Thermoforming News at K 2013
Close Up: Thermoforming
New machinery and tooling developments for thermoformers debut at K.
Thermoformers today have more options in machinery that offers greater speed, versatility, precision, and simplicity. That was clear from the exhibits at October’s K 2013 show in Dusseldorf, Germany. (See last month’s feature reports on extrusion, injection molding, and auxiliaries.) Simplicity was evident in two main areas: new user-friendly control platforms and machine designs that integrate forming and trimming in the same station. This report focuses mainly on news of interest to North American processors.
Brown Machine LLC, Beaverton, Mich., took the wraps off the VersaForm FTS-760 continuous inline thermoformer at the show. Designed and engineered specifically for processors that operate worldwide, Brown says it’s a smarter machine with more control, power, durability, and operational flexibility in a space-saving footprint.
New features include:
•Independent form/trim/upstacker stations mounted in a single-piece mainframe for true positioning while providing a fully self-contained machine system.
•Form and trim stations that incorporate servo-driven upper and lower platens with four mechanical toggle assemblies that are corner-guided by linear bearings. The toggles are strategically positioned on a honeycomb platen design to eliminate deflection. Symmetrical drive loads throughout the toggle linkages and drive system eliminate all over-hung loads.
•Independent roller-screw third-motion technology—available within the top platen—to improve material distribution, reduces starting gauges and provides a wider process window, which means better parts, faster, and with less material waste.
•A non-proprietary Integrated Smart Control System software package that enables the machine to make operational adjustments automatically to prevent problems, communicates system performance and out-of-range operations via a warning system, and also tracks and sends notifications of preventive-maintenance needs.
•Dual high-torque, servo-electric index system with independent motors mounted on each rail that are electronically geared together for superior positioning accuracy. This system also eliminates index shaft wrap-up. The motors are positioned at the exit end of the thermoformer to pull the chain through the rails, ensuring that material stays flat and index variation is minimized.
•Full-open clamshell oven with balanced temperature profile. Panel heaters are mounted both perpendicular and parallel to sheet flow direction, allowing precision zone profiling from front to back and side to side.
•Fully adjustable upper and lower water-cooled plates for positioning within the infeed oven area to provide “the ultimate in balanced heat profile,” Brown claims.
The machine is available in FT (form/trim) and FTS (form/trim/stack) versions, with a mold area of 762 x 570 mm (30 x 22.4 in.). Both versions include form/cut-in-place and form/independent-trim capabilities as a standard feature.
In other machinery news, Swiss builder WM Wrapping Machinery SA showed two continuous formers. The 780 E IM2 Speedmaster Plus forms and cuts using a steel-rule blade in the same station. It can be equipped with a second cutting press when needed and with a three-axis robot for product counting, stacking (even with A-B or A-B-C sequences), and removal. Standard machines come with motorized height adjustments for lower and upper platens. This gives flexibility to carry molds of different heights without the need for adapter plates. The forming station also has a servomotor for deep-draw sheet prestretching. The machine can accommodate molds up to 780 x 570 mm.
WM’s second machine, the model FT 500, is a simultaneous form-cut machine with lower tilting platen. It is also equipped with servo-driven plug assist and a stacking system with rotating plates for removing, counting, and single-row stacking of formed products.
On this former, the tilting unit of the lower platen can rotate 75° using a combination of servo-driven cams and levers to ensure maximum precision and repeatability, as well as power calibration during both forming and cutting phases. This machine handles molds up to 570 x 375 mm.
Italy’s OMG displayed its Elektra series of continuous formers for thin-gauge applications. Thermoforming Systems LLC, Union Gap, Wash. displayed the Rotary 500 former that offers a maximum web width of 1300 mm and part depth of 50 mm.
See our September 2013 show preview report or navigate to the article archives on ptonline.com for news in thermoforming machines that were shown by GN Thermoforming Equipment, Chester, Nova Scotia ; Gabler Thermoform GmbH in Germany; Geiss of Germany (U.S. office in Durham, Conn.) Illig (U.S. office in Chester Springs, Pa.); and Kiefel Technologies (U.S. office in Portsmouth, N.H.).
Marbach Group, represented here by Marbach Tool & Equipment, Elkhart, Ind., displayed new tooling for fast-cycling applications. MT Easy Tool is a solid aluminum mold base that offers a 50% lighter weight, which provides formers with an opportunity to significantly increase cycles, the company says.
Bosch Sprang BV of the Netherlands (U.S. office in Mokena, Ill.), displayed new tooling that forms and punches in one step. The tool was developed to produce lids for Nescafe coffee capsules.
Ceramicx, County Cork, Ireland, launched a novel infrared heating tool developed with Trinity College, Dublin. The tool reportedly gives thermoformers an easy and automated way to measure and map a heat spectrum that was previously invisible. In thermoforming ovens, a number of infrared ceramic heaters are generally mounted on reflectors, which are then arrayed upon a platen. Ceramix officials said the performance of the background reflectors, their material composition, and the performance of the platen in general are all vital in directing the infrared heating to the plastic. The new IR tool is said to be able to map the combination of these factors—and their effects on target plastic materials—like never before.
The tool measures the energy emitted by IR emitters of all shapes and sizes. A robot moves the sensor arm into a predefined area and makes a detailed series of measurements, building a map of the energy field in front of the IR heater. That way, it measures the radiant energy within a defined space in front of that ceramic element. By tweaking the IR heat sources, a processor can optimize the process to take energy cost out of the process.
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.
As we discussed in last month’s column, your plant’s “energy fingerprint” is composed of the base load and the process load.
The growing appeal of thermoformed PET packages springs from their positive environmental image, outstanding rigidity and clarity, and extraordinary toughness.