Ube Shows Off Expanded Machine Line at U.S. Open House

Two 720-ton all-electric toggle presses and two servohydraulic 1500-tonners each from the Ube and the former Mitsubishi were on display in Ann Arbor.

At an open house in late September, Ube Machinery Inc. in Ann Arbor, Mich., showed off the expanded line-up of large injection machines resulting from Ube’s acquisition of the former Mitsubishi injection press line in July 2016. Ube is now selling both lines of machines, though spare parts and service for Mitsubishi machines in the U.S. is currently being handled by a separate firm, born Jan. 1, 2017 and called U-MHI Platech America, Inc., based at the former Mitsubishi plastics machinery offices in Itasca, Ill. The open house, attended by around 150 guests over two days, made it clear that Ube sees the two lines of injection presses as one family offering a choice of technologies and machine designs.

This was evident in the pairing of two 720-ton all-electric toggle presses and two servohydraulic 1500-tonners, one each from the Ube and former Mitsubishi product lines. Ube’s UN720 electric machine is the smallest in its line, dubbed affectionately “our little machine” by David Bernardi, who has just retired from the position of Ube’s senior sales & marketing manager.The UN720 anchors a series that runs up to 3850 U.S. tons. Its counterpart at the open house was an MEIII720 electric press from the former Mitsubishi line. That series extends from 610 to 950 tons.

Besides offering one smaller size, what distinguishes the MEIII series is that it utilizes proprietary servo drives (also acquired by Ube from Mitsubishi) and beltless direct drive of the inline ballscrews. Ube’s UN series uses Fanuc servos and belts to drive the ballscrews. Bernardi says direct drive has the advantages of fewer moving parts, no energy loss in transmitting power from the servomotor to the ballscrew, and higher torque response. Thus, it’s quite possible, according to Bernardi, that Ube will someday adopt the special low-speed/high-torque servomotors for its UN machines—a prediction seconded by Ichiro Motoki, president of Ube Machinery.

Visitors at the open house also had the opportunity to compare an Ube US1500 Servomax high-speed servohydraulic toggle press and a 1500 MMX-W servohydraulic two-platen machine from the former Mitsubishi line. The emphasis here, Bernardi said, is that molders who want to go servohydraulic have a choice between Ube toggles from 1000 to 2500 tons or U-MHI two-platens from 1200 to 3900 tons. Ube also offers servohydraulic two-platen presses in its UU line from 2750 to 4400 tons. One distinction is that the Ube presses are built here, using Bosch Rexroth hydraulics and castings imported from Japan. A 3300-ton two-platen clamp was being assembled in Ann Arbor during the open house.

While it was important for Ube to gain additional machine-building capacity through the Mitsubishi machinery acquisition, the event in Ann Arbor demonstrated the additional benefit of diversifying its product range. Also on display were examples of special processing technologies developed by Mitsubishi and Ube:

  • Ube’s Dieprest “core-back” foaming process, whereby plastic with chemical blowing agent (or direct gas injection in Japan) is injected under high pressure into a mold, and then the mold core retracts to permit expansion of the foam between smooth, solid skins. Bernardi says a “new wave of licensing” of this technology has emerged.
  • Three-shot sandwich molding of a foam core between solid skins. It starts with injection of a thicker solid skin and then simultaneous injection of the core and a second skin. Dieprest core-back action in the mold allows the core to foam.
  • Sequential cavity separation, a method originally developed by Mitsubishi for molding two dissimilar parts without a cycle-time penalty if one part is thicker than the other. The technique can employ either a tandem molding technique with two parting lines, alternating shots between the two inline molds; or it can use a single parting line with a rotary mold plate (indexing either 90° or 180°) to inject alternately into two cavities. Either way, the two molds function basically independently with each one’s cycle time not interfering with the other.
  • DLFT, or direct long-fiber thermoplastic compounding. Chopped glass is fed into the machine barrel at a downstream position where the resin has already melted, to minimize glass breakage. This composite technique has been used to mold automotive radiator supports, battery trays, and lift gates from PP, TPO, or occasionally nylon.

Besides assembling machines, Ube also rebuilds and upgrades older models in Ann Arbor. That now includes both Ube and Mitsubishi presses, Bernardi noted. Incidentally, Bernardi is now working with Fordham Plastics Equipment in Morrisville, N.C., the Southeastern rep for Ube Machinery. At Ube in Ann Arbor, Koji Watanabe is general manager of sales and marketing.