Ten Intriguing Injection Molding Technologies of 2015
I know I’m leaving myself wide open on this one. I was asked, “What are the 10 most interesting injection molding technologies of 2015?” I should have pleaded eggnog hangover and politely declined.
Trying to answer that one is a trap on several levels: First, how do you pin a technology, which takes time to develop and commercialize, to a particular year? And then, what’s “most interesting”? I assume that will depend on your interests: Are you a custom molder, or captive? What markets do you serve—automotive, medical, packaging, you-name-it? Do you operate large machines or small?
With those caveats, here are some things that interested me in 2015. I couldn’t really limit it to 10, so some are areas of technology rather than a particular new development. And I call them technologies of 2015 because they were introduced commercially this past year, featured in major trade shows this year (or at least U.S. trade shows), or they simply came to my attention in that time frame. If you don’t like my selections, send me yours at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are my picks, in no particular order:
Robots: Lots of interesting things appeared in the robot category this past year. NPE2015 in Orlando saw some hints from Star Automation of how onboard vision could make robots smarter and more versatile. Robots equipped to weigh parts are another interesting idea, floated by AGS at NPE and by Wittmann Battenfeld at Fakuma 2015 in Germany. NPE also showed off a “new concept” robot system from Yushin that had two arms and a third sliding, rotating gripper, for a total of 16 servo axes. And in the fast-evolving area of injection molded composites, Sumitomo (SHI) Demag demonstrated an “ovenless” approach to preheating thermoplastic prepregs using heated robot grippers at the fall Fakuma 2015 show in Germany. Also at Fakuma, more robot makers, like Hekuma, joined the movement toward “collaborative robots” that can work safely alongside people. And an entirely new category (for plastics) of robots—so-called Delta, “parallel,” or “spider” robots—made an appearance for high-speed pick-and-place applications. At NPE, Sailor Automation showed a robot that “learns” how to control vibration over a few cycles; and Engel introduced at Fakuma enhanced robot vibration control that responds to external forces in the molding process. For details, see our March NPE preview and June post-show report, as well as our December Fakuma news highlights.