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A short stroll through a big processing garden

This year’s crop of new technologies aims for smarter, faster, and more automated workcells that promise to reduce molding and assembly times and increase flexibility.

As at many plastics trade fairs, the recent Fakuma exhibition in Germany (October 2003) was more about processing than about new products as such. There were new products presented, of course, which were covered in the December 2003 issue. But what exhibitors wanted to show off more than anything was how they help molders and moldmakers get things done, sometimes with their new technology, often in combination with other suppliers.

The emphasis was, as you would expect, on the current hot technologies: multicomponent/multicolor molding, micromolding, insertion/encapsulation, automation/integrated production cells, and IMX.

What is IMX? Inmold everything. Laminating, painting, decorating, assembling—you name it, someone is doing it, or trying to do it, inside the mold. Here is a small sample of the processing goodies shown by the more than 1300 exhibitors at Fakuma 2003.

Automating insert molding

Arburg, which makes its own automation systems to accompany its molding machines, demonstrated a complete production cell for producing a control knob with an encapsulated metal center nut.

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Multicomponent, multisupplier system

In Netstal’s stand sat a 100-ton version of its SynErgy 2C Series that exemplifies supplier integration as much as high performance. The product being molded was an electric toothbrush handle/housing combining a PP shell with TPE grip and button areas.

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Multimaterial, inmold assembly, all-electric

Ferromatik rolled out the new two-component model of its all-electric Elektra Evolution series at Fakuma. To show off the machine, Ferromatik ran a mold from TRW Advanced Plastics that showed how that company has advanced the inmold assembly (IMA) technology it acquired when it bought Fickenscher in 1998.

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Multimaterial—gradually and flexibly

Multimaterial/multicolor molding is booming, but the capital investment has been a hurdle for most molders. Buy a multicomponent machine and you better have enough work to keep it busy full time. Sure, you can turn off one unit, but you cannot turn off its cost. “Bolt-on” second injection units came on the scene a few years ago to help solve that problem—and were met with skepticism.

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Pulsed technology beating

Pulsed mold cooling technology has been gaining support, but rather quietly. At Fakuma, one of the leading developer/suppliers, Wieder GmbH, showed a number of applications in exhibits all around the fair—and explained why pulsed cooling technology is being used.

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