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11/1/2000 | 8 MINUTE READ

Hardware is the Highlight of Fall Thermoforming Conference

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A rotary thermoformer that feeds from a roll, a six-station rotary for twin-sheet forming of difficult materials, and what may be the largest roll-fed machine on the market were among seven sophisticated new machinery introductions presented at the Society of Plastic Engineers’ 10th Annual Thermoforming Conference, held in September in Columbus, Ohio.

There was lots more news at the conference, in controls, tooling, heating elements, CNC trimming, CAE process simulation, and decorating.


Novel rotaries bow in

The new Maximizer three-station rotary machine from American Plastic Machinery Corp., Great Bend, Ind., can form thin sheet from a roll, thanks to an integrated cutoff device. A chain, sprocket, and lance blade aid in sheet positioning and forming. Depending on machine size, sheet from 24 x 36 to 68 x 72 in. can be cut and formed in a fully automated machine with variable-speed AC servo drive. Units have top and bottom heaters with 36 elements each, and pneumatically operated platens with 30-in stroke.

Twin-sheet forming of tricky materials like TPO’s in thin gauges with fast cycles is said to be possible with a new line of six-station rotaries from Adventures in Thermoforming, Gladwin, Mich. The new 6RAVT model is offered in an 8 x 20 ft size and features an articulating clamp system that allows the sheet to be stretched to reduce sagging and allow for contouring. Sheet as thin as 0.06 in. can be used. An electric indexing system advances the sheet in 3.5 sec. The unit permits a 36-in. maximum draw.

New entry-level cut-sheet machines in three-station and single-station designs were introduced by Maac Corp., Carol Stream. Ill. They are designed to compete on price with the used machinery market. Maac’s new Saturn three-station model is offered in a 4 x 6 or 5 x 8 ft configuration. It has microprocessor control, 50-in. top-platen stroke, 30-in. bottom-platen stroke, and top and bottom ovens, each with 20 ceramic heater zones. The unit is priced at $129,500 and will be sold by Plastimach Corp., Valley Cottage, N.Y.

Maac also rolled out the Star line of single-station units with simple controls in 4 x 6 and 5 x 8 ft sizes.

The top size for single-station, double-station, and rotary vacuum formers from Vector Machinery, Asheboro, N.C., will be expanded from the current 5 x 8 ft to 6 x 10 ft. This is due partly to a new facility, which tripled the firm’s manufacturing space. The site will allow Vector to build machines up to 8 x 12 ft in the future.

In addition, Vector says it has improved its machinery to provide consistent maximum vacuum during the entire forming cycle. Twin vacuum tanks now come with a sensor valve that shuts off a depleted tank and opens a fresh second tank. The programmable sensor allows for multi-zone, multi-stage vacuum operation.

Roman Packaging Technologies Inc., Poway, Calif., a maker of custom machines, now has a standard line of eight models of single-station shuttle units from 24 x 24 to 84 x 132 in. They are said to be economically priced—for example, a 36 x 36 in. unit costs $35,000. A Mitsubishi PLC controller with set-up storage capability and touchscreen control is standard on machines larger than 48 x 72 in. The units also have pneumatically operated dual platens, a clamp frame that can be adjusted with one wrench, and glass-faced bottom heaters with ceramic elements that deliver 30 watts/sq in.


Big in-line units coming

A new approach to forming-station design, a new sheet-indexing system, and a new downstream trim press that handles counting, stacking, and packing are planned for a very large trim-in place packaging machine being designed by Irwin OMV Technologies (IOT), Yakima, Wash. This new firm is a joint venture of Irwin Research & Development of Yakima and OMV-USA Inc., Genoa City, Wis. The machine will have 60 x 60 in. platens, big enough to will allow forming another row of product, thereby matching the outputs of the forming and trimming presses. The former provides a 9-in. depth of draw. The trim station is designed to work with HIPS, APET, HDPE and some PP materials. The unit can be supplied with in-line extrusion. Designed to produce 360,000 8-oz drinking cups per hour, this model is expected to arrive sometime next year.

IOT is also developing an in-mold trim machine for with 40 x 40 in. platens and 9-in. draw depth. It is aimed at high-volume packaging jobs that require close tolerances. The unit will process 2200-2400 lb/hr.


News in controls

Faster set-up and more responsive control are claimed for rotary and other cut-sheet presses from Modern Machinery, Beaverton, Mich., following an upgrade to new Windows NT control software. Eliminating the PLC and reducing the hardware requirements is one benefit of the all-PC control, which features a new graphical interface and touchscreen. Users can view the oven heat profile and thermoforming sequence, store and retrieve job set-ups, collect SPC data, run maintenance menus or diagnostics, and review data-entry and machine-status logs. A global editing function changes all oven zones with one command.

Automatic, continuous thermoformers from ZED Industries Inc., Vandalia, Ohio, now use a touchscreen control with Windows 2000 Professional software. The upgraded controls can store up to half a million machine set-ups and can track production, operating faults, and corrective action taken. Production data can be transported over a network for remote viewing.


Tooling advancements

A new form and trim-in-place tool for shallow-draw parts is designed to stack a selected amount of formed product inside of the tool and then deposit the counted stack onto a conveyor. The tool is being developed by International Thermoforming Systems (ITS) of Yakima, Wash. With a stack count of up to 50 parts, the tool saves space by eliminating downstream stacking equipment. It may be used in a new machine designed for 9-in. polystyrene plates that run in a 20-cavity mold at 300 cycles/min.

Spacers that add width to a mold base can now be part of the base’s water-cooling circuit, as a result of a new development from Edward D. Segen & Co. Inc., Milford, Conn. Outflow hoses from the mold base plug into the 1-in.-thick spacers to extend the mold-base cooling. The spacers are mounted on the mold base with three screws and are used to extend the area of the base when a larger mold is being mounted.

Up to 15% faster clamp adjustment is predicted with a new clamp frame from Lamco Machine Tool Inc., Morehead City, N.C. It provides tool-less adjustment of both length and width for its cut-sheet machines. The clamp moves on a T-slot sliding rail, and is locked and unlocked with thumb bolts.

A new four-screw adjustable lip roller from Future Mold Corp., Farwell, Mich., handles PS and PET cups in sizes from 5.75 to 1.5 in. diam. Each screw has its own heat source, yet they operate at the same rpm, driven by a single serpentine belt. Distances between the screws can be manually adjusted to run various cup sizes.

A new PTFE-filled epoxy syntactic-foam material for making plug assists reduces sticking problems when running tacky materials. New Hytac-WT grade from CMT Materials Inc., Dedham, Mass., ensures good release of materials such as HDPE, while the low heat transfer of epoxy results in higher clarity when forming APET and other clear polymers. It has a density of 45-50 pcf and maximum service temperature of 350 F.


Heaters gain performance

Higher temperatures and smaller zones are new developments in gas catalytic heating panels from American Catalytic Technologies, Branford, Conn. The units’ new catalyst technology and engineering are designed to provide temperatures above 1000 F, about 50d higher than previous models. The firm also says it now can partition an oven panel into zones as small as 12 in. square.

Solar Products Inc., East Lyme, Conn., is offering new electric panel heaters with silicon carbide faces that reportedly provide higher performance at a lower price. The new faces are said to be durable enough for use in the bottom half of an oven. The silicon carbide heater operates at about 1250 F with a radiant efficiency of 65-70%, lower than the 1700 F operating temperature and nearly 80% efficiency of a quartz panel. The new heaters will become commercially available next year in standard panel sizes from 4 x 6 to 12 x72 in.


Entry-level CNC trimmer

A new entry-level, five-axis CNC machine for trimming, routing, and mold making is new from Motionmaster Inc., Vista, Calif. The $60,000, 4 x 3 ft Workcell Trimmer features a 3-hp, variable-speed spindle that is programmable from 1800 to 18,000 rpm. It also has an automatic tool changer, an expandable four-station tool rack, and a machining envelope of 60 x 48 x 30 in. Its servo motors drive precision lead screws. A 5 x 5 ft unit priced around $80,000-90,000 will be offered next.

Eliminate the labor of realigning the head after each tool change on a CNC machine by using a new alignment probe to test the position of a newly installed tool. The new PK4816 test probe from CMS North America Inc., Caledonia, Mich., is a stem with three sensors positioned on the top and sides. A motion program added to the robot’s program sequence guides the CNC head after every tool change to the probe. The head is lowered until it touches one of the probes. The program compares the calculated tool position with stored data to determine if the tool is in the right spot. The test tool costs $3200.


New way to decorate

A graphic transfer-technology first seen in the rotomolding field is now being offered to thermoformers as a way to add labels or graphics to sheet either before or after forming. Mold In Graphics (MIG) Systems, Clarkdale, Ariz., developed special polymeric decals that can be placed on a sheet and affixed using heat to create a chemical bond between the decal and the sheet. Or, the decal can be inserted in the mold cavity and transferred to the product using the heat and pressure of the forming process. A third option is to apply the decal by rubbing it onto a finished part. A chemical adhesive is sprayed onto the part first, then the polymer graphic is placed on the surface, and a hot-air gun is used to fuse the art to the part.

Whichever means is used, the decoration is said to be permanent and impervious to chemicals and light. The graphics can be custom designed with pearlescent, iridescent, fluorescent, and 3-D effects.

The People’s Choice Award at the annual SPE Thermoforming Conference went to a 60-lb pick-up truck tonneau cover thermoformed of Lustran ABS with a cap layer of Centrex 485 weatherable styrenic from Bayer Corp. STK LLC, Uniontown, Pa., formed the cover in two parts that are bonded with adhesive. It is said to have the same strength as traditional FRP covers, but weighs half as much.

Roman Packaging Technologies came out with its first standard line of economically priced single-station shuttle machines in sizes of 2 x 2 to 7 x 12 ft.