Measure Pellet Moisture Online: A Second System Debuts at Fakuma Show

By: Matthew H. Naitove 25. August 2015


NPE 2012 saw the introduction of the first device for measuring the moisture content of resin pellets online and in real time. This device, the MoistureMaster has since been implemented for quality assurance in several medical molding facilities, according to the supplier, Novatec Inc., Baltimore.


In October, the second system of this sort will debut at the Fakuma 2015 show in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Moretto S.p.A. of Massanzago, Italy (U.S. office in Columbus, Ohio), will show off the latest version of its Eureka system for high-volume PET drying. Called Eureka Plus, it now has been supplemented by the Moisture Meter, a unit that is mounted under the drying hopper (photo) and reportedly measures the residual moisture in the dried pellets. Not only does it provide a minute-by-minute quality-control check on the actual resin moisture, but it also communicates with the dryer to adjust the process, if necessary. Moretto emphasizes that this can prevent overdrying and avoid wasting energy.


Expect more details after the show.

The Next 'Big' Thing in 3D Printing

By: Matthew H. Naitove 19. August 2015

Thermwood's developmental BAAM system with American Kuhne extruder.


Additive manufacturing (AM), better known as 3D printing, is big news these days, and the news in AM is “Big,” as in Big-Area Additive Manufacturing, or BAAM. Visitors to June’s Amerimold exposition in Rosemont, Ill., got an impression of where BAAM is headed. Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Oak Ridge, Tenn., showed off examples of its BAAM work at its Manufacturing Demonstration Facility. ORNL made news this past January with its 3D printed Shelby Cobra sports car, which debuted at the North American Auto Show. At Amerimold, ORNL showed an example of its current thrust in making molds for automotive, aerospace, and other composites fabrication. It exhibited a honeycomb section of mold made from ABS with 20% chopped carbon fiber, deposited by an injection molding-type extruder mounted on a CNC gantry in a machine built by Cincinnati, Inc. Capable of dispensing up to 100 lb/hr, it was described as “FDM on steroids” by Dr. Chad Duty, ORNL group leader for deposition science & technology. FDM is fused deposition modeling, an AM method of depositing a hot, continuous filament of thermoplastic in layers to build up a part. In BAAM, the layers can be around 1/8-in. thick.


Duty estimated that a car hood mold could be built in a “couple of hours” and could then be finished with a conventional gel coat. It could then be used for room-temperature cure of epoxy/carbon fiber composites. He said ORNL is working on PPS, PSU, and PEEK tools capable of withstanding elevated-temperature autoclave molding. It has already tested PPS with 40% carbon fiber. At Amerimold, ORNL also showed off a 35-lb chair made in one piece in half an hour from ABS with 20% carbon fiber. It has been load tested to support up to 600 lb.


Besides the Cincinnati machine, ORNL has worked with a six-axis, articulated-arm robot with a material deposition head. Additional options may be available in the near future. For example, CNC router supplier Thermwood Corp., Dale, Ind., is developing a BAAM machine with a six-axis, gantry-mounted extruder from American Kuhne, Ashaway, R.I. The initial development machine, nearing completion, can make parts up to 10 x 10 ft x 5 ft high. The vertically mounted, 1.75-in. extruder can process over 100 lb/hr. After deposition, a second head on the same machine can machine the part to its final shape.


A second new effort along these lines is a collaborative effort by two firms in Ohio, that are coming at the technology from the extrusion side. Year-old Strangpresse LLC in Youngstown, an extruder builder, is working with Md Plastics of Columbiana, which is supplying special screw, barrel, and check-valve technology derived from injection molding. The goal is to build a vertical, robot-mounted extrusion head that can deposit around 100 lb/hr in a highly controlled fashion. Still in development, the system is designed to ensure highly precise and uniform volumetric deposition of melt as the head moves over a large area at high speed with sudden turns, starts, and stops. The check valve is intended to prevent drool and stringing when deposition stops. The two firms aim to collaborate with a robotics firm to develop a complete BAAM system using a six-axis robot. Expect to hear more on this project in the near future.

Here's Another Process for Foam Blow Molding

By: Matthew H. Naitove 3. June 2015


If anyone has a doubt that foam blow molding is on the verge of a renaissance, take a look at what W. Müller USA is doing. At NPE2015, the Agawam, Mass., maker of blow molding extrusion heads, spoke quietly with potential customers about a foam blow molding process that it has been working on behind the scenes since 2013. Company president Wolfgang Meyer gave Plastics Technology details on the process, which uses a special head design for three-layer coextrusion with solid inner and outer skins and a foamed center. What’s different about this process is that it uses nitrogen gas injection into the head, not into the extruder like other processes. It uses no chemical blowing agent—only talc as a nucleating agent, so it is acceptable for food packaging, Meyer says. For more details, see this month’s Starting Up section.


Other firms exploring foam blow molding include MuCell Extrusion, Trexel, and Plastic Technologies Inc.

Last Chance to Benchmark Your Hourly Rates

By: Matthew H. Naitove 8. April 2015

It has been a busy season for everyone, what with the humming economy, the giant NPE show, and occasional weather problems clogging up transportation. Maybe that’s what kept you from contributing your data to latest Custom Injection Molders Hourly Rates Survey.


We originally planned to publish the results of the December 2014 survey in April. But responses have been too few to give reliable results. If we can get enough data in the next two weeks, we could still publish December 2014 results in June.


If not, we’ll cancel that survey and try again at the end of June for data on the first half of 2015.


We have tried—and mostly succeeded—in providing you with Hourly Rates Survey updates twice a year. But if once a year is sufficient for you, we’ll stick to just a midyear survey.


But no survey will succeed without your responses. It’s totally anonymous and takes just 5 minutes, so what’s to lose?


There’s a lot to gain—the only objective source of average custom machine-hour rates for presses of specific tonnage ranges in different regions of the country. You can see the latest results (June 2014) here.


If you’re a custom molder, please take 5 minutes to fill out our online questionnaire form here. (If you have any difficulty with the link, cut and paste this URL into your browser address bar: 


Thanks, and please contribute to this unique survey to see data on your industry that’s not available anywhere else.

At NPE: Blow Mold 10,000-Liter Tanks

By: Matthew H. Naitove 27. March 2015

Rikutec, the German builder of large extrusion blow machines, is building what it calls “the world’s largest blow molder” for making above-ground water tanks of 7000 L and weighing 550 lb in the Middle East. The GBM S10.000 LD machine (photo) has a clamp force of 600 metric tons, 400 L accumulator head, and four extruders of 150 mm diam., providing a total throughput capacity of 5720 lb/hr. The max. shot capacity of the head is 726 lb. It can produce hollow bodies of up to 10,000 L. The water tanks will have a UV-stabilized outer layer, food-grade inner layer, and two middle layers pigmented black to prevent light transmission and algae growth. The middle layers will also contain calcium carbonate for stiffness at summer temperatures up to 131 F. These tanks will be 10-12 mm thick and molded at about eight tanks/hr using a single operator. Rikutec compares this to rotomolding tanks 25-30 mm thick with a foamed core and requiring four people to produce one tank/hr.


Rikutec (U.S. office in Whitinsville, Mass.) is exhibiting together with Kautex Machines, North Branch, N.J. (W1551) The two companies have cooperated since 2010. Their product lines are complementary, since Kautex produces machines for up to about 1000 L, which is where the Rikutec line starts.

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