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Articles from 2012 In October


Overmolding collaboration creates unique water-testing tool

Overmolding collaboration creates unique water-testing tool

Public health authorities around the world now have an all-in-one, cost-effective tool to test water quality thanks to a highly automated approach rooted in an innovative two-shot overmolding process.

The technology was pioneered recently by Roembke Mfg. & Design (Ossian, IN);  ENDETEC (Kingston, ONT), a

h
 New cartridge speeds water quality testing.
water sensor and monitoring company; and Engel Machinery North America (York, PA).

The product is a turnkey single-use water test cartridge system and automated monitoring system that determines water quality within 2 to 18 hours depending on level of contamination. It replaces a test that can take up to two weeks to determine the presence of E.coli and total coliform bacteria. Total coliforms include bacteria that are found in human or animal waste.

Development work started three years ago and led to innovations in polymers used, tooling, injection molding machinery and specially developed automated assembly equipment that completes six processes outside of the molding area, and then boxes the cartridges for shipment.

The ENDETEC TECTA automated microbiological testing system uses an instrument with built-in incubation, a special optical system, integrated user interface with interpretive software, and a test cartridge for the detection of E.coli and total coliforms. Design elements in the cartridge include a plastic vial with a living hinge and cap and an optically clear liquid silicone rubber (LSR) plug at the bottom of the vial.

The thermoplastics needed to be gamma sterilizable and clear. They also needed to be free of inhibitors that could prevent an optimal seal with the LSR.  The plastics also could not interfere with the microbiological growth that takes place during the test process. That's an interesting twist because many plastics aimed at the healthcare market today incorporate antimicrobial agents to kill germs.

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LSR is overmolded on polypropylene.

The plastic selected was a modified polypropylene and the LSR was an optically clear 1003 grade silicone.

In a quality-enhancing move that also cut costs, a decision was made to overmold the polymers, a difficult process because of the difference in their molding temperatures.

"The two-shot overmolding process was quickly adopted since it allows new formulas to bond to different substrates (such as silicone and plastic) most cost-effectively," said Greg Roembke, president of Roembke Mfg. & Design.

Special attention was required for the thermoplastic unit to meet the temperatures required to achieve a good cycle time. This was also necessary to produce an effective seal that would not leak fluid between the two polymeric sections. ENDETEC specified that no chemical bonding agent could be used.

Roembke and Engel collaborated in the developing of a two-shot molding cell. Roembke developed a single drop cold deck mold with a standard LSR valve gate design featuring side injection. Back injection is used for the thermoplastic.

The production Engel machine is a standard two-component machine using the smallest diameter screw possible (12 mm) in the injection unit. The wide platen on the machine accommodated a special ejector pattern for the tool. Dedicated servo valves were used on both ejection units with valve controls used for optimal speeds and pressures.

"Modification was also done to accommodate the side-change injection of the screw and barrel on the

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A special assembly system was developed.
thermoplastic side," said Steve Broadbent, Engel's Elastomer Project Engineer.

Pro Systems (Churubusco, IN) engineered turnkey automation into the machine using a six-axis robotic system. One of the steps requires placement of a water-soluble pouch containing pre-measured amounts of growth media that support the enrichment of any target bacteria present in the sample for each water test cartridge.

The process development required extensive testing in Roembke's 3,600 sq. ft. Application Center, which has seven injection molding presses with 35 to 200 tons of clamping force.  Prototype tools were modified for the plastic vial and LSR component to test the system. One press molded the plastic vials, which then were transferred to the second press to apply the LSR.  The primary machine used was Engel's Victory 200H/80L/160 Combi, a 160-ton single-cavity machine with wide platens equipped with two injection units.

The primary injection unit was used for thermoplastics and the secondary was used for LSR.

"Through our extensive prototyping and testing, the system was proven-out and set up for future expansion," Romebke said. "The single-cavity tool can be easily expanded to a four-cavity tool as sales ramp up to anticipated quadruple volume."

According to ENDETEC's VP of Operations, Doug Wilton, "The world-wide market potential for this new water monitoring technology is simply huge. We're already selling systems in North America, Europe and Asia with additional markets under development."

Learn the newest technologies to make undercuts and threaded parts

DME Company is offering a free webcast on Nov. 13, 2012 at 2:00 PM ET for designers, moldmakers, and injection molders to see the latest advances in collapsible cores, which have expanded their undercut molding capabilities since 1968, and dove tail collapsible cores, which have provided the most compact way to mold internal threads and undercut features since 2009.

Bob Salhaney, a product engineer for DME with more than 33 years of experience in plastics, will be the presenter. Published in multiple trade journals and having presented at NPE and Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) seminars, Salhaney will use case studies and other information to show attendees the benefits of the latest technologies.

Sign up to learn about:

  • Thread and undercut challenging complexities
  • Unscrewing and "stripping" limitations
  • Traditional collapsible cores and their large and small design considerations
  • Dove tail cores - a more compact and simpler solution
  • Elimination of complex racks and gears
  • Shorter stack heights and tighter cavity pitch
  • Improved part design
  • Maintenance advantage with in-press service possible
  • Clean room suitability with no hydraulics or lubrication
  • Faster cycle times
  • Mold rebuild - ROI calculator
  • Pre-engineered production tool designs

Register now.

After IPO, Berry Plastics focuses on innovation

Pack Expo 2012While there are many large plastic packaging companies at Pack Expo (October 28-31; McCormick Place, Chicago), only one had just announced an initial public offering (IPO), sized at $470 million.

Berry Plastics had recently priced an IPO of 29.4 million shares of its common stock at $16.00 per share. Under the New York Stock Exchange symbol BERY, the stock price drifted lower and currently trades at around $14/share.

The company is a major producer of a wide range of products, including open top and closed top packaging, polyethylene-based plastic films, industrial tapes, medical specialties, flexible packaging, heat-shrinkable coatings, specialty laminates, and FIBCs. With headquarters in Evansville, IN, the company serves more than 13,000 customers, ranging from large multinational corporations to small businesses.

On the last day of Pack Expo 2012, Eric Metcalf, business and market development manager for Berry Plastics, told PlasticsToday that the show has gone well for the packaging giant.

"We've been talking with targeted customers about our innovations and platform throughout the week," he said. "While it's hard to say how many people we, and the show as a whole, might have missed due to the Hurricane Sandy in the East Coast, there hasn't been a slow time at our booth. It shows the company is doing something right."

Metcalf said Berry Plastics has met with many decision makers and some deals have been made at the show.

With the IPO out in the open to the market, Metcalf said Berry may approach customers in a different fashion. For instance, the company has a continued focus on innovation versus process improvement.

"Certainly innovation remains key for growth and we're looking at barrier applications in that area," he said.

Berry touts its efforts to keep sustainability at the forefront of new developments and help customers grow their sales and profits while reducing their packaging impact on the environment. The company's development teams and operations work to innovate through source reduction of existing products or the use of a new material. The company has active projects focused on use of recycled content, bio-based materials, biodegradable materials and introduction of fillers and additives.

"Many customers want sustainable products," Metcalf said. "We're definitely in the mindset to develop technologies to meet those needs, which sets us apart in the marketplace."

Kentucky site to reopen
In addition, the company just announced it will reopen its Madisonville, KY, manufacturing facility to increase its production capacity. Berry acquired the Madisonville (Hopkins County) facility during its acquisition of Rexam's specialty and beverage closures business in August 2011.

When the facility first opened, Rexam said in a release that the 190,000-sq-ft manufacturing facility produced a full line of packaging products, including closures, fitments, dispensing closures, containers and pumps, and called it the among the  "advanced injection molding plants in the world." 

After Berry's purchase, some of the business was transferred to Berry's Evansville, IN closures plant, which was also acquired from Rexam. The plant's remaining business was moved to other Berry locations.

Rexam had eight manufacturing facilities globally, including seven in the U.S. and one in Brazil. In addition, Rexam had manufacturing operations in Malaysia and Mexico through joint-venture agreements, and a research and development technical center located in Perrysburg, OH.

Earlier this year, Berry had closed the facility, as a result of the redistribution of production to its other rigid closed-top manufacturing facilities. The facility had employed approximately 140. Berry said it will now convert the facility to manufacture rigid open-top products.

To encourage the investment and job creation in Madisonville, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives up to $10 million through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the term of the agreement through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.

Over the next few years, Berry will ramp up employment at the facility to reach a targeted employment level of 400, the company stated. In early 2013, the company will begin accepting applications for these positions, which are expected to be filled predominately by residents of Kentucky.

KEDFA also approved Berry for tax benefits up to $450,000 through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act, which allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing equipment.

Automated labeling, quality control, and mold tracking nets Plastikos an award

Philip A. Katen, president and GM at Plastikos told PlasticsToday that he was truly "excited and pleasantly surprised given the impressive competition that we faced" when the company received the award at a reception held at the IQMS User Group 2012 in Las Vegas on Oct. 16. "I couldn't be more proud of everyone on the Plastikos team who played a vital role on our project," Katen said.

Plastikos nominated a three-phase continuous improvement project to the Manufacturing Success committee: Automated IQMS Production Label Generation; Automated Real-Time Dispositioning at the Press; and Automated Mold Tracking via Barcode Labeling. All three phases were completed over a period of several years. With the implementation of each phase, Plastikos achieved greater efficiencies, better productivity and higher quality both internally and for its customers.

Manual labels become automatic
The Automated IQMS Production Label Generation system has proven to be a big benefit to Plastikos. Katen explains that the legacy system the company had in place was largely a manual one, but with 29 injection molding presses ranging from 50 to 220 tons, molding extremely small parts, creating labels for each of the hundreds of boxes of parts generated each day was quite burdensome. Additionally, it resulted in mistakes now and then that caused problems for the customers and Plastikos.

"We had all the data in our IQMS system but didn't have the capability to automatically generate the label, so historically we had to manually input all the information required on the labels for each box and then print the label in shipping," Katen said. "As we all know, any manual process is inherently subject to human error especially when inputting longer part numbers, material lots, box quantity, date/time molded stamp, P.O. number and more. It definitely wasn't the most efficient way to create a label, and occasionally the person would mis-key a letter or a number, which made the whole label wrong. It was frustrating because we could do everything right on the production floor to mold high-quality parts only to get the label wrong. That would impact our quality metrics. It didn't happen often, but even once is too often."

Since each of the company's machines is directly integrated into IQMS to manage the production process from P.O. to finished product shipped, it was a matter of integrating a label printer with the weighing scale and the molding press with the IQMS data - collectively called the Press Label Station. A cross-functional project team from the leadership, IT, quality and production departments worked together to design, develop and rigorously test the custom Press Label Stations. After a few months the Press Label Stations were rolled out to all the presses.

The successful implementation of the Press Label Stations resulted in increased efficiency on the production floor by eliminating multiple manual steps from the process. Additionally, Plastikos eliminated the rework or relabeling required for any boxes that contained inaccurate label information. To date, Plastikos hasn't received a single external customer reject for a mislabeled or incorrectly labeled box since the implementation of its Press Label Stations.

Counting good parts from bad
The next phase of Plastikos' efforts was the Automated Real-Time Dispositioning at the Press system. An order would be processed and scheduled into IQMS, and the members of the quality team would manually update (disposition) the actual number of good parts produced at the end of each shift or the completion of a production order, (three times per day or more if a run completed mid-shift).

The manual dispositioning process was required because a member of the quality team had to verify the actual parts that were produced during a given timeframe prior to updating the corresponding inventory numbers. The actual parts produced took into account any in-process scrap, which any ERP system would otherwise not be aware of. Plastikos recognized that this manual approach was also a sub-optimal process, and their ultimate solution was built upon the foundation of the Press Label Stations.

Working with IQMS, the calculation methodology was refined and the direct interface expanded between the Press Label Stations and the IQMS database. With these software and process refinements, the Press Label Stations could provide an accurate real-time production count (cycled every five minutes) at all 29 presses and then automatically disposition that data to update the company's inventory numbers in IQMS.

"This automated system allows us to see how close we are to filling an order and allows for better planning and scheduling, material purchasing with better accuracy, and when to place an order for material," Katen explained. "It enables everyone to be much more effective and efficient, and again it eliminates the manual step of going to each press at the end of the shift to physically count the parts that were made during the shift. The successful completion of this phase of the project resulted in the elimination of careless errors such as transposing digits or miscounts, and it seamlessly ties into the Press Label Stations."

Where's my mold?
Phase 3 involved Automated Mold Tracking via Barcode Labeling. Being a custom molder always means a large number of molds moving in and out of the presses, going to the mold shop for maintenance and repairs, being prepped for the next run or put back into the mold vault. "While we had a manual system in place, oftentimes people would lose track of a specific mold's physical location because they would forget to manually document when they moved the mold or where the mold was," said Katen.

To solve that issue, Plastikos integrated bar codes on each of the mold frames. Now, using hand-held scanners, people can easily store the information and locate the molds. "It also allows our tool room to see the history of the mold and where it's been, how many cycles that particular mold produced since it was put into the press, and we can design our PM program for specific molds.

While these projects were a huge success, it required a lot of hard work among the project team members. "The payoff is that it made a good company an even better company," commented Katen. "It's all about continuous improvement. Even the small day-to-day improvements start to add up, and we become more efficient. Automating the little manual processes frees people to focus on higher value-added projects. It's improved our performance for our customers too resulting in better quality overall."

Bioplastics, nanoparticles enhance germ-fighting in hospital garb

Nanoparticles, bioplastics, and an enzymatic pre-treatment are being used by Spanish researchers to enhance the antimicrobial properties of medical textiles.

The process developed by researchers at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) is used to create completely sterile antimicrobial textiles that help prevent hospital-acquired infections. The research was

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SONO-developed machinery.
carried out within the framework of the European SONO project and involves a consortium of 17 companies and research centers.

The purpose of the SONO project is to develop a pilot line for the production of medical antibacterial textiles. One of the goals is to develop medical garb that doesn't carry germs, such as E.coli, staphylococcus aureus, and MRSA.

Another goal is to target nosocomial infections, which are defined as infections not present and without evidence of incubation at the time of admission. Factors leading to an increase in the rate of nosocomial infections include a rise in the number of immunocompromised patients, the appearance of resistant microorganisms, the increasing complexity of medical interventions, and the performance of invasive procedures.

In the SONO project, ultrasonic irradiation is used to deposit zinc oxide nanoparticles and biopolymers on textiles. Researchers are using enzymes that improve adhesion of the antimicrobial nanoparticles to the fabric under ultrasonic irradiation. Use of these enzymes increased the durability of the nanoparticles on the fabric so that they remain present even after 70 laundry cycles.

The effectiveness of the antimicrobial treatment is further boosted by incorporating in the fabric hybrid materials that combine organic and inorganic components (zinc and chitosan nanoparticles). In addition to eliminating any bacteria present, these materials prevent the growth of new microbes.

According to the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, up to 10% of inpatients acquire an infection during their hospital stay. The mortality rate for nosocomial infections is 1%, and they contribute to 3% of mortality from other diseases.

The Molecular and Industrial Biotechnology Group of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) based at the UPC's Terrassa Campus and is led by Associate Professor Tzanko Tzanov.

From shrink sleeve film to lap-sealable matte film, ExxonMobil launches several products at Pack Expo

Pack Expo 2012Chicago, IL—"It's an exciting time," Laurie Cardillo, global marketing manager for ExxonMobil Chemical films business, told PlasticsToday.

Plastics, film and petrochemical giant ExxonMobil Chemical introduced several new film technologies for a range of applications at Pack Expo (October 28-31; McCormick Place, Chicago).

One buzz-producing new technology in particular, was the company's new Label-Lyte film, which is designed with a lower density to facilitate floatation separation of the label from bottles in support of PET bottle-to-bottle recycling. The Label-Lyte 50TD200 shrink sleeve film is ideal for customers requiring transverse-direction (TD) shrink sleeve labels for food, beverage, healthcare, and other consumer goods application.

Label-Lyte shrink-sleeve film
Metallyte 70 HB-2 film
At top, ExxonMobil Chemical's new Label-Lyte shrink-sleeve film, which can separate from bottles in reccyling; at bottom, Metallyte film, which offers barrier that rivals coextruded structures with EVOH.

The shrink sleeve film provides on-bottle shrinkage of up to 50%. Offering a lower density (0.9g/cc) than commonly used TD shrink materials, this 50 micron polyolefin film can also provide yield advantages.  

Matte finish in heat sealable OPP film
Another product launched at Pack Expo was ExxonMobil's new Bicor 18 MAT-S film, which is a one-side matte-finish, one-side treated, heat-sealable OPP film. Designed for use as the outer web of a lamination, the heat sealability of this film allows lap sealing of the matte finish layer to multiple coextruded OPP sealant webs. ExxonMobil said this enables a finished package weight reduction of up to 5% when compared to fin seal packages.

One highlight of this new product is that the film provides a matte, paper-like, stain appearance for packaging. Cardillo said the matte film is a major trend in the food packaging industry.

"It lets the product differentiate itself on the store shelf," she said. "The packaging is reminiscent of the cottage industry; you can say it gives a 'natural' appearance."

ExxonMobil touts the film's excellent ink adhesion and bond strength in adhesive and extrusion laminations, with a matte-finish slip film for heat seal laminations. The Bicor 18 MAT-S film is well-suited for vertical form fill seal (VFFS) and horizontal form fill seal (HFFS) applications for various food packaging products. In addition, this film uses less material, which can help the customer reduce packaging waste, Cardillo said.

OPP targets frozen treats
Matte finish may be similar to a paper-look but another new film from ExxonMobil could serve as a paper packaging replacement for ice cream sandwich overwraps. The company has expanded its portfolio of OPP films with the new OPPalyte 42 WOS-RH film, which the company said can improve operations and reduce the total cost of use compared to film and paper currently used.

The film is engineered with a proprietary surface technology for machine performance in the highly variable relative humidity conditions encountered in frozen novelty foods manufacturing facilities. During the required cleaning of frozen dairy production assets, manufacturers sometimes experience condensation build-up on packaging lines, which could affect performance. This new film is designed to provide consistent line performance on multi-lane wrappers 24 hours a day, even during the high humidity conditions.

The OPPalyte 42 WOS-RH film is a one-sided sealable film with a cavitated core. It has a high opacity and high-gloss, bright white wrap. ExxonMobil said the film has excellent seal strength, puncture resistance, very good ink adhesion and converting performance. In addition, it also reduces sticking and tearing so pieces of the wrapper are not left on the frozen treat.

Cardillo said this film is well-suited to handle the frozen novelty ice cream market such as ice cream cones and sandwiches, ice cream bars on a stick, fruit bars, and more.  

EVOH-like barrier, lower cost
Lastly, the fourth product introduced at Pack Expo was a new vacuum-metallized, high barrier OPP film with a proprietary sealant layer that provides a stable, enhanced barrier performance throughout the chain of use. The Metallyte 70 MET-HB2 film is well-suited to VFFS and HFFS packaging applications in which products such as snacks, bakery products, cookies and crackers need to stay fresh for extended periods.

ExxonMobil said that with Metallyte 70 MET-HB2 film as the inner web of a lamination, the overall packaging barrier is similar to that achieved with EVOH coextruded laminations, but at a lower cost.

This film maintains stable, craze-resistance barrier performance throughout the extrusion and adhesive lamination processes. It features a vacuum-deposited aluminum layer that provides a foil appearance. This film also delivers an "excellent" lap seal range, seal integrity and hot track when used with a sealable coextruded outer web.  

TPE resin prices, Oct. 22-26: PE steady; PP slips $0.005/lb; Lots of offers, some good bids, few transactions

Spot resin prices were mostly steady to slightly weaker as the market approached month-end. Spot-trading platform The Plastics Exchange (TPE) noted that there was a good flow of spot material as several of offers were simply refreshed with resellers looking to unload uncommitted inventory amid waning demand. October polyethylene (PE) contracts have yet to fully settle. Most producers are still seeking a $0.05/lb increase, with one asking for $0.03/lb and yet another conceding to postpone the increase and try again in November. Polypropylene (PP) contracts settled up $0.015/lb earlier in the month along with polymer grade propylene (PGP). TPE CEO Michael Greenberg said that incremental exports are sluggish and currently not providing a viable outlet for high-volume spot sales. Domestically, market participants are already positioning their supplies with year-end in mind.TPE resin prices, Oct. 26, 2012

Energy markets moved markedly lower in active trading. December crude oil futures dropped $4.16/bbl to end the week at $86.28/bbl, the lowest level since early July. The market has fallen 15% since reaching above $100/bbl in mid-September. The December natural gas futures contract rolled to the front month and made 10-month highs early in the week, nearing $4/mmBtu, but then retreated to settle at $3.761/mmBtu for a net loss of $0.186/mmBtu. The crude oil: natural gas ratio contracted to less than 23:1, the tightest in just over a year.

Ethylene's spot market moved consistently higher throughout the week, recording gains of over $0.03/lb in high-volume trading. Ethylene for October delivery most recently changed hands slightly above $0.575/lb. While forward months also rose, the bulk of the gains were seen up front, causing the curve to steepen. December ethylene is priced with around a $0.025/lb discount to prompt, while ethylene for next October claims a $0.06-$0.07/lb discount, nominally priced in the very low $0.50s/lb. A number of crackers are cycling through their maintenance schedules, according to Greenberg, with one returning to service while several still remain offline. Ethane eased a little more than a penny ending the week around at $0.325/gal ($0.137/lb).

Polyethylene (PE) spot prices were mostly steady. Producer inventories entered October just shy of 2.9 billion lb, which was up 160 million lb in September, but 63 million lb below the trailing 12-month average. While supplies are light on a historic level, relatively weak demand has backed up resin creating a little overhang. A few Generic Prime railcars surfaced this week, and sellers were still seeking shipping disposition before the end of the month. Although most producers have not officially postponed their $0.05/lb increase nominated for October, market players generally believe that the increase will likely not take hold and some think the market might even see a little relief in November, according to Greenberg. "To this end, resellers have been looking to liquidate excess inventory to make room for year-end specials if presented during November and December," Greenberg said.

Propylene's spot market saw good activity and rallied throughout the week. PGP for October delivery changed hands around $0.53/lb on Monday, but was then bid higher and eventually traded a couple times on Friday, priced either side of $0.57/lb, up about $0.04/lb for the week. While forward month transactions were not seen, the entire curve was lifted and remained in contango; PGP for delivery 12 months out was nominally priced around $0.595/lb. Spot PGP has now moved above October contract levels, which are up $0.015/lb from September and priced at $0.53/lb. After hanging out in the high $0.30s/lb for most of the summer, refinery grade propylene (RGP) prices have been on an upward run, reaching $0.44/lb in the previous week and now piercing above $0.50/lb in a single trade.

Polypropylene (PP) shaved $0.005/lb, as soft offgrade prices weighed on the market while the appearance of several groups of Generic Prime railcars could also be seen as evidence of continued weak demand. PP exports are challenged by lack of international interest, and while Houston traders are sitting on light supplies, they still do not have many exciting outlets right now, according to Greenberg. "Lowball bids are starting to circulate as some processors are out sniffing for opportunistic deals," Greenberg explained. Regardless of current supply demand dynamics, the vast majority of November PP contracts will float with PGP contracts. Spot monomer has recently been rallying and if sustained, will likely lead to a November increase nomination.

Final thought from Michael Greenberg

The spot resin markets saw mostly offers, some good bids, but few transactions this past week. Despite the recent run-up in spot monomer prices, traders and processors have backed away from the market looking to lighten their resin inventories through sales and usage. The plan is to get down now and restock later if producers purge inventories into the year-end. Hurricane Sandy will avoid the Gulf, but could bring havoc along the East Coast and potentially affect refineries and resin processing plants. Be safe.

Sepro launches 6 new products at Fakuma in a bid for more European market share

Fakuma 2012France's Sepro Robotique is gunning for the number one market share slot in Europe, announcing new controls, products, and German headquarters at Fakuma 2012 (Oct. 15-19, Friedrichshafen, Germany).

Jean-Michel Renaudeau, managing director of the family-owned, France-based robotics supplier said in a press conference that his company, which generates 10% of its business in its native country, with 90% coming outside of France, has seen foreign demand drive its growth.

"Over the last four to five years, we have been booming overseas," Renaudeau said. Germany is among the markets beyond France's borders that Sepro is targeting, opening a new headquarters there in Dietzenbach, southeast of Frankfurt, which will be run by Dirk Schroeder.

Renaudeau said his company maintains a leadership position in the automotive market, as well as in automation for injection molding machines with more than 1000 tonnes of clamping force. With 300 employees and annual revenue of Euro 55 million, Renaudeau said the company's goal is to be the top supplier of automation systems to injection molders in Europe. Its market share in Europe stood at 14% in 2011, and the goal is to grow to a 20% share over the next three years.

Sepro 6X robot
Sepro 5X robot
At top, Sepro's new 6X six-axis articulating arm robot, below, its new 5X system, both using Staübli technology to boost the number of axes and range of movement.

Sepro has 31 distributors, and its own offices in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, China, the U.K., and Germany. In China, it has service space in Ningbo and an office in Shanghai. It also opened a new office in Singapore.

At its own stand and among supplier partners, including Sumitomo (SHI) Demag and other injection molding machine suppliers that have private-label supply agreements with Sepro, the French firm displayed 16 robots at Fakuma.

Among the innovations highlighted were linear-style robots with additional axes in their wrist utilizing Staübli technology, and a partnership with Machines Pagès, a specialist in IML systems for 25 years, to create high-speed in-mold labeling (IML) systems for injection molders in the packaging industry. Among the other launches:

5X Visual multi-axis robots, which have three models and are based on Sepro 3-axis Cartesian beam robots but feature a 2-axis Stäubli wrist that has been added to provide additional compact servo rotations

6X Visual robots, which combine a Stäubli 6-axis articulated-arm robot with the Sepro Visual 3 control for a general-purpose automation system in five models for molding machines from 20 to 4000 tons

IML demonstration cell molding 1.2-liter pails with wrap-around labels in a 2-cavity tool on a 4.5-sec cycle. A 250-tonne Demag El Exis used an SE 350 side-entry model controlled by the new Visual 3 dual-core controller, which also controlled the label-handling module supplied by Machines Pagès.

Success range of general-purpose robots was expanded to four units, with three introduced for the first time at Fakuma. Two smaller sizes - Success 7 and Success 11 - and a larger unit, the Success 33, have been added.

Visual 3 robot control, capable of managing six or more high-speed axes of motion inside and outside mold area and with double-CPU architecture where one processor is dedicated to the control pendant's human/machine interface functions and the other to real-time control of robot positioning and movement, including secondary operations.

S3 servo-driven sprue picker for basic robot applications on molding machines from 30 to 200 tons, which promises more speed than pneumatic units, accelerating to 2 m/sec speeds on the vertical axis. The standard Touch 2 control system allows simple part removal in addition to conventional sprue removal.

Honda and Fraunhofer headline automotive lightweighting conference

The chief engineer of body and interior design at Honda R&D Americas and the head of polymer engineering at the Fraunhofer ICT headline the upcoming Lightweighting AutoPlastics 2012 Conference. Honda's Lawrence Geise and Fraunhofer's Frank Henning will address how the North American industry will manage the challenge of complying to Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which will be pushed 54.5 MPG.

The Lightweighting AutoPlastics 2012 Conference (Nov. 14-15, 2012; Troy, MI) will offer attendees a broad-ranging review of lightweighting programs to meet the fuel-efficiency standards from across the automotive supply chain. Presenters will be drawn from automotive OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, resin manufacturers, and upstream suppliers. (See the full conference agenda and speaker list).

In addition to Geise and Henning, speakers include:

Stephen Ridella, Director of Vehicle Crashworthiness Research, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-U.S. Department of Transportation

Raymond Boeman, Program Director of Energy Partnerships, Oak Ridge National Laboratory-U.S. Department of Energy

Adrian Lund, President, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Patrick Blanchard, Composites Group Leader, Ford Research & Innovation Center

Avetik Harutyunyan, Chief Scientist, Honda Research Institute

Sessions include:

Reviewing sustainable mobility trends and pressures for lightweight vehicle design and forecasting the impact on automakers and their plastic suppliers

Large scale manufacturing of automotive composites - Technologies and trends

Understanding the Department of Transportation's perspectives on automobile lightweighting to devise timely and effective strategies for plastics and advanced composites

Adopting a material-focused approach to mass reduction through intelligent design to bring low-cost, high-volume carbon fiber composites to next-generation vehicles

The conference will take place at the Troy, MI headquarters of Altair Engineering. Altair is a product design and development, engineering software, and cloud computing software company. Founded in 1985, Altair has regional offices throughout America, Europe, and Asia. The company created the HyperWorks suite of CAE software products.

Lightweighting AutoPlastics

Cast PVC film fights germs in new hospital application

Cast PVC film fights germs in new hospital application

A French converter has developed a DEHP-free cast polyvinyl chloride antimicrobial film that is being tested in hospitals in the fight against hospital-borne infections, including superbug MRSA.

Hexis Health (Frontignan, France) says that its new antimicrobial PVC film inhibits growth of a wide range of microbes including E.coli, staphylococcus aureus, and MRSA, by more than 90% based on tests carried out under ISO 22196 (Measurement of antibacterial activity on plastic surfaces).

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Hexis antimicrobial film installation.
In a pilot project, the printable film has been fitted to doors within both the hospital's Pediatric department and games room in Le Centre Hospitalier De La Côte Basque, a regional hospital in southwestern France.  Images of Disney characters have been digitally printed on the film for the hospital's younger patients.

"The film is mainly intended for hospital/medical environments," Martin Kugler, Hexis spokesman, told Plastics Today. "However, as it a very thin and very conformable film and it can be applied on a wide variety of substrates, even curved surfaces."

 Potential applications are in markets such as the food industry, laboratories, and schools.

The bug-killing agent in the film is Triclosan, which is loaded at

It's available in three thicknesses : 30µm to protect handles, 60µm to protect walls or tables, and 200µm to protect floors. It can be installed on flat and curved surfaces of doors, walls, items of furniture and appliances.

The self-adhesive, transparent Hexis Health PVC film (WIPO Patent WO/2008/099111) is made up of a cast 1.2 mil-PVC and comes supplied in rolls up to 54in wide. Hexis said that it effectively controls spread of microbes all day long without need for maintenance or cleaning with aggressive substances.

Hexis will be showing the film at CompaMed 2012 in Düsseldorf, Germany Nov. 14-16.