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June 1, 2003

23 Min Read
NPE Preview: Show highlights

Among the all-electric presses running at NPE, Battenfeld will run an EM 1000/350 producing polycarbonate light sockets (above). On the hybrid side, Demag will be shooting out PP yogurt cups in its El-Exis S (below).

All-electric, hybrid machines

Electric-based molding technology continues to build inroads in injection molding, and all of the latest and greatest will be trotted out at NPE. The Mir e-power Series molding machine features an oversized injection unit for PET preforms and incorporates a specialty mold designed by Caontoni Stampi. It allows molding and cooling to be done in the same tool, eliminating the need for robot-controlled cooling stations. The toggle clamping unit is oil-free and driven by a brushless motor.

MHI Injection Molding Machinery Inc. is bringing its new em Series hybrid line, with mold-opening and -closing rates up to 1.3 times faster than MHI’s conventional models. It features peakless pressure control to minimize high-pressure spikes at the end of fill. Included is a Mac-VIII control with a 12-inch touch screen and automatic mold thickness adjustment. Not be left out is the MHI Met Series all-electric machine, featuring a Rasma-L frame, a highly rigid clamping mechanism, the Super Resin Control II material metering system, and a PLCS-10 control. It ranges from 35 to 300 tons and has maximum pressure of more than 34,000 psi.

Husky is being tight-lipped about what it’s bringing to Chicago, but the machinery maker does say that you can at least look for the completed Hylectric machine line at the show.

Introducing a new line of all-electrics (55 to 110 tons) is Fortune International Inc. Dubbed the Va-100, the machine uses the Fanuc patented toggle clamping system and four Japanese servomotors with ballscrews, offering reportedly faster cycles and multisequence operations. Swiss-made load cells measure injection pressure and backpressure, all operated by a Fortune VPC2000 control system.

The 200-ton E-Motion machine from Engel is the largest all-electric available in that line of machines (slated to go to 400 tons).

Pointing to customer demand for the expansion, Battenfeld has added to its EM all-electric series with machines in the 55- to 175-ton range. At NPE, the machine is molding a 7g PC light socket on an EM 1000/350. The sliding split mold for this part comes from Zumtobel Staff Werkzeugbau, based in Austria. Automation is performed by a Unirob R8/B2 robot. Finally, also in the Battenfeld booth, the all-electric Microsystem 50 is back, producing small, small, small parts in an enclosed, highly automated cell.

Modularity in the form of different electrical and hydraulic combinations is the word of the day at Arburg, where the Allrounder Alldrive (A) Series (88 tons) is molding pipettes in a 32-cavity mold.

Going hybrid is the Boy 90 A, equipped with a servoelectric screw drive, which operates independently of hydraulic movements.

As part of the recently formed Demag Plastics Group, an expanded IntElect line will be on display (also see New Products, p. 99). Originally ranging from 50 to 110 tons, the IntElects will now go up to 385 tons. At the show, an IntElect 50 is molding pipettes in a 24-cavity mold created by the Swiss toolmaker Tanner; an IntElect 165 is molding coinjected Frisbees using the Twinshot process.

On the hybrid side, an El-Exis S with servopowered screw rotation and clamp operation and hydraulically driven injection and auxiliary movements will mold PP yogurt cups in a 12x12-cavity stack mold from Tradesco.

HPM, now a division of Taylor’s Industrial Services, will bring along a new hybrid addition to its Freedom line. The Freedom Hybrid 1100-WP uses an electric drive and a hydraulically powered clamp to produce the normally expected benefits of a hybrid press: less energy consumption and noise, with greater overall cleanliness.

A 720-ton Duo from Engel will produce an automotive manifold at the show.

General purpose machines

Tried and true GP machines are still a big draw for many show-goers, and NPE will have its fair share. Mir is adding to its lineup with the RMP Series, designed for high speed and high accuracy. It features oversized components (screw, injection unit, clamp, ejector) and quick, powerful operation.

Look for the Vs-80 and the Vs-180 in the Fortune International booth. Both are standard toggle machines, featuring Bosch semiclosed loop hydraulics, a high-wear, corrosion-resistant, ion-nitrided screw and barrel, and a five-point toggle mechanism. It also uses a two-stage hydraulic pump and the V-8000 control.

“Cash and carry” is the theme of a new line of machines from Battenfeld that the company says caters to the market’s need for basic molding machinery at short notice. Featured in the line is the Plus 350, a TM 500/210 B2, and the R8 6-10-20 robot. It comes with a hydraulic two-column clamping system with mold carrier platen support and a B2 control system.

In the Engel booth you’ll find a new 720-ton, two-platen Duo machine (the smallest in the Duo line) producing an automotive manifold. Engel is also running a 600-ton Classic, producing a thin-walled food container.

Boy’s bigger version of its 22 V, the 35 V, will make its entrance at NPE.

Vertical machines

Insert molding continues to mature and expand as more suppliers produce machinery for this segment. Featuring two vertically assembled injection units, the PVP 90 TR from Mir is designed for automated insert and overmolding. It’s tiebarless to maximize access to the mold and features an electronic rotary table.

In the Battenfeld booth you’ll find the Vertical R, a 22- to 44-ton line of multistation rotary machines. They employ a three-tiebar concept that allows horizontal configuration of the injection unit for shooting into the mold parting line. At the show, the Vertical R will overmold airbag initiators in an eight-cavity tool with automation provided by a linear tandem robot.

Over in the Arburg booth you’ll find the Allrounder 1200 T rotary table machine, which will overmold metal inserts.Boy Machines is bringing a new entrant to the vertical market with the Boy 35 V, the big brother of the 22 V. You’ll also see the Boy 22 A VV insert molding Allan keys with the help of a fully articulating robot.

Throwing an all-electric press into the vertical mix is Nissei. The Elject TD10RE will be insert molding a shroud over an engine cooling fan in an automotive application. The system includes a rotary table that spins 180°, cycling through finished parts and new inserts. Nissei says the servomotor adds high positional accuracy for the unit.

First seen at K2001, Foboha’s turning-cube stack mold will run in a Ferromatik Milacron K-Tec machine.


The multimaterial and multicomponent machines at NPE are always among the most interesting exhibits at the show, and this year promises to be no different.

Although it is not running machines in its booth at the show, there will be Milacrons in operation at NPE. One will be in the Foboha booth running the Foboha/Milacron cube stack mold. It was a big crowd-pleaser at K 2001, and now NPE offers an opportunity to see it in action again. A Ferromatik Milacron K-Tec 200 S 2F-EW multimaterial machine will be running this eye-catching stack mold producing mobile phone covers. The turning-cube stack system features cavities on four equal mold faces. After the mold opens, the preinjected piece is held on the cube and turned in 90° increments. On the two inactive sides of the cube other operations can be carried out—label insertion or the printing or extraction of finished parts. Ferromatik says four cube molds can produce 20 million phone covers in one year, a total that would require nine conventional turntable machines.

Look for the Allrounder 820 S in Arburg’s booth. With a 440-ton clamp, it’s the biggest Arburg machine yet. The unit at the show is a two-component version with assistance provided by a horizontally gripping Multilift H robot.

In another example of the recently combined product lines of Demag Ergotech and Van Dorn Demag, an El-Exis S is operating under the Demag Plastics Group flag running an additional injection unit. Molding bottle caps with two different PPs, the El-Exis S high-speed press is shooting into a 6x6-cavity tool from Caco Pacific.

Demag Plastics is also displaying retrofittable multimaterial technology, with a Multi-Plug unit attached to a Van Dorn HT 85 to mold two-component fingernails with core-back technology.

Displaying a bolt-on multimaterial unit as well as a multicomponent press running opposing injection units and a rotary tool, Krauss-Maffei has a strong two-component presence at NPE. K-M is bringing a KM 80-220 C2 press using a bolt-on second injection unit that can operate as a stand-alone system replete with power pack and control to allow movement from press to press. This machine is running a tool from Armin Mold.

Using a rotary table and tool situated between the two platens, a KM 180-700-520 C3 Revolution with opposing injection units is running two-component parts in a tool from MGS Mfg. Group. K-M claims a 100 percent productivity increase due to the unique machine setup and tool.

HPM is displaying what it calls an industry first: the Freedom Rotator 1100-WP, a large-tonnage hydromechanical press with a rotating movable platen. Locking cylinders on the injection side allow the platen to rotate 180° for insert or multimolding applications, and HPM says 30 to 35 percent cycle time reductions are possible.

Calling it the Ultra Series System, Kortec Inc. announced the introduction of a 144-cavity coinjection system for multilayer PET preforms. Kortec says this product will target the carbonated beverage market.

Machine controls

Industrial controls continue a steady evolution, tackling the function of more and more equipment, and quite often doing so from remote locations. In addition to the integrated press controls offered by machinery manufacturers, there are many independent companies providing programs for molders to seize the reins of their operation.

American MSI Corp. now offers customers the ability to monitor 300 machines with a single network configuration from anywhere at any time. Its Industrial IT controls allow setup and configuration of machines, as well as the ability to perform maintenance.

Offering a servocontroller with PLC functionality, Moog Inc. is also looking to make a splash at NPE. Its Moog Servo Controller (MSC) is capable of handling multiaxis functions, and DIN rail mounting is standard with available extension modules.

With electric, hydraulic, and linear motion and assembly controls in tow, Bosch Rexroth Corp. is offering NPE visitors an array of control options. Among them is the company’s DPQ digital injection cylinder control, which offers analog feedback and injection profile control.

From the machinery front, Mir is jumping into the touch-screen control business with the Tomicon (touch-screen Mir console), designed for machine setup, control, management, and teleservice. Using a high-speed connection, it allows access to the Mir Atomic network, offering distributed electronic intelligence for the injection process. It also allows offsite techs to troubleshoot and make process parameter modifications.

Hekuma robotics pair up with a Ferromatik Milacron press in a cell running an inmold labeling process.

Specialty processes

The high-value niche and specialty processes like LSR, thermoset, gas assist, thin-wall, and inmold labeling are abundant at the show. If you’re looking to develop such specialties for your shop, NPE is a great place to start.

For a glimpse of some new and cool technologies, head over to the Battenfeld booth. First on tap is the IMPmore system. Short for inmold pressing, the IMPmore is the result of a joint effort between Exatec, Battenfeld, and Summerer Technologies and features an HM molding machine with a two-platen module and 2200 tons of clamp force. This injection-compression process allows low-tension molding of large, thin-wall PC components with long flow distances and low clamping force. At the show it will produce large PC windows for cars—a potential and legitimate replacement for glass.

If inmold decorating is more your speed, Battenfeld is also bringing its new IMCmore process, which also features inmold laser trimming. The process at the show is producing auto B-pillar covers. The cell features an HM 3500/1900+130L B4 hydraulic, multicolor machine with a textile feeding station and automation provided by a Unirob R15 10-(9+9)-45 robot; cutting is done by a Robocut A300 laser robot.

At the Hekuma booth in the South Hall you’ll find a Milacron K-Tec 155 S centering an automated manufacturing cell running an inmold labeling process with Hekuma robotics. Featuring a hybrid drive system, this K-Tec 155 S is equipped with new hydraulics for high-speed clamp movements for quick cycle times; an impulse cooling system is provided by Wieder. It also uses a special screw with an electric plasticating drive. The robot is Hekuma’s Heli-U 1700 cleanroom unit, which places the inmold labels into a four-cavity mold. The labels are injected over with PP for a thin-walled container. Total cycle time in the cell is 3.5 seconds. (See p. 114 for more robotics details.)

Injection compression enables large, thin-wall PC components like car windows to be molded in this joint project between Exatec, Battenfeld, and Summerer Technologies.

Engel is taking a big bite of the specialty pie with its X-Melt system, an expansion molding technology for high-speed, ultrathin-wall, and micromolding applications. X-Melt is running on an E-Motion all-electric producing a DVD linear gear. And don’t forget the water. Engel’s Watermelt water-assist system is producing cooling-water manifolds on a 165-ton Engel Victory machine. Rounding out the niches in the Engel booth is an all-electric LIM unit, a 300-ton tiebarless, and a 1000-ton Duo running long-glass-fiber and injection-compression applications.

Throwing its hat into the thermoset molding ring is Dima Inc., which has developed a two-platen toggle thermoset machine. Called the HyToggle, models range from 270 to 650 tons, with shot volumes up to 100 oz. It features parts and components from Barber-Colman, Siemens, Bosch, and Vickers.

If you’re looking for small parts, stop by the Arburg booth and see the Allrounder 220S, the smallest machine that company has to offer. With a clamp of 17 tons, it is producing micro parts. If gas assist is your interest, Arburg is exhibiting special advance models of the Allrounder 420 C and 470 C, the former running gas injection. You’ll also find at Arburg the Allrounder 520 C, 220 tons, running LSR parts. Finally, keep your eyes peeled for the Allrounder 320 K, equipped at the show with a thermoset package.

Boy’s best-selling machine, the 22 A, will be on hand molding LSR baby bottle nipples.

Although originally equipped with a thermoplastic injection unit, Nissei is displaying an LSR press, the NEX500, which can be switched over for thermoset molding. The NEX500 at the show is set up with two liquid silicone units situated in a LIM format. After kneading and injection, the two liquid elements are sent to a feeding unit to crosslink inside the cavity. Nissei says the press helps meet an increasing demand for LSR in a variety of markets, including home electrical appliances and medical products.

Mir’s MPOG Series is an oil-free machine with a reciprocating screw injection system and a piston clamp. Designed for elastomeric applications, at NPE look for it to produce a medical LSR part.

Also on the LSR front, Krauss-Maffei is displaying its all-electric KM 110-390 E. The 110-ton press uses a two-platen, no-toggle design to create an LSR part. Kipe Mold provides the tool, and KM supplies a multiaxis robot for part removal.

AEC is trotting out its newest vacuum receivers at NPE, like the SRC60 below.

Dryers, material handling

Although no radically new equipment technologies have been announced, many drying and material handling stalwarts plan to bring the latest iterations of existing product lines to Chicago. Among these is Novatec Inc., displaying its desiccant-free unit, the NovaDrier. The patent-pending system sends air from the drying media at -40F or less, which reportedly creates more consistent batches than its counterparts, which are said to have dewpoints greater than zero. Novatec reports that it has already sold 500 units and is hoping for more sales, capitalizing on large NPE crowds.

AEC Inc. offers an auxiliary portfolio that ranges from material blending and granulation to automation. The company’s latest vacuum receivers, the SRC30 and SRC60, are featured at the show. Both use stainless steel construction with a brushed finish and a steel filter screen. The 6-inch discharge throat with gasket and counter weight flapper is also a new feature.

A new line of press-side systems for material drying and conveying represents the latest from Motan Inc. The FlexSide line is reportedly built with agility in mind, featuring drying bins with capacities ranging from 30 to 400 lb; they include caster-mounted wheels for additional mobility.

Promising faster drying while consuming less energy, Maguire’s new Low Pressure Dryer model also provides increased capacity.

Maguire Products Inc. is moving forward with its line of Low Pressure Dryers that process material in a vacuum environment. This reportedly dries resin faster while using less energy. The latest model, the LPD-1000, with a throughput of 1000 lb/hr, has five times the capacity of the next closest LPD model.

Wittmann Inc. is featuring a variety of products, including material hoppers, dryers, and controls. The Drymax 100 portable dryer has SmartFlow valves and an integrated microprocessor control. The new microprocessor control, with SmartRegen function to create more energy efficiency, is also available on the Drymax 60.

The Conair Group Inc. will have a sizable NPE presence across various auxiliary product lines. One of its featured material drying and handling equipment products is the new Miniature Handy Hopper, a compact machine-mounted unit. Also new are the MDC-SC models, a line of mobile drying and conveying products.

Offering material handling auxiliaries ranging from portable dryers to blenders, Dri-Air Industries Inc. is featuring a system for drying, blending, and conveying colorants. Called the APD-3, it uses a 5-lb colorant hopper.

Universal Dynamics Inc. will also be in attendance offering a variety of material processing products, among which are its Autoload pneumatic conveying systems. These feature Venturi-style glass-tube loaders with vacuum-breaker and purge valves.

Size reduction

Still one of the noisier contributors to the NPE experience in spite of sound-dampening measures that have alleviated decibel output, size-reduction equipment is a must-have for any molder, and several companies have planned special product rollouts just for the big show.

With 10 never-before-exhibited products, Cumberland Engineering is looking to make a big splash at NPE. The company plans to show its new 2000 series of granulators, with infeed sizes of 20 by 42, 20 by 50, and 20 by 62 inches. Throughputs on these models range from 1800 to 2600 lb/hr.

With the ability to break up sections as thick as 1/4 inch, the Transformer 1624 from Granutec is among that company’s latest technologies. Removable cutting chambers and a tangential feed allow the Transformer to tackle a variety of jobs as do the variable throat sizes of 16 by 16 and 16 by 32 inches.

Low-cost radial granulators from Maguire Products Inc. reportedly offer an affordable size-reduction solution and can be found in that company’s booth. The Model R9 and R18 also provide small footprints (16 by 16 and 28 by 29 inches, respectively) and dual-purpose, infeed hoppers that accept material manually or via robot.

Vibration control is now standard on Wittmann’s traversing robots.

Robots and automation

Providing a constant background whirring while performing everything from part removal and placement to intricate deflashing simulations, robotics and automation were seemingly omnipresent NPE 2000, and the 2003 show promises more of the same. This is especially true now that many molders are turning more and more to automation for competitive purposes, pitting the speed and consistency of robotics against low-labor-cost countries like China (see “Molding Faces Automation Ultimatum,”).

The Conair Group Inc. always has a robotics presence and features its latest line, the Generation IV with Visual controls. The Generation IV’s Visual control package uses touch-screen operation with user-friendly prompts, which allow simple pick-and-place operations to be set up in minutes.

Present with some of its new products, including the M-710iB/T top-loading robot with payload capacities of approximately 100 to 150 lb, will be Fanuc Robotics North America Inc. New for the cleanroom are the LR Mate 200iB and M-6iB. Both are six-axis, modularly constructed, a-c servodriven units.

Sterling Inc. and its Sterltech Robotics Div. feature automation products that include the SAT series of three-axis, pneumatically driven part and sprue handling robots, and SA Series traverse robots with a full range of motion and a handheld, LCD teach pendant.

Among AEC Inc.’s newest is its traversing line of robots, which includes the AEN-35 servodriven robots. These are designed for machines of less than 75 tons, while the AEXII-1300 traverse robots are for use with presses ranging from 1100 to 1600 tons.

A vibratory stability feature and the Compact Series robots with integrated controls are among the newest offerings from Wittmann Inc. Wittmann announced the vibration control will now be standard on all of its traversing robots, and the Compact Series robots feature a self-contained drawer-mounted microprocessor, housed in the horizontal beam.

Ventax Robot Inc. features for show-goers its patent-pending Viper robotics line. The top-entry Viper is designed for part handling in high-speed cycles on smaller machines. Two robot models cover presses ranging from 80 to 350 tons.

Krauss-Maffei is throwing its hat into the automation ring at NPE 2003 with a variety of automation systems. The molding machine maker is bringing a high-speed robot, a multiaxis system, and a traditional linear model.

Simultaneously inserting four labels and removing the same amount of finished cups, a high-speed, linear-drive robot will demonstrate Hekuma’s capabilities at NPE. Working with a Ferromatik Milacron K-Tec 155 S and a four-cavity tool from Fostag, the Heli-U 1700 robot from Hekuma is in and out of the mold in .8 second, producing decorated cups in a 3.5-second cycle. (See p. 110 for a photo and details on the K-Tec 155 S.)

CBW Automation will display its latest side-entry robot, which uses its new Lumera controls. The robot will work with a Husky press creating containers in a StackTeck mold.

Molding faces automation ultimatum

Painting a morbid picture with morose numbers, the quarterly reports over the last few years from the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES) have provided a mostly bleak overview of the plastics industry in general and highlighted the hardships of equipment suppliers in particular.

One bright spot from the 2002 report, however, was automation. Outstripping auxiliaries and machines, automation actually reported an increase in overall sales statistics from 2001 to 2002. In many ways, this shift in numbers represents a shift in molders’ attitudes as they realize the inherent efficiencies, repeatability, and cost savings offered by automation. This realization has become more acute as these same molders find themselves in a pitched battle with foreign shops that continually undercut their costs.

As a sales manager with Conair’s Automation group, Hank Dixon has witnessed this philosophy shift firsthand, watching as his business activity grew.

Bright Spot
“Automation has been the one market that gained [according to the SPI CES],” Dixon says. “It certainly didn’t bring us back to the glory days of a few years ago, but there was a substantial double-digit gain.”

Dixon says that clients that originally purchased a robot to perform simple pick-and-place tasks, while still relying on human labor for post-mold operations like degating or deflashing, are now purchasing automation for those duties.

Dixon says he’s also seen an increased demand for cells centered on vertical machines doing various insert, fabric overlay, and inmold decoration operations. Regardless of what task the automation is used for, Dixon does see a consistent logic behind why it’s being used.

“I think as injection molders face pressure from the economy and from offshore molders, it becomes a way that they can maintain their edge,” Dixon explains. “Statistics have told us over the years that in terms of automating the injection molding process, North America is still not as automated as Japan or places in the Far East or even major countries in Europe. So there’s still a lot of room to achieve productivity increases through automation.”

Dixon cites overmolding, joining of plastics and variable substrates like cloth, and the application of labels and decals within the mold with the assistance of robotics among these new processes.

As far as trends go, Dixon says to look for the continued proliferation of servodriven robots (over pneumatic systems), and more advances in controls, making setup faster and more intuitive. And for molders who still think of automation as an inflexible and stringent option, Dixon says think again.

“A lot of times when people think of automation, they’ll see the pictures shown on the nightly news of a food production line or a bottling plant,” he says, describing what’s known in the industry as hard automation. Conair and other plastics industry automation suppliers are different. “What we provide at Conair is flexible automation,” Dixon explains. “We provide robots and systems that are modular, and they can be changed to do other applications, so it really does give flexibility to the custom molder.”
—Tony Deligio

The Conair Group Inc.
Pittsburgh, PAB
(412) 312-6000


As molders increasingly add secondary operations to augment their competitive advantage, decoration technology becomes vitally important, and NPE features a number of companies providing a wide array of decorating technologies.

From the molding machinery realm, Battenfeld now offers a number of relevant technologies, including inmold lamination of textile materials. The company says its line provides high surface qualities for a variety of textile materials, fabrics, and carpets without the need for solvents or post-processing.

Decoration specialist Serigraph Inc. offers its latest technology, Micromotion. This patented innovation creates printed, etched effects that can simulate depth and movement. Serigraph also has Gemini inmold decoration, Serillusion printing technology, and Select Metalization, which can foil designated surfaces.

Also at the show with machinery for rigid and semirigid product printing, decoration, and part handling will be Apex Machine Co. Apex offers equipment for digital media disk, medical part, and cylindrical product printing and decoration.

Markem Corp. is bringing a pair of marking systems to Chicago. Look for the Model 4000 drop-on-demand ink-jet marker, which is said to provide high-contrast, white print images at a low cost. Markem’s booth will also house a Model 3010 CR CO2 laser marker.

Tampoprint International Corp., maker of laser and digital ink-jet systems, will highlight the Alfalas WSE in its booth. The Alfalas represents Tampoprint’s latest laser-marking station and uses air-cooled laser components instead of cooling water to reduce maintenance.

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