Hekuma GmbH, a German robotics firm experienced in in-mold labeling for injection molding, has come out with an IML system for thermoforming PP and PE containers. (It’s not the first of its type—Illig in Germany developed thermoforming IML systems as far back as 1994.) Hekuma, represented here by Electronic Media International, Kennebunk, Me., collaborated with thermoforming machine maker Kiefel and tooling specialist Mould & Matic in Micheldorf, Germany, to develop the system. Hekuma is currently negotiating a sale to a large European processor.
The IML system utilizes Hekuma’s Push-and-Wind label preparation system to produce 250-cc PP containers at a rate of 60/min from a four-cavity mold with a 4-sec cycle. The preformed labels are grasped by a robot, electrostatically charged, and then robotically inserted into the mold. Kiefel’s Thermorunner KTR 4 unit has a servo-actuated forming station modified for IML and a heating unit optimized for processing PP. (Kiefel is represented here by Kiefel Technologies, Inc., Hampton, N.H.)
Hekuma says thermoformers can save material cost by lightweighting containers with IML. The 100-micron label adds strength and rigidity to the final product, which has a 0.3-mm wall thickness. IML also offers recycling advantages over paper labels and provides more flexibility than traditional printing directly on containers. Hekuma is developing other IML systems with eight, 12, and 18 cavities for producing round cups or square tubs from 125 to 500 cc at 20 cycles/min.