NPE 2000 News Wrap-Up: Injection Molding
These two show-goers found what they needed at NPE. See what solutions the 2000 exhibitors have for your manufacturing problems. The following eight articles (and stories elsewhere in this issue) supplement prior show coverage in our May, June, and July issues. Look for still more NPE news next month.
The millennium’s first NPE ushered in a new crop of all-electric and hybrid machines, including the world’s biggest all-electric machine, the world’s fastest, and the first in a tiebarless design. Plenty of standard machines were also introduced, including several toggle lines and a new hydraulic-clamp series for budget-conscious processors.
New PET preform presses, vertical insert molders, and multi-component designs were also on display. There was also plenty of news in touchscreen PC controls. (New robots and hot runners will be covered in future issues.)
Electric Models Hum
Clean, quiet, energy-efficient electric machines were the stars of the show. As previously announced, Ube Machinery Inc., Ann Arbor, Mich., brought to the show the biggest all-electric machine yet built—a 1550-tonner that turned out to be the largest press of any kind at the show. Ube is now planning a 2000-tonner for bumper fascias.
And as we reported last month, Milacron Fanuc, Batavia, Ohio, introduced the 110-ton Supershot 100I, the world’s first machine to use linear servo motors. It boasts injection speeds up to 2000 mm/sec, previously unattainable without an accumulator.
Another first was a tiebarless all-electric machine being developed by Engel Canada Inc., Guelph, Ont. Tiebarless design is said to raise the already high-precision capability of electric machines another notch. The prototype 110-ton model at the show was a high-speed, high-pressure model said to provide overall dry cycles of 0.85 sec. It generates up to 30,000 psi injection pressure and injection speeds to 200 mm/sec. Engel plans to introduce the machine commercially early in 2001 and to follow it with 55-ton and 165-ton models.
Three models make up a new all-electric line from Fortune International Inc., a Taiwanese producer with an office in Somerset, N.J. The new Va series comes in 55, 88, and 110 tons.
Several other firms spoke of electric machines still in development:
- Netstal Machinery Inc., Devens, Mass., aims to introduce a version for compact discs next year.
- Three electric machines of 50, 150, and 300 tons are being developed by the Korean parent of LG International (America) Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J. The firm expects to roll out one new model a year, starting with the 50-tonner next year.
- Van Dorn Demag Corp., Strongsville, Ohio, is developing an all-electric machine based on its new Integra toggle series (see below). Sizes will range from 50 to 625 tons. The first unit should be available early next year.
- After just rolling out five new all-electric models in its EC line, Toshiba Machine Co., America, Elk Grove Village, Ill., will extend the top end of the range (currently 386 tons) with models of 500 and 610 tons by the second quarter of 2001.
- Ube plans to build its first electric multi-component machine in the near future. The 720-tonner has been ordered by a U.S. automotive molder for hard/soft overmolding.
- Krauss-Maffei Corp., Florence, Ky., is developing an all-electric machine for rollout next year.
Hybrid Line Debuts
Returning to its roots in electric machine design, Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., Bolton, Ont., unveiled its Hylectric machine, which has a servo-driven screw but is otherwise based on Husky’s hydromechanical-clamp S Series. The first two models of 99 and 176 tons will be followed over the next year with models from 55 to 1100 tons.
Small, Budget-Priced Line
A slimmed-down price is the main attraction of the new Vista Edge series of fully hydraulic horizontal presses from Ferromatik Milacron, Batavia, Ohio. They come in sizes of 33, 55, and 88 tons, though models of 22 and 120 tons will be added in the first quarter of 2001. The Edge 33-tonner is priced at $33,500 as compared with $45,000 for a 33-ton Vista V hydraulic press. “No-haggle” prices of other Edge models are $38,000 for the 55-ton and $54,000 for the 88-ton.
These U.S.-built machines achieve lower cost through manufacturing efficiencies and optimization of components for cost-performance—approaches that Milacron intends to apply to all its machines. For example, the machines have sheet-metal instead of welded bases, simplified controls (no graphics or SPC functions), and a very limited range of options. Thus, the Edge series is not intended to replace the more customizeable Vista V series of 33 to 120 tons. In the fourth quarter of this year, the machines will be available for shipment within one week. They will also have a 30-day money-back guarantee. Milacron demonstrated powder-metal molding on an Edge machine at NPE.
Two Platens Score Big
The space-saving benefits of two-platen presses were seen in a wide range of machine sizes from a host of vendors. Here are two entries not previously reported:
The Hydra Quad series of two-platen presses, made in Korea with a fully hydraulic (not hydromechanical) clamping system are offered here through a new U.S. agent, Vistar Machinery International, Inc., Canyon Lake, Calif. These presses from 33 to 275 tons contain the hydraulic oil inside the tiebar casings on the injection side of the fixed platen, creating an oil-free mold area that is suited to clean-room molding.
Vistar also offers two-platen hydromechanical presses from 400 to 3000 tons that have a central “pancake” clamping cylinder; toggle presses from 35 to 935 tons; hybrid machines with electric screw drive; plus robots, chillers, granulators, and dryers.
New to the U.S. market is the 33-ton KM 30 C Winner, the smallest two-platen unit in the C series from Krauss-Maffei.
New Toggle Lines
In addition to two new lines of hydraulic-clamp machines, Van Dorn Demag Corp., Strongsville, Ohio, rolled out its new Integra line of mid-size toggle presses. (In pre-show publicity, this had been called the Pinnacle series.) The 140- and 280-ton models will be available in the fourth quarter, while the full range of eight sizes of 140 to 625 tons (including an all-electric version) will come on the market next year. They are based on Mannesmann Plastics Machinery’s global toggle-press platform but are designed to U.S. specifications with commonly available U.S. components. They come with Pathfinder 3000 and 5000 controls, and standard features include robot interface, core pull, and configurable I/O. Integra machines offer flexible configuration so that multi-component or high-speed versions and capabilities such as gas assist and LIM can be engineered quickly and economically. These machines have a more robust five-point toggle, as compared with the four-point toggle on Van Dorn’s general-purpose HT line.
The new KX line of toggle presses of 55 to 720 from Kawaguchi Inc., Buffalo Grove, Ill., also comes in a high-speed version. They have more robust motors and pumps than the standard line and can also incorporate an accumulator system.
Toggle presses from Plastic Metal SpA (also known as NPM) in Italy are available through the firm’s new U.S. office in Hicksville, N.Y. NPM offers the Unyka series of general-purpose, five-point toggles (50 to 2200 tons), Unyka CL series with seven-point toggles and longer stroke for molding extremely deep-draw parts, and Dynamika high-speed models (165 to 352 tons). NPM’s newest development is the Unyka-3P line for tandem molding of two parts in overlapping cycles. These machines (550 to 2200 tons) have a third platen with the two molds on either side, similar to a stack mold. The injector is mounted perpendicularly and alternately feeds two hot-runner systems located within the third platen. The molds utilize a special locking system so that one can open while the other remains closed. This system is said to raise productivity almost 90%. The 3P configuration was originally developed for Royal Technologies Group of Toronto, which has three models of 1210 to 2200 tons.
Sandretto USA, Freedom, Pa., announced at the show that smaller models of its new Series Nine toggle presses come with air-cooled hydraulics. Lack of need for water cooling on some models of 140 to 285 tons is attributed to the hydraulic system’s energy efficiency. It uses twin variable-volume pumps.
For the past year, PlastiMatix LLC, Farmington Hills, Mich., has offered the HMT line of double-toggle presses built by Hermestek in Taiwan. (They have been sold in Canada by Hermestek Ltd., Toronto.) They come in 70 to 1200 tons and have SPI ejector pattern and robot interface, proportional hydraulics, quick-change mold clamps, and core pull as standard.
Demag Ergotech USA of Strongsville, Ohio (which recently separated its business from that of sister company Van Dorn Demag), now offers an expanded line of Modular Concept machines. They include toggles of 138 to 396 tons and fully hydraulic clamps of 28 to 121 tons. Modular machines now offer two tiebar-space options for each clamp size. There are also three injection-unit options (with three screw diameters apiece) and a choice of standard or high-speed pumps. Each injection unit has a quick-change screw and barrel.
New Vertical Entries
A thorough redesign of its vertical machines was unveiled by Autojectors Inc., Avilla, Ind. Its new Evolution Series offers 20 to 40% larger mold area than previous models, faster clamp dry cycles (by 2 sec or more), lower table heights, and choice of rotary or shuttle tables. Also new is an open design that uses a safety light curtain instead of hard guarding. Evolution machines also carry the new VerteX PC controls, based on Milacron’s new Xtreem Windows NT platform (see sidebar). New control features not found on most vertical machines include floppy-disk drive for saving mold set-ups, flash-memory cards for quick program revisions in the field, user-defined “Quick Set” color screen pages, and four-way split-screen capability that holds the user’s choice of “must-see” data. Available now are 30- and 80-ton models. A 50-tonner will follow this year and models of 120, 220, and 280 tons next year.
Custom-built vertical injection machines of 50 to 6000 tons are being introduced to the North American market by Sandretto USA, Freedom, Pa. Sandretto developed these machines in cooperation with Cannon Tecnos of Italy, a sister company within the Cannon Group that supplies compression molding presses. Cannon Tecnos is experienced in automated pre-press handling of fabrics and decorative laminates, as well as parts removal. Clamps can be either up- or down-stroking in single-station, shuttle, or carousel designs. New SEF 2000 controls are included. Under license from Sumitomo Chemical of Japan, Sandretto offers the low-pressure SP Molding process for fabric lamination, insert, or large-part molding.
Reed-Prentice Ltd., West Springfield, Mass., supplemented its 75- to 100-ton Duplimatic vertical series with new 14- and 33- ton Manumold and Duplimatic machines. Buyers can choose either hydraulic bridge clamp or shuttle configurations.
Toyo of Japan (represented by Maruka U.S.A. Inc., Rockaway, N.J.) has developed a vertical injection unit called the ITHR2.
Boy Machines Inc., Exton, Pa., showed three new systems for automating insert molding. One is a three-axis parts remover integrated with its vertical presses. Second is the servo-driven Rotoslide rotary-table system developed by Panzer Tool Works, Inc., Elk Grove Village, Ill. The table not only indexes but also slides into and out of the mold area and also moves up and down. The latter motion allows the table to feed inserts to the mold without the need for multiple mold bottoms.
Third, Boy also offers Panzer’s new linear Shuttleslide system, which can feed three mold bottoms to either two- or four-tiebar presses.
Plastimatix showed its own modification of a Gluco vertical press for thermoplastic molding. The 100-ton model shown had a C-frame, two-tiebar clamp; servo-driven turntable that can travel up an down 6 in.; new servo-driven ejectors, and 5 in. of nozzle-height adjustment. The up-acting clamp keeps oil out of the molding area for clean-room use.
Faster Preform Molders
Krauss-Maffei introduced to the U.S. its KM PETform machine for PET preforms. Two models, KM 175 (192 tons) and KM 300 (330 tons), are based on the firm’s C Series, though they use a vertical hydraulic, four-tiebar clamp. K-M says the vertical design provides gravity-assisted preform removal and longer mold life because guide elements are always aligned and cores are centered for uniform wall-thickness distribution. A robot handles preform removal.
The KM 175 machine is offered with injection capacities of 1900 or 3500 cc and makes preforms for standard, wide-mouth, and specialty applications. It can run a 12-cavity mold with 66-mm centers. At the show it produced wide-mouth preforms in 12 cavities at 2700/hr. The KM 300 comes with up to 4500-cc injection capacity and can mold up to 48 cavities.
Husky has upped the productivity of its Index rotary-platen machine. Utilizing the same “micro-pitch” technology that permits squeezing 60 cavities into the 400-ton Index system, Husky can now raise the capacity of its 250-ton Index model from 48 to 60 cavities for 0.5-liter preforms. No increase in machine footprint is required. What’s more, the dry-cycle time has been cut to less than 3 sec, so the 60-cavity unit can run 32,200 preforms/hr on a 6.7-sec cycle.
Microcellular Molding Expands
At NPE, it was announced that two more injection machine suppliers have taken licenses to build and retrofit machines for the MuCell microcellular foam molding process of Trexel, Inc., Woburn, Mass. Van Dorn Demag and Krauss-Maffei raise the number to nine machine vendors that can equip presses with the proper equipment to meter pressurized nitrogen or CO2 gas into the barrel. Van Dorn offers this option on machines to ship after Nov. 1. Krauss-Maffei plans to have its first MuCell-equipped machine operating at its development center in Allach, Germany, by December.
Meanwhile, the largest MuCell-ready machine yet built, a 1000-ton two-platen Duo model, was exhibited by Engel at NPE. However, Husky is building a 2200-ton MuCell-capable press for automotive molder MIG Plastics, Inc. of Morenci, Mich.
Coinjection & LIM
These two subjects might not seem to belong together, but they did at NPE. Engel has applied for a patent on new coinjection technology that allows molding sandwich structures of liquid silicone and other thermoset rubbers.
In addition, Milacron announced at the show (and finished building last month) what is said to be the world’s largest coinjection press. The 6600-ton, two-platen Maxima press has injection units of 368 and 413 oz that feed a single nozzle. It was assembled at the plant of a Midwestern molder.
A portable auxiliary injection-unit package that mounts on the fixed platen to convert a standard press to multi-component molding was shown by MGS Mfg. Group, Germantown, Wis. (see photo, p. 30). MGS has also begun to produce rotary platens for multi-shot molding in presses of 30 to 400 tons. The platen has a rack-and-pinion drive and built-in cooling circuits.
PC Controls Go On-Line
Get e-mail and the Internet right at the injection press? These are not futuristic possibilities, but are now standard features of the latest Windows NT version of Ferromatik Milacron’s Xtreem controller. This is a 100% PC-based, “open-system” controller, also available in a basic ST model. Both models have a floppy-disk drive and Ethernet port, which allows all machines to be tied into the office PC network. Managers can “dial up” any machine to view real-time process and production screens.
In addition, the NT version comes with Internet Explorer software, a small video camera, and a microphone as standard. This permits video conferencing at the press to solve machine or process problems. Also new is a “One-Touch” Internet connection with Milacron’s process support center, where molders can get face-to-face technical support, remote diagnostics, or spare-parts service. Also new are abilities to record audio memos and streaming videos or still photos, which can be attached to voice or text memos for troubleshooting or set-up assistance.
Both Xtreem ST and NT controls have new displays of screw volume percent displacement, melt pressure, and plots of hydraulic and cavity pressure with shot volume and screw position. Milacron’s Machine Validation Tool package, used to test machines at the factory, is built into the NT version. It can monitor and plot up 10,000 variables.
In addition, the Moldflow Plastics Xpert (MPX) software from Moldflow Corp., Lexington, Mass., can be incorporated as an option in the Xtreem NT control. MPX helps operators quickly optimize set-up and then monitor and correct the process during operation.
Incidentally, Moldflow is working to integrate MPX with the Interactive Process Manager (IPM) of Caco Pacific Corp., Covina, Calif. This will add information on mold pressures, temperatures, valve-gate position and core/slide position to the machine data monitored by MPX. The two firms will adopt a common hardware platform using Windows NT and a common data format for storing setpoints.
A brand-new PC-based machine control was unveiled at the show by Husky. It will be offered on all Husky’s standard presses. A single Windows NT PC control for both the machine functions and operator interface replaces previous proprietary PLCs. Results are said to include faster cycles, 10-fold better cycle repeatability, improved synchronization of robot and machine, plus 10- or 20-fold better position resolution.
The PC touchscreen can control the machine, hot-runner system, robot, conveyors, and other auxiliaries. It can graph up to eight real-time process variables simultaneously. When you set speed and pressure profiles, you can determine the number of points you want in the profile. In the next enhancement, the control will use SPC methods to set control limits for each process variable based on past history, rather than leaving it up to the operator’s subjective judgment.
The system comes with floppy-disk and CD-ROM drives and an Ethernet networking card. An EEPROM data key identifies each operator and pulls up that user’s customized screen configuration. A “chat” function allows operators and supervisors to send messages back and forth in real time.
An optional enhanced troubleshooting package permits remote monitoring and diagnostics by Husky technicians via modem. It can e-mail supervisors automatically when a machine goes down. This option also allows maintenance personnel to pull up electrical and hydraulic diagrams, and even audio and video files, on the machine display.
Ube showed a new touchscreen PC control on its U.S.-made hydraulic press. Its color-graphic displays include screens designed to be read at a distance and to make alarm conditions obvious. SPC is standard, and you can change the selection of parameters being charted on the fly. The controller has a floppy-disk drive and 6-GB hard drive that can store mold set-ups and AutoCAD drawings of the press hydraulics and electrics for maintenance use. A small printer can be located at the press to print out set-up sheets.
Engel has new “ultra-sensitive” Autoprotect mold-protection software in its CC100 controller that does not compromise clamp speed or cycle time. During set-up, Autoprotect records a “master curve” of clamp speed or pressure during closing. If the software detects the slightest deviation outside a preset tolerance from this curve on any molding cycle, it halts the clamp.
Adapting injection molding to the concept of Industry 4.0 is gaining momentum. At this show you’ll see that the interconnected, integrated “factory of the future” is almost here.
There were new presses of all stripes aplenty at K 2010, but the “wow” factor was supplied by automated work cells and integrated manu-facturing systems performing multiple operations before, during, and after molding.
Hot buttons at the show will be multi-component molding, in-mold labeling/decorating (IML/IMD), in-mold assembly, medical molding, liquid silicone rubber (LSR), micro-molding, and high-speed packaging.