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September 20, 1998

3 Min Read
Test flying the new injection molding simulator

Shifts are changing and the plant is kind of quiet. You look around once or twice to make sure nobody's watching, then you slip into the plant's training room and lock the door behind you. You slide the new SimTech-1 injection molding simulator CD-ROM into the drive and try your best to hide that grin on your face. Sure, you know all about injection molding . . . you helped train most of the people in the plant. The last thing you need is a computer simulation of what happens to part quality and machine operation when you change machine control settings. But you're still grinning like a kid at a video game. That's because the SimTech-1 is big fun.

Paulson Training Programs hasn't spent all this time working advanced mathematical equations of plastic and process analyses that combine both molding theories and practices, developing software that allows some 20 million calculations per simulated cycle, and checking all possible simulations against possible errors just so you can have a good time. Of course. Still, whether you're new to injection molding or a seasoned vet, Paulson's SimTech-1 is fun.

O.K., it's booted up. Let's say you want to mold a part. There are six parts to choose from: a hinged box, a cover lid, a bracket, a cell phone cover, a bezel, and a transparent frame. Then you select a material. It can be PE, PP, PC, PS, or ABS. The default machine is a 100-ton, 8-oz press. The fill rate control comes with velocity-to-pressure transfer. Injection pressure is adjustable to 20,000 psi. It's got the same control panel there on the screen that's used on a real molding machine, and all the controls really work. All set? Go ahead, start 'er up.

When you do, you see what has to be the coolest part of the program. The display switches for a moment to a realistic animated graphic representation of a molding machine in operation, complete with all the sights and sounds of a machine cycle. Paulson can even customize the machine in the multimedia simulation to look like one out on your floor.

After the cycle, you're shown the part you've molded, with all its dimensions and any defects that have occurred. Short shots, burn marks, degradation, dimensional inaccuracies, gate sinks and flash, ripples, sink marks, weld lines, distortion and voids --you name it, you'll see it. Then you can change your control settings and try again. A history screen shows you if the problem is getting better or worse when you change the control settings. When you finally get the part in spec, you can try to reduce the cycle time while still molding good parts. When you're through, you get a score based on the time it took to solve all the problems and final cycle time.

The problem solver program is just as much fun. IMM told you about it in our first article on the SimTech-1, back before it even had a name, when it was still a prototype (see October 1997 IMM). But SimTech-1 is a lot more than a lot of fun. When it's commercialized, SimTech-1 will provide a missing link in Paulson's injection molding training course curriculum. It's expected to go on sale for $10,000 around the end of first quarter 1998. But it's just the beginning.

Future applications for the molding simulator will let you "premold" parts, even before the mold is on the floor. Programs are coming that will allow you to solve actual production problems on your computer. Several people will be able to concurrently solve the same problems. And mold designers will be able to quickly and inexpensively check to see if any part problems will occur during molding.

Meanwhile, you can warm up by trying a sample online training lesson at Paulson's website on The Plastics Network. When the SimTech-1 does arrive, one thing is for sure . . . coworkers will be knocking on that training room door to get you out. It's a great way to increase anyone's mold setup know-how and problem solving skills.

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