What's New at the Show in THERMOFORMING
Continuous in-line packaging systems will be the main emphasis in thermoforming at K 2007. New equipment on display will include a pair of high-output tilt-mold machines for packaging, a three-station form-cut-and-stack unit, improved in-line systems for high-speed cup production, and a specially designed cut-in-place former for APET containers. Advance word from exhibitors contained little news in industrial forming, but one display will focus on twin-sheet forming of automotive fuel tanks.
One new development that could appeal to both thin- and thick-sheet formers is a new heating control system from Geiss AG of Germany that’s said to be 30% to 45% faster for sheet thicknesses anywhere from 2 to 8 mm. Instead of heating the sheet at full power to a temperature setpoint and then dropping to a lower setpoint to prevent overheating, Geiss maintains maximum heater output while constantly monitoring actual sheet temperature and optimizing energy output until the sheet is heated through. The closed-loop control system is used with Geiss’ standard short-wave halogen heaters. With the new optional controller, heating is said to be 66% faster than with standard quartz and ceramic heaters.
Bigger and faster
Germany’s Gabler says its new M98 continuous in-line former is the largest tilt-mold machine in the industry. It meets high-output needs with capacity for 30 cycles/min and 100,000 PP cups/hr. The machine’s forming area is 31.5 x by 21 in. and draw depth is 6.3 to 7.8 in. It was developed in response to customer demand, particularly for PP drink and yogurt cups.
A special tool reportedly reduces the use of compressed air by 50% to 60%. The air-saving technology from Bosch-Sprang in the Netherlands employs a special plug assist that prestretches the material and compresses the air in the tool. The M98 has a servo-driven plug assist, 3.6-meter-long oven, and cutting force of 65 tons. At the show, it will run a 54-cavity tool and produce 3-in.-diam., 180-cc PP cups with a sealing rim.
Amut SpA of Italy will launch the AMP 570 GP Series, its newest tilt-mold machine. The high-speed, continuous unit has a forming area of 570 x 430 mm and runs a 30-cavity mold for production of 200-cc cups in thicknesses from 0.2 to 2 mm. A servo-driven cam system controls the forming platen, while the plug assist is directly servo driven. The cup unloader/stacker is said to be unusually lightweight. At the show, it will run in-line with sheet extrusion at 35 cycles/min producing 63,000 PP cups per hour.
Amut’s new GLE 9000 HS in-line extrusion/forming system provides 50% higher output than the previous model with a forming area of 850 x 750 mm. The machine runs up to four extruders and makes 200-cc HIPS cups at 200,000/hr in a 99-cavity mold.
High output capacity is also provided by a new in-line extrusion/forming system from OMV of Italy. This new-generation F87 model includes fully automated forming, rim rolling, counting/stacking, bagging, and boxing. A 72-cavity mold produces 9-oz PP drink cups at 125,000/hr. A 28-cavity mold can make 32-oz stadium cups at 37,000/hr. The unit has a forming area of 850 x 650 mm, extrusion capacity of 3600 lb/hr, and in-mold trimming. In addition to drink cups, the versatile system is suitable for close-tolerance packaging like margarine and yogurt cups. Automated mold change is fast and requires no hand tools. OMV has also replaced all its proprietary controls with Siemens or optional Allen-Bradley systems.
Germany’s Illig will unveil the largest model in its RDK continuous roll-fed line. The RDK 90 has a forming area of 840 x 670 mm. Both trim-in-place and post-trimming capabilities are available.
Roll-fed APET line
G.N. Thermoforming Equipment of Canada will introduce a new roll-fed unit with 40% greater cutting capacity than previous models for producing APET trays and containers. APET is said to be gaining in popularity over PS but requires higher cutting force. The GN 3625D-APET has a cutting knife with linear capacity of 8.5 m vs. 6.8 m for the previous GN 3625 D model. At the show, a six-cavity mold will make hinged containers at 5500/hr.
The new Focus machine from Gabler is the company’s first continuous, roll-fed, three-station machine that forms, cuts, and stacks. It is aimed at smaller runs of APET and PP trays, fruit containers, and hinged containers. It features quick mold change and less expensive tooling. A double electric drive moves the platen from top and bottom so that forming and cutting movements are smooth. Between the forming and cutting stations, an optional fourth station can be added for hole punching. The forming area is 37.4 x 24 in. and it dry cycles at more than 60/min.
Irwin Research & Development Inc., Yakima, Wash., will launch its new cup-handling system, called Trim-to-Rim, with an APET demonstration. The system moves two rows of cups into a single layer, separates them into stacks, and conveys them to a rim roller and a counter/bagger. The end result is a 50-count stack of cups in a printed bag. At the show, Irwin’s Model 30 forming system will use the new cup handler to produce 16-oz APET drink cups.
Twin-sheet fuel tanks
Twin-sheet thermoforming of automotive fuel tanks will be featured by CannonForma of Italy, developer of a new system that is being used by Tier 1 supplier Visteon in Europe. Visteon has seven Cannon forming lines and produces 450,000 fuel tanks/yr for the Volkswagen Passat. A key advantage of twin-sheet forming over blow molding is that it allows inserting fuel-system components into the tank before the twin sheets are sealed together.
SolVin has developed technology that allows production of what are said to be the world’s first PVC long- or continuous-fiber composites.
The growing appeal of thermoformed PET packages springs from their positive environmental image, outstanding rigidity and clarity, and extraordinary toughness.
Thermoformers are gaining a foothold in large exterior panels of specialized automobiles and utility vehicles.