One Place to Hang Out at K

By: Matthew H. Naitove 25. November 2016

If You Thirst for More Than Technology


I gather it’s something of a K Show tradition: Near the end of a hard day at the world’s biggest plastics trade fair, those in the know (and maybe a journalist with an interview appointment) repair to a quiet upstairs lounge at the booth of Gammaflux, the venerable hot-runner controls source (since 1966), based in Sterling, Va.


One of the worst-kept secrets of the show—that upstairs retreat is stocked with 50 (yes, 50) different single-malt Scotch whiskeys. The atmosphere is casual and welcoming. Of course, hospitality is not just its own reward. Amid the relaxed camaraderie, and a bit of liquid lubrication, the talk may turn to the events of the day: “I just got an order for 10 machines—maybe they need hot-runner controls, too?”


The Universal Setup and the Six Key Process Variables

By: Matthew H. Naitove 21. November 2016

One setup sheet for one mold on any machine.


Scientific molding expert and Plastics Technology columnist John Bozzelli is offering a three-day seminar, Dec. 6-8, in Troy, Mich. to help molders create a “true 24/7 process.” The seminar concentrates on a scientific process optimization with at-the-press instruction. Hydraulic and cavity pressures will be measured to prove out the strategy, according to Bozzelli.


Attendees will learn the key "Plastic" variables and define them to establish a Universal Setup Sheet. This setup sheet is intended to work for a given mold on any press, across different barrel sizes, and on electric or hydraulic machinery.


“One setup sheet per mold saves time and assures consistency by keeping the plastic variables constant, not the machine conditions,” Bozzelli says. Attendees will also learn the six key process variables that must be monitored to assure consistent production.    


Attendees will see how to make their process accommodate most viscosity changes, including those that come with changes to the material lot, resin color, and process temperature. In this way, molders can detect process changes as they occur, not after hours of production. They can also document the process so that it can be duplicated on other machines. Using glass mold videos of plastic filling various cavities, attendees will see the effects of drag, flow, in-mold decorating, splay, sinks and more.


The seminar will take place at the INCOE Hot Runner Research Center in Troy, MI. Register here.


Old Faithful Robot Gets Its Due at K Show

By: Matthew H. Naitove 15. November 2016

The purpose of a trade show like K 2016 in Dusseldorf last month is to show off new products to entice buyers. But Star Automation Inc. took the contrary approach, highlighting a 34-year-old model at the center of its booth, which was still running just fine.


This MHY-L900 II unit was purchased from the Italian customer, Rigamenti Srl, which had been running the robot since 1982. The paint was scratched a bit, and the overall design was a lot less clean than sleeker current models, but “old faithful” kept on cycling without complaint.


Technology marches on: Equipment gets faster, more energy efficient, and easier to maintain. But sometimes hardware that’s well made and well maintained will just keep on doing its job, long past the horizon of nominal obsolescence.


It’s no wonder that machine suppliers sometimes have a hard time convincing processors to let go of “old faithful” and scrap it or trade it in for a new model. At a respectful distance from the battle-scarred veteran, Star Automation showed off a new model (not aimed at the U.S. market). The unspoken message seemed to be, “Take good care of it, and you’ll have plenty of time to grow attached to it.”


Now That’s “Collaborative”!

By: Matthew H. Naitove 8. November 2016

Pick-and-place product handling … simple assembly tasks … sure, or why not serving a cold beer?


So-called “collaborative” robots, or “cobots,” are gaining interest and adherents among plastics molders, who welcome the idea of robots working safely side by side with humans, unrestricted by “hard” guarding.


They also entertained and refreshed visitors to October’s K 2016 show in Dusseldorf. Among several examples at the show, Universal Robots USA, Inc. (E. Setauket, N.Y.) put one of its six-axis cobots to work at the Boy Machines Inc. exhibit, handing out freshly molded drink cups digitally printed with the recipient’s name and, on request, filled with beer. Direct transfer of the cup from the robot’s gripper to a visitor’s hand was a vivid illustration of safe collaboration.



Among new cobots on display was the two-armed, tabletop assembly model, dubbed YuMi (pictured), which is the first cobot from ABB Automation (ABB Inc. Robotics Auburn Hills, Mich.). Fanuc Automation (FANUC America Corp., Rochester Hills, Mich.) also showed off one of its new “CR” six-axis robots. The accompanying photo shows how human contact safety interrupts its operation.



And In addition, Kuka Robotics Corporation (Shelby Township, Mich.) showed off its seven-axis cobots, designated LBR (lightweight robot) IIWA (Intelligent Industrial Work Assistant), first seen at Fakuma 2015.


In addition, suppliers showed how to make conventional robots more “collaborative”—focusing on allowing technicians access to robots without shutting them down altogether. Both Sytrama USA, sister company of Negri Bossi North America (New Castle, Del.), and Staubli Robotics (Staubli Corporation, Duncan, S.C.) demonstrated robots that use compact laser scanners to sense the presence of humans.


When a technician approaches within a certain distance, the robot continues its cycle, but at a much reduced speed, which Staubli calls Safe Limited Speed (SLS). Coming even closer can cause the robot to slow further and finally stop completely (Safe Operating Stop, or SOS). It starts up again instantly when the person moves away a certain distance. Staubli’s new generation of TX2 six-axis robots (pictured) use the same principle to define a Safe Zone around the end-of-arm tooling to prevent collisions with inanimate obstacles. These models also have a sensory skin, which when touched immediately brings the robot to a halt.



Sources at both Sytrama and Staubli agree that even with the laser scanner, some sort of physical barrier is still necessary to prevent accidental encroachments from hindering robot operations, but full-height guarding may no longer be needed with this safety feature. One maker of the laser scanners is Sick AG in Germany (U.S. office in Minneapolis). It is the yellow object at the bottom of the photo with the Staubli robot.


All Work & No Play at the K

By: Matthew H. Naitove 7. November 2016

I had sore feet at the end of every day—all eight of them—at the K 2016 show. But there were chances to relax at numerous hospitality events.


One of them, which I gather is a K Show tradition, is the Viking-themed after-show booth party thrown by Rapid of Sweden (parent of Rapid Granulator, Inc. in Cranberry Township, Pa.). Horned helmets, shots of akvavit, and little fishy snacks topped off a day of booth-hopping interspersed with innumerable press conferences. (Pictured, left to right: Jackie Dalzell, district sales manager, Plastics Technology and Moldmaking Technology; Rick Kline Jr., group publisher Plastics Technology; Ryan Delahanty, publisher Moldmaking Technology and Composites World; and Heather Caliendo, senior editor, Plastics Technology and Composites World). 


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