Low-pressure injection molding machine rebuild business takes off at Milacron

Machine builder Milacron Holdings Corp. has seen demand increase for its Low Pressure Injection Molding (LPIM) Structural Foam machines following a successful NPE 2018 in Orlando, FL, including machine rebuilds. Milacron had a dedicated space in the NPE booth focusing on LPIM technologies and large part molding. An eye-catching display showed a replica platen of the massive Cincinnati 6,750 ton machine sold to 20/20 Custom Molded Plastics of Holiday City, OH.

Ideal for injection molding large, lightweight, durable structural plastic parts, the Milacron LPIM Structural Foam Technology creates a cellular foamed core surrounded by integral skins, forming a total integral and rigid structure. In this process, a foaming agent (nitrogen) is mixed with the polymer melt and short-shot through a modular multiple nozzle system into a mold (or multiple molds) in a volume less than is required to fill a solid part. The injection pressure and expanding gas/polymer cellular mixture act to fill the mold. The mold cavity pressures are 10–20 times lower than conventional injection molding which permits the use of lower cost aluminum molds with no additional hot runner system since the hot runner manifold and nozzle system is integral to the machine. Many molds and large parts of different sizes can be molded at the same time. The multi-nozzle machine design allows for multiple molds to be run simultaneously allowing for higher productivity.

Parts molded with LPIM can replace many rotational molded or industrial blow molded parts with better aesthetics and better cycle times.

The markets driving the increased level of activity are material handling (pallets and boxes), underground enclosures for telecommunications and utilities, drainage and irrigation products, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) components, commercial/institutional, and industrial and safety products. Milacron is also seeing other new products being developed that are conversions from concrete, metal, and wood in the building and infrastructure market as well.

Eric Hallstrom, Business Manager, Milacron LPIM added, “Milacron has been promoting our proprietary Structural Web technology that allows for multi-point gas assist molding that can be added to as an option to our standard LPIM machine. The process allows for a cosmetic part appearance for large projected area parts and can reduce part weights by up to 20%. The gas assist process also creates an inherently strong and durable part, molded with low internal stresses and a dual wall thickness which can replace many rotational molded or industrial blow molded parts with better aesthetics and better cycle times for higher volume parts.”

Milacron has aggressively expanded its rebuild and remanufacture capabilities for LPIM machines for customers. There are a large number of old LPIM machines in the field that were purchased in the late 1980s and 1990s that need rebuilds and upgrades to control systems and new motor and drive selections, moving away from DC to AC drives which provide better energy efficiency. Milacron’s full remanufacturing consists of fully rebuilding the machine to current model specifications, including full teardown and inspection, platen refurbishment, full re-painting of the machine, new controls, electrical system, and hydraulics. The major tonnage and injection cylinders and hydraulic accumulators are sent out for refurbishment and resealing. New screws, barrels, and injection melt accumulators are also included as part of this program.

Hallstrom added, “Essentially we are updating machines that have been in production for over 30 years and bringing them up to the same specifications as our new machines. This has been especially popular since we started to promote this capability to our customers, as they see a significant enough savings since we are re-using the most expensive parts of these large machines, being the bases, platens, and cylinders. The customer gets back a machine that outperforms the machine’s original specifications and is as reliable as a new machine with the same warranty.”

At NPE, 20/20 entered into an agreement with Milacron to refurbish and upgrade two of their existing 400-ton LPIM machines to 500-ton LPIM machines, and one of their 500-ton LPIM machines to 750-ton LPIM machines. 20/20 is also having Milacron rebuild and upgrade five of their 750-ton LPIM machines. The machines will undergo a complete remanufacture and rebuild process at Milacron’s Batavia, OH manufacturing plant and be returned like new machines.

In total, Milacron is currently rebuilding eight LPIM machines as well as four HPIM machines. “Milacron’s commitment to the LPIM side of the industry, their quality, performance, and service is second to none and is the reason that we made this decision to have them rebuild and upgrade this equipment,” said Ron Ernsberger, President, 20/20 Custom Molded Plastics.

Ernsberger added, “Milacron worked closely with our entire team at 20/20 to identify the upgrades to the existing machines to be rebuilt that will put these machines above today’s current machine specifications and give us the widest capabilities for these size machines in the industry.” Ernsberger continued, “We also had Milacron integrate some proprietary technologies into their machines that allow us to have the most versatile LPIM Structural Foam machine fleet in the custom molding market. It’s a great partnership between the companies, as all equipment at 20/20 CMP is 100% Milacron.”

Milacron CEO Tom Goeke stated, “Stories like 20/20’s machine retrofits reinforce the fact that Milacron has an unrivaled aftermarket offering. Our aftermarket offerings aren’t only spare parts, we can literally take an older machine and transform it to like new condition. Milacron has set the standards, driven innovation and led the industry in Multi-Nozzle Low-Pressure Injection Molding Technologies for more than four decades. These machines can be used for Structural Foam, Structural Web, Gas Assist, Solid Molding, or combinations of these technologies depending on the application.” Goeke added, “The LPIM market is strong for our customers that require either new or rebuilt machines in both North America and Europe, and we have a number of solid inquiries both domestically and internationally including many from Latin America and India.”

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