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US-headquartered R&D/Leverage - formerly known as R&D Tool & Engineering - has invested ￡350,000 (€380,000) to create a Product Solutions Lab at its 3000m2 European facility at Sutton-in-Ashfield in the UK.
The new PSL facility, which is equipped with a Nissei ASB 70DPH single stage injection stretch blow moulding machine, provides the company with its first capability in Europe to run in-house mould trials, sampling and pilot production runs.
“With the ability to provide first-to-market samples, we can now qualify almost any product, including extreme shapes and extreme specifications in-house,” said Alan Tolley, managing director of the UK R&D/Leverage operation.
Over the last two years, the R&D/Leverage facility in the UK, which exports around 80% of its tooling to customers in mainland Europe, has doubled in size. Tolley said that sales last year grew by 22% and that the company is hopeful, even in today’s tough market, of seeing growth this year as well. This will largely be due to expansion into new markets in western and central Europe.
The investment in the PSL facility is considerable for the company. “It’s a lot of money for us as it is not a profit centre. But without it we could not become the stronger and more rounded company we want to be,” he said.
The Nissei ASB 70DPH is the most commonly-used single stage injection stretch blow moulding machine in the European marketplace, giving R&D/Leverage the opportunity to provide sampling services to the largest number of customers. Tolley said that the company will also be able to offer customers improved training support.
R&D/Leverage’s main competitors in single stage tooling manufacturing are the prime machine makers themselves – Nissei ASB and Aoki dominate the market. Tolley says the company’s key competitive edge over the Japanese OEMs is being able to deliver high specification tooling on shorter lead times. “We offer half the delivery times of our competitors,” he claimed.
While the high volume beverage sector is focused on two stage PET production techniques, single stage injection stretch blow moulding technology is widely used in the household and cosmetics sectors. It is especially suitable to production of non-round bottles and container designs without visible neck rings.
Tolley said the PSL rounds out the range of services and expertise the company is able to offer its customers, moving R&D/Leverage’s European operations in the direction that its US parent has pioneered through its Leverage industrial design unit. This has extended the company’s involvement beyond tool design and manufacturing and into full service consumer packaging design.
Located at its US headquaters in Kansas City, Leverage’s services include: upfront research, retail audits and trend and colour studies; concept development, digital prototyping and graphic design; validation and implementation.
“At the moment this is US-based but we are pushing it over here [in Europe],” said Tolley. “Part of our plan is to move away from the image of being a toolmaker. Yes, we are one. But we are also a solution provider.”