Plastec West 2002, held Feb. 5-7 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA, seemed to herald a positive year for the plastics industry. Exhibitors at the show featured a wide range of products and services, from auxiliary equipment and primary processing machinery to machine components, molds and mold components, materials, and more. Attendees came to source products and services, observe onsite demonstrations, and preview new-to-market technologies. The following is just a glimpse of what there was to see.
Molders of optical storage media previewed new auxiliary equipment designed for CD, CD-ROM, and DVD production in the Conair booth. New versions of the Thermolator line of temperature control units have been developed for high-pressure, low-flow applications such as disk molding. The units are reportedly built to deliver almost twice the pressure of conventional temperature control units (TCUs) to combat conditions that can lead to overheating and failure of motor bearings and pump seals in conventional temperature controls.
More auxiliary equipment was found at the Cumberland booth, where the company displayed its new S Series low-speed granulators. Available in three sizes and designed to eliminate longs and minimize dust and fines, the S Series features hardened 8620 alloy steel cutting teeth for superior bite and material feed as well as a bed comb cover designed to improve regrind quality and bed comb protection. The cutters and double-sided bed combs have four cutting edges. The granulators have a compact footprint and low feed height.
Hot Runners/Hot Sprues
The new Altanium Series hot runner temperature controls from American MSI were demonstrated for the first time at Plastec West. The series is said to be the industry?s first and only modular small-footprint solution that can support one to 384 zones. The controls reportedly offer scalability to meet increasing needs; a modular design that can be upgraded to accommodate support for larger molds; and advanced technology for temperature control, auto slaving, boost control, standby management, mold diagnostics, and data collection.
Also new from the company is a user-selectable Phase Angle and Zero Cross power control, offering temperature control accuracy and low-mass nozzles. The line comes with 15, 20, 30, or 40A per zone.
|Thermolator temperature control units from Conair are designed to handle high-pressure, low-flow applications. The units are said to deliver almost twice the pressure of conventional TCUs.|
Synventive Molding Solutions highlighted its enhanced Dynamic Feed technology, a real-time, closed loop inmold flow control system. Dynamic Feed features a hot runner system and a PC-based data acquisition and hydraulic control unit, which controls the valve position in each nozzle to generate unique injection and pack profiles. With the ability to independently control melt flow at each gate, company sources report there is no need to find a common window for all parts or compromise profiles, even for multicavity and multigated single-cavity parts, family molds, and modular tooling.
A new hot sprue bushing from Osco is designed specifically for high-heat engineering-grade resins. The Series 40 hybrid nozzle is a cross between existing Series 30 and Series 50 nozzles. It?s designed to process high-heat engineering-grade resins such as LCP, PEI, PPS, and polysulphone. It features two zones of temperature control, one at the tip and one at the head or location ring area. The nozzle uses thick-film heater technology to boost performance, and provides a low profile and even heat distribution. It features replaceable heaters, thermocouples, and tips. It?s also field serviceable and can fit into a 34- or 1-inch bore.
Robotic Production Technology (RPT) showcased its solutions for plastics deflashing and material handling. A small six-axis robot equipped with a compliance device and knife tool simulated the deflashing of a cooler lid. A compliance device compensates for part shrinkage and expansion and allows users to have constant compliance along curved or 90° parting lines on injection molded or blowmolded plastic parts. This deflashing process reportedly increases productivity, improves trim edge quality, and reduces scrap in intricate parts.
RPT also featured a material handling cell with a six-axis robot handling a plastic container. The robot can unload multiple machines, follow a flexible plant layout, and increase the quality and consistency of the process. Manufacturers can also improve their ability to trace products by using bar coding systems, which can be easily integrated into a robotic material handling system.
In the Wittmann booth, the ServoGator degating module for midsized to large robots demonstrated a fixed setup for degaters. The ServoGator mounts on the robot beam and is controlled directly by the robot controller for degating of single or multiple gates. A servo a-c articulating combination wrist manipulates the EOAT and part into position with the ServoGator for sprue degating.
The ServoGator has servo rotation to provide additional position control of the interchangeable nippers. It allows one or more of the nippers to be mounted on its servocontrolled arm for gate cutting. The robot controller is used to program coordination of the ServoGator nippers and part orientation. A flexible EOAT kit and a variety of nipper styles can be combined to remove a range of parts and rotate them for gate cutting.
Onex Automation displayed its Robo-Cell multipurpose factory automation platform, used in a variety of automated assembly, inspection, and packaging processes. Standard end-effector, material handling, and vision inspection modules are said to tailor each unit to the needs of the customer. The Robo-Cell is compact, with a 4-by-5-ft footprint, and can be modified to meet a NEMA 4 as well as a Class 1000 cleanroom rating.
Twinshot Technologies showcased its multimolding solution at the show?a conventional single-barrel machine that can inject two materials in one operation. The second generation of the process offers improvements in performance, cost, and ease of use. This design does not require two separate screws, as plastication of both components is done with a single screw that uses a two-stage design similar to a vented extruder. The ratio of materials is controlled externally by starve feeding one or both of the screw stages.
|Heatstaking and heat-inserting plastic welders from Dukane feature an ultrarigid H-frame, and a prewired harness with connectors for low-voltage controllers and high-voltage heaters.|
The advantages of this modified Twinshot over the previous design include faster recovery time, independent heat control on the two melting zones, and reduced cost. The machine is more rugged as the thin-walled outer screw and the small inner screw have been eliminated. The hopper located behind the barrel has also been eliminated, making it retrofitable to all machines regardless of injection piston design. This screw and barrel can be scaled down to accommodate a shot as small as 20g and is easily installed or removed quickly.
|The 2000f ultrasonic welding system from Branson allows users to digitally program actual weld force and downspeed during both weld and hold cycles.|
Collins & Aikman, which recently acquired Intellimold from Textron, introduced the Intellimold Xtrasoft process at Plastec West. The process produces soft-touch products from one-shot molding of two materials. XtraSoft combines two materials that are simultaneously injected into the mold cavity to produce both a core and soft skin effect. The core and the skin are then bonded together through boundary layers that contain both materials. This process squeezes the lighter material to the surface while the heavier material forms the core. Under traditional injection molding, the product would be processed in a more time-consuming and costly two-step process.
The Ergocell system for producing fine and microcellular foam parts was introduced at K by Demag Ergotech USA, and displayed at Plastec. The Ergocell module is comprised of a fluid induction system, dynamic mixer, and injection plunger. The module itself mounts to the discharge end of the standard Ergotech barrel assembly. The basic operation consists of three phases: melt preparation, gas injection/dispersion, and injection.
The melt is prepared in the standard 20:1 ratio L/D screw. The screw is advanced, forcing the melt into the mixing chamber parallel to the injection/mixing of the CO2. The Ergocell mix is held under pressure in the injection plunger, keeping the CO2 in the solution. The plunger is then advanced, forcing the melt through the shutoff nozzle and into the mold. The inherent pressure drop allows the CO2 to be released from the solution, causing cell structure formation. The system is part of a modular building block concept. All setpoints and control functions are fully integrated into the system so that the process can be precisely managed.
Branson introduced its new 2000f ultrasonic welding system, which allows users to digitally program actual weld force and downspeed, along with step force, during both weld and hold cycles. Traditional modes of distance, time, energy, energy compensation, or peak power are also included. Multiple modes are valuable for applications requiring a high level of process control and weld quality. These systems include a power supply module with closed loop circuitry.
The 2000f includes a user interface with a four-line vacuum fluorescent display designed for ease of use in setup, operation, and troubleshooting. The system is designed for use in manual, semiautomated, or fully automated environments with most material handling devices, and can be interfaced with an external device or control such as a PLC or PC. The actuator may be mounted directly to a machine frame, with a fixed support on a column or hub, or as a stand-alone system on a base with ergonomic light-force palm button switches.
A new line of heatstaking and heat-inserting plastic welders from Dukane features design innovations that reportedly overcome the limitations of existing units. An ultrarigid H-frame eliminates flexing, and a prewired harness has connectors for both low-voltage controllers and high-voltage heaters. The low-voltage harness has six connectors to run six zones. The high-voltage heaters are daisy-chained from one module to the next.
|The NovaTouch, a PLC microprocessor controller from Novatec, has an easy-to-read touch panel and comes fully programmed with built-in setup prompts. Accessories can be added for networking and remote control.|
The controllers are plug-in modular units with master/slave capability. Each master controller can power up to three heaters plus three more slave modules, which can also each power three heaters. A rugged touch-screen LCD display makes the unit easy to use. A setup mode jogs the head down for quick probe alignment. The H-frame is also radially adjustable to ±10°. The presses are preprogrammed to accept optional slide kits, postcooling, fixture clamping, and optical switches.
Also at the show
GLS Corp. introduced a new line of thermoplastic elastomers for the first time. The material is an alternative to PVC and latex, with the same look, feel, and performance. The TPE line is targeted at medical applications that require a PVC-free or latex-free alternative. Injection molding and extrusion grades are available. Key benefits of these grades include clarity, high temperature resistance, and good tensile and tear strength. The extrusion grades, 223-007 and 223-008, are designed to offer PVC-like kink resistance and snap-back. The injection molding grade, 224-060, is formulated to withstand boiling and has good tear strength. Current grades are available in hardnesses of 57, 63, and 77 Shore A, but the line is fully customizable in hardnesses ranging from 50 to 80 Shore A.
A new Hot Tack Heatsealer was exhibited by Dynisco Polymer Test. The unit is used in the flexible packaging industry to test the strength of a heat seal during product packaging. The machine is automatic from start to finish and, based on the mode selected from the computer menu, is capable of configuring itself to perform four different tests: hot tack, ultimate strength, heatsealing, and peel strength.
The Model HTH2 hot tack test measures the strength of a hot seal at a specified time interval after completion of a sealing cycle, but prior to the time the seal reaches ambient temperature. The ultimate strength test takes place after a heat seal has cooled to ambient temperature and achieved strength stability. The heat sealing test mode is basically a manual operation in which the operator inserts the test specimen between the dies by hand. The seal is then made under computer control to the preset conditions and manually withdrawn when the jaws open. In the peel strength mode the machine functions purely as a tensile tester to peel preformed heat seals and measure their strength. It also gives the operator the capability to generate a graphic of the seal profile.
|Twinshot?s multimolding solution consists of a single screw that uses a two-stage design, similar to a vented extruder, to inject two materials in one molding operation.|
Resyk Inc. introduced the TC-350 compounder, said to be the first commercially available manufacturing equipment that uses contaminated, mixed plastics to produce a value-added product without cleaning or separating the material. The system employs a five-step recycling process to produce the compression molded or extruded products.
New software for manufacturers was developed by IQMS and offered at Plastec. JobShopIQ is an integrated enterprise management solution for toolmakers, diemakers, and other short-run manufacturers. The software delivers manufacturing, accounting, and project management capabilities, and provides visual routing and fast creation of new projects based on existing routing templates. JobShopIQ also allows manufacturers to tie together a variety of business processes, including accounting, distribution, human resources, and customer relationship management.
Novatec exhibited a new touch-screen PLC microprocessor controller on a Novatec Micro Dryer. The NovaTouch, a Siemens S7-224 PLC, offers greater reliability and off-the-shelf advantages than the Novatec MCD-1000, 2000, and 3000 Series microprocessors. Benefits include an easy-to-read touch panel that measures 87 by 119 mm. The PLC is fully programmed at Novatec and built-in prompts guide the operator through the simple setup process to meet drying requirements. Options include an EPROM memory card; modules and communications cards can be added to enable networking and remote control.
Unicor Plastic Machinery offered the new UC 58 Vario Corrugator, which allows manufacturers to change molds and chain lengths in less than 30 minutes. The UC 58 Vario Corrugator is designed to produce top-quality medical hoses and tubes, automotive tubing, and architectural and electrical conduits. This new generation of corrugators features variable length mold chain, quick chain length adjustment, and simple operation. The UC 58 has a new 2-inch-wide mold, and can process PVC, ABS, PE, nylon, and PTFE for a wide range of hosing and tubing needs.