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February 1, 2003
6 Min Read
Niche machines for molding high-margin specialties are commonplace standards in Japan today, as evidenced by displays at the International Plastics Fair (IPF 2002, Nov. 9-13, Tokyo, Japan). Here are just a few highlights of what was on show.
Super High-speed Servomolding
Toshibaâ€™s prototype EC100-Linear all-electric is capable of reaching a maximum injection speed of 2000 mm/sec. They slowed it down a bit at IPF where it molded .2-mm-thick PC battery cases for mobile phones at only 1250 mm/sec. Fill time was .04 second. Toshiba sources estimate that the EC100-Linear is 20 times faster than a normal 100-ton all-electric.
With 100 metric tons of clamping force, the press is equipped with proprietary linear servomotor technology designed and built by Toshiba. The EC100-Linear is much more compact and considerably more quiet than other linear servomotor machines weâ€™ve seen in recent years.
The prototype machine was equipped with a prototype Windows-based controller. It features architecture that is much more open than Toshibaâ€™s standard V21 controller and is capable of controlling auxiliaries, like robots and mold temperature controllers, as well as providing Internet access. EC-Linear Series machines eventually may be available with up to 500 tons of clamping force. (Toshiba Machine Co. Ltd., Tokyo, Japan, www.toshiba-machine.co.jp)
A Viscosity-test Press
The centerpiece of Fanucâ€™s IPF 2002 booth display was the first public demonstration of its resin evaluation system. It uses injection pressure profiling of air shots and a remote PC to test material viscosity.
In less than 30 minutes, users can know what machine settings have to be changed to keep things running smoothly and defect-free when lots change, when there are differences in drying times between resin lots, and when there are changes in regrind ratio.
The effects of different pressure, velocity, and temperature settings on a Roboshot molding machineâ€™s pressure curves from air shots are transmitted to Fanucâ€™s Mold 24i host computer. When ideal processing conditions for a particular material are determined, they are stored in the Mold 24iâ€™s database.
By using the same procedure, any changes in material conditions can be compared against the ideal settings in the database. Users donâ€™t have to guess about what process parameters to change. At IPF, the system was demonstrated on a Roboshot Model 15iA press (15 metric tons) alternately running LCP virgin and LCP regrind. A Fanuc-robotized vision parts inspection systemâ€”artificial visionâ€”kept an eye on part quality. (Fanuc Ltd., Yamanashi, Japan, www.fanuc.co.jp)
Sumitomoâ€™s IPF booth was an impressive showcase of its latest SE-D series of direct-drive, high-performance all-electrics, each featuring a number of Sumitomoâ€™s equally impressive, value-adding molding technologies. There was everything from high-speed, CO2-assisted, fine-pattern replication of light-guide plates and superthin-wall molding of high-viscosity resins, to superspeed 800-mm/sec injection of PC/ABS smart cards.
There was much moreâ€”a new high-speed hybrid for thin-wall container molding, for instance, and a new all-electric vertical for insert molding. One of Sumitomoâ€™s most striking demonstrations was of its new Model SE200D-CI all-electric, a low-profile 200-metric-tonner equipped with two horizontal injection units for multishot molding. It ran a 90-cavity mold (thatâ€™s right, 90).
The press molded .31g PP/TPE ear cleaners. Shot weight was 73.5g for the PP and 58.5g for the TPE. It cycled at about 35 seconds. The mold half rotated extremely fast and stopped dead-on, shot after shot. Sumitomoâ€™s SK control ensured shot-size stability. Parts were robotically removed. The material loader was noisier than the molding system. (Sumitomo Heavy Industries Ltd., Chiba, Japan, www.shi.co.jp)
Mitsubishi had the largest-tonnage press at IPF, a technologically sophisticated, 10,290-kN hybrid, twin-platen giantâ€”the model 1050em-160. It only uses a drop or two of hydraulic oil, just where itâ€™s needed. Only the carriage-pull cylinder, core pull, sequential valve gating, nozzle touch, and final clamp tonnage are juiced. All other actions are all-electric.
Mitsubishi, a twin-platen pioneer among Japanese OEMs, has loaded its em Series with a number of high-performance features. For example, its injection load-balance control system, high-speed/low-pressure injection, hydraulic buildup force control, and sequential injection allowed the show machine to mold different-sized PP trays (a 1700g shot) in an unbalanced family mold at relatively low clamping force.
The machine series starts at 720 U.S. tons. A 1500-U.S.-tonner is already on the drawing boards and Mitsubishi plans to take its em Series up to 2000 tons. All are controlled by the Mitsubishi networkable MAC-VIII controller, which features an easy-to-use, 12-inch, flat-panel touch-screen GUI. The MAC-VIII won Japanâ€™s Good Design Award in 2001.
Mitsubishi sources also ask us to keep our eyes out for its new MEt series of small-tonnage machines (30 to 300 U.S. tons) at NPE 2003. These are fully electric, competitively priced presses designed especially for NAFTA. (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Nagoya, Japan, www.mhi.co.jp/sanki/injection)
A New Look for Nissei
Nissei had it all at IPFâ€”micromolding, repeatable precision molding, fast-cycle molding, ultra high-speed injection, environmentally friendly molding, Internet-friendly molding . . . you name it.
Ten machines were on display, molding everything from .4-mm/80-pin connectors and .193g microswitch cams to thin-wall battery cases at injection speeds of 2000 mm/sec, and commercial insulators in two-cavity tooling that usually cycle at 5 seconds cycling in less than 2 seconds.
However, Nisseiâ€™s showstopper was the unveiling of its new Elject Nex Series all-electric molding machines. Thatâ€™s â€œNex,â€ as in â€œNext Generation.â€ They are the 21st century successors to Nisseiâ€™s popular Elject ES Series machines, which debuted way back in the 20th century, in 1997.
Nex machines are designed for affordability and quick global delivery. Injection units for the presses are fully modular and will total out to 18 different models for eight sizes of clamps. A patented injection unit has been designed to permit high-precision injection pressure and backpressure detection, providing plasticating stability even under very low pressures. Temperature control has been extended to the rear end of the heating cylinder, including the hopper throat, to improve energy efficiency.
Overall, the machine is more compact, more durable, and easier to maintain than the ES Eljects it will replace. Nex machines also are equipped with a brand-new, as yet unnamed touch-screen controller. Nissei ran two prototypes at the show, 50- and 180-ton models. Nex Series machines are expected to go on sale this June (Nissei Plastic Industrial Co. Ltd., Nagano, Japan, www.nisseijushi.co.jp).
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