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Integrated Multi-Process Cells Hum at Fakuma Show

By: Matthew H. Naitove 29. October 2014

Some of the most dazzling exhibits at recent plastics exhibitions have demonstrated intimate pairings of injection molding with other processes in an integrated cell. The Fakuma 2014 show last week in Friedrichshafen, Germany, was no exception. It showed how machinery OEMs are pulling out the stops to show that virtually anything can be integrated with injection molding.

KraussMaffei (U.S. office in Florence, Ky.) caught my attention (and that of a crowd of other visitors) with a two-shot molding cell in which a first shot of polycarbonate was overmolded with metal—yes, pure zinc metal. The technology was developed by German molder and moldmaker Krallmann Group, which also built the small metal-injection unit on the side of the press. That unit melts a billet of zinc at 250 C and injects it through a special hot runner. Shot capacity is up to 30 g (at a density of 7.5 g/cc). In this case, only 3.5 g of metal was injected to show the capability of adding conductive paths or electrical contacts to a plastic part (photo above).

Arburg (U.S. office in Newington, Conn.) operated a cell in which a bead foam molding press was integrated with an injection machine, using a six-axis robot to transfer foam components to the injection mold and to demold finished parts. The part was a socket consisting of a circular EPP foam part and a solid PP threaded component that was molded inside the foam I.D. According to Arburg, it’s not possible to achieve a permanent bond between the bead foam and solid PP without this overmolding process, which is called Particle-Foam Composite Injection Molding (PCIM). The photo above shows the part and how it can be incorporated into larger bead-foam components, represented in this case by an EPP board.

 

Although less exotic, close coupling of a laser printer to an injection machine is not something you see every day. Boy Machines (U.S. office in Exton, Pa.) ran a cell in which laser printing was performed side by side with the injection press molding an ABS “business card.” The laser printer was integrated with the machine controls, where the print program was selected.

A Rare ‘Resurrection’ in Engineering Plastics

By: Matthew H. Naitove 27. October 2014

I’ve seen a number of interesting new plastics snuffed out in their first bloom of youth because they weren’t growing fast enough for impatient corporate parents, because they weren’t sufficiently differentiated from the competition, or perhaps the timing just wasn’t right. Right now, we’re seeing an exceedingly rare case on of one of them coming back from the dead.

 

Some of you may recall Carilon polyketone (PK), a semi-crystalline thermoplastic developed by Shell Chemical and commercialized in 1996. It was made from ethylene, carbon monoxide, and a dash of propylene. It offered promise as a new competitor for nylons, acetals, and polyesters. In its first few years, it attracted interest from compounders like LNP (now part of SABIC Innovative Plastics) and RTP Co. and a handful of applications emerged in injection and blow molding and extrusion. But it appeared that a giant oil company was not ideally suited to nurture a fledgling novelty like PK. Shell discontinued Carilon in 2000. It was unable to sell the business but did sell the polymerization technology and licensing rights to SRI International, Menlo Park, Calif.

 

So it was with a shiver of recognition that I learned recently that Lehvoss North America, Pawcatuck, Conn., and its German parent Lehmann & Voss are reintroducing Luvocom 70 series engineering compounds based on polyketone (PK) resin. These compounds are said to fill a gap separating nylon 6 and 66 and acetal from resins like PPS, PEI and PAEK. “The introduction is actually a re-launch,” says Michael Sandeen, sales and business development manager. “Luvocom 70 products had been available until the year 2000 but had to be canceled due to Shell Chemical’s discontinuation of Carilon PK polymer production.” With the polymer now available (produced by at least three companies in China and Korea), Lehvoss decided to resume development of these high-performance compounds.

 

PK reportedly offers good hydrolytic stability, low water absorption, low permeability, good weld-line strength, and good processability, with shorter cycle times than nylon 66 and acetal. “In many cases, PK is better than acetal and nylons,” says Sandeen. “It can replace even high-temperature polymers in tribological applications. It’s low wear rate offers excellent advantages for gear wheels and bearings.” And its high chemical resistance is said to suit PK to fuel filters and other fuel-system components.

 

Luvocom 70 currently comes in three grades: 70-9045 reinforced with carbon fibers; 70-9046 lubricated with PTFE; and 70-9113/BK formulated for low friction and wear. Detailed information is available here.

Expanded NPE3D Pavilion Announced By SPI

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 24. October 2014

It is no surprise that we heard from SPI earlier this week that there will be an expanded NPE3D pavilion at NPE2015, taking place March 23-27 at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center.  With 18 companies already on board to display technologies for 3D printing, show management has expanded this special section by eight more booths. Says Brad Williams, SPI’s director of sales and marketing, “From toolmakers to processors to brand owners, many in the plastics industry have a need to know about recent developments in 3D printing. NPE2015 will provide the marketplace an opportunity to discuss this technology, its current applications, and the future possibilities. A related NPE3D conference track with six presentations will be part of SPI’s Business of Plastics Conference co-located with the show.

 

Among the pavilion’s highlights will be the new Objet500 Connex1 multi-material 3D printer which will be demonstrated by Stratasys. This machine can product parts from three materials in a single production run. As such, users can create assemblies with components formed from three different materials, or components that contain both rigid and flexible materials. Stratasys will also highlight plastics it has developed for 3D printing. “Materials are the most important component in 3D printing. That’s why Stratasys continues to expand our portfolio of thermoplastics and photopolymers, including four color photopolymers,” says public affairs manager Joe Hiemenz.

The companies that have signed up to exhibit are:

  •  Advanced RP, Inc. 3D printers and printing services.
  •  B3D
  •  Burteck LLC. Injection moldmaking.
  •  Comdec Inc./SMI. Contract printing.
  •  Forecast 3D. 3D equipment, materials, services.
  •  Geometric Ltd. Engineering services and software.
  •  Global Precision Industries. Rapid manufacturing systems, prototyping, toolmaking.
  •  Guangzhou Seal Mould Co., Ltd. Rapid prototyping and toolmaking.
  •  Interpro. 3D printing, rapid manufacturing, prototyping, injection molding.
  •  JG&A Metrology Center. 3D internal part inspection services.
  •  Linear Mold & Engineering. Rapid manufacturing, prototyping and toolmaking.
  •  MHS—Mold Hotrunner Solutions. Molds, dies, tooling.
  •  Polyone Corp. Specialized polymer materials.
  •  Rapid Prototype & Manufacturing (RP&M). 3D printing, prototyping, rapid manufacturing.
  •  Redeye, by Stratasys. 3D printing, rapid manufacturing, prototyping, toolmaking.
  •  Shanghai Xiesheng Machinery Mfg. Co., Ltd. Extrusion systems.
  •  Stratasys. 3D printing equipment, materials, software.
  •  3M Advanced Materials Division. Engineered materials and additives.

 

Three Themes at Fakuma Show

By: Matthew H. Naitove 22. October 2014

 

Some people call it the “mini K show.” The Fakuma exhibition in Friedrichshafen, Germany, used to be considered a local plastics trade fair for Germany machinery exhibitors to reach an audience in southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. But the show has grown continuously in importance, and Fakuma 2014 attracted nearly 46,000 visitors from 117 countries and 1772 exhibitors from 36 nations. It was my first time at Fakuma, where the press corps included editors from as far away as Hong Kong and Singapore.

 

It’s still predominantly an injection molding show, and that’s what I’ll focus on here. Among the new products introduced at Fakuma, three categories stood out because they were highlighted by multiple exhibitors. (In my business, if we see something three or more times, we’re tempted to call it a trend.)

 

1. Servo-hydraulics are the new standard. If you ask me, the future of hydraulics in injection molding—and I do think it has a future for a long while to come—is using pumps with variable-speed servo or frequency drives. When I offered that prediction, officials from Arburg agreed that “there is a clear trend toward servo hydraulics for energy savings and noise reduction.” Confirming that trend, several machine builders introduced presses with servo hydraulics standard instead of an option that used to cost around 10% additional but provided energy savings nearly equivalent to those of an all-electric machine. Examples:

 •  Wittmann Battenfeld (U.S. office in Torrington, Conn.) introduced the SmartPower series that will replace the conventional hydraulic HM series in sizes from 25 to 120 metric tons at no extra cost. They reportedly cost about 20% less than an all-electric for equivalent energy consumption.

 •  Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery (U.S. office in Strongsville, Ohio) brought out the System Servo series. They do cost a bit more than standard Systec models, but Sumitomo says 60-70% of those machines are being sold with servo pumps anyway.

 •  KraussMaffei (U.S. office in Florence, Ky.) has revised and upgraded its CX Series in smaller sizes (35 to 160 m.t.) with servohydraulics now standard. A company official said, candidly, that there is no increase in list price, but discounts might be less than before.

 •  Haitian of China (U.S. representative is Absolute Haitian in Worcester, Mass.) has new smaller models of its servo-hydraulic, two-platen Jupiter II series, starting at 450 m.t.

 •  Engel (U.S. office in York, Pa.) still offers servo hydraulics as an option, but it’s one that 70% of its hydraulic machine customers purchase.

 •  Boy Machines (U.S. office in Exton, Pa.) already makes servo hydraulics standard on all its machines except its very smallest XS model (10 m.t.). Boy sees no further advantage in—and therefore does not offer—all-electrics.

             Wittmann Battenfeld WS80 Engel e-pic

 

2. Sprue pickers go servo. Servo-powered sprue pickers were a hot button at Fakuma, promising more speed and precision than pneumatics with lower energy consumption.

 •  Wittmann Battenfeld introduced the WS80 servo picker with a rotary axis and two linear axes. It’s designed to operate within the machine guards.

 •  KraussMaffei showed off its new SPX10 servo picker, also with a rotary axis and telescoping vertical arm. It operates within the machine envelope.

 •  Engel introduced the servo-driven e-pic, which is distinctive for its horizontal traverse and toggle-type articulated vertical arm (similar to some Japanese designs I’ve seen) and a further telescoping action.

 •  While not new, Arburg (U.S. office in Newington, Conn.,) showed its two-year-old swiveling servo picker.

 •  Sepro (U.S. office in Pittsburgh) showed its S3 swiveling servo picker, which also appeared at Fakuma 2013 and K 2013.

 •  Boy operated its year-old swiveling sprue picker—a pneumatic model.

 

3. Mold cooling gets more attention. Injection machine suppliers are now addressing mold cooling as a process variable that has received far less attention than other sources of quality and productivity fluctuations.

 •  Engel introduced the e-flomo water manifold that automatically monitors water pressure and temperature and adjusts water-flow valves to compensate for filter clogging and system pressure variations.

 •  Wittmann Battenfeld showed its new ultrasonic flow monitor for Tempro plus D series TCUs that now operates at higher temperatures (160-180 C) and measures flow rates down to 0.5 liter/min with ± 5% accuracy. Also new is the Flowcon plus water regulator, which controls either temperature or flow rate for each individual water circuit. It’s aimed particularly at non-heated water (up to 100 C) and measures flow in a noncontact manner from 1 to 15 l/min. Wittmann says more than half of its mold-temperature controllers are now sold with a flow-regulation device.

 •  KraussMaffei operated an all-electric AX machine with a flow-monitoring system integrated into the MC6 machine controller to document the mold heat balancing for quality records.

Taiwan Plastics Machinery Sector Balances Cost/Technology

By: Tony Deligio 22. October 2014

Despite that business and geographical predicament, the industry is thriving. Taiwan’s 400-plus plastics and rubber machinery companies generated $1.2 billion in sales in 2013, with the sector ranked fifth globally behind only Germany, Japan, Italy, and China, according to TAMI, the country’s machinery association (for perspective, Germany’s plastics and rubber machinery makers hauled in $8.2 billion in 2013).

 

In the opening ceremony for last month’s Taipei Plas, Shih-Chao Cho, Taiwan’s vice minister of economic affairs, lauded the sector, calling manufacturing a “bedrock” of the Taiwanese economy. In more recent years, the island nation sought greater recognition for its tech sector, aided by government backing. To wit: one Metro stop down from the Nangang Exhibition Center that hosts Taipei Plas is Taiwan’s Nangang Software Park, the home of technology giants like IBM, Sony, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard.

 

That same government hasn’t forgotten the manufacturing revolution that converted Taiwan from an agricultural economy in the not-too-distant past, however. That acknowledgement came in no small part from the presence of the economic minister, as well as the vice president of Taiwan, who attended the previous Taipei Plas in 2012, when he was the country’s premier.

 

Between a Low-Cost Rock and Technology Hard Place
“Taiwan is caught between technology advances of the west and the low-cost challenge of China,” Vice Minister Cho said in his address. “Most Taiwanese companies are small-to-medium enterprises, which can be a challenge in some ways, but it also means they’re more flexible.”

 

On the show floor, Taiwanese machine exhibitors displayed higher technology machines, but with an emphasis on economical versions of every day processes versus the money-is-no-object conceptual machines sometimes occupying Western company’s booths at shows like K.

 

So in Taipei, show visitors saw a lot of two-component machines for multimaterial headlamps and high-speed hybrids for inmold-labeled packaging. Not new to the world, or the region for that matter, but perhaps new to many local processors.

 

Harrison Wei of injection molding machine manufacturer Jon Wai laid out an example of how a company like his can step up with a more advanced machine than might be found out of China (or currently being used in Taiwan), but one that does not break the customer’s bank. “To face the competition from China,” Wei said, “we need more value added.”

 

To that end, the company showed three machines at the show, including high-speed units for IML and closures, the latter being a 16-cavity closure system running a 3.5-second cycle. Plenty of production, but nowhere near the output a molder might generate from the 96-cavities-and-up closure systems that rain down caps every couple seconds at other shows.  

 

Asked about the technology/output disparity, Wei relayed a story in which a customer had initially considered a competitive high-technology machine from a well-known brand, but upon realizing the total cost would be two-and-a-half-times higher and cover one machine and one mold, versus one machine and three molds, the client opted for Jon Wai.

 

“It was for an ice cream application,” Wei recalls, “they only needed for five months out of the year.”

 

Film Extruders Step Up
Taiwanese extrusion equipment manufacturer Avita Machinery Co. Ltd. is also working to thread the cost/quality needled. “Our position is in middle,” Avita’s Allen Tsai explained at Taipei Plas. “We don’t want to go too low—our machines can’t compete in low price—and I don’t want to leave our quality to meet their price. We want to go up in quality not price.”

 

Tsai said that in many instances, roughly comparable equipment from China can be 20% lower in price, forcing company’s like his to offer other enticements. At the show, Avita ran an ABA-style coextrusion line (pictured below), creating three layers, including a thicker inner layer for lower cost materials, from two extruders by splitting the melt stream in the die. Coextrusion is increasingly replacing monolayer output in Asia, according to Tsai, thanks to greater efficiencies, with a 20-µm stretch film now capable of being thinned out to 12 µm.  

 

“This extruder represents a trend in blown film,” Tsai said. “Our customers want lower production costs.” Acknowledging higher technology, however, Avita equipped the line at the show with automatic gauge measurement and gravimetric blending. At shows in the west, systems ranging up to 11 layers, or much, much higher if you consider so-called micro-layer films. Three layers might seem more quaint than novel, but again, consider the market.

 

“We believe multilayer film will grow by double digits,” Tsai said, acknowledging the higher technology niche his company, and country, are trying to occupy. 




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