Something New for PET: Injection-Compression-Stretch-Blow Molding

By: Matthew H. Naitove 17. December 2014

At November’s BrauBeviale show in Nuremberg, Germany, SIPA of Italy (U.S. office in Atlanta) has launched Xtreme Syncro, billed as the world’s first injection-compression-stretch-blow molding (ICSBM) system. It brings together SIPA’s Xtreme preform compression molding system with a high-speed stretch-blow unit.


As reported in our K 2013 show wrap-up last February, the Xtreme continuous, rotary injection-compression system reportedly produces preforms up to 10% lighter than any made by conventional injection molding, but without sacrificing key properties. Before now, the maximum length-to-wall-thickness ration (L/t) of a preform was little more than 45; but Xtreme technology is claimed to make an 80 L/t ratio a commercial reality.


Injection-compression simplifies thin-wall molding by having the molds slightly open when injection starts, then closing them as dosing finishes. This means lower injection pressure, lower clamp force, and less stress on the melt, which means less acetaldehyde (AA) generation and less reduction in IV.


Xtreme’s mechanical layout is similar to rotary stretch-blow machines. It is all-pneumatic, with no hydraulics. Molds are mounted in blocks of three on a high-speed carousel fed by an extruder that runs continuously. It delivers melt to dosing devices directly under the preform molds.


In the new system, preform molding is directly coupled to SIPA’s latest SFR EVO3 rotary reheat stretch-blow unit (also discussed last February), which can put out 2250 bottles/hr per cavity. The Xtreme portion alone is said to cut energy use around 10% through lower temperatures and pressures. And integration with the bottle blowing system eliminates most of the need to reheat the preforms. Conventional IR ovens are replaced by small ovens that use highly efficient induction heating directed only at areas of the preforms just below the neck. The system can also be connected directly to SIPA’s bottle filling system.

Additive Manufacturing Is the New ‘Normal’

By: Matthew H. Naitove 4. December 2014

Normal founder Nikki Kaufman, wearing her product.


Leaders of large and small businesses are constantly asking the question of how to attract young talent to careers in industry: How do we make manufacturing ‘cool’ again?


Nikki Kaufman has found an answer. Her brand-new company, which launched just last July, has a cool, intriguing name, Normal. It’s located in the hip, artsy Chelsea district of Manhattan’s West Side. Her company makes a product desired by almost any user of a smart phone or digital music player. And Normal makes the product better, faster, and cheaper than anyone else in the world by using the newest, “greenest,” and, some might say, coolest industrial technology—3D printing.


Kaufman, 29, started her company out of a quest for earphones that aren’t uncomfortable to wear for extended periods. She tried dozens of commercial earbuds without success and considered having a custom pair made. But she learned that would involve a visit to a doctor’s office, would take three to six weeks, and cost up to $2000. She decided she could do better on her own.


Last summer, Kaufman launched her brainchild based on the idea of making custom earbuds with a personalized fit in as little as 48 hr and for $199, including shipping and tax. And all you need is a free iTunes or Android app that walks you through steps of photographing your ears, choosing among several color options, and ordering the earphones.


And about her company’s name: “What is a normal ear shape? There’s no such thing. Everyone’s is different,” Kaufman explains. “Even your left and right ears can differ by up to 20%.”


Kaufman in front of two of her 10 Stratasts 3D printers.


Normal has joined the small handful of companies today (apart from service bureaus) whose business model is based on making proprietary products with additive manufacturing, or 3D printing as it’s commonly known. Standing in the store, you probably won’t immediately notice (this reporter didn’t) that you’re also in the factory area. Set flush into the walls are eight Fortus 250mc 3D printers from Stratasys, Ltd., Eden Prairie, Minn. There are two more of these printers on another floor, along with two Stratasys smoothing stations, two paint booths, two cleaning stations, and one laser cutter.


The 3D printers use the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology, which extrudes fine molten strands of thermoplastic—ABS, in this case—in thin layers according to a “sliced” CAD model of the part.


FDM is used to produce the earpiece that fits your ear cavity. Seven colors are available. It is soft-touch coated and assembled with a handful of purchased components, including an injection molded and UV-coated ABS/PC “inner cabinet,” the 14-mm audio speaker, CNC anodized aluminum “outer cabinet,” a brass tube, coaxial connector, and 360° rotating CNC anodized aluminum cable housing.


Normal has another use for FDM—to make tools like jigs and fixtures for its own internal manufacturing needs. That’s in line with what Stratasys CEO David Reis sees as the main near-term market opportunity for FDM—jigs, fixtures, and molds, also referred to as “augmented manufacturing”—rather than “direct digital manufacturing” (DDM) of end products, as Normal is doing.


(More details on Normal’s use of FDM will appear in a special supplement on Additive Manufacturing to accompany the February issues of Plastics Technology, MoldMaking Technology, and Modern Machine Shop magazines.)

Amcor Wins Race for Hot-Fill PET with Metal Lug Closure

By: Matthew H. Naitove 3. December 2014

Amcor Rigid Plastics, Ann Arbor, Mich., claims to be the first to achieve a hotly pursued goal of using metal lug closures on hot-fill PET jars and bottles. The company recently launched a stock 24-oz PET jar with 63-mm neck opening designed for pasta sauces. It’s designed for easy conversion from glass because it uses the same type of capping machinery as hot-fill glass jars with metal lug closures, saving the need for new investment to utilize plastic. According to Bunlim Ly, Amcor senior marketing manager, metal lug closures are also less costly than some alternatives available for capping hot-fill PET containers. For consumers, the benefit of using familiar metal lug closures is the “pop” of the tamper-evident indicator button on the closure when the hermetic seal is broken. Consumers associate that “pop” with freshness and quality, Ly notes. He said Amcor’s next targets for hot-fill PET with metal lug closures will be 82-mm salsa jars and 38-mm bottles for hot-fill juice and tea beverages.


The “enabling technology” for this development is a patent-pending system Amcor calls A-PEX. It involves special engineering of the PET container and slight modification of the lug closure. Ly calls it a breakthrough technology because it’s the first to overcome obstacles of deformation of the PET container neck to achieve proper sealing necessary for the “pop” on first opening the container. Ly says the A-PEX63 containers are within the industry average range in weight—neither extra-heavy nor extra-light—and meet the industry average for opening torque. The pasta-sauce jar is made by reheat stretch-blow molding using a blow-trim process whereby a “dome” of extra material is cut off the neck of the container after blowing.

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.

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