Innovations in thermoforming at K 2004 included new twin-sheet technology for automotive fuel tanks, a highly flexible and modular "plug-and-play" industrial vacuum former, and a range of high-speed units for cups and packaging. Not covered below are new equipment from Illig, Geiss, G.N. Plastics, and Sencorp that appeared in our show preview in September.)
Twin-sheet fuel tanks
Cannon Forma (formerly Cannon-Shelley) of Italy has sold several of its new multi-station twin-sheet systems to Visteon, which will produce fuel tanks for a new German car model to be launched in March. The tanks will be made from six-layer sheet having two outer layers of HDPE, two inner layers of LDPE, a regrind layer, and an EVOH barrier. Among several claimed breakthroughs is the machine's ability to automatically load inserts that go inside and outside both halves of the tank. An essential feature is accessibility to the forming station and both mold halves before the mold closes. Cannon also touts its advanced plug-assist technology, which uses a six-axis robot to manipulate the plug.
Forming the two mold halves simultaneously is reportedly unique. It helps make a more perfect weld by minimizing the time between forming and pinching together the two parts.
Also for industrial forming, Frimo Group GmbH in Germany launched a flexible single-station vacuum former, the Ecoline 20/10. It takes sheet up to 6.5 ft square for applications like headliners, bumper skins, door panels, pool liners, and refrigerator liners. This "plug-and-play" unit allows for simple, fast modification with additional options or peripherals. The electric drive system is concealed below the table so all table movements are freely adjustable. An optional clamping frame with automatic adjustment on three sides and tool-change systems with electronic "tool recognition" minimize set-up times. Tool changes take only minutes, according to Frimo.
Kiefel of Germany claims to have developed one of the fastest pressure formers for packaging. For high-volume production of blister packs, lids, and hinged packaging, the new Speedformer KMD 85 offers a larger forming area (825 x 675 mm) than the previous model. The machine boasts up to 80 dry cycles/min.
Siemens PC-based controls provide position control directly at the drive system, which results in faster and more precise movements. A movable chain guide permits quick and easy tool changes. By moving the chain rail back, the upper and lower tools can be removed together.
Kiefel also introduced a high-speed cup former, the Thermorunner KTR 5. It provides up to 20% more output than other Thermorunner models. Its forming area of 750 x 400 mm runs up to 36 cavities. The KTR 5 can run PP, PVC, PS, and PET at up to 45 cycles/min. At the show, the machine ran PP cups at 37 cycles/min on a 30-cavity tool. Optional configurations are available for cup depths of 115 or 150 mm. The former can be combined with a high-speed stacker.
Gabler Thermoform GmbH of Germany (represented here by Lyle Industries) unveiled a new servo-driven system with greater output of cups and containers. Its M92 XL dry cycles 35 times/min vs. 28/min for a previous model. The new unit has a larger forming area (750 x 436 mm), 2.7-meter-long oven, and a mold that tilts 80° to eject parts. At the show, a 32-cavity mold ran more than 65,000 PP cups/hr.
Gabler also introduced the Varius SR L, a new model for use with cut-in-place tools having steel-rule dies. It produces trays, cups, and lids from PP, PS, and PET. Higher output is provided by a larger forming area (874 x 800 mm) and an oven up to 3.6 meters long. It runs 20,000 trays/hr on a 16-cavity mold. A new stacking/counting device and a redesigned, 93.5-ton forming/ punching station permits use of third-party tools from similar machines.
OMV of Italy has expanded its range of integrated extrusion/forming machines with the F32 for small to medium volumes of cups, trays, containers, and lids of PS, PP, or PET. It has a 770 x 335 mm forming area, 150-mm draw depth, and built-in rim roller. The servo-driven F32 can produce 16-oz deli containers at 13,000 to 14,000/hr and 8-oz yogurt cups at 30,000 to 32,000/hr. Mold changes take just 2 hr vs. 4 to 6 hr previously. The mold enters from the side and automatically locks into position without bolts.
Irwin Research and Development introduced a flexible in-line former for rigid or foam packaging. Model 30 makes up to 4-in.-deep products in molds 32 in. wide—4 in. wider than the previous model. An optional deep-draw version eliminates platens in favor of connecting the forming rod ends directly to the mold. This allows for up to 7-in.-deep rigid products, plus much lower air consumption and enhanced cooling. Output for 15-g PP trays in a 16-cavity mold is 17,280 trays/hr.
Optional cut-off knives at the entrance and exit offer a safe and consistent method of cutting sheet in case of tunnel meltdowns or for preparing the leading edge to feed into the trim press. Separate water-temperature control for the chain rails allows greater edge heat control. Chain rails can be adjusted quickly and easily via an electric motor. Rail adjustment points allow "on-the-fly" tapering of the rail gap for sag control.
Irwin also unveiled the Model 30 trim press, whose counterbalancing and counter-rotating drive system increases cutting force and reduces vibration at high speed. It also has automatic sheet adjustment at the canopy feed, a servo pick, and self-loading "auto-start" treadle, which automatically threads the sheet into the treadle guides.