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March 3, 2006

7 Min Read
In Process

Thermoformed balloons expanding medical business

Using a thermoforming process for low-pressure polyurethane balloons, a medical processor is able to create body-to-neck ratios that were previously unattainable in latex. In addition, the thermoformed balloons and flexible polyurethane grades used allow for a wide variety of 3D shapes and sizes, which can be easily folded.

The polyurethane film applied also offers low gas permeability and conical, pear, triangular, cylindrical, and football shapes. The aforementioned neck-to-body ratios can range from 1-10 to 1-50. Thickness varies from 1 to 10 mm, and the materials used satisfy Class VI medical-application requirements. As the medical industry continues to seek alternatives to materials like latex and PVC, polyurethane, which ranges from rigid to elastomeric, shows potential and thermoforming it, which allows lower tool costs, has emerged as well. For more information, contact Polyzen Inc. (Apex, NC) at www.polyzen.com

Six-axis robots drive automotive production

By combining standard six-axis robots with shelf-mounted six-axis robots, a German automotive supplier was able to increase productivity, shorten cycle times, and lower overhead in the manufacture of door-side linings for an airbag system. Mürdter Metall- und Kunststoffverarbeitung GmbH installed two Kuka KR 30 and three Kuka KR 150 shelf-mounted robots for the job.

The six-axis robots affix the door-side linings with woven grids, thread inserts, and labels before trimming them in a laser-cutting system. The shelf-mounted unit is positioned at the front of the process and removes a woven grid from a rotary table before inserting it into the moving platen of a molding machine. The grid is handled by the mechanical side of the KR150?s combination gripper. In the same cycle with the tool still open, the robot removes the newly molded set of door linings from the stationary platen using a pneumatic gripper on the other side of the robot?s end fixture.

Once removed from the machine, the parts are passed by the robot to an automated imaging system for quality control. While still holding the examined part, the robot picks up another woven grid to begin the process again once the molded part is transferred for inductive heating of the thread inserts.

At this stage, the KR 30 and the KR 150 work in conjunction to feed the heating unit?s cylinders with thread inserts. Before adding the Kuka automation, these inserts had been taken out of sorting pots using a suction gripper. By gradually turning its end-effectors, the robot can pick up eight thread inserts individually in a single cycle. Once this is completed, a third robot (KR 150), collects the door side linings using a vacuum gripper and places them on a rotary table at the laser-cutting unit. There another KR 30 processes the airbag area of the parts, before the KR 150 L110 K picks up a finished set and brings it to a label printer that bar codes each part. Finally, finished parts are picked up by the first KR 30 and placed on a conveyor headed to shipping. The company is planning to add a second injection molding machine into the process and has already installed a third KR 150 L110 K for service once it does. For more information on Kuka, visit www.kukarobotics.com.

Rotomolder has a friend in the resin-purchasing business

Growing from one machine for making recreational vehicle parts, to two plants in two states and 400 employees, a leading North American rotomolder continues its growth, adding Spin-Cast, a South Bend, IN rotomolder of highway safety products in July 2005. Elkhart (Middlebury, IN) has moved on to higher quality finishes, closer tolerances, and more complex geometries, giving it business in new markets, including tanks, egress wells, wheel-well liners, duct work, engine covers, and marine products such as helms.

Elkhart applies newer rotomolding technologies, such as pressurized molds and Mold In Graphic Systems inmold labeling, as well as flame blazing for unique surface finishes.

In addition to technology, Elkhart has hired resin-purchasing consultant RTi Inc. (Ft. Worth, TX), which helps Elkhart manage orders of its primary material, linear low-density polyethylene. RTi focuses on Elkhart?s past resin use, its purchasing history, and resin-use projections to inform its purchasing decisions. For more information on Elkhart Plastics, go to www.elkhartplastics.com. To learn more about RTi, visit www.resinpros.com.

Modular conveyor system expedites production changeovers

At the GW Plastics plant in Tucson, AZ, an insert injection molding project requires the development of customized and highly automated molding cells. Three automation cells will ultimately produce 1.7 million plastic fuel pumps annually for a global automaker, beginning with 2007 models. The conveyor system used in the project is the DynaCon modular plastic system manufactured by Dynamic Conveyor Corp. (Muskegon, MI). This line of light- and medium-duty modular conveyors is said to adapt to product changeovers, increases or decreases in production, and line conversions. The conveyors can be redesigned, taken apart, expanded, or reconfigured quickly and easily, yielding a high return on investment. For more information contact Dynamic Conveyor Corp. at (800) 640-6850, www.dynamicconveyor.com.

Pad printing bee line for honey containers

Faced with fifteen 55-gallon drums of honey and needing an eye-catching means to sell them, BuzzyBee went with a bee-shaped extrusion blowmolded polyethylene container, but needed a faster means than hand painting to decorate the unique shape. Pad Print Machinery (East Dorset, VT) would provide an XE 13 machine, running a combination program with four axes to print two colors 360° around the container. For more information go to Pad Print Machinery at www.padprintmachinery.com.

HDPE pipe extrusion in U.S. goes big time

Replacing concrete, ductile iron, and corrugated metal in large-diameter pipes, the extrusion of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) for bigger pipes has arrived on U.S. shores, with a 63-inch diameter pipe line, as a sizable piece of evidence.

The American Maplan Corp. (AMC) line also features technology from SMS Plastics Technology portfolio member, Battenfeld Extrusionstechnik GmbH. AMC built the 150-mm screw, gearbox, and single-screw grooved-feed extruder, while Battenfeld supplied the die and downstream equipment, including heavy-duty pullers, saws, and vacuum and spray systems.

Targeting applications in mining and drain water, HDPE has been used in large-diameter pipes for such markets in Europe for a number of years, with a 78-inch diameter installation supplying that market, but such installations are relatively new to the United States, with this being the largest stateside HDPE pipe line.

Defining large-diameter pipes as those 30 inches or more, AMC offers seven models of grooved-feed extruders for pipe from .5 to 78 inch with a throughput range of 450 to 5000 lb/hr. The 63-inch line delivered last November features a 150-mm extruder that processes 3300 lb/hr of HDPE.

A 78-inch line, which AMC says it has received some North American interest in, features a 220-mm extruder capable of running through 5000 lb of HDPE every hour.

For more information on American Maplan, go to www.maplan.com.

RIM processor revs up production with release agent

A reaction injection molding (RIM) processor of bumpers and door fascias switched from a wax-based mold-release agent to a solvent-based semipermanent mold release, immediately generating cost and labor savings. The Xtend 875 mold release was used for urethane parts filled with between 13 and 20% mica that cured at 150-180F in steel and epoxy molds.

Whereas the wax release needed to be applied to difficult areas, like the gate, prior to each injection, which caused some resin and wax buildup and affected part release and part cosmetics, the Xtend solvent was applied using a spray gun in three to four coats. Within five minutes the molds were ready, cutting out the time used with wax for hand polishing after application, and the solvent also improved demolding, even in problem areas like the gate. In addition, the parts didn?t need any sanding or rework after molding to fill pinholes prior to priming. For more information, visit Axel Plastics Research Laboratories Inc. (Woodside, NY) at www.axelplast.com.

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