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Articles from 2000 In October

Design Services Fortify Material Offerings

It's a fact: Design for injection molded parts depends on the materials used, and vice versa. That's one reason why major resin suppliers used to offer extensive design services to all of their customers when plastics were still rookies. In addition, these same customers were unfamiliar with plastic behavior and properties and needed expert design help when substituting plastics for metals. Over the past decade these services declined as the cost of providing them increased and as designers became more comfortable with plastics. But there is evidence that the pendulum is swinging back again, as evidenced by the recent acquisition of a product development firm by resin distributor Prime Alliance.

"We're seeing a resurgence of interest in design services from customers," says Tom Irvine, ceo of Prime Alliance, "but the reasons for it have changed. OEMs from automotive to consumer industries are asking suppliers to take on more design and development responsibility, and these suppliers are turning to us for help." To that end, Prime Alliance purchased TriMax LLC, a firm that specializes in product and market development. Irvine believes TriMax will add the needed skills and synergy required to help end users and processors decrease the total time to market.

Under the terms of the agreement, TriMax (with locations in Boulder, CO; St. Louis, MO; and Hong Kong) will exist as a separate subsidiary of Prime Alliance with its own customer base. Its services will be offered to Prime Alliance customers on a fee basis. Customers can contract for the additional design and development services through the distributor's salesperson, who becomes the singular contact for the project. Through its Hong Kong facility, TriMax can also offer prototype and production injection molds to customers in the U.S.

TriMax Overview

  • Established 1994. 
  • Founder Rob Banning and partner Joe Muhs (formerly with Geon) have a combined 40 years experience in the plastics industry.
  • Original focus on market development.
  • Added strategy development for processors.
  • In 1998, established a product design and development division along with TriMax Asia.
  • Turnkey product development added one year later.
  • Joined the Prime Alliance team in September 2000.

Adding TriMax, according to Irvine, fits well with the distributor's strategy to concentrate on service before the transaction. "There is so much emphasis today on the transaction phase of business, in which e-commerce has begun to play such a big role," he says. "We're investing in the front end-application development, design, and marketing strategy-as well as the Internet and e-commerce, because upfront service is being neglected in most cases."

Three weeks after joining Prime Alliance, Rob Banning, TriMax founder, reports that several custom molders have already made use of TriMax's design services. "We have an ftp site for file transfer," says Banning, "and can give customers quick feedback on design and material selection during the design review process. Results can then be transferred rapidly to both molders and toolmakers."

In effect, Prime Alliance hopes to make customized attention for each project available to all. "There are a multitude of roles needed for successful projects," says Banning. "Designers and molders need good input on tooling, part analysis, material selection and compatibility, decoration, and so on. We can now supply these resources on an as-needed basis."

Contact information
TriMax LLC, division of Prime Alliance
Boulder, CO
Joe Muhs
Phone: (720) 565-8523
Fax: (720) 565-8522
E-mail: [email protected]

The Materials Analyst, Part 37:More specification problems — Myths of heat deflection temperature (Part 2)

This series of articles is designed to help molders understand how a few analytical tools can help diagnose a part failure problem. Michael Sepe is our analyst and author. He is the technical director at Dickten & Masch Mfg., a molder of thermoset and thermoplastic materials in Nashotah, WI. Mike has provided analytical services to material suppliers, molders, and end users for 15-plus years.
Last month we introduced the experimental details associated with measuring the heat deflection temperature (HDT), known more formally as the deflection temperature under load (DTUL). We discussed some of the variations that can appear in the test protocol and the effects that these variations can have on the test results. Now it is time to discuss just exactly what it is that we are measuring. This is perhaps best approached by looking at patterns that appear in the data sheets.

Let's start with an example of an amorphous material (we will use polycarbonate) and a semicrystalline material (nylon 6). There is nothing particularly special about these materials; the principles that we are going to outline extend to the entire family of which these materials are members. However, these materials are useful cases because they are familiar to most processors and they represent the two most commonly used engineering thermoplastics.

Table 1 summarizes some DTUL properties for these two materials. If we examine the data for an unfilled polycarbonate, we will notice that the DTUL values for the two loads used in the test are very close together. In other words, the applied load appears to have very little effect on the DTUL properties of polycarbonate. If we make the same comparison of the DTUL at 66 psi (.455 MPa) and 264 psi (1.82 MPa) for the unfilled nylon 6, however, we see that the difference is substantial-110 deg C (198 deg F).

If you have some experience in this game of material selection you know that one way to boost the DTUL while staying in the same resin family is to add fillers or reinforcements. But if we add a small amount of glass fiber to both the polycarbonate and the nylon 6 we obtain rather different results. The DTUL values for the polycarbonate change very little, rising only 10 deg C (18 deg F). But the improvement in the results for the nylon 6 is very impressive. At 66 psi the value increases by 35 deg C (63 deg F), and at 264 psi it increases by 135 deg C (243 deg F). This seems like a disproportionate benefit given how little change we see in the polycarbonate. Is nylon 6 a special case?

As it turns out, it is not. Table 2 shows some results for a variety of semicrystalline and amorphous thermoplastics unfilled and with 15 percent glass fiber when tested at 264 psi. Although the amount of improvement observed varies from material to material, the improvements are consistently large in a semicrystalline material compared to the gains made when reinforcing an amorphous thermoplastic.

Returning to Table 1 for a moment, we notice that if we continue to add more glass fiber to the polycarbonate and the nylon 6, the improvement does not continue. We seem to hit a wall with both materials. So what is behind this phenomenon? In order to appreciate why these materials respond in such different ways it is important to understand just what it is we are measuring with the heat deflection test. Remember that we are applying a constant load to a sample and we are raising the temperature of the material until a particular deflection is achieved. The applied load is a stress and the deflection is the resulting strain. Stress divided by strain is how we define modulus. Therefore, the DTUL test defines the temperature at which a material reaches a certain modulus or stiffness. Now the question is, what modulus values are represented by the loads of 66 psi and 264 psi?

Well, believe it or not, this question was answered more than two decades ago by a very bright gentleman from GE Plastics named Michael Takemori. He calculated that the modulus associated with the 66 psi load was 29,000 psi and that the modulus relating deflection to the 264 psi load was 116,000 psi. So there you have it; whether we are testing a high-density polyethylene with a room-temperature modulus of 150,000 psi or a carbon-fiber-reinforced nylon with a modulus of 3 million psi, the DTUL values for any material represent the temperatures at which these two modulus values are achieved.

If you want to get a physical image of what a material feels like when it has a modulus of 29,000 psi, refer to the room-temperature properties of most low-density polyethylenes. For a modulus of 116,000 psi many medium-density polyethylenes fit the requirements nicely. So do highly toughened unfilled nylon materials after they have been conditioned to an equilibrium moisture content. In other words, neither of these values constitutes a great deal of load-bearing capability.

Glass Transition

To understand what lies behind the numbers in the tables, we need to understand the process by which materials soften. All polymers have an important transition that they go through called the glass transition. The term "glass" in glass transition does not refer to the use of glass fiber in the materials. Instead, glass is considered a useful model for those regions in a polymer that do not crystallize. For example, a pane of glass, while apparently solid, can be shown to be a liquid with an extremely high viscosity.

The amorphous regions of a polymer behave in much the same way. The glass transition can be thought of as the softening temperature for the noncrystalline regions of the polymer structure. In an amorphous material like polycarbonate or acrylic, where there are no crystals, the glass transition temperature represents the temperature at which the material softens. No amount of filler or reinforcement can prevent this from occurring, and when it does take place the material rapidly drops in modulus, quickly passing the two points marked by the DTUL values. This is the reason that the DTUL values for the polycarbonate materials are so close together, and it is also why the values top out the way they do. The glass transition temperature, or Tg, of polycarbonate is 154C.

But what about the nylon 6? Nylon 6 is a semicrystalline material. This means that the structure is a combination of amorphous glass and well-organized crystals. The amorphous glass will soften as the material goes through the glass transition, but the material itself will not soften at this point because the crystalline structure maintains it as a solid. We have to keep adding heat to the material until finally the crystals melt and the material becomes a fluid.

In an unfilled nylon, the glass transition has a significant effect on the modulus of the material. In fact, the modulus of dry nylon 6, which has a room-temperature value of 420,000 psi (2900 MPa), will decline by 80 percent as it passes through the Tg. This will reduce the modulus to approximately 85,000 psi. Therefore, the Tg of nylon takes the material below one of the benchmark modulus values but not the other. But when the material melts, then the second benchmark is passed. So for most unfilled semicrystalline materials, the high-load DTUL value is related to the Tg and the low-load DTUL value is related to the melting point (Tm). Since the Tg and the Tm are about 150 deg C apart in most polymers, the large gap between the DTUL values for nylon 6 begins to make sense. In fact, the Tg of unfilled nylon 6 happens to be 65C, the exact value for the DTUL at 264 psi. The melting point is near 220C and the DTUL at 66 psi comes close to this value.

When we add the glass fiber, both DTUL values approach but never quite reach the melting point. This represents the same practical barrier for semicrystalline materials that the glass transition temperature represents for amorphous materials.

Now, we still have some things to explain and those will have to wait for the third installment of this series. But as we leave this phase of the topic, consider the plots in Figure 1 (opposite page). They represent continuous plots of modulus vs. temperature for the unfilled polycarbonate and nylon 6 that have been the subject of this article. You are looking at a rare sight in our industry, a curve that describes a complete spectrum of behavior. In the next article we will make the case that this type of information should replace tabular values such as the DTUL values if we are to ever make strides in improving the material selection process.

Contact information
Dickten & Masch Mfg. Co.
Nashotah, WI
Mike Sepe
Phone: (262) 369-5555, ext. 572
Fax: (262) 367-2331
E-mail: [email protected]

Consolidation, integration unite moldmakers

As the face of the moldmaking industry changes, it may start looking like Midwest Tooling Group. As an integrated group of companies specializing in molds, tools, and dies, MTG currently consists of four firms—Crown Mold & Machine, Deep Hole Specialists, Fremont Plastic Molds, and Penco Tool Inc.—with a current consolidated sales volume of $25 million. With expansion plans in the works, MTG plans to double that number by 2004 and continue to grow to the $75 million to $100 million range thereafter.

Although Mark Teague, executive vp of MTG, and partner Mike Adams have owned these businesses for 10 years, it’s just in the last year the partners have implemented their industry consolidation plan, believing it makes sense in today’s moldmaking environment. To that end, MTG is continually on the lookout for new acquisitions.

Teague and Adams evaluate several shops a week out of a list of about 300 shops, with an eye toward possible acquisition. Teague classifies shops in three categories, and offers his “unscientific” perspective on what makes a company an attractive buy to MTG.

Teague estimates that somewhere between 30 to 40 percent of moldmaking companies in business today won’t be in five years. “These shops aren’t survivors for many reasons,” he says. “There are many shops going out of business now, and many more are in business but aren’t making money, which means their time is limited.”

The top tier shops make up about 10 to 20 percent of moldmaking companies, and they are doing well and prospering. The middle 40 percent can go either way, Teague says. “There will be a change required for these companies because their performance is nominal or they have moderate profitability,” he explains. “These companies are making money and are not in immediate jeopardy, but they will probably need to do something to move into that top category, or if they don’t adjust somehow, they will drop into the bottom category.”

Attractive Characteristics
When Teague and Adams look at new opportunities, there are five characteristics that top shops have in common, and that’s what the partners look for in a company.

First, an attractive company has identified a market niche and is a leader in that niche. It might be a small niche or a small subset of the overall moldmaking services, but it’s something it does better than other mold shops.

Second, a good moldmaker must have an excellent management team in place. “When we look at an acquisition opportunity, we’ll gauge management by their performance, their fiscal responsibility,” says Teague, adding that the company’s focus should be on making money.

And while it’s easy to assume that all moldmakers are focused on making money, Teague feels that’s not always the case. “Some get distracted into areas other than their core competencies,” he says. “Or they get distracted into industry-type activities that in the long term may promote a particular material or process, but short term don’t contribute to profitability. We like companies that understand maximizing profitability.”

Teague also likes a good mix of personnel. “As I’m walking around a shop, I look for a healthy mix of young and old machine operators, programmers, and moldmakers,” explains Teague. “If I see a group that is weighted one way or the other, it’s a warning sign. In our business, the shops that are most successful have a healthy mix of the old world craftsmen who’ve embraced new technologies, combined with young kids who’ve gone through the apprenticeship program and are adept. It’s a combination of the art of yesterday with the science of today. That mix leads to an enthusiastic, motivated workforce personality.”

Third, a good candidate uses technology. Specifically, Teague looks for the appropriate match between the technology requirements of the market niche on which the moldmaking company has focused and the technology it employs. “Not all of our businesses employ state-of-the-art machining, but not every shop needs to be at the cutting edge,” Teague explains. “We’re in the industrial markets rather than consumer markets, which typically have more stringent requirements.”

Fourth, a high-quality company has growth opportunities in the particular business segment it serves. “We’ve chosen to be in the plastics industry because it’s growing faster than the overall economy,” states Teague. “Within the plastics industry there are certain segments that are growing rapidly. We’ll provide the participants of MTG with growth opportunities, so we like businesses that are focused on more rapidly growing industry segments.”

Finally, a good owner must have a logical reason for wanting to be part of MTG. Some owners are planning for retirement. Others have built a successful business and have all their net worth tied up in that business. Some have developed nice profitability but realize they need help to go to the next level and make the company realize its full potential. “Those are all logical reasons to become part of MTG,” says Teague.

He also makes it clear that MTG focuses on industry leaders when evaluating companies for acquisition. MTG isn’t interested in turnaround projects, nor is it interested in marginally profitable mold shops with no clear definition of their market niche. “We don’t want an owner with operating problems because we don’t have the solutions to that company’s problems,” he emphasizes. “Identifying, finding, and acquiring great businesses in this industry is our number one priority.”

Maintaining Cultures
In bringing various companies under a single umbrella holding company, Teague and Adams walk a fine line when it comes to making significant changes at the acquired company. “We view negotiating this tight rope as one of our key success factors,” explains Teague. “We work very hard at preserving those elements that have made these companies successful and profitable even before we arrived on the scene.”

Rather than try to create a single corporate culture or meld the companies’ cultures in any way, MTG encourages the companies to maintain their identities and cultures separate from MTG. “And, we work very hard to defend those things that have made them successful in the past,” adds Teague. “These are good companies and we want them to continue to be good. Sometimes we define our role as staying out of their way.”

So just what does MTG bring to the show? There are three primary areas in which MTG assists its operating companies: financial matters such as banking, managing the balance sheet, and the entire capitalization structure; insurance matters, including health plans; and employee plans, including retirement plans and workers’ compensation issues.

“There are significant economies in purchasing insurance and other benefits for a larger group,” notes Teague. Administration of these three areas tends not to be a core management competency for moldmakers, he explains. But, he adds, they are in fact a necessary evil.

Collaborative Efforts
Another key in MTG’s strategy is facilitating cooperation between the functional heads of the various departments in each operating company. For example, the marketing and sales groups of all firms in MTG meet quarterly and exchange ideas, talk about their successes, discuss challenges, and why certain strategies did or did not work.

“Out of that interaction comes a lot of good ideas that their counterparts at other companies can explore and try,” says Teague. “Our job at the holding company is to establish that forum and let them figure out how to benefit from it. Sometimes they find ways to work directly with each other. For instance, a sales person at one company may have a contact at an OEM they’ve been doing business with on the blowmold side who can open the door for a sales person from our injection moldmaking company. We create the opportunity to generate new business among the companies.”

Teague admits that it takes a while to develop the trust between the companies required to work in cooperative situations. Still, he’s committed to this new way of operating and believes that, given the challenges confronting the moldmaking industry today, MTG offers strong resources in not only fixed capital such as machinery and equipment, but also working capital resources to help companies better manage cash flow. More and more OEMs, Teague points out, want their suppliers to carry the burden of upfront investing in big programs, and small mold shops don’t have the financial wherewithal to do that. “Dramatically increasing capital requirement is the number one reason for consolidation in the moldmaking industry today,” Teague states.

Another benefit is capacity utilization. Moldmaking is a capacity game, Teague notes. “A company can only produce up to its maximum capacity, so in a volatile business with peaks and valleys like moldmaking you have to operate at below maximum capacity most of the time,” he explains.

“As our companies become aware of their capabilities, and capacities in the group, they can expand their own theoretical capacity because they can use the capacity at a sister company. Therefore, we’ve allowed them to expand without making the investment. They can quote on a larger project they couldn’t handle on their own, but can handle as a part of the group.”

This is somewhat different from simply subcontracting extra work to an outside shop, because the project manager feels that he has a greater degree of control if the work is at a sister company.

“We believe there is a value to bringing these companies together under an umbrella,” concludes Teague. “We provide the benefits associated with a much larger company, while preserving and enhancing their individual core strengths.”

Contact information
Midwest Tooling Group
Chagrin Falls, OH
Mark Teague
Phone: (440) 247-3980
Fax: (440) 247-4025

Weight Indicator/Transmitter Features High-Speed Processing Time

Weight Indicator/Transmitter Features High-Speed Processing Time

With 120 updates/sec, the LCp-100 weight indicator/transmitter from BLH Electronics is said to allow processing equipment to run batches faster without sacrificing accuracy. These units are designed for high-speed batching, check-weighing and continuous feed applications.

A 4-20 mA output is available to update external DCS or PLC equipment at the same rate.

Plug-n-Weigh software and Dynamic Digital Filtering are said to make installation simple. The software does not require test (dead) weights for typical system calibration. Integral ramping software simulates live weighing cycles to test the communication interface and analog output signals without wasting actual product ingredients.

Allen Bradley Remote I/O, Modbus Plus and Profibus interfaces allow for quick connections with PLCs.

BLH Electronics, Inc.
Canton, MA 

High Flash Point Heat Transfer Fluid

High Flash Point Heat Transfer Fluid

Radco's Xceltherm 445FP is a liquid-phase heat transfer fluid engineered with a flash point of 445 F and a bulk fluid operating range from 5 to 55 F. The product is designed to expand the operating boundaries in systems where the bulk fluid temperature is limited by flash point, and can reduce flash point-related insurance costs, according to the company.

In addition, the thermal stability and heat transfer efficiency versus other hot oils in this operating range is said to translate into longer fluid life and cost savings. Xceltherm 445FP is reprocessable.

Pricing is dependent on quantity; please contact Radco directly using our Key Contact Directory, p 46.

Radco Industries, Inc.
LaFox, IL 

Modular Robots Allow Single- Or Dual-Axis Configuration

Modular Robots Allow Single- Or Dual-Axis Configuration

The Control Systems Division of Toshiba Machine can offer its new Cartesian BA Series ROIbots in more than 500 configurations. Featuring a modular, 'building-block' design, ROIbots can be built from the same standard components in either single- or dual-axis configurations.

Each cross section axis measures 3.07 x 2.95 in. so they meet the requirements of limited space applications. Motors can be mounted in line with the axis on either side, or underneath to reduce overall axis length.

Though narrow, these axes are said to be rigid. Constructed with ball screws and linear guides, each axis can handle a payload of up to 110 lb. An absolute, 'no return to home' method of motion is employed.

The ROIbot's controller is comparable in size to a stand-alone ac servo driver (2.17 x 6.3 x 5.28 in./axis) and will easily fit into instrumentation panels. The controller can be programmed via ROIbot teach pendant or computer and up to four controllers can be connected together in a multi-tasking system.

In addition, the controllers can accept a pulse train input for movement commands. This is said to allow for the integration of an external motion control system.

Applications include parts feeding, testing, cutting, soldering, screw fastening, riveting, positioning, loading and unloading, vision systems and pick-and-place.

Toshiba Machine Co., AmericaControl Systems Div.
Elk Grove Village, IL 

Vertical presses face new safety standards

After five years in development, the first safety standard for vertical injection molding machines is being reviewed and final approval is right around the corner.

The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) Machinery Div. Injection Safety Standards Committee and the SPI Molders Div. Safety Committee are holding a final meeting on the topic on Nov. 28, following an extended period of public review. Once the standard is approved, users of vertical machines will have four years to bring all presses into compliance.

What to Expect
The proposed American National Standard for the Safety Requirements for the Manufacture, Care, and Use of Vertically Clamping Injection Molding Machines (VCIMM) applies to all new and existing vertical machines in the U.S. Following are some of the more significant proposed requirements.

  • Existing installations will be required to retrofit a mechanical device to the VCIMM that will prevent the clamp from closing when the molding area is accessed.

  • Provisions will be required for operators’ stations using one- or two-hand controls. Two-hand controls will see requirements for “concurrent and synchronous actuation by both hands to initiate automatic or semiautomatic cycles.” Single-hand controls will require either a movable guard or a presence-sensing device, and will incorporate anti-tiedown/ antirepeat circuitry.

  • A motion/no motion selection will require the use of a key switch that is effective only in the semiautomatic mode.

  • As with all machines, access to the molding area should be protected, consisting of one or more of the following: molding area gate; movable guard(s); fixed guard(s); presence-sensing device(s); or protection by distance.

  • Where VCIMMs are equipped with a molding area gate or movable guard, a hardwired electrical interlock should be provided to prevent injection forward, injection carriage motion, and screw rotation. The interlock will also cause the clamp motion to stop and/or open when the molding area gate or movable guard is opened sufficiently to permit access to the molding area.
The proposal, called ANSI/SPI B151.29-2001, also covers issues such as redundant interlocks, power operated gates or guards, gravity effect, feed openings, purging protection, and lockout/tagout requirements. Requests for a copy of the draft or comments regarding it can be directed to SPI.

Contact information
Washington, DC
Walt Bishop
Phone: (202) 974-5230
Fax: (202) 293-0617

Molders Economic Index

Evidence accumulates that we may encounter either a sharp slowdown or a mini recession in the first or second quarter of 2001. Yet most molders can view the next six months-and in the case of appliances and medical devices, the next nine months-with confidence.

A molder of door handles and similar devices for laundry equipment and freezers wrote in e-mail, "My orders are up 15 percent for the year and I anticipate scheduling overtime at least through March." This and other similar comments from molders conflict directly with overall slowdowns in appliances sales, reduced automotive sales forecasts, and even a slump in electronics.

Just what is going on? U.S. appliances sales, for instance, have been weak and are likely to stay weak for several months. But actual exports for such products are up for the year by 18 percent, and new export orders show solid increases. As a result U.S. molders in this and other markets will see some slowdown in domestic sales but will make up the difference through a very healthy export market.

Sadly, not all molders benefit from strengthening exports. But overall-even taking into account reduced economic growth at home-stronger exports will result in a steady upswing for the Molders Economic Index. This month we present midyear 2001 growth targets. Note that these figures are subject to sharp revisions in the months to come as the overall economic picture clarifies.

The strength in exports comes somewhat as a surprise considering that the very strong dollar has made U.S. goods more expensive abroad. Product areas where exports are up-medical devices, components for business machines, high-quality appliances, communications equipment, and electronic components-have typically not been very price sensitive. At the same time, these products use a very high number of injection molded parts.

Orders Are Back Up

Factory orders rose by a surprising 2 percent in August after posting a record drop the month before. A big jump in demand for airplanes and other transportation equipment led the way. This was the third increase in the last four months. In July, factory orders fell by a record 8.1 percent, according to revised figures.

Of particular benefit to molders, orders for electronic and electrical equipment, including household appliances and communications equipment, rose 2.7 percent in August, mostly due to higher demand for electronic components. The month before, such orders fell by a sharp 18.9 percent.

In August, orders for medical instruments and supplies were up 5.3 percent; orders for measuring and controlling devices jumped 7 percent; basic electronic components saw orders grow 9.2 percent.

Drop in Key Index

While these orders spell solid manufacturing growth for at least six months, the index of leading economic indicators fell in August, the third decline in the last four months, suggesting a slowdown.

While the U.S. economy grew at a 5.6 percent annualized pace in the second quarter, signs point to a slow second half of 2000. Consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of economic growth, grew at the slowest pace in three years in August.

In September, manufacturing activity in the U.S. contracted for the second straight month. The National Assn. of Purchasing Management said its production index rose to 49.9 percent in September, slightly better than the 49.5 percent recorded in August. The association uses 50 percent as a break-even point; anything above signals economic growth and anything below indicates contraction.

Uncertainty in Electronics

The very dramatic growth in electronics-components for computers, printers, scanners, mobile phones, and any other devices containing semiconductors-will halt for the next few months.

As the Index shows, these products-a lucrative business for components molders-have dramatically outperformed the rest of the molding market since 1994. The anticipated slowdown (we revised the year-end target down) is temporary and is due to some severe shortages in chips.

Keep in mind that for molders, even a temporary slowdown means the market will remain red hot. Worldwide sales of semiconductors grew 53 percent to hit record levels during the month of August, driven by strong Asia-Pacific region growth and booming demand for devices used to facilitate Internet and other communications.

For instance, in early September Sony Corp. announced that a lack of components will force the company to halve initial shipments of its new PlayStation 2 video game consoles, likely to be one of this year's most sought-after gifts.

Automotive Remains Strong

Molders have been e-mailing us with reports that demand for automotive parts has been growing sharply in the past few weeks.

Even though many anticipate slower car and light truck sales for the balance of 2000 as a result of higher interest rates, recent data show the opposite. New vehicle sales in the U.S. rose 5 percent in September compared with a year ago. The auto industry's sales pace for September, measured as the number of vehicles it would sell over a year at the same rate, was 17.7 million light vehicles. That's still ahead of last year's record total of 16.9 million vehicles, but slower than the rate earlier this year.

U.S. automotive parts molders may see slower domestic orders if predictions of reduced sales are correct. But many will be cushioned by the decrease in automotive parts imports, which have been declining since November 1999, as this boosts demand for U.S.-made parts.

The Molders Economic Index is prepared exclusively for IMM by Agostino von Hassell of The Repton Group, New York, NY.

Turn Your Hose Or Tube Into A Conveyor

Turn Your Hose Or Tube Into A Conveyor

The Light Duty Line Vac is designed to turn ordinary hose or tube into a conveyor for scrap, trim and bulk materials. It was developed in response to requests for a less powerful conveyor that conserves compressed air.

Compressed air-powered conveyors 'vacuum' lightweight materials through the intake and accelerate them through vertical or horizontal lengths of hose or tube. Conveying rates are controlled by regulating the compressed air pressure.

The two-part, threaded aluminum or stainless steel construction includes inlet and outlet diameters common to most hose and tube sizes. Eight sizes from 3/4 to 6 in. dia are available. Prices start at $49.

Exair Corp.
Cincinnati, OH

Compounding, Materials Handling Components Introduced

Compounding, Materials Handling Components Introduced

Colortronic has introduced a range of new auxiliary equipment in the compounding/ materials handling area: the Novablend System for PVC compounding, a compact version of its Colorblend S digital dosing machine, CTT 40/70 dehumidified air dryers, the DRW rotary valve conveying system and the ZKW II two-component proportioning valve.

PVC compounding system The Novablend System for compounding PVC represents a significant departure from the high-intensity batch processes typically used. According to Colortronic's Rob Edwards, the Novablend makes the process of PVC blending a continuous one and eliminates the need for high energy consumption and large building/infrastructure requirements normally associated with conventional PVC compounding plants.

Energy use is said to be approximately one-tenth that of conventional systems. It is also claimed to simplify materials handling, to save resin on color changes and to let processors add capacity easily.

System components include a gravimetric blender, a liquid doser, a specially designed horizontal mixing screw and a high-speed mixing turbine developed by Waeschle S.r.L. of Italy. Edwards says a system can be set up in one week.

The Novablend System mixes raw PVC resin, calcium carbonate fillers, liquid stearate stabilizers and colorants with high intensity, but without heat, so no cooling steps are required. "Heat is a by-product of conventional PVC compounding, not a requirement," adds Edwards.

In comparison to conventional systems, Novablend creates sufficient nominal friction to raise the temperature of the PVC powder enough to absorb the liquid stabilizers for rigid compounds. Other features cited include dust-free production, minimum space requirements, short changeover and cleaning times and simple operation.

Three models are available: the MT 170 processes 4000 lb/hr, the MT 250 processes 8000 lb/hr and the MT400 processes about 12,000 lb/hr. Prices range from $400,000 to $600,000. 

Digital dosing unit The Colorblend S, is designed for volumetric dosing of free-flowing additives in low-rate feeder lines for either injection molding or extrusion operations. Unit can dose down to 1/10 of a gram/cycle for injection molding and down to 100 grams/hr for extrusion.

In addition, Colorblend S is claimed to deliver precise synchronous dosing, even at these low rates. Accuracyis rated at ±0.1%. A variety of configurations and dosing disks are available; disks are sized to the required throughput and the maximum colorant or additive throughput is about 50 lb/hr. Price is $2995.

Units can also be integrated with vacuum conveying systems. The controls are icon-driven and are designed to automatically adjust dosing time to the cycle of the injection molding machine or the screw speed of the extruder.

Because dosing is accomplished without mechanical mixing, the Colorblend S guarantees homogenous blending without segregation, even when processing minute quantities. 

Dehumidified air dryer CTT 40/70 dehumidified air dryers are designed for small processing machines and can be moved easily. Measuring only 12 x 18 x 24 in., their size makes them ideal for plants where space is at a premium.

The units operate with twin tower desiccant beds. Edwards says resin can be dried to low residual moisture levels (down to 0.002% with PET) while maintaining a dew point level of -80 C. Units provide a constant air flow without any temperature change.

Two models are available. The CTT 40 has a drying capacity of 25 cu ft/min (37 lb) and the CTT 70 a capacity of 45 cu ft/min (65 lb). The basic models feature an automatic alarm clock timer, central temperature controls, a safety temperature limit, maintenance-free air valves and an optical alarm indicator.

Optional features include a dew point display, a return air cooler, a pre-air filter and custom voltage specifications. Units can be combined with Colortronic's polished stainless steel drying hoppers.

Prices range from $4000 to $7000.

Rotary valve system The DRW is said to facilitate the process of in-plant material change for full automation without any manual handling. The valves can be daisy-chained to supply many processing points.

Edwards says the system is designed to allow for more cost-effective plant layouts and reduced labor costs because it is virtually maintenance free and can perform 24/7 as part of a centrally controlled Colortronic conveying system.

Two line sizes are available: the 2-in. unit can handle about 900 lb/hr and the 2-1/2-in. unit can handle 1200 lb/hr. The system comes with rotors and connecting parts that are cast in high-grade steel with hardened surfaces. An integrated controller has a seven-segment LED. It is also said to meet clean-room requirements and to be capable of processing abrasive materials.

Pricing depends on the application and the number of valves needed. Contact the company directly for specifics via our Key Contact Directory on p 46.

Proportioning valve The ZKW II two-component proportioning valveis said to simplify the blending ofboth regrind and virgin material inconjunction with a conveying system. Priced at $750 it provides reliable blending at a price 'well below' any other model on the market, according to Edwards.

Compared to Colortronic's original ZKW, which uses a high-speedrotary piston for a better blend and elimination of layering, the ZKW II mechanism is a simple, pivotingV-shaped valve that indexes between virgin and regrind.

During each conveying cycle,the ZKW II pulses rapidly betweenboth materials. Layering is notcompletely eliminated, as with theoriginal ZKW, but it is said to beminimized. The conveying ratio can bepre-selected between 0 and 100%. Unit has an LED and is made of coatedaluminum.

Colortronic, Inc.
Runnemede, NJ