THIS story had its genesis in 1996 when far-sighted Capetonian, André Schlenk, identified the need for high-quality gluing solutions to a growing assortment of South African industry sectors.
Having gained industry insight through his already- established business, Resin Processing Solutions (RPS), supplying metering, mixing and dispensing equipment, André identified a need for quality gluing technology within the southern African region.
As a result, RPS partnered with Swiss company, Robatech (see sidebar), a partnership that soon showed rapid growth, driven by the need to meet ever-burgeoning demand for high-precision Swiss-made adhesive application systems. In 1996, a growing need to enhance local service delivery and market presence saw the inauguration of a South African subsidiary. The rest is history: Robatech South Africa has become firmly established as the ‘go to’ supplier of industry-leading gluing application systems to the local market.
The next significant event occurred at the turn of the millennium, when André’s son Dominique joined the business, initially as a member of the service team but rising steadily through the ranks to his current position of MD of Robatech, while André donned the chairman’s mantle for both companies. Under this second-generation of management, the business has maintained and built on its strong growth trajectory.
From small beginnings, operating from André’s home office in Hout Bay, Robatech SA now boasts a national footprint, operating from four locations. While Cape Town remains the administrative headquarters, supplementary sales/service offices are also established in Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth.
Robatech SA’s offering features Swiss-made adhesive applicator systems that improve the versatility and efficiency of fully-automatic gluing.
Attesting to the parent company’s success is the fact that well-known global OEMs, such as Müller Martini and Krones, have selected Robatech as a supplier.
The international group’s enviably strong market position in 70+ countries is ascribed to ongoing development of gluing systems optimally matched to customers’ requirements, and also to the steady expansion of global sales and service networks – of which Robatech SA is a key component. Here, Dominique Schlenk, aided by multi-talented admin, marketing and technical teams, brings local businesses a host of Swiss-manufactured gluing solutions.
Broad application spectrum
Although the practice of sticking together identical or different materials has been around for centuries, it’s only during the last few decades that developments in modern adhesives and applicator systems have allowed full industrial exploitation of this joining method.
And in this technology Robatech is a key player. ‘Whatever the gluing task, Robatech offers a suitable adhesive applicator system,’ says Dominique.
Ranking among the world’s leading suppliers in this segment, Robatech offers systems that are as varied as customers’ requirements – whether the need is for a specific and precise dot of glue or full-surface coating up to 2.5m wide.
‘Many industries rely on Robatech technology,’ Dominique continues, ‘and our systems are accordingly varied.’
Industries using such technology range from packaging, printing, paper and plastics to the building and furniture trades, and to automotive, electronics and textile sectors – between them requiring numerous different application techniques.
To achieve a perfect bond means the adhesive must fit the task exactly. ‘Because one size most definitely does not fit all,’ Dominique adds, ‘we offer a comprehensive range of technologies for processing and applying different adhesives – such as cold glue and hot-melt – in a multitude of applications.’
Robatech’s systems can be integrated into automatic packaging systems to achieve fast, permanent inline gluing of folding cartons, trays and wraparounds.
Among other packaging examples are Robatech’s systems that allow the gluing of paper or plastic bags and sacks, affixing drinking straws and/or labels to beverage packs and envelopes. Among the myriad uses for Robatech systems in the commercial printing industry are book-binding, rotary offset gluing (both in-line and off-line), card insertion, and much more.
What Dominique describes as a ‘competent customer consultancy’ is a central part of the company’s philosophy.
‘This philosophy ensures that each customer finds the best solution for his particular task from the broad range of Robatech glue applicator systems,’ he explains. ‘Close co-operation with customers allows us to develop perfectly customised products and to meet their present and future requirements optimally. This is in keeping with our guiding principle – that Robatech and customers operate in a future-oriented partnership.’
Dominique adds: ‘Our dedicated team ensures prompt and comprehensive 24/7 service to our customers countrywide.
Leading-edge technology unveiled
Earlier this year, in an online world premiere, Robatech presented Vision, an energy-efficient adhesive melter for high-quality adhesive application. The Swiss manufacturer developed a smart melter on a new platform with a space-saving design and innovative features for safe product gluing and cost-efficient operation.
Vision gently melts even demanding thermoplastic hot-melt adhesives, maintains a constant adhesive viscosity, and conveys hot-melt at a consistent pressure to the application head. This significantly increases the reliability in high-precision adhesive applications, which is particularly needed when gluing primary packaging. Compared to the predecessor model, Concept, Vision uses 20% less energy.
With the Smart Terminal, Robatech has introduced an excellent feature to the melter market. Current operating and status information is displayed in changing colours via an LED strip on the device. The advantage: even from a distance, operating personnel can recognise whether the gluing process is running smoothly or whether, for example, the adhesive needs to be refilled. The melter can be installed lengthwise or crosswise and is operated remotely or via the optional Touch Display, mounted at the front or side.
The innovative 45° FlexPort connection surface allows heated hoses to be connected at different angles to save space. This gives customers the flexibility to position Vision at the shortest possible distance from the application heads, keeping the heated hose length short.
Robatech also surprised a global audience with another introduction at the world premiere: Performa. This heated hose is suitable for viscosities from 100 to 20 000mPa; and uses up to 45% less energy than conventional heated hoses, such as Robatech’s Enduro.
With the development of the PrimeConnect plug coupling, Robatech has achieved several goals at once. Performa can be connected via plug-and-play quickly and error-free without special tools; and adhesive viscosity remains constant, even at the connection points to the melter and application head. PrimeConnect is fully insulated and eliminates the usual thermal bridges.
‘Being part of the Robatech family has been a wonderful journey and we are proud to be celebrating our 25th anniversary this year. There have been ups and downs along the way, including the current challenges that our country is experiencing during the Covid-19 pandemic, but as a team we have remained strong and we’ll continue to do so in the future. We’ve managed to grow our business successfully over this time because we’re always striving for improvements in sustainability, reliability and efficiency when it comes to our technology. It is what keeps Robatech ahead in the game,’ says Dominique.
Swiss precision for a global market
Headquartered in Muri, Switzerland, the Robatech Group is a leading global manufacturer of innovative and sustainable adhesive application solutions for industrial hot-melt and cold glue applications.
Robatech has produced high-quality controls, application heads, melting and dosing systems since 1975.
Robatech representatives advise and support customers in 80 countries in a wide variety of industries when it comes to questions and concerns regarding adhesive application and optimisation of gluing processes.