THERMOFORMING: New Roll-Fed Systems Boost Output & Flexibility
Continuous in-line packaging systems headed up the K 2010 thermoforming news as suppliers launched a range of roll-fed systems with greater capacity, more flexibility, and improved automation. Among them were several new tilt-mold continuous inline machines, a new plug-assist model for deep-draw parts, and a prototype pressure former that boasts new levels of productivity and energy savings in producing cups and packaging.
In-mold labeling (IML) appears to be gaining momentum as one machine maker showed off its system to produce PP tubs while another supplier introduced a new automation system. Other innovations included a unique manufacturing control system, novel tooling for reverse-lip trays, and new plug-assist materials that boost performance and reduce cost. (For a complete picture, see also our September K show news preview.)
NEW RANGE OF TILT MOLDS
Gabler (gabler-thermoform.com) expanded its M-line series of tilt-mold machines in response to demand for medium-size units. The new M60 has a forming area of 525 x 330 mm and runs up to 66 cycles/min.
Amut SpA (amut.it) launched the AMP 630-GP series, a tilt-mold machine with 40-ton clamp. The high-speed unit has a forming area of 630 x 530 mm and is suited for production of conical products at 68,000 cups/hr.
Meico (meico.it), represented here by Hollo Plastics Equipment, (holloplastics.com) launched a new tilt-mold trim-in-place unit with a 30-ton clamp. The FT500 model has a forming area of 570 x 375 mm and servo-driven cams and levers that tilt the mold 75° for precise and fast ejection. Vacuum holds products on the ejectors until all have been ejected and positioned on the stacker.
Thermoforming Systems LLC (tslusa.biz) showed off its FT3500 tilt-mold, trim-in-place unit, introduced at NPE 2009.
MORE NEW PACKAGING FORMERS
Kiefel (kiefel.de) unveiled a prototype pressure former that is claimed to set new productivity and cost benchmarks. The Speedformer KMD 80 reportedly allows processors to reduce production costs by 10%, largely via reduced energy consumption. The unit has a 600 x 800 mm forming area and capacity for 65 dry cycles/min. The new structure for forming and cutting consists of four columns, four cams, and two servomotors. Optimized positioning of platen-guide lubrication points reduces risk of material becoming soiled or contaminated.
GN Thermoforming Equipment (gnplastics.com) introduced a larger model, the GN 760 plug-assist thermoformer in response to greater demand for deep-draw food packaging. The new cut-in-place machine has a 762 x 533 mm forming area and radiant infrared oven with 64 zones. The plug drive system uses twin servomotors and a rotary-driven toggle. The drive is more compact, reducing the height of the machine, and also delivers better plug control. It also boasts an electronic regeneration system for reduced energy use, resulting in a savings of about $7000/yr.
IML GAINS MOMENTUM
Interest in in-mold labeling for thermoforming is gaining momentum, as evidenced by the latest surge of activities by machine suppliers and automation specialists. OMV (omvgroup.com) ran a seven-cavity mold producing IML 500-g PP margarine tubs at 6000/hr. OMV’s F33 was equipped with an in-house label-handling and stacking system. OMV and Illig were early adopters of IML technology and reportedly have overcome longstanding issues with label adhesion and cost so that now the technology seems ready for widespread use.
Meanwhile, tooling and automation specialist Marbach (marbach.com) has developed one of the first IML automation systems for thermoformed PP containers. The company’s new Zapod2 automated handling system is for tilt-mold, trim-in-place thermoformers.
It consists of a linear-drive robot with one high-speed swivel head that approaches the mold from the side to place labels in the cavities. A second robot system with an ultra-light vacuum plate drives into position while forming takes place. Once the mold opens, the high-speed vacuum plate transports the finished product from the mold and moves it upward to another robot for placement on the conveyor.
By cutting times for part removal and label placement, the Marbach system is reportedly capable of speeds unmatched by competitive T-IML systems.
T-IML got a big boost earlier this year when it was revealed that injection molder Tech II Inc., Springfield, Ohio (techii.com), would expand into thermoforming-IML using an automation system from Hekuma (hekuma.com) and machinery from TSL (see August issue). Tech II is said to be the first U.S. processor to move into T-IML.
Meanwhile, Illig (illig.de) introduced the ThermoLineControl system for computer-assisted setup, optimization, and monitoring. The operator enters the material type, stock thickness, and other product and mold data, and the software automatically determines basic settings, including the cycle rate and stock heating program.
FOR FASTER INDUSTRIAL FORMING
Geiss AG (geiss-ttt.com) introduced a new platen drive system for high-speed, twin-sheet forming of cut sheets less than 1 mm thick. The new five-point toggle drive system is claimed to be a first for heavy-gauge machines. It boasts the quickest closing speed for cut-sheet machines (approximately 0.7 sec) and develops 60 to 80 metric tons of closing force, higher than typical systems. It’s available as an option on the Geiss T9 model.
NEW PLUG MATERIALS
CMT Materials Inc. (cmtmaterials.com) expanded its Hytac family of products with five new grades that have low heat transfer, improved machinability, and toughness at lower cost than competing materials. Hytac-FLX is a toughened, high-temperature epoxy syntactic foam for deep-draw transparent PP and APET applications. It is easy to polish and results in minimal or no scratches. New Hytac-FLXT is a PTFE-containing syntactic foam for easier release of multilayer parts. Hytac-Rx is said to be the first syntactic plug-assist material with associated Drug Master File listings for pharmaceutical blister packaging. And Hytac-A is made of SABIC’s Ultem 1000 polyetherimide (PEI) for use on deep-draw transparent PP parts. It can be polished to an extremely smooth surface.
After several fits and starts over the last decade, thermoforming IML appears ready for prime time, thanks to improvements in output and labeling technology. For now, the action is mostly in European packaging.
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