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Articles from 2000 In November

Editorial: Flying in the face of reality

Jeff Sloan

I received an e-mail after we published an article in the July issue that explored molding opportunities in Africa ("Africa: A Market With 700 Million People. Why is it Ignored?", pp. 18-22). The e-mail was written by Jade Delisi, who works at L. Weger Inc., a polishing and chrome plating business in Chicago. Jade's message to me was this: 

"We, L. Weger Inc., are outraged that your magazine would print an article that would help to put more Americans out of work. Since the induction of NAFTA and the Free Trade Agreement with China many U.S. molding or mold finishing plants have either folded or have setup shop over the borders. 

"The U.S. is currently in a recession. This is the direct result of U.S. plants downsizing domestic operations to save money on labor and property. How much longer can Americans weather this foreign storm? When will U.S. businesses realize that if the American worker is not earning a paycheck, then they cannot purchase these products? 

"I do feel that the article was written without bias and that it did show the pros and cons of having a business in Africa. However, I feel that it did not state the ramifications of downsizing the American worker. Most articles pertaining to moving moldmaking or mold finishing operations over the U.S. borders talk endlessly of lower labor and/or property costs, yet fail to mention the negative impact that evacuating the U.S. has on the economy. Perhaps next month's publication will have an article that 'slaps' the un-American American business owner." 

Then, a couple weeks later, I got a very long e-mail from Larry Erikson, vp and gm at molder Valley Plastics Inc. in Washington, IL. He took exception to another story in the July issue that described a tooling program sent to Taiwan that went horribly awry (One Saga of Asian Tooling: Salvaging a Program Gone Bad," pp. 56-58). You can read what Larry had to say but I will excerpt it here to make my point: 

"While I understand, and have experienced, a similar tale as recounted in your July 2001 article, I would also point out that this is one experience and not one that need happen with proper supplier selection and communication. Do not fool yourself into thinking that all molds from Taiwan or the Far East are substandard. . . . 

". . . I certainly do not want to see the moldmaking profession disappear in the U.S., but we must also compete with the rest of the world. On the projects that we have sent to Taiwan, in most cases if we hadn't quoted the mold in Taiwan, the entire project, including the molding, would have ended up in the Far East. We have found that we can still compete for the molding business with China. Yet, we must continue to automate and improve our productivity. 

"Domestic moldmakers must change radically and constantly to survive. They must outsource less critical components to machine shops to reduce costs and lead times; they must use the latest technologies in cutting tools and equipment to reduce expensive labor-intensive work; and they must be constantly on top of the latest technology in rapid tooling. If they do not, they will not survive. We cannot afford to lose molding jobs to the Far East because we cannot compete on the mold." 

So, who's right? Are we selling molders and moldmakers down the proverbial river, or do you just have to be more creative in finding ways to keep jobs in the U.S.? While Jade Delisi and struggling moldmakers and molders who share his views get all the sympathy I can muster, my money is on firms like Larry Erikson's. As much as we hate to see it happen, there is a natural selection in the evolution of commerce, and the injection molding industry is no exception. OEMs are in the business of making and saving money. One way to do that is to move to low-labor-cost countries—and they want their suppliers to join them. 

The U.S. is a high-technology, high-labor-cost country. We possess unprecedented brain power, we are extremely productive, and are possibly the most efficient country in the world. To survive and thrive, molders and moldmakers have to adjust their business strategies to capitalize on these strengths to give customers a compelling reason to keep jobs here. 

At the same time, no amount of creativity or technology is going to stop some jobs from going to Asia and Mexico. That's reality. And many molders and moldmakers have proven that being a proactive part of this "outsourcing" can be profitable. It's IMM's job to shed light on both of these trends, and hopefully help you find the path to success. 

Jeff Sloan

Low-Cost Sensors Address Metal Detection, Safety Issues

Low-Cost Sensors Address Metal Detection,Safety Issues

Balluff is marketing two new, low-cost lines of sensors: one for metal detection and one for laser positioning.

Inductive sensors Proxicom inductive sensors are said to let users matchsensor to application without wasting money on capabilities that would be overkill for typical metal detection capabilities. Prices start at $39.

These units are said to be ideal for metal detection on machine tools and assembly lines, in addition to plastics processing equipment. They are available in threaded stainless steel or nickel-plated brass housings, in sizes from M8 to M30 and sensing distances from 1.5 to 15 mm.

They are totally encapsulated and available in connector and PVC cable versions, with flush or non-flush mounting and PNP or NPN output configurations. Each sensor also has an LED, which indicates output is 'on' to help speed set-up.

Sensors are IP67-rated and powered by 24 v dc. They work in temperatures ranging from -25 to 70 C.

Laser position sensor The 18K series of laser positionsensors is reportedly the first complete sensor line to have Class 1 rating per EN 60825-1, which guarantees safety in all applications and eliminates the need for beam termination, according to Balluff. Accidental eye contact with the beam is not a problem.

These 18 mm tubular sensors use a 650 nm red laser andare available in all popularsensing modes: diffuse, retroreflective and thru-beam. Diffuse versions have a range to 300 mm and resolution to 0.5 mm for applications requiring higher accuracy at short distances. For longer range applications, polarized retroreflective versions are available with range to 12 meters and resolution to 1 mm, while thru-beam versions extend range to 50 meters and resolutionto 2.5 mm.

Response time is rated at 333 msec and switching frequency at 1.5 kHz. Typical applications include assembly and packaging lines.

These lasers operate on 10 to 30 v dc and are housed in ABS sealed to IP67. They are also available with a four-pole M12 connector. Sensitivity is adjustable via potentiometer. Status LEDs confirm output function and signal stability.

Price is $190, "far less than the closest competitor," says Balluff's Tom Rosenberg. Circle 108

Balluff Inc.
Florence, KY

Chilled-Air Conveyor Is Self-Contained

Chilled-Air Conveyor Is Self-Contained

EMI's new self-contained, chilled-air conveyor does not require access to a chiller and plugs into any 110 v outlet. Unit is designed to provide post-molding cooling (down to 40 F) to injection molded parts (depending on ambient plant air and the temperature of the parts).

Even when chilled water is available, this unit is said to be an excellent choice for applications that are at a distance from the water source, if the supply of water is limited or if plumbing to the water source is difficult. And for applications that access a portable chiller for mold cooling, the unit can be used to provide post-mold cooling without sacrificing cooling capacity to the mold.

This unit can be retrofitted onto almost any existing conveyor and cooling chambers can be built to fit almost any styleconveyor. Prices depend on size and style (flat or incline) socontact EMI directly via the Key Contact Directory on p 47.

EMI Plastics Equipment
Wickliffe, OH

Linear Bearing Nippers Slide Up to 3.5 mm

Linear Bearing Nippers Slide Up to 3.5 mm

JDV Products' new GT-NY10-S Ninja nipper features a linear, opposing 'V' slide track with adjustablegibs. This allows the nipper to slide out of the way and eliminates vertical and horizontal play. The slide stroke is adjustable up to 3.5 mm.

Ninja nippers can be used on any type of robot and are powered by a double-acting air cylinder for rapid and accurate positioning. They can be used in both push and pull stroke applications.

A variety of standard and custom blades are available, including straight standard, straight thin edge, straight with carbide, straight long and crank type. Price is $407.

JDV Products Inc.

Leak Detection System Targeted At Medical Disposables

Leak Detection SystemTargeted AtMedical Disposables

A leak detection system for injection molders of medical disposables is the first product resulting from a joint venture between Automated Assemblies, Clinton, MA and Innovative Products and Equipment (IPE), Lowell, MA (Jan '00 PA, p 29). Typical applications include pipette loading, bloodfilter assembly and pregnancy tester assembly.

The system consists of an Automated Assemblies' AZ-100 Series Servo Express robot and the leakdetector. In operation, the robot removes parts from the mold and places them in a receiving nest. 'Bad' partsare separated from 'good' parts (asindicated by the injection molding machine) and are removed.

The system then tests the good parts with a 20,000-v charge through an electrode placed inside each part. The ground plate is positioned directly outside the part and checks for a completed signal that would indicate a leak.

Pricing is dependent on the number of cavities and the geometry of the part, but a complete system (robot and leak detection unit) starts at over $200,000.

Automated Assemblies Corp.
Clinton, MA

Railcar Unloading Systems Can Handle Up To 20,000 Lb/Hr

Railcar Unloading Systems Can Handle Up To 20,000 Lb/Hr

Upstream Systems & Machinery is augmenting its line of materials handling products with railcar and truck unloading systems. The move is the result of "customers asking that we take on a fuller scope of supply, including intermediate storage, silos and railcar unloading," according to James Wade, Vice President.

These single or dual blower systems have capacities of up to 20,000 lb/hr. A typical system would include the necessary quantity of railcar headers, a positive displacement vacuum blower, material transfer station and pressure blower.

Alternately, a more economical system can employ a single pump that performs both the vacuum unloading and blowing of materials to the silos. Other optional systems can be engineered, including vacuum loading of silos.

Upstream Systems & Machinery

Multi-Gated Nozzles Ideal For Concentricity Constraints

Multi-Gated Nozzles Ideal For Concentricity Constraints

ALBA Enterprises now offers Thermoplay's multi-gated nozzle, designed to provide molders with multiple gates when needed for concentricity constraints. They are currently available in 26 mm dia gates on a 5.5 mm dia bolt circle. Special tip locations can be offered to suit specific requirements.

Please contact the company directly for pricing information via the Key Contact Directory on p 47.

ALBA Enterprises Inc.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Humidity/Temperature Datalogger, Counting Scale

Humidity/Temperature Datalogger, Counting Scale

Extech Instruments has two new instrumentation products: a humidity/ temperature datalogger and a battery-operated counting scale.

Humidity/temperature datalogger, Model 446580, measures from 10 to 95% relative humidity with 3% accuracy and temperature from -4 to 140 F. Humidity is measured via capacitance sensor and temperature via a semiconductor sensor. Both measurements are displayed at the same time; a 'data hold' function freezes the readings.

Built-in memory stores up to 7000 measurements at sample rates of 1 to 65 sec. Data with date and time can be transferred to a PC via RS-232. Unit comes with Windows 95/98-compatible software and cable, carrying case and 9 v battery. Price is $299. 

Battery-operated counting scale, Model 160273, weighs and countssmall parts with an accuracy ratedat 0.02%. The LCD indicates weight, piece weight and quantity. Weightcapacity is 26 lb and is displayed with 0.005 lb resolution.

Features include Tare and AutoZero tracking, a memory function that stores count and weight values and a large stainless steel platform. Priceis $599.

Extech Instruments Corp.
Waltham, MA

Cabinet Coolers Protect Electronics

Cabinet Coolers Protect Electronics

E-Core has introduced a new line of air conditioners specifically for cooling electronics. Three models are available: EPC (E-Core Packaged Cooler), available in sizes from 1/2 to 3 tons; EVA (E-Core Vertical Air Conditioner), available in sizes from 1-1/2 to 6 tons and the ETA (E-Core Telecommunications Air Conditioner), in sizes from 1/2 to 1 ton.

Please contact the company directly for pricing information. Use the Key Contact Directory on p 47.

Natural Bridge Station, VA

Foam Sheet Die Features Gap Adjusting System

Foam Sheet Die Features Gap Adjusting System

Battenfeld Gloucester Engineering's new Opticell foam sheet die features QuickGap, a new, 'on-the-fly' die gap adjusting system. Opticell dies are said to be operator-friendly and to produce a final product with more uniform thickness, surface finish and basis weight than such competitive die technology as spider or breaker plate dies, according to Al Hall, Battenfeld Gloucester's Technical Marketing Engineer.

Initial set-up is said to be simple; gap concentricity adjustments determine the flow, which can then be accurately repeated throughout the process. Changes can be made with one hand to quickly flush contaminants from the die gap, and from any point around the outside of the die, permitting installation even in small areas.

Other built-in benefits cited for Opticell die technology include:

  • A die design that is said to eliminate spider weld lines and striations from breaker plate holes
  • Easier, less-frequent cleaning due to long-life surface coatings that produce less plate out on all flow surfaces
  • Easy assembly and disassembly through simple, robust conical pilots between parts, rather than square pilots
  • Flexibility to inexpensively change geometry for different processes or replacement, using removable lip inserts

The QuickGap die gap adjusting system allows for easy opening and closing of the gap for adjusting or cleaning. The system is said to offer more mechanical stability than competitive systems by minimizing backlash and friction in the adjustment process, even through frequent start-up/shut-down cycles and their associated temperature and pressure changes. The system uses the same mechanism for quick, coarse adjustments to flush contaminants and to fine-tune process conditions.

An optional feature is direct display of the die gap for operator use, which is made possible by using sensors mounted on the outer lip to indicate gap, rather than relying on a complex mechanical linkage. The direct measurement means greater accuracy over the range of temperatures used in the foam process, as well as minimal mechanical 'slop' and friction, when compared to multi-link systems.

To further refine the system, Battenfeld Gloucester's recommended gap adjustment system uses pressure feedback from the lip area to accurately reflect mechanical (gap) and physical (temperature, resin blend and density) conditions affecting the foaming process. With a digital pressure-indicating gage located on the die for the operator's use, the die pressure can be closely controlled for repeatable process conditions.

Battenfeld GloucesterEngineering Co.
Gloucester, MA