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You’ll hear it over and over in Orlando next month. Exhibitors will say they’re not selling products so much as solutions. By that they mean they’re not there primarily to show you how to do what you’re already doing today, just a little better or cheaper. Rather, their emphasis is on how to help you get where you want to be tomorrow.

Yes, there will be plenty of new injection machines that boast improvements in speed, energy efficiency, and versatility. But the main attraction at the show will be automated cells demonstrating advanced techniques suited to medical or automotive manufacturing, teletronics, packaging, and consumer products. And in many cases, the extra spice added to the recipe is elements of the evolving vision of the “smart factory” or “Industry 4.0.”


Before we get to the more elaborate demonstrations of automated manufacturing, let’s look at some of the new machines at the show:

Four new models of economically priced machines from Absolute Haitian boast enhanced clamp and injection specs, while also offering energy savings. Two of them are available now and two are still at the preview stage of development. Making its debut in the Americas is the Zhafir Jenius Series for large-part precision molding (506 to 3709 U.S. tons). Aimed particularly at automotive molders, the JE series combines an all-electric injection unit with a servo-hydraulic, two-platen clamp. Also new is a fast-cycling “2S” version of the Zhafir Zeres electric machine with integrated hydraulics for core pulls, ejectors and nozzle touch. The line extends from 44 to 1500 tons.

The other two machines are previews of what’s to come. There’s a sneak peek at the third generation of the Haitian Mars servo-hydraulic line, the MAIII. The first model, a 192-ton MA1700 III, will become available in the Americas late in the year, with additional sizes available in 2019. Another preview is the third generation of the all-electric Venus Series. It boasts an upgraded clamp with “the industry’s most generous tiebar spacing,” according to the company, and increased injection-pressure capacity. On display will be the first model available later this year, a 101-ton VE900 III. The Venus III series will range from 45 to 899 tons (more details in Keeping Up).

U.S. molders will get their first look at Arburg’s fully redesigned flagship machine series and its new controller ( Introduced at K 2016 and now available here, the Allrounder 1120H is Arburg’s largest machine ever, at 650 metric tons (730 U.S.), with 1120 mm tiebar spacing and 1050 mm stroke. Dry-cycle time is 2.4 sec. This hybrid press has an electric toggle clamp powered by twin servos, plus servo-hydraulic injection with a gas accumulator (see Jan. ’17 K 2016 report).

This machine debuts the new Gestica control system, which will eventually replace the current Selogica controller. Its pivoting and height-adjustable operator panel has a smooth glass front that resembles a tablet computer and accepts multi-touch/gesture commands. The 15.6-in., full-HD screen has a new EASYslider element that allows fingertip dynamic control of machine movements during setup. Motions can be speeded up or slowed down with the swipe of a finger on the on-screen bar.

Two other models with the sleek new design and controller are already on the market, the  Allrounder 920 H (500 m.t.) and 820 H (400 m.t.)—the latter will be unveiled at the Plast2018 show in Milan, Italy, in late May.

Bole North America will introduce two new series of Chinese-built machines. The FE full-electric, high-speed line comes in 110 and 180 m.t. and the servo-hydraulic EK series is available from 90 to 500 m.t. Both have a toggle clamp that applies force in the center of the platens rather than in the corners, along with floating tiebars, both of which are said to reduce deformation and wear. They also have KEBA touchscreen controls.

Chen Hsong of Hong Kong will be presenting two new lines of servo-hydraulic machines. One is the Supermaster two-platen series with fast clamp speed of 750 mm/sec, modular design, and Beckoff controls. A SM700 model will be shown, but the line ranges up to 7150 tons with 242-lb shot size.

The other new line is the Jetmaster MK6 toggle press with generous tiebar spacing, B&R controls, and “precision hydraulics,” tuned for high accuracy without overshoots or fluctuations. Mold protection is reportedly so sensitive that it will not puncture a single sheet of letter paper. A JM208-MK6 will be displayed.

Asian Plastic Machinery of Taiwan, a subsidiary of Chen Hsong, is represented here by Cincinnati Process Technologies. CPT will be talking about (though not displaying) the new “value-priced” Super Master EV2 Series of servo-hydraulic toggle presses from 88 to 1099 tons (see January’s Keeping Up).

In its own separate booth, Asian Plastic Machinery will operate one of its higher-end TSV Series servo-hydraulic toggles with an IML system.

Engel is bringing to the Americas its Wintec line of Chinese-built, general-purpose machines for standard applications. This competitively priced line includes the Wintec t-win series of servo-hydraulic two-platen presses from 500 to 1900 tons and the Wintec e-series all-electric toggles from 55 to 310 tons (more details here).

Another new series of machines from Taiwan is the Rc-Series of two-component, servo-hydraulic toggle presses from Fortune International/Victor Taichung. In sizes of 180 to 450 m.t., they have a 180° rotating plate and either vertical or horizontal (L-type) second injection unit. The company also offers ES servo-hydraulic toggles from 50 to 1600 m.t. The new-generation V8800 control has a swivel-mounted, 15-in. touchscreen with internal memory for up to 1000 molds, USB port, and a single screen for setting clamp and ejector positions, screw retraction, injection, temperatures, and air eject. Data collection for production management and quality control is also provided.

A new “speed” option for medium-sized GX two-platen presses from KraussMaffei equips them for large packaging and logistics components. The GX-900 at NPE includes faster clamping speeds up to 0.45 sec. Injection speed can be up to 700 mm/sec. Faster cycles are assisted by an electric screw drive and the HPS high-performance barrier screw. The machine at NPE will mold two 5-gal paint pails with IML in under 14 sec.

Führung is a relatively new brand of Chinese injection machines from Ningbo Leadway Machinery Technology Co. Its Blaze II servo-hydraulic toggle presses will be exhibited in Orlando. The line extends from 100 to 1300 m.t. Injection units ride on guide rails and have been strategically lightened to enhance acceleration response  The clamp has a wider and longer platen guide, T-slot platen for fast mold mounting, European-style ejectors, and three-color tower light with alarm.

Maruka USA will unveil two new servo-hydraulic presses from FCS in Taiwan. Making its North American debut is the GenII FA series (35 to 1565 tons) for fast-cycle precision molding. These toggle presses have increased injection pressures and larger tiebar spacing, as well as a KEBA i2880 touchscreen controller. Also new is the LA-SV two-platen series of 560 to 4070 tons. They boast increased clamp speed and the same KEBA controller.

Among five demonstrations of Toyo all-electric machines Maruka will provide an example of its new customization services. A recent project was the customized 150-ton Toyo Si-150-6 on display, which will mold golf tees.

Md Plastics is exhibiting the injection unit of what will be a new offering of injection presses from a company that heretofore supplied mainly plasticating components. Its new Inject-EX machine (hydraulic, electric, or hybrid) will have two-stage injection with a unique inline screw and plunger. This arrangement is said to overcome longstanding limitations of conventional reciprocating screws with a simpler and less costly design than existing two-stage machines (details in Keeping Up).

Milacron’s theme is “going big” at NPE, emphasizing its expertise in high-tonnage presses—for example, it is building a 6600-ton Cincinnati two-platen behemoth for a North American molder. It will be hard to ignore another “beast”—a 2250-ton Cincinnati two-platen press that is claimed to be the “largest tonnage injection machine ever run at NPE.” This new design is servo-hydraulic, with five servomotors controlling five gear pumps. This machine—sold to i2-tech Custom Injection Molders in Iowa—has an improved layout for enhanced access to eject and die areas. It will be molding a 10.5-lb ATV dashboard.

Another example of “going big” will be the debut of the Milacron-Fanuc Roboshot 500—at 550 U.S. tons, it’s the largest all-electric Roboshot machine yet. It has a tiebar spacing of 36.2 in. It will mold 24 detergent caps in 6 sec.

Meanwhile, Milacron will also introduce its new Quantum servo-hydraulic toggle line from 125 to 610 tons. This new “workhorse” series comes with Endura Touch control. A 260-tonner will be shown in a two-component application (details below).

Continuing the trend toward revving up all-electric machines for high-speed packaging and medical markets, Negri Bossi is introducing its fourth-generation all-electric machines, the Nova eT series from 50 to 350 m.t. They come with a new Tactum control that accepts multi-touch swipe and scroll gestures. The showpiece is a 180-m.t. model molding four food-container lids with IML in 3 sec, using a side-entry robot from sister company Sytrama (more details here).

Negri Bossi is also showing an example of the Canbio sT servo-hydraulic toggle line (180 to 500 m.t.), recently introduced to North America. These “highly modular” machines have the Tactus controller with 21.5-in. touchscreen and energy-consumption monitor. A 180-m.t. model will mold a ping pong bat from PBT, TPU, and both solid and foamed LSR (details here).

NPE will be the U.S. debut of the high-speed Elios hybrid toggle line from Netstal. A 750-m.t. unit will mold 16-oz deli containers (473 ml) in an 8 + 8 stack mold on a 3.1-sec cycle. The new toggle clamp reportedly provides “the fastest dry cycle in its size class.” It also boasts ample tiebar spacing and opening stroke, suiting it to stack molds. The clamp features electric traverse and hydraulic pressure buildup; screw drive is also electric, while injection is servo-hydraulically driven for speeds up to 2200 mm/sec, acceleration up to 20G, and reaction time of 11 millisec.

Among seven machines on display by Nissei Plastic Industrial Co. of Japan will be examples of two new lines. One is the servo-hydraulic FNX-IV series with the new TACT 5 controller. This new generation boasts “best-in-class” tiebar spacing and 100 mm greater daylight. The container mold running at the show in a 237-ton model would normally require a 386-tonner, Nissei says. The new control is designed for the “upcoming Industry 4.0 era”—it is reportedly compatible with communications standards for the IoT (“internet-of-things”) enabled factory and it collects and analyzes quality- and production-management data.

Also new is the new-generation NEX-IV all-electric range from 33 to 397 tons. It has “one of the widest daylights in the industry” as well as the smallest footprint, Nissei claims. It has 100-mm longer daylight and a new toggle with linear guides that cuts mold open/close times by 5-20%.

Plustech, Inc. will show off its first Sodick all-electric machine, model MS100. This 100-ton, two-stage model uses the company’s V-Line two-stage injection system. A new toggle design is said to contribute faster cycles and energy savings.

Sumitomo (SHI) Demag will bring 12 machines to NPE, eight of them in its own booth and four in others’. Seven of the 12 will be members of the latest SEEV-A all-electric toggle line, spanning the full size range (56 to 562 tons) of this platform. The larger models are aimed in part at automotive, due to their ability to carry larger, heavier and more complex molds. The company is also planning to introduce additional all-electric machines with mid-range clamp forces early next year.

Wilmington Machinery will be featuring its Lumina MP800 two-platen, 800-ton press with two-stage, screw/plunger injection and 44-lb shot capacity. With medium-pressure capability (10,000 psi injection), this machine offers flexibility for either solid or structural-foam molding (see Feb. ’17 Keeping Up) Improvements in the past year include closed-loop VFD-controlled hydraulics and screw technology that permits compounding up to six ingredients on the fixed extruder (details here.. 

Wittmann Battenfeld is showing off a new machine, the EcoPower Xpress 400, a 400-m.t. all-electric press designed expressly for high-speed packaging and other thin-wall applications. It was previewed at K 2016 and became commercially available last fall (see more below).

Yizumi HPM recently revised several lines of machines specifically for the North American market (see Nov. ’17 Close Up). NPE will feature three machines with “N” (for North American) designation: A 1200-ton, 240-oz DP-N series two-platen, servo-hydraulic model in a series from 550 to 3500 tons; a 360-ton, 34-oz A5-N series servo-hydraulic toggle in a line from 65 to 1125 tons; and a 65-ton, 2-oz model from the firm’s newest all-electric FE-N series (65 to 290 tons).


No single theme is likely to be more prevalent on the show floor than the “smart factory” movement known as Industry 4.0. NPE visitors are apt to be bombarded by messages heralding IoT (Internet of Things), Inject 4.0, Plastics 4.0, or any number of other “4.0” variants.

North American processors, by and large, are expected to be still exploring what all this really means, and means to them, in terms of economic opportunity and technological risk. NPE will be the best opportunity yet in this hemisphere to find out. Since makers of primary machinery, robots (see below), and auxiliaries are all eager to show how they are becoming “4.0 ready,” only a few examples will have to suffice here. These examples address the three major elements of Industry 4.0:

• Smart machines capable of self-regulating processes.

• Smart production, in which machines and processes communicate and coordinate among themselves and communicate real-time data on production status to MES and ERP systems and production personnel. A key to this evolution is the widespread adoption of the OPC-UA protocol for data transfer between machines and auxiliaries and machines and MES or ERP systems.

• Smart service, involving 24/7 remote troubleshooting, online (and sometimes automated) ordering of spare parts, and new ways of monitoring machines—locally and remotely—for predictive/preventive maintenance.

In the “smart machines” category, KraussMaffei is featuring its APC+ adaptive process-control software that is intended to ensure consistent parts production by adjusting to changes in material viscosity and ambient conditions. The “plus” enhancement to the APC algorithm is the addition of a library of materials data—particularly melt density and melt compressibility, which are critical to consistent cavity filling and packing. KM is also highlighting its DataXplorer software that provides a nearly microscopic look at the process, enabling users to respond to unclear fault patterns.

In a similar vein, Engel will show off the capabilities of its iQ weight control (for uniform filling, regardless of viscosity changes); iQ clamp control (to save energy and mold wear by finding the minimal necessary clamp tonnage); and the U.S. debut of iQ flow control (ensuring optimum cooling in all mold channels without wasting energy). There is also iQ vibration control, which induces small counter-movements to balance robot shake and shorten cycles.

Engel is also emphasizing “smart service” with the North American launch of its e-connect customer portal for 24/7 customer service, and the newly developed e-connect.monitor predictive-maintenance program (see Starting Up).

Netstal will present its new e-service program for access to machine-specific documents and spare-parts ordering. Also on display will be the AnalytiX cloud-based production-monitoring system, accessed via an app for smartphone or tablet.

Wittmann Battenfeld will demonstrate its HiQ-Melt, HighQ-Flow, and HiQ-Cushion “smart machine” technologies as part of its “Wittmann 4.0” program. This firm is in the unusual position of making both injection machines and a full range of auxiliaries. It has therefore employed OPC-UA and other technologies to link all these devices with the aid of a secure Wittmann 4.0 router. This router is a key to Wittmann’s “Plug & Produce” initiative, which makes it possible to store and recall all parameter settings for a particular job within the Unilog B8 machine control—everything needed to set up the molding machine, robot, dryer, chiller, TCU, and blender. This data also can be retrieved from an MES system.

Wittmann 4.0 integration will be demonstrated on six work cells at NPE, the most elaborate of them involving integration (via the Wittmann 4.0 router) of the robot, TCU, blender, Flowcon Plus electronic water-flow controller, HiQ-Flow and Cushion functions on the injection press, and two cavity-pressure sensors. Non-Wittmann units also integrated into the same network via the router and a Windows-based controller include a Gammaflux hot-runner controller, HRSflow  servovalve controller for five valve gates, and Opti Check from Schneider Form, which measures the deflection of the mold during injection. This cell will also show the new CMS (Condition Monitoring System) for predictive maintenance.

As at the last NPE, Arburg will present its take on Industry 4.0 with a demonstration of individualized manufacturing that coordinates different machines and processes. Business-card holders will be molded and laser marked with a barcode label that provides access to production data for that part from a remote computer. Then the part is custom decorated by Arburg’s freeformer 3D printer.

Industry 4.0 is not just a European or American phenomenon: Nissei will show off its “Visualization of Factory” program for using the injection machine to pull information from all connected devices, such as auxiliary equipment. An element of this system is the “PQ Manager,” a quality- and production-management system that can monitor multiple machines.

In addition, Sumitomo has implemented myConnect internet access for customers to online support, machine documentation, spare-parts ordering, and management of service and maintenance.

Another new Industry 4.0 solution is Smart Attend production monitoring from a new company of the same name (see Close Up in this issue).


Medical devices and disposables remain an especially attractive market for plastics—and plastics machinery. At least eight press makers will address this market with molding demos. Engel, for example, will repeat an impressive feat from K 2016 (see Sept. ’16 Keeping Up) by molding eight interdental brushes, each with up to 500 tiny bristles, and a total shot weight of only 1.93 g.

KraussMaffei will mold LSR medical parts (see below). Netstal will run pipette tips in 128 cavities at a cycle time of 5.6 sec.

Sumitomo Demag will mold eight thin-wall medical dosing cups in 3 sec. Wittmann Battenfeld will mold PP pipettes in eight cavities on an EcoPower all-electric “cleanroom machine.” And Absolute Haitian will run an in-dwelling needle body of cellulose acetate proprionate in eight cavities. Other medical molding exhibits will be presented by Arburg, Boy Machines, and Yizumi-HPM.


A second area of market focus among the injection molding exhibits is high-speed packaging production—of caps, in particular, using beefed-up all-electric or hybrid machines. For example, Engel will mold 26-mm HDPE beverage caps with tamper-proof bands in a 96 cavity mold in 2 sec on its all-electric, 460-ton e-cap system. Wittmann Battenfeld will run a 96-cavity mold for still-water caps with an expected cycle time of 2.56 sec on its new 440-ton all-electric EcoPower Xpress (see above). Sumitomo Demag will run 72 high-precision water caps on its El-Exis SP 300 hybrid on a 2-sec cycle. And Jon Wai of Taiwan will run its “Cap Solution” on a 220-ton machine, producing 48 caps in 3.06 sec.


At least six machinery OEMs will highlight the growing popularity of in-mold labeling and decorating (IML, IMD). For the first time in North America, Engel will demonstrate the Decoject IMD process that was first shown at K 2016. Aimed at auto interiors, this automated cell feeds a thin TPO film from a roll into a mold, where it is back-injected with PP and punched out of the roll. The part gets a laser trim after demolding. The film imparts color, texture, gloss, and feel, so a variety of parts can be made simply by changing films.

Other exhibits will address IML for packaging, where speed is of the essence. Arburg will use a “packaging” version of its Allrounder 570 H designed for thin-wall molding to produce four PP tubs with IML in just 1.9 sec. The decorated parts have a wall thickness of 0.0126 in. and weigh 0.12 oz. Mold and automation are from Brink B.V. of The Netherlands (

KraussMaffei’s GX 900 two-platen press with new “speed” option (see above) will mold two 5-gal paint pails with IML in less than 14 sec, using automation from Campetella (see robot section).

A Netstal all-electric Elion 1200 (120 m.t.) will produce single-serve coffee capsules of PLA biopolymer (with PLA labels from Verstraete) in four cavities and in 6-7 sec, using robotics from Beck Automation, at whose booth the machine will be running.

Another Netstal machine (Elion 3200 hybrid) will produce four rectangular containers with IML in 3.9 sec, using robotics from CBW Automation, at that company’s booth.

Sumitomo Demag will use injection-compression molding with IML to produce a thin-wall food-container lid on a 4-sec cycle.

Nissei’s IML demo will label two-cavity drinking mugs using its new NEX-IV all-electric press (397 tons).

Asian Plastic Machinery will exhibit one of its top-of-the-line TSV servo-hydraulic toggles running IML.


Undiminished interest in liquid silicone rubber will be evident in molding demonstrations by at least eight injection machine builders. Arburg will show two examples of two-shot LSR/LSR molding—one producing a watch strap in two colors and durometers, and another making a dual-durometer membrane for valves used in medical and automotive applications. The latter will use Arburg’s 0.1-oz micro-injection unit with a 0.3-in. screw diam. to produce one shot of 0.0018 oz, followed by a second shot from a servo-electric injector from Kipe Molds.

The largest press from Boy Machines, Boy 100E (110 tons) will produce LSR protective sleeves for cable ends in a 128-cavity mold from Elmet.

Engel is showing for the first time a particularly complex LSR application—automotive headlight lenses with light guides. They will run on a 120-ton, tiebarless, all-electric e-victory machine with a metering/pumping system and two-cavity mold from ACH solution in Austria. The mold uses a new ACH ServoShot cold-runner valve-gate system with valves that are pneumatically actuated but the pin strokes are set electrically. All the valve gates open together, but varying the pins’ open positions adjusts the flow through each valve gate. Parts will be checked via integrated camera inspection and will be weighed individually. The ServoShot software then will adjust the pin openings to balance the fill and equalize the weights in the cavities. The entire cell, including LSR dosing, is handled by the Engel CC300 controller.

KraussMaffei will mold LSR medical dosing caps, or “duckbills,” on its PX 51-55 SilcoSet all-electric machine.

Maruka will mold LSR magnifiers on a Toyo Si-110-6.

Milacron will run LSR on a Milacron-Fanuc Roboshot 140. The retrofittable LSR package includes a special Milacron screw and barrel with water jackets, vacuum pump, and water regulator.

Nissei will team up two presses to mold a magnifier. The thermoplastic casing is made in a new NEX-IV all-electric press (121 tons), and then a robot passes the part to a FNX-II hybrid (121 tons) to overmold the LSR lens.

Meanwhile, CAE simulation software provider Sigma Plastic Services will demonstrate an unusual two-color LSR molding application with cooperation from Arburg, material supplier Momentive, tooling and dosing equipment supplier Elmet, and fluid mold-temperature control from Conair. In a demo previously run at K 2016, white and yellow LSR are run in a 4 + 4 cavity Elmet mold using that company’s new TOP5000 dosing system. Its closed-loop controls document the amount of colorant used, which is particularly relevant to the healthcare industry. The remarkable hardware system allows for two-component molding on a one-component injection press with only one LSR dosing system. (To find out how it’s done, see it at NPE and Feb. ’17 Starting Up). In this project, Sigma used its Sigmasoft Virtual Molding software to determine the filling time, injection pressure needed, and the optimal material grades. Sigma’s LSR simulation can show air temperature at the vents, flow lines during fill, and percent cure to indicate when parts can be ejected.


The ongoing trend to miniaturization in medical, electronic, and micro-mechanical devices is increasing the demand for micromolding. At least six machine builders are responding to that demand at NPE. Arburg is doing so with an LSR micromolding demonstration, noted above. Boy Machines is showing its new Boy XXS micromolder, introduced at K 2016, with 7-ton clamp and shot capacity up to 9.3 g. This all-electric, tabletop unit permits off-center gating, adjustable vertically by up to 25 mm. Integral sprue and parts pickers are mounted under the safety gate.

A new generation of its M3 micromolding system will be launched at NPE by MHS Mold Hotrunner Solutions. The new model M3-D08 is a compact, self-contained electro-pneumatic molding cell for molding direct-gated parts from 0.001 to 0.400 g with a gate diam. as small as 0.5 mm (0.0197 in.). Clamp force is 4 m.t. Valve gating allows molding of two different parts with different weights at the same time. Integrated automation provides hands-off parts handling and takeout.

Nissei will show a 7.8-ton NPX7 servo-hydraulic micromolder; and Plustech’s flagship micromolding machine, the Sodick GL30A-LP (30 tons), will be running in the booth of hot-runner supplier Technoject. Sumitomo Demag plans a micromolding demonstration of a DNA-free sample collection tube with a wall thickness of 0.250 mm. And Wittmann Battenfeld will show for the first time in the U.S. its two-shot MicroPower 15-ton electric machine (see last month’s Keeping Up).


NPE will also reflect the trend to combining different colors and materials in the mold. Among the multicomponent demos running at the show will be LSR/LSR applications at Arburg and Sigma Plastic Services; and two-component micromolding at Wittmann Battenfeld (see above). Fortune/Victor Taichung is introducing a series of two-shot presses, noted above.

KraussMaffei is enhancing its FiberForm thermoplastic composite technology by overmolding composite sheets with both a rigid thermoplastic and soft-touch TPE, producing an auto armrest on a GWX 450 press with a swivel plate.

Use of retrofittable secondary injection units to convert standard machines to multicomponent molding will be shown by Boy Machines. A Boy 60 E will produce a wine-bottle spout by overmolding NAS styrene-acrylic with TPE using a Boy 2C S auxiliary injection unit. And Milacron will run one of its new Quantum toggle presses with a Mold-Masters E-Multi auxiliary injector to make a two-color, double-walled drinking cup. E-Multi also figures in Milacron’s new Kortec Connect program, which allows running Kortec co-injection hot-runner systems on a standard press with a secondary injector added. Kortec technology produces three-layer barrier containers or preforms for stretch-blow molding.

Two other firms highlighting barrier co-injected preforms at the show are Netstal and Husky Injection Molding Systems. At a second booth in the Bottle Zone, Netstal will show off the Prelactia system for three-layer light-barrier PET preforms for UHT milk (see Sept. ’17 Keeping Up). And Husky will be talking about its multi-layer co-injection technology that made a big splash at NPE2015 (see March’15 Close Up).


Apart from KraussMaffei, mentioned above, one other composite molding demo will be run by Arburg, which is showing off its Fiber Direct Compounding (FDC) system, which feeds continuous glass rovings into a side feeder on the injection barrel with an integrated cutter. This allows direct control over fiber length and concentration, and costs less than long-fiber pellets. Arburg says some of these systems have been sold in Europe and the U.S. for automotive use.

Physical foam molding, also seeing increased attention in the marketplace, will be running at several booths in Orlando. New developments include the U.S. debut of the Plastinum foam injection molding process from Linde LLC. This process, seen first at Fakuma 2017 (December Starting Up), involves impregnating plastic pellets with carbon dioxide gas in a pressurized chamber, or autoclave. Gas-loaded pellets can then be conveyed to the hopper of one or more molding machines. The hopper is not sealed or under pressure, since gas will remain in the pellets at ambient conditions for 4-6 hr. No modifications to the injection press are required, except for use of a shutoff nozzle.

New technology for physical foam molding will be announced by Trexel, which will unveil new dosing equipment that allows thin-wall molders to lightweight products more than ever before. The new MuCell P-Series delivers nitrogen under pressure as a supercritical fluid; it is able to do so at ultra-fast cycle times not previously possible with Trexel’s T-Series dosing equipment. Now, thin-wall packaging molders can achieve 6% lightweighting, 7% faster cycles, 30% lower clamp tonnage, and 12% lower injection pressure, according to Trexel. Other benefits are increased L/T capability and ability to fill from thin to thick in order to produce a stiff rim for sealing. Trexel will demonstrate molding what it calls a “groundbreaking” 6-oz (200-ml) yogurt cup with IML Using StackTeck TRIM technology, it will have wall panels only 0.008 in. (0.2 mm) thick.

Trexel will also announce what it calls “the first-ever design service dedicated to foamed components.” 2Limit is a joint venture of Trexel and GK Concept of Dresden, Germany. This venture is intended to fill a gap in the marketplace, making it easier to find design engineers skilled in foamed part design and its departures from conventional design for injection molding.

MuCell microcellular foaming will be seen at several more booths besides Trexel’s: Engel will use MuCell together with its DecoJect IMD process (see above) to provide uniform low-pressure packing to reduce stress on the thin in-mold TPO film and avoid sink marks and read-through of mold features.

Milacron will use MuCell to mold an SUV door panel using its “Core Back/Reverse Coining” technique, whereby the mold is closed and then opened to a predefined position to allow foam expansion. And Yizumi-HPM will use MuCell to mold a protective briefcase with Yizumi’s FoamPro technology, which combines MuCell with rapid-heat/cool mold technology. This part will show a range of surface textures, from leather-grain to high gloss, with the aid of a hot/cold TCU from Single.

Milacron will achieve a Class-A surface on its MuCell foamed part using Roctool Heat & Cool technology. Roctool technology will also star at KraussMaffei’s booth, where heat/cool molding with induction mold heating on a 16-cavity tool will produce plaques with 16 different surface qualities—glossy, matte, hologram, etc.—in a single shot. (In its own booth, Roctool will mold a complex 3D housing with very high surface quality.)


The networked “smart factory” of the future would be nowhere without the aid of robotics and other automation. So expect to see hundreds of these devices put through their paces at every injection molding demonstration and at the booths of robot vendors. You’ll find top-entry and side-entry models; three-, five- and six-axis types; plus SCARA and collaborative versions. Servo drives will be the rule, even for many sprue pickers.

One area of emphasis will be in-mold labeling (IML). Absolute Robot Inc. (ARI) will take its first step into IML with a side-entry system from Well-Lih in China, running a four-cavity PP yogurt-cup mold. According to ARI, its IML systems perform in the same league as industry-leading competitors, but at 20-30% lower price. ARI is offering top- and side-entry IML systems for overall cycle times down to 3 sec and with mold-open times as short as 1.8 sec. This IML demonstration is meant to show that ARI can handle complete turnkey systems with robot, EOAT, label magazine, height-adjustable frame, and options like vision and stacking parts either bottom-up or bottom-down.

Another new name in IML to most U.S. molders will be Campetella Robotic Center of Italy, represented here by Hunter Automation & Robotics. Campetella specializes in IML with high-speed side-entry robots. In Europe, it has collaborated in IML projects with machine suppliers such as Arburg, Engel, KraussMaffei, Netstal, Toyo, and others. It has supplied a complete lights-out IML system in Italy for 5700 food trays/hr, molded on a 550-ton press in 5 sec, with secondary automation for checking label position, barcode verification, and stacking in boxes with protective PE film. At NPE, Campetella will provide the Maxi Modula side-entry robot for an IML demonstration at the KraussMaffei booth, molding two 5-gal paint pails in under 14 sec.

Beck Automation of Switzerland will show for the first time in the Americas an IML system for single-serve coffee capsules. Both the capsules and the labels (from Verstraete) are of PLA biopolymer. The four-cavity mold will run at 6-7 sec on a 120-m.t. Netstal Elion 1200 all-electric press.

CBW Automation will supply robotics for molding four IML rectangular containers in 3.9 sec on a Netstal Elion 3200 hybrid press.

Ilsemann Automation of Germany will apply IML to a yogurt cup at the Trexel booth in a demonstration of a new thin-wall foaming process (see above).


“Collaborative” robots, or cobots, that can operate safely in proximity to humans are gaining applications in plastics. One pioneer in this category, Rethink Robotics, will show off its one-armed Sawyer cobot with two recent  enhancements. One is the ClickSmart gripper kits that can be switched out and automatically sensed by the robot in seconds. Second is Intera 5.2 software with Intera Insights, said to be the first cobot software to display real-time manufacturing data such as cycle time, part count, speed and force on a customizeable dashboard.

A new addition to the growing ranks of cobots is the OB-7 seven-axis model from Productive Robotics, Carpenteria, Calif. Like others of its ilk, it requires no programming, as it “learns” by lead-through teaching. See it at the booth of Yushin America, the new exclusive distributor for the OB-7. The cobot has an 11-lb payload capacity and 1-m reach with 0.1-mm accuracy. It is available on a rolling stand and is suited to loading, unloading, part removal, packaging, palletizing, QC measuring, testing and inspection.

Other suppliers of cobots at the show include Universal Robots, Fanuc America, and Stäubli.


Arburg’s newest robot (also seen at K 2016) is the Multilift V 40 top-entry linear servo model with 88-lb payload capacity.

Boy Machines will be showing for the first time in the U.S. its LR 5 top-entry servo robot. It’s integrated into the Procan Alpha machine control, which is said to make it easy to move the robot program from one press or robot to another. It comes with a rotating and swiveling gripper hand and safety enclosure. Payload capacity is 11 lb. Boy will also show its three-axis pneumatic picker, also programmable through the Procan Alpha control.

As noted above, U.S. molders will have a chance to acquaint themselves with Campetella Robotic Center in Italy, and not just for IML automation. Campetella offers a full line of top-entry and side-entry, all-servo linear robots with three or five axes, and servo sprue pickers, for machines from 30 to 5000 tons. Its robots are said to be very quiet, greaseless, and low-vibration, as well as universal—their modular design can be switched from operator side to non-operator side or T-beam mounting in just 2 hr, the company claims. They also can be moved easily from machine to machine. In addition, these robots are compact: A side-entry model reportedly takes up the same space as a top-entry model from other suppliers. Prices are said to be competitive, but Campetella models are described as “fully loaded” with features that are normally options. The company notes that its servo systems use about 10% less energy by recovering kinetic energy during braking of each axis.

Campetella will have its own booth with an Engel machine molding four airline cups in under 3 sec. An SM2 side-entry robot with servo wrist and vision capability will demold the parts. Also on display will be the new Spin X-Series four-axis SCARA robot for stacking parts. It has payload capacity up to 110 lb and vertical z-axis up to 3300 mm.
There will be Campetella robots at two other booths: JSW will use a new X-Series Gunshot ultra-high-speed, top-entry model to demold two food containers with lids in under 3 sec. And Maruka will run a Toyo press molding flowerpots in four cavities with an X-Series MC-2 HS high-speed top-entry robot.

CBW Automation will introduce two side-entry robots that allow users to change quickly from one product to another in as little as 10-30 min. CBW has changed the way the vacuum system is connected and added new programming that allows processors to store the recipe for each mold. These features are said to help users automate lower-volume jobs and reuse automation for multiple applications.

One system on display uses a BeeLine B-Series robot to demold parts from a 2 × 4 injection-compression stack mold. The press will run a 4.5-sec cycle with a 0.6-sec robot intrusion time. Like a top-entry robot, the B-Series has a strip stroke with high-vacuum part removal and “part missing” vacuum sensing. The robot also has an adjustable centerline height to accommodate different molding machines. A universal “pick” allows the robot to demold parts from either face of a stack mold.

A CBW Advantage robot will be running at the KraussMaffei booth on a Netstal Elios 7500 machine running a 2 × 8 stack mold for 409 containers in under 3 sec.

Engel will highlight its self-contained automation module, dubbed easicell, which is an enclosure with an easix six-axis robot, ready to interface to a molding machine or downstream units.

For assembly, testing, inspection and packaging, Fanuc America will debut two new SCARA robots. They boast an ultra-compact, lightweight design and are said to “represent the next level of speed and precision for assembly and material-handling applications.” The two models are SR-3iA, with 3-kg payload and 400-mm reach, and SR-6iA, with 6-kg payload and 650-mm reach. Both utilize the new R-30iB Compact Plus controller and the new web-based iRProgrammer user interface for easy robot setup and programming on a tablet or PC (teach pendant optional).

The LRX 150, one of a new generation of linear robots, will be shown by KraussMaffei. It has 33-lb payload capacity.

Sepro America is marking a new phase of its business growth with the display of one of the first Sepro robots “made in America.” Sepro America is now building large Cartesian robots in Warrendale, Pa. The five-axis 7X-45 model on display (equipped with a Staubli servo wrist) is one of the first of 40 large robots planned to be built there this year.

Other news from Sepro includes retrofittable apps for its Sepro Visual controls, such as OptiCycle, a “plug-in” that uses “expert logic” to help users optimize robot and machine cycles, achieving up to 40% faster robot in/out cycles and 5-10% shorter overall molding cycles. Another new app is Live Support, which links robots with remote troubleshooting assistance.

Sepro will also show six-axis articulated-arm robots, including a 6X-170, one of the smaller Yaskawa-Motoman units added to Sepro’s line last year.

The highlight of Stäubli’s booth will be a fully automated demonstration cell for quick mold change. Networked Industry 4.0-compatible components coordinate the robotics, sensors, magnetic clamping, rapid connection devices, robot tool changers, trolleys, and electrical connections. The system detects the condition of the mold, the force of the magnetic clamping, and numerous other factors; so that any fault, such as failure to reach correct operating temperature, is recognized early.

Wittmann Battenfeld will be showing two new robots: At the high end is the new X Series, which are essentially the company’s previous top-of-the-line pro series with the addition of the R9 control introduced last fall. The R9 retains programming look and feel of the preceding R8 model, but the pendant has a larger screen, is lighter and easier to handle, accepts gesture commands like a tablet or smartphone, and has membrane keys for essential inputs. Also on display is the new Primus 14, one of a new economical series of servo robots for relatively simple pick-and-place applications. Primus 14 carries a 4.4-lb payload and uses the R8 control.

“More agile, smarter and faster” are said to describe the new top-of-the-line FRA series linear servo robots from Yushin. Three models are suited to presses from 50 to 600 tons. Their brand-new E-Touch V controller accepts tap and swipe gestures. It has a dual screen that splits the information content for greater convenience in programming without the need to switch screens. Frequently used functions are grouped in one main screen, while users can assign certain I/O signals or buttons to the sub-screen.

The FRA is equipped with new patent-pending features such as Active Vibration Control, which actively dampens vibrations based on sensor signals, as well as Arc Motion Control and Adaptive Motion Control. It also comes with DeviceNet, EtherCAT, and EtherNet/IP protocols to interface with and control all downstream equipment.

Available on the FRA series is Intu Line, a cloud-based service that collects and communicates production data from the molding cell, along with real-time video footage of part takeout and handling. A production manager can connect to the FRA robot via Intu Line anywhere and anytime to monitor production. Production reports for a day, week, or month can be downloaded with one click. The same information can be  accessed remotely by Yushin technicians to monitor and diagnose problems.

Yushin will demonstrate Intu Line by accessing production data from all FRA robots running at the show on a smartphone. Two FRA robots will be running at Yushin’s booth and others at Maruka/Toyo, Nissei America, and Toshiba. Yushin says Intu Line adds to the Industry 4.0 features of its robots—remote troubleshooting, predictive maintenance, integrated controls, and smart sensor protocols.

For news in robot tooling components at NPE, see Keeping Up.