AEC & Sterling – two companies under one huge umbrella provide leading world-class technical services AND auxiliary products for the plastics industry and more. Both sell hundreds of products between them, and while they’re partners, they’re also competitors. Pat Whiteman breaks down the story.
AEC and Sterling are two companies that are part of a bigger vision. Both are members of the ACS Group which designs, manufactures, markets and supports one of the most comprehensive lines of auxiliary products for the plastics processing industry. The expansive product line includes size reduction equipment (granulators and shredders), material conveying equipment, blending devices, heat exchangers (mold temperature control units and chiller systems), drying systems, and robots. These products are marketed under recognized names such as Cumberland Engineering, Colortronic, Wabash, Carver and, of course, AEC and Sterling.
“Our customers require cutting-edge solutions, and they look to us for answers as a global leader in processing systems and equipment. We are ready to meet the most demanding needs in industries like plastics processing, heat treating, die casting, food manufacturing, chemical, pharmaceutical and more,” says Sterling’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing Steve Petrakis.
Back in Time
Sterling actually got its start in 1916 when it was established as Sterling Engineering with a corporate mission of controlling heating temperatures. Its initial focus was on servicing the growing steam heating market with products such as radiator valves, condensate and boiler feed pump systems.
By 1947, Sterling began supplying pumps and valves to local auto manufacturers for controlling the temperature of injection molds. By 1950, Sterling became a pioneer in the plastic molding industry with the introduction of its 6000 series packaged mold Temperature Control System. Two years later, sales were so good Sterling broke ground on what is now a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and its headquarters in Milwaukee.
AEC, on the other hand, is a relatively new company having been around about 40 years. AEC has been the plastics auxiliaries’ industry leader, providing the world’s broadest line of integrated auxiliary equipment and systems designed to meet the most unique applications. Its global network of sales, service and parts support demonstrates the depth of its customer commitment. “Our customers can depend on AEC operating units for advanced auxiliary equipment and systems that are simple to obtain, install, operate and maintain,” says Kevin Chudyk, AEC’s Vice President of Sales. AEC products include those for material handling, blending and scrap reclaim, heating and cooling, automation, granulating systems, downstream extrusion and systems contracting.
Sterling’s headquarters are in Milwaukee, Wis. where 150 employees work in more than 90,000 square feet of manufacturing and administrative space. Here, Sterling does research, engineering and manufacturing for temperature control units for processing applications, automation for the plastics industry, steam control products, custom design and fabrication. Capabilities include state-of-the-art manufacturing with CNC turning centers, milling machines, and horizontal laser cutting; custom engineering and exceptional customer service. In addition, its product test center allows Sterling to ensure all equipment is operating properly prior to shipping.
AEC’s 140,000-square-foot headquarters in Wood Dale, Ill., contains a complete engineering department using the latest design and engineering, a new, state-of-the-art product development center, an extensive research and development lab, a fully equipped metal fabrication center to ensure production quality, and an in-house systems group providing total turnkey solutions.
Products Upon Products
Between them, AEC and Sterling have products that number in the hundreds.
Sterling has always been well known for its temperature control and heating and cooling products, and recently has added material processing which offers a full range of products, including hopper loaders, dryers, blenders, and downstream extrusion equipment.
Its new products include a complete line of dyers, blenders and central and single conveying systems. “These new machines are engineered to Sterling’s high standards and rank amongst the highest quality material processing systems in the world,” says Petrakis. Under its Sterlco(r) brand, Sterling offers a broad line of water temperature control systems and oil-circulating high temperature control systems. Sterlco also offers a complete line of air-and water-cooled chillers.
Under the brand Sterltech Robotics(r), Sterling was one of the first U.S. companies to provide a full line of automation equipment designed specifically for injection molding machines. Sterltech Robotics’ full range of sprue pickers, traverse robots, tooling and downstream equipment offer versatility, speed and durability to its customers.
AEC’s product line is just as diverse. AEC is a recognized leader in the design and manufacture of resin conveying, drying and blending equipment and systems. From bulk storage products (silos, bins, tilters) and simple beside-the-press loading to sophisticated central conveying and drying systems, AEC has equipment that has been designed to work together to give efficient, reliable operation, wherever a facility is located. “Our equipment features intuitive controls with options that facilitate equipment networking process data collection. Modular designs allow customers flexibility as their processes grow and change,” says Chudyk.
AEC also provides a wide range of blending and feeding systems for metering resin and other plastics processing additives into extruders, injection molding machines and process equipment. AEC offers a choice of batch weigh blenders, gravimetric loss-in-weight continuous blenders, single and multi-component volumetric additive feeders and weigh hoppers. “These products allow us to recommend the best blending technology for your process,” says Chudyk. AEC also provides extrusion scrap reclaim systems and coextrusion control systems.
Also well rounded in the temperature control area, AEC offers a variety of chilling, temperature control (heat/cool), reservoir pumping tank equipment and systems for plastics and other processors. “We can evaluate your expected system loads and load characteristics, energy and climate related issues as well as incorporate new equipment with chillers and process heating equipment you already own,” he adds.
AEC size reduction/granulation equipment and systems also abound. Beside-the-press, below-the-process and central granulators along with single-stage shredders or dual-stage shredder/granulators are available in a variety of sizes and power/
capacity/throughput ranges. Integrated regrind evacuation systems are also available.
Also in the robotics business, AEC has sprue pickers, traversing pick and place robots, end-of-arm tooling and other downstream automation for plastics processors. “We can evaluate the dimensions of your press, parts/sprues, overall height restrictions and speed accuracy required to make an automation recommendation,” says Chudyk. Pneumatic dryer units provide efficiencies over operator-handled processes at lowest cost. Various electric servo drive and linear drive models provide additional speed and/or accuracy along with secondary automation capabilities for applications that require it.
With its plethora of products, both AEC and Sterling are targeting the extrusion market these days and continuously looking to add on to its automation offerings and downstream product lines. And in addition to its diverse product line, it’s the one-stop-shop idea that customers like. Adds Petrakis: “We have complete systems. A lot of customers buy one thing from one company, something from another. With our design and engineering facilities on site we can customize just about anything.”