. As in Leipzig, this is often a walking tour of the city and surrounds with our own private tour guide.
About 90 minutes outside of Leipzig we found Peuker GmbH & Co. KG, who produce both injection and rotationally moulded products and make a huge range of plant pots. They supply customers in Germany, all across Europe as well as the United States and they house more than 30 injection machines and several rotational machines. The moulding machines are completely equipped with extraction robots, the biggest of them works with a locking pressure of 2,200 tons. Peuker, also known as PPlastic allowed the Rototour delegates to be the first in the world to see a completely new kind of machine for the industry, invented in response to the challenge of constant mould changes necessary to support their business and which would be launched officially at the ARMO2018 conference in Hamburg. This isn’t the first time Rototour has been offered the opportunity to see developing technology ahead of the crowd, however the chance to spend time with the inventor and see the technology working in a production setting was a real honour for the group. Germany is certainly full of fairy tale castles, so following the fantastic visit with Peuker our group was able to have its own castle for the evening and enjoy a medieval banquet at Berg Schonfels.
HMT was the next stop for the Rototour group and what an incredible stop it was! The company bought their first Rotomoulding machine in March 1999 and today they process about 1200 tons of raw material on highly efficient machines in an industrial park they’ve almost completely taken over through their expansion in the global portable toilet industry.
PlasTec Technology is a system supplier for technical plastic applications and as a specialist in rotational moulding and vacuum forming, they also offer the development and assembly of complete products with over 28 years of experience. The production is accompanied by holistic SAP processes, beginning with the 3D design and extends to the assembly of complete systems, while embedded in a large company network, PlasTec Technology benefits from the flexibility and agility of a small company.
Our final factory visit was to Premier Tech, makers of probably the largest rotomoulded underground tanks in the world, or at least the largest ones I’ve been privileged to see. The company have committed to saving water for the past twenty years and their innovative products have had a major influence on the latest technology currently available in their region and around the world.
Ironically, or perhaps very necessarily, the final day of Rototour 2018 didn’t include any factories but provided both a desperately needed rest and a final chance to spend some relaxed time talking to those who had by then, become real friends and colleagues in this experience. The majority of the group went to Bremen, a small medieval town outside of Hamburg for a last chance to relax with each other before joining what would be the largest ARMO conference ever held.