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March 1, 2001

4 Min Read
Error-proof process control

For the first time, Textron Automotive Co. (TAC, Troy, MI) has commercialized proprietary intellectual property and technology outside of the automotive industry. TAC now offers to noncompetitive/nonautomotive companies licenses of an advanced cruise control system for injection molding, which the company acquired last year. The system is designed to take the guesswork out of molding by providing closed loop control of melt rheology inside the mold cavity in real time, thereby error-proofing the molding process as it happens. TAC has trademarked its system as IntelliMold. 

TAC is a $2.9 billion business segment of multinational conglomerate Textron Inc. (Providence, RI). Its $1.8 billion Textron Automotive Trim Div. is generally recognized as the largest injection molder in North America. TAC acquired the process control technology it is now marketing when it purchased its developer, M&C Advanced Processes of Ann Arbor, MI (see "Textron Automotive Takes Closed Loop Control," May 2000 IMM, p. 212 for a report). 


IntelliMold mold conversions are less complicated and costly than they used to be. Liquid silicone is used to seal mold cavities now instead of by other means, which required more machining. Real-time measurement of cavity air-pressure displacement is key to the IntelliMold system.

Trim Div. officials showed IMM documentation gathered from their own production runs of how IntelliMold reduces cycle times, scrap, rework, and load rates; improves press repeatability, versatility, and longevity; and improves the mechanical strength and surface appearance of molded parts, while significantly reducing shot-to-shot deviations in part weight. They say Intellimold's real-time inmold control over melt pressure and temperature allows consistent molding of parts with a level of surface quality and dimensional control that exceeds customer expectations. 

Real-time inmold control over melt pressure and temperature allows consistent molding.

TAC has partnered with the Research Triangle Institute (Research Triangle Park, NC) and the Deloitte & Touche Intellectual Asset Management Practice (Chicago, IL) to help it create this new source of nonautomotive revenue. IntelliMold system investments include license fees on a per-machine basis, based on a sliding scale relating to machine tonnage. Installation and training fees are included. 

Mold conversion is a separate cost, as is a molding machine upgrade, if required. IntelliMold is available as a standard option on many popular presses and as a retrofit. Based on their own experience, company officials say IntelliMold licensees can expect a three- to six-month ROI—the larger the press, the quicker the payback. 

"We plan to have a minimum of 100 systems installed on our machines by the end of 2001," says Jerry L. Mosingo, executive vp of manufacturing operations for Textron Trim. "Our shop-floor technicians who are used to making all those process adjustments really love it." 

Paradigm Shift in Control 
"We not only offer installation and training, we help our customers better understand their materials, processes, and applications," says Ed Rutkowske, vp of operations at Textron Trim and at TAC's newly renamed and remodeled IntelliMold Systems subsidiary in Ann Arbor. "We are making melt rheology common knowledge," adds Milko Guergov, technology vp and IntelliMold's inventor. "Users can actually meet a part spec, rather than just claim they can." 

What's being controlled? 

Current process control
barrel temperature profile
shot size
screw recovery speed(s)
backpressure profile

injection pressures/profiles
  boost profile (3 to 5 zones)
  pack profile (1 to 5 zones)
  hold profile (1 to 5 zones)
transfer position
cushion position

TAC has invested heavily to make the IntelliMold Systems HQ a world-class operation. Backed by the best computer design and engineering systems money can buy, leading-edge DNC equipment is used for mold conversions, and IntelliMold-controlled molding machines are used for testing molds and fine-tuning the process. The shop floor also is equipped with digital video cameras. 

Customers can watch parts being sampled and monitor the real-time process and production data on a four-channel screen display in IntelliMold Systems' training and demonstration room. Among the impressive IntelliMolded parts on display in this room is a top cover for the 2001 DaimlerChrysler Grand Cherokee. It won the SPE's Process Enabling Technology award last year for Textron and Mobil Chemical. IntelliMold reduced sinks and flow lines so much that Textron could eliminate painting prep operations. IntelliMold also reduced the clamp tonnage requirements by 10 percent. 

Rutkowske, Mosingo, and Guergov are convinced that IntelliMold represents a paradigm shift in controlling the molding process. They believe the technology will have a significant influence on future designs in molding machines, molds, material conditioning and handling systems, and manufacturing cells. As an example they remind us that IntelliMold control allows the coinjection molding of two materials mixed together in a single hopper on a conventional single-barreled molding machine. 

It may even change the way resin suppliers formulate their materials, because of its control over flow and fiber orientation. Textron officials also believe IntelliMold will eventually replace SPC. 

Contact information
IntelliMold Systems,
  Textron Automotive Co.
Ann Arbor, MI
Ed Rutkowske
Phone: (734) 477-9212
Fax: (734) 477-9214
Web: www.intellimold.net

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