When Charlie Bimba invented the non-repairable air cylinder back in the 1950s, he rocked the entire motion control industry. With it, he presented the world with the first inexpensive solution for pneumatic actuation, and quickly found a place at the center of the manufacturing industry.
And for the last 60 years, this is what his company, Bimba Manufacturing Co., has been known for—low-cost, high-function pneumatics trusted to handle the lightweight motion applications that drive the industry.
But now, Bimba has begun to branch out.
In 1998, it made its first move into heavy-duty hydraulic actuators. And then last year, it acquired Intek Products, which developed electric motion productions and solutions.
So now Bimba has found itself in a new position. Known around the world for its lightweight pneumatics, the company now carries a full and robust product portfolio that ranges from short distance, low-power actuators to gigantic automation applications running the heaviest-duty manufacturing operations.
Recently, we met up with Scott Stoddard, chief sales and marketing officer at Bimba, to see where this move is taking the company, and where it is headed next.
NED: First off, why move into the electric side of the industry?
Stoddard: We saw the factory automation space growing dramatically. We wanted to be part of that.
The fact of the matter is, in that industry, people like the control and the precision that electric actuation gives them. We couldn’t really do that well with the other pneumatics and hydraulics.
So we knew we had to start growing there.
NED: How does this change your business?
Stoddard: Bimba was traditionally known for lighter duty – packaging equipment, opening and closing doors on machine centers. That was our core business.
But now we’re talking to metal stamping companies moving gigantic loads. That’s a customer base we never had before. It moves us into another area that, quite frankly, people never looked at us for a viable opportunity or solution before.
That’s a big change for our business and it’s a big change for our customers. But it’s still the Bimba brand. It’s just a lot broader.
NED: That brings up a good point: how do you maintain your current reputation while moving into these new fields?
Stoddard: It’s a double-edged sword, really. We’ve had such a wonderful reputation in pneumatics, that now, with these new technologies we’re getting into, we really have to do a lot of work to get the word out.
We were careful about this from the start.
We launched our first electronic actuator organically using the core technology of our existing solutions. It was intended to mimic our pneumatic actuator because our customers were so used to the look and feel. We felt it made a lot of sense to come out with something that behaves and looks like that, because that’s kind of what they’re expecting from Bimba.
Now that we have acquired Intek, we’re keeping this up. We want to make sure that Bimba is always right in your face, that the new solutions we add to our portfolio still feel and act like the Bimba actuators you already know and trust. Because they are. We just have a new power source.