An artist's rendering of the finished systems centre.
Processing machinery maker Athena Automation Ltd. is putting down some deep roots.
In May 2014, the Vaughan, Ont.-based company breaks ground on what will be a $40 million systems centre for just-in-time machine customization. “The new 155,000-square-foot facility, adjoining our headquarters in Vaughan, will allow us to ship more customized machines starting in 2016, assemble higher tonnage machines, and showcase our ‘LIGHTSOUT’ plant engineering services,” Athena president and CEO Robert Schad told Canadian Plastics. “The building’s features will include a dedicated area for mold trials and extended runs, a quality control lab with state-of-the-art inspection equipment, an automated high-density part storage system, high-efficiency resin conveying and drying systems, a dedicated chiller for each machine testing station, a cafeteria, a fitness centre, and a medical office.”
It’s all part of what are proving to be heady times for Athena, which was founded by Schad — of Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. fame — in 2008. “The centre, which will be finished as early as 2016, will be about four times larger than our current building,” Schad said. “Given the strong customer interest, it is now important to demonstrate to our employees and our customers that Athena is going to be around for the long term.”
And how. “Having begun shipping machines for test purposes in 2012, we will deliver approximately 20 this year,” Schad continued. “The first stack mold carrier-equipped machine has been shipped, and in partnership Sipa SpA, the Italian machinery maker for PET bottles, we’ve added a 300 metric ton preform system for up to 96 cavities to the existing 150-ton, 48-cavity system. Also, preform machine robots now have improved service routing, and the base can accommodate more pumps, allowing for higher speed injection applications.”
Athena also plans to streamline its current facility for the capacity to produce between four to six machines per month. “Of course, we’ll continue option development for customization, such as rotary cube, rotary table, multi-material, in-mold assembly, higher speed injection, and high-speed robots with specialized tooling,” Schad said. “We’re also continuing to hire new engineers and other staff for machine production, and are implementing service and spare parts infrastructure for responding to global installation, training, and support requests.”
So how does Schad assess Athena’s progress, six years in? “I’m extremely happy with our team, and with the overall performance of our machines,” he said. “The goal is to give processors a flexible platform that can be customized into one simple system.”