NPE News in Thermoforming
For thermoforming of both heavy-gauge sheet and thin-gauge packaging, the show will present new machines with unusual flexibility, able to form a wide variety of products and materials. The big news in industrial forming is a commercial system for fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composites. Users can also switch off its extra hydraulic pressure and run it as a conventional vacuum former.
Competition is heating up among trim-in-place thermoformers for high-precision drink and yogurt cups. Several exhibitors will bring new roll-fed machines to NPE and at least two will be running. You'll also see faster tool changing, more energy-efficient heaters, and new features for better material distribution in cavities.
Heated matched-metal molds have been used for years to form reinforced thermoplastic composites, but until now they have relied on heated tooling and pressure, not the separate preheat oven and automated material feeding possible with thermoforming.
Geiss AG in Germany sold its first developmental composite thermoforming system to the GE Plastics (now SABIC Innovative Plastics) development lab in Pittsfield, Mass., in 2006. Since then, Geiss has sold eight systems in Europe under secrecy agreements. One commercial application is for carbon-fiber reinforced polyurethane soles for running shoes. Two of the eight systems were designed to switch flexibly between composite forming and conventional vacuum forming.
Geiss added servomotor drives to the presses to provide up to 35 tons of platen pressure, then added optional hydraulic locking to apply up to 220 tons. Geiss says short-wave radiation from its Spedium halogen heaters penetrates glass- or carbon-fiber composites without excessive heat reflection. Most Geiss composite formers have a 1 x 1 meter forming area, and the biggest so far has 2.5 x 1.5 meters.
For both shuttle and rotary forming, Maac Machinery is introducing a range of quick-change tooling options that can reduce changeover time to 5 min from 15 to 30 min previously. Maac also recently developed two fully automatic tool-change options, one on a turntable, the other a shuttle. It offers QMC systems for molds up to 7 x 5 ft.
Maac will also show quartz and ceramic heating elements recently adapted for thermoforming that promise 15% energy savings by more efficient radiation of energy into the sheet.
TRAY & CUP FORMING SPEEDS UP
For roll-fed thermoforming, Illig's newest and largest steel-rule-die former, model RDK 90 (for 90-cm-wide sheet), will demonstrate its fast-cycle capability in forming PET trays at 55 cycles/min. The RDK 90 was introduced at K 2007 and is being shown in the U.S. for the first time. The RDK 90 has a 900 x 700 mm forming area vs. 750 x 550 mm for the RDK 80, previously Illig's largest steel-rule-die former, and 160-mm draw depth vs. 120 mm for the smaller model.
Thermoforming Systems, which traditionally builds large-capacity in-line formers with separate trim presses for packaging, will show its first mid-sized trim-in-place machine at NPE. The FT3500 has a forming area of approximately 3500 cm2 (30 x 18 in.) and can run in line with extrusion or roll-fed with an optional drum preheater. A video will show it forming cups.
OMV from Italy will show its brand-new F33 (33 in. wide x 10 in. deep) form-and-trim machine for the first time in the U.S. It will be running PP yogurt cups from roll stock. It can run a variety of products up to 5 in. deep, from margarine tubs and yogurt cups with in-mold labeling to high-precision coffee lids or cups with rolled edges. Software allows it to convert from matched-metal molds for PP to steel-rule-die molds for PET trays, clamshells, and lunch boxes.
Gabler of Germany (at Lyle Industries' booth) will present information on its M98 cup former, reportedly the largest tilt-bed thermoforming machine in the world. Its 800 x 550 mm platens have a rapid tilting mechanism for cup ejection so that it can run PP at over 30 cycles/min. It can run 60 7-oz cups at 115,000/hr. Gabler has sold 15 of these machines, including three in the U.S., since introducing this model at K 2007. Gabler also offers a separate high-speed rim roller in which cups are reheated, perforated, rolled, and stacked. Gabler will show videos of high-speed tilt-bed systems with rim rolling.
Kiefel GmbH in Germany won't have machinery at the show but will introduce its KTR Thermorunner to the U.S. for the first time. The trim-in-place former for yogurt and drinking cups uses matched-metal molds. It also has a two-step index and Siemens' Simotion position control integrated with the drive to take up sheet sag and give better material distribution, Kiefel says. The KTR line now comes in three sizes with forming areas up to 450 x 750 mm. Kiefel is also adding a new small size KMD Speedformer. KMD 60 (for 60-cm-wide sheet), replacing the slightly smaller KMD 52.
Lyle has designed a new servo-driven horizontal trim press, which combines features of both horizontal and vertical trim presses. Lyle will also announce a new distributed control platform to replace PCs for forming and trimming machines.
GN Thermoforming Equipment in Canada will demonstrate its new servo-driven line of roll-fed thermoformers, running "DPET" sheet, which is extruded directly from PET reactors by Octal Holding & Co. in Oman. Model DX 3021 (30 x 21 in. forming area) also has a beefed up trim station, which can cut 334 linear inches of APET, up from 224 in. for the existing C 3021 pneumatic former. GN will also show the new model DX 3625 (36 x 25 in. forming area), which can cut 420 in. of APET, up from 334 for the pneumatic version.
Brown Machine LLC will show the forming station for a new thin-gauge former line, called Quad Series. It combines high tonnage (up to 260 tons) with coining of matched-metal areas, such as product flanges, for an additional 150 tons. Brown says the machine's "honeycomb" platens offer high rigidity, with virtually zero deflection across a mold area of up to 64 in. square.
For roll-fed foam sheet, Commodore Technology has a new thermoformer and trim press that are significantly larger and faster than it has built before. The new SX-44 former (42 x 56 in.) dry cycles at 45 cycles/min. The trim station dry cycles at 150/min and can use serrated-blade and punch-and-die tools.
Irwin Research & Development will show a new in-line sheet splicer for extruded PS foam. It uses a hot wire to mate two rolls of material before running them through the forming station. Irwin will also show a new version of a granulator for rigid sheet trim, which fits under the trim station.
As we discussed in last month’s column, your plant’s “energy fingerprint” is composed of the base load and the process load.
The excitement in the air of the recent Innovation Takes Root conference was a sense of arrival.
New cost-effective technologies are designed to make aluminum an attractive alternative to tool steels in a range of plastics molding processes. One method uses a plasma technique to convert the aluminum surface into a hard, dense, wear-resistant ceramic. Another approach uses electro-deposition to apply a surface coating with high hardness, corrosion resistance, and chemical resistance.