Servo Valve-Gate Control Helps Auto Parts Weigh Less & Look Their Best

By: Matthew H. Naitove 10. October 2015


At the recent grand opening of HRSflow North America in Byron Center, Mich. (see Starting Up), the newest manufacturing location of Italian hot-runner systems maker, the emphasis was on molding larger automotive appearance parts such as lighting, instrument and door panels, fascias, fenders, and spoilers. The company showcased its FLEXflow servo-driven valve-gate system, which offers eight steps of freely programmable valve-pin position, speed, and acceleration. The results are said to be improved cosmetic appearance, elimination of flow “hesitation” lines while permitting reduced clamp force, part weight, and warpage. During the opening event, mineral-filled TPO rear spoilers were molded on the plant’s 1000-ton injection press (used for mold trials) with and without FLEXflow valve-pin control. Results in the accompanying table show the ability to use 20% lower clamp force while achieving 4.5% to 7.3% weight reduction.


Shiny New Hot-Runner Plant Is High Tech Showplace

By: Matthew H. Naitove 7. October 2015

Palletized manifold production.


Over 200 guests at the official opening of HRSflow North America, the newest manufacturing location of the Italian hot-runner firm, were treated to a two-hour tour of the spanking new facility, whose 40,000 ft2 house CAD/CAE design capabilities, six CNC machining centers, a quality-control lab, and a 1000-ton injection press for mold trials (see Starting Up). John Blundy, president of the operation, says, “It’s the most modern, innovative plant in North America for producing hot runners.” Blundy is a 40-year veteran in the injection molding business, including 15 years at Incoe.


Robot unloading nozzles from lathe.


On the manufacturing floor are three CNC milling systems and three lathes, including a palletized system that can run load up to seven manifolds to run “lights out.” One lathe can run for two days unattended, thanks to an automatic bar-stock loader, auto tool changer, and six-axis robot that removes finished nozzles and places them in a storage rack. Finished components are stored in a Modula automatic storage/retrieval system. Upon entry of a job’s barcode, the system picks all the components for an assembly and packs them in a box. Assemblers work from 3D CAD models on a screen in this paperless plant. A new step in final assembly is a 3D scan of the assembled system with a handheld laser scanner; any interferences or variations from print are displayed in color on a screen. The final quality check is a warm-up to confirm that heaters and thermocouples are functioning properly, as well as cycling the valve cylinders and performing a vacuum test to check that the manifold is airtight.

Paperless production system.


The new plant’s metrology lab has a touch CMM system to perform 100% inspection of all system components, automated via barcode, something that’s not common in the industry, according to plant manager Andrea Zigante.

Laser scan of final assemblies.


Design capabilities at the new plant include CAD systems, Ansys engineering analysis, and mold simulation via Autodesk Moldflow and Moldex 3D software, including ability to analyze warpage, fiber orientation, coinjection, and injection-compression. HRSflow also performs thermal and pressure-drop analyses on all new system models. In addition, HRSflow created its own mathematical models to predict color-change phenomena. For example, simulation of interior door panels guided system design to permit a predicted change from black to gray in 9-10 shots and from gray to black in five shots.

1000-ton injection press for mold trials.


Other software tools include tooling standards that ensure that designers incorporate, for example, hydraulic components for a mold that are compatible with the type of injection press it will run on. And once a system is in the field, HRSflow technicians have access to new web-based troubleshooting software available 24/7/365.

Who Doesn’t Like Lower Resin Prices?

By: Matthew H. Naitove 2. October 2015

You probably have noticed that materials prices have nosedived lately, and most of you probably aren't complaining about a lower cost of doing business. Some of you may even see it as insurance against imports of processed goods from overseas.


But this week I got a different take on the situation from the CEO of one large molder, who said, “Resin prices have been dropping so much that my billings have gone down $5 million in just the last month!” He didn’t really mean it as a complaint—not exactly. He explained that his firm passes along resin price changes to its customers. So, instead of pocketing the resin cost savings, he shares it with customers. It doesn’t really hurt his bottom line, and probably makes for good customer relations. But, he noted, “Who wants to see their corporate revenues falling?”

More Servohydraulic Presses Debut at Fakuma

By: Matthew H. Naitove 25. September 2015

After last year's Fakuma show in Germany, I wrote that the addition of electric servo motors to hydraulic pumps would be the salvation of hydraulic injection presses and ensure their continuing presence in the market for the foreseeable future. A sign of the trend was a number of new servohydraulic models at last year's show, including the new SmartPower line from Wittmann Battenfeld (U.S. office in Torrington, Conn.).


At this year's Fakuma show next month in Friedrichshafen, Wittmann Battenfeld will complete the line, which initially ranged from 25 to 120 metric tons, with three larger models of 180, 240, and 350 m.t., the last of which (pictured) will make its debut. It comes with tiebar spacing of 800 x 720 mm. All SmartPower models feature braking energy recovery for barrel heating.  (For more Fakuma news, see our October issue's Keeping Up section.)

Solving the Mystery of Melt Temperature

By: Matthew H. Naitove 21. September 2015

However much we think we know about the injection molding process today, I’ve been talking lately with a number of molders and molding experts, who agree that we still don’t know very much about what is happening to melt temperature inside the machine and mold. Some of them call it, frankly, a “mystery.”


I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I deduce that a solution—or two—may have arrived. Keep an eye out for our October issue, which should appear online next week and in the mail soon after.


Up to now, molders have had two options. They could put a thermocouple in the nozzle, but its readings are affected by the surrounding steel as much as the melt. And if the sensor projects into the melt stream, away from the steel, it is subject to wear and damage, and induces extra shearing that distorts the reading.


I’m told the only practical means of measuring melt temperature is to purge a blob of melt and shove a sensor into it by hand—a procedure that is both clumsy and plagued by numerous variables and inconsistencies, not to mention that it interrupts actual molding.


Enter Md Plastics in Youngstown, Ohio, which is offering a unique melt-temperature sensor that can be placed in the machine nozzle, mold cavity, or mold vent. As explained by company president Mike Durina, the sensor responds to both temperature and pressure, which makes its operation a little complicated to explain, so I recommend reading the full Close Up article. In short, during the injection filling and packing stages, the sensor reading reflects the total energy input (or “work”) into the melt. However, at the end of the cooling stage, before screw recovery starts, when the melt is under little pressure, the sensor reading stabilizes at a level that corresponds to melt temperature alone.


The manager of one molder’s tech center got his best technicians together and had them all perform manual-purge temperature measurements, and the average of their results corresponded nicely with the readings of Md Plastics’ Temp-Tek sensor. “Pretty darn good,” he concluded.


Durina notes that the Temp-Tek sensor can also be used in other processes: In blow molding, it could be placed in the mold or inside the parison to measure the air temperature there. In extrusion, it could be placed in the melt stream or in the die; it could also measure the air temperature inside a blown film bubble, providing information not usually available. I thermoforming, the sensor could be mounted between the sheet and the mold.


While I was researching the story on that sensor, I learned that Futaba Corp. of America, Schaumburg, Ill., is introducing to the U.S. a reportedly unique infrared sensor (photo) that directly senses the temperature of the melt without being influenced by the surrounding steel. It’s fast—8 millisec response time—and provides a wealth of information: For example, if placed in a mold cavity, the measured cooling rate correlates with the degree of packing of that part. It’s being used in Japan by major customers such as Toyota, Nissan, Panasonic, and Denso. There’s more on this in the October Keeping Up section. By the way, the person to contact at Futaba is Mr. Yasuo Ishiwata (

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