Sponsored By
Clare Goldsberry

May 3, 2016

4 Min Read
Polymers Center of Excellence receives donation of four injection molding machines

The Polymers Center of Excellence (PCE; Charlotte, NC), a non-profit organization chartered and funded by the state of North Carolina in co-operation with the University of North Carolina – Charlotte, recently received a donation of four injection molding machines, said Phil Shoemaker, PhD, Executive Director of the PCE. The donation came from Joe Malasky, President of Polylinks Inc., a biotech custom molder based in Asheville, NC.

Image courtesy ddpavumba/
freedigitalphotos.net.

Shoemaker told PlasticsToday about the machine donation and other programs recently put in place that will help the PCE significantly expand its training program. The Arburg machines include a 470a 88-ton hybrid electric machine, a 320a 55-ton all-electric, a 320s 55-ton hydraulic and a 270s 27-ton hydraulic. The donation also included nine screw and barrel assemblies that include 15-, 25- and 30-mm systems for metal injection molding and a 35-mm assembly. Shoemaker added that the PCE recently received RJG certification, the first educational center thus certified.

The PCE was founded and funded by the state of North Carolina in 1972, where it began as a plastics specialist program within the Industrial Extension Service. In 1994, a joint venture between North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina – Charlotte formed the Polymers Extension Program (PEP) at UNCC. PEP moved off the UNCC campus in 1999 and became the Polymers Center of Excellence.

In 2012, the Polymers Technology Center (PTC) was formed. The PTC had injection molding equipment for mold tryouts and debugging and extrusion compounding equipment for determining proper screw profile, among other equipment. The PTC can also do small-scale production on the center’s total of five injection molding presses in the 2,600-square-foot space. With five instructors, the PCE is the largest training facility in the Southeastern United States, training approximately 650 students annually at the facility.

Shoemaker commented that the donation means that the PCE can teach courses on injection molding at the highest level. “Imagine trying to teach someone to fly without having an aircraft. Looney, but in injection molding that’s what is done way too often,” Shoemaker said. “Usually we only utilize PowerPoint for our basic classes, but as we move up through the concepts, it becomes increasingly difficult to both demonstrate and train the attendees without reference to an actual machine.

“Also, it’s pretty difficult to remember what a run-away head condition is by only seeing it as a slide. But once you smell it, feel it and have to fix it, you never forget it. That’s what the donation does for us. We can now use our machines as trainers for our students. That’s why we’re going to offer the Capstone class that gets into real-world molding, where every day starts off as Monday morning with all the attendant failures,” said Shoemaker.

Many times, companies don’t quite know how to help educational institutions like the PCE, so Shoemaker offers some advice. “We are always searching for folks who are able to teach more esoteric classes. For example, I’m looking for someone who can teach a class on twin-screw design,” Shoemaker said. “Extruders are remarkable machines that can disperse and distribute materials into a polymer matrix, but each job can be optimized by the screw design. Who knows what those designs are? The answer is that only a few folks know it, and most of them don’t want to teach it. Same is true for roto-molding and thermoforming.

“I recently got a call from someone regarding injection blow molding of bottles—an obscure field in terms of the big picture of manufacturing—looking for a course on the subject. I have nobody. You know horse owners need a stable full of race horses in order to be competitive? I see our course offering in the same way. Just need to get a few more horses in the stable,” said Shoemaker.

Equipment donations are always appreciated, but the one piece of equipment on Shoemaker’s wish list is a new tensile tester. The PCE offers material testing, but it lacks a tensile tester primarily because a new one costs $100,000. “If someone has a good used one and wanted to donate it, we’d be glad to take it,” he said.

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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