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Two New Alliances in Microcellular Foams

By: Matthew H. Naitove 19. November 2014

Trexel, Inc., Wilmington, Mass., recently announced two new partnerships with Milacron and Lubrizol. One agreement allows Milacron LLC, Batavia, Ohio, to incorporate Trexel’s MuCell microcellular foam technology in its injection and blow molding equipment under the Milacron, Ferromatik, Uniloy, and Mold-Masters brands, while transferring the operating rights under Trexel’s patents to the machine buyer without any added fees or costs.

 

Trexel had a previous license agreement with Milacron back in 1999, allowing Milacron to provide MuCell-compatible screws and barrels on its injection machines, but it had become dormant in subsequent years. This revival of the relationship allows Milacron to supply turnkey MuCell systems, including MuCell gas dosing equipment.

 

Meanwhile, in partnership with Lubrizol Engineered Polymers, Wickliffe, Ohio, Trexel helped develop BounCell-X, a new high-performance TPU foam technology utilizing Lubrizol’s Estane TPUs. This plasticizer-free, low-density thermoplastic foam has a thin solid skin for durability and ability to utilize regrind or post-consumer recycle due to the absence of crosslinking agents or chemical blowing agents. BounCell-X can achieve a broad range of hardness and energy absorption/return for use in sports and recreation applications.

 

In addition, Trexel revealed that it has been working with Boston-based New Balance Athletic shoe, Inc. for more than four years, during which New Balance has used MuCell technology to provide shock absorption in running-shoe components (photo). Today, New Balance uses MuCell-molded mid-sole and heel components in over 1 million pairs of running shoes annually.

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.

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.”




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