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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.

Last Call for Papers for Molding 2015 Conference

By: Matthew H. Naitove 7. October 2014

Don’t be bashful! Share your concerns, triumphs, and challenges with your peers at this annual conference aimed at injection molders only. You’ll hear technical presentations from suppliers of machinery, molds, materials, etc., but some of the most intriguing talks each year come from molders themselves. They have discussed their progress in sustainability, challenges in finding qualified workers, issues about competing domestically and internationally, and their assessment of what it takes to succeed in markets like medical, electronics, and so on.

 

Molding 2015 will be held next June 16-18 in Rosemont, Ill., co-located with the Amerimold show and conference, also an event sponsored by Gardner Business Media.

 

At Molding 2015, there will be sessions on these topics:

 •  Emerging technologies.

 •  Sustainable manufacturing.

 •  Medical molding.

 •  Molding integrated electronic components.

 •  Adding value: Automation, Assembly, Packaging, LSR Molding.

 

If you have a story to tell or an issue to raise with other molders, send in a brief abstract before the deadline – Oct. 17. For more information on the conference, and instructions on submitting an abstract, visit this site and click on “Online Call for Papers.”

The Customer Buys the Machine, You Mold the Parts

By: Matthew H. Naitove 1. October 2014

I’ve heard of custom molders locating a satellite operation inside a customer’s facility, but a recent visit to Currier Plastics in upstate Auburn, N.Y., exposed me to the inverse of that arrangement. On both the injection and blow molding sides of its business, Currier is operating some customer-owned machines in its plant. The reasons for doing so differed in each case.

 

In extrusion blow molding, Currier runs a large Automa machine making three sizes of HDPE detergent bottles. According to Steve Valentino, blow molding plant manager, the basic machine cost $1 million and required another $300,000 to $400,000 in hardware and software modifications for product-quality purposes and to allow quicker mold changes. Because the raw material accounted for 70% of the piece price, Currier told the customer that the job would not be profitable if Currier had to pay for the machine and upgrades. So the customer bought the machine and pays Currier to operate it, but at a much lower machine-time rate than usual. (The machine is pictured here receiving attention from Mary Stotler, Currier’s first female blow molding technician.)

 

In injection molding, Currier had been custom molding acetal electrical parts an OEM that subsequently acquired a business with in-house molding capacity. The OEM came to the conclusion that Currier could mold the parts more efficiently than the acquired captive operation. So the OEM moved eight Engel presses to Currier. Five of them are now molding acetal cable-connector insulators; the other three are currently idle, awaiting new program approvals. Again, both parties save money, so the arrangement profits both, according to Sriraj Patel, injection molding project engineering manager and toolroom manager.

Toshiba Opens Service Center in Mexico

By: Matthew H. Naitove 17. September 2014

Another indicator of the growing importance of Mexico to North American plastics manufacturing is the recent opening of the first Mexican service center by Toshiba Machine Co. America, based in Elk Grove Village, Ill. Located in the Nippon Express Guanajuato Logistics Center in Puerto Interior, Silao, Guanajuato, the new facility offers local service and support to injection molding and die casting customers throughout the country. Mexico has benefited from the “reshoring” trend as a competitive counterbalance to manufacturing in the Far East. “This is a thriving market for us,” says Toshiba Machine America general manager Tom McKevitt. Manager of the new service center is Robert Kinzel. Contact: +52 472-748-5400.

Helping PET Blow Molders Save Energy & Material

By: Matthew H. Naitove 17. September 2014

Two projects are under way at Plastic Technologies, Inc. (PTI), Holland, Ohio, a leader in PET package development. One is intended to help PET bottle makers reduce their energy costs by designing custom plans for processors. This involves a careful analysis of all bottle manufacturing stages at the customer. This includes preform and bottle production, supply and quality of compressed air, machine conditions and capabilities, blowing cycle review, oven setup, process development, and package performance validation. “Companies go out of their way to drive weight out of bottles, but they often overlook the significant amount of energy waste that occurs when running the equipment,” says Donald Miller, v.p. of technical services. “Depending on how inefficient energy usage is, this can be a gold mine of ‘found money’ for the company.”

 

A particular focus of PTI’s energy review is compressed-air usage. Miller says, “The key to creating a successful energy reduction program is to consider air delivery and air demand requirements at the same time. In the past, companies have tended to focus on these as separate areas and not in concert with one another. Using a systems approach is the key to optimizing operational improvements.”

 

Another new initiative by PTI is becoming the exclusive U.S. representative for several PET processing technologies developed by Toyo Seikan Co., Ltd. of Tokyo. One of the areas that the two companies will be working together on is new foamed PET bottle technology which produces lightweight containers with good barrier attributes and unusual visual and tactile properties. The companies will unveil more details about the new technology—and its potential impact on beverage packaging in the U.S.—in the coming months. They also will reveal other PET technologies to be marketed here.




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