Thermoforming at NPE 2003
There will be fewer thermoforming machines on display at NPE 2003 than at many recent NPEs. The adverse business climate contributed to decisions by some key suppliers to skip the event or avoid putting machines on the floor.
Yet thermoforming is still worthy of attention at NPE. One evident theme is large-platen systems offering higher outputs for in-line extrusion and thermoforming of packaging. Also in the limelight are new machines for roll-fed, thin-gauge packaging.
For industrial parts
Sheet-fed industrial systems are relatively scarce at the show, but ZMD International is demonstrating the growing use of thermoforming for in-mold decorating of injection molded parts with preformed inserts. ZMD will operate a machine forming decorative appliques for cell-phone housings.
In addition, Brown Machine will show a new single-station Titan former designed for entry-level markets, as well as a new generation of PC/PLC controls for more sophisticated machines. Ad vanced Ventures in Technology will show a new 3 x 5 ft shuttle machine with 100-ton clamp force. And Maac Machinery plans to show a stripped-down, cost-efficient Comet single-station unit. C.R. Clarke of the U.K., which supplies mainly prototyping machines, will introduce a compact (24 x 24 in.) single-station model for small-parts production.
Packaging ups the pace
OMV-USA is showing a pair of large-platen versions of its in-line extrusion/forming system. The new OMV F57 CST, with 60 x 57 in. platen, is the largest in-line system ever made, claims Kent Johansson, OMV-USA’s president. The unit forms 7-oz APET or HIPS cups using a post-trim press at 345,000 units/hr. It also comes in an F57 CMT version specifically for PP drink and stadium cups. With 42 x 38 in. platen and in-mold trim, it makes 42-oz cups at 60,000/hr.
Germany’s Adolf Illig GmbH plans to unveil a new automatic roll-fed pressure former. The RDK 80 performs at 35 cycles/min using pressure or vacuum. Forming area is 29.9 x 22.6 in. and depth of draw is 4.7 in. Integration of steel-rule dies into the forming tool assists trim accuracy. The Illig unit offers computer-aided set-up and has servo motors to ensure precise setting of strokes and speeds.
Among other thin-gauge packaging exhibits to appear at NPE, Canada’s GN Plastics plans to demonstrate what it calls “dual-mold forming.” This patented system employs two molds that alternately swing back and forth between forming and parts-removal stations, creating a system that gets the productivity benefits of two molds while requiring just one trim station. The dual-mold model GN1914TM has a 19 x 14 in. forming area and is well suited to PP and PS parts.
Irwin Research & Development is showing an upgrade of its Model 50 system with a vertical trim press for foamed PS food disposables, as well as a form/trim-in-place system aimed at solid PP cups.
Zed Industries will exhibit a 30 x 30 in. model of its new SF (Servo-Form) line of servo-driven pressure formers for high-output packaging. This series uses a cam drive in place of a toggle system to im prove smoothness of platen movement.
Thermoforming Systems LLC will unveil a roll-fed system using a heavier frame design that can support a 52 x 52 in. mold, 9-in. draw depth, and 100-psi forming pressure. This Low Flex design reportedly offers potential for higher output and improved part definition. The unit integrates a trim press of matching heavy-frame design.
DT Industries plans to publicize a new generation of form-trim-and-stack system for food containers and medical parts. The initial Gen II machine has a 32 x 34 in. forming area. It includes a Siemens Simatic PC670 controller and PLC, making all forming operations programmable. A robot automatically removes and stacks finished pieces directly from the trim press. A non-contact infrared scanner is installed on the unit to monitor sheet temperature.
Brown Machine is introducing a version of the LRT200 lip-roller tailored for PP cups. Kiefel Technologies will form hinged APET fruit trays on its in-line KMD75-BFSS system.
Low-cost wood is still king, but plastics’ reusability is a growing attraction among manufacturers looking for sustainable material-handling options. The one major hurdle is today’s high resin prices.
Newly available cast sheet and thermoforming grades of Mirel biobased polymers open up a new range of applications in containers and other formed parts where renewable content and biodegradability are desired.
Polylactic acid (PLA) resins are made from 100% renewable resources such as corn, sugar beets, or sugarcane.