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IMM's Plant Tour: Molding in Hungary, thinking internationally

Injection molder Moldin Plastics Ltd. and its parent organization, the Pannonplast Group, offer solid proof that the spirit of entrepreneurial capitalism was only sleeping during the years of socialist/communist society in the central and eastern European countries. It is wide awake now and moving in some surprising directions. In a remarkable example of the shape this awakening has taken, Moldin's Budapest plant paints a sharp contrast between the outside and inside of the facility.

The factory is in what appears to be a residential area of Budapest. The many small shops on the streets with upper-floor apartments are a typical part of this sprawling, multifaceted city. Passing through a gate between two buildings, you find yourself in a yard surrounded by the kind of imposing dark brick buildings generally referred to as old-style industrial. Entering Moldin's back door leads straight onto one of its molding floors, but it's more like passing through a time warp into another world. 

Moldin Ltd.'s production technology and workspace is all current generation, but it is a complete renovation inside a very old building in Budapest.

Every aspect of this molding shop says "modern." A collection of current-generation Krauss-Maffei machines is equipped with current-generation Wittmann automation technology. Tubes from a Piovan central material handling system run along the walls, as do utilities conduits. Everything looks shiny and new, including the building structure. Remembering the film The Matrix, I looked out the window to be sure the industrial yard I'd just left was still there. (Thankfully, it was.) 

Strategic Alignment 
Miklós Rimár, managing director of the plant, says Moldin's goal is the same as those of the Pannonplast Group: to be a substantial plastics-based production and assembly player in the central and eastern European manufacturing sector. Strategically, that means aligning with the large multinational companies that have moved into the area, and being quick to provide the quality, support, and service they expect. 

Robotics are standard in this plant. Krauss-Maffei cooperates with Wittmann to develop the automated production centers.

Multicavity molds are the norm, particularly for parts like these printer housing components for major customer Hewlett-Packard.

In a move to implement that strategy for Philips, Pannonplast set up the first Moldin factory in 1998 to supply components like housings, bases, and bezels for CRT and LCD monitors to the Netherlands-based electronics giant. Philips had established a manufacturing plant at Szombathely in western Hungary, so Pannonplast quickly began construction on a 3600-sq-m (39,000-sq-ft) facility in May 1998 using 6000 sq m (64,500 sq ft) of land acquired from Pannunion Ltd., another Pannonplast-affiliated company, near Philips. Volume deliveries to Philips began on Oct. 15 that same year. The Philips assembly complex has since grown to be one of the largest facilities of its type in all of Europe and Moldin has expanded similarly to accommodate the growth. 

The plant IMM visited in Budapest was opened in a totally different manner. It was converted beginning in 1999 from a previous Pannonplast production facility for battery cases. Moldin immediately began to update every aspect of the facility. Production technology and equipment, plant design, and particularly the building's interior were completely changed. Rimár notes that modernizing an older plant is quite challenging, but Moldin was again aligning itself with another major multinational company, and again it had to move fast. 

Ranging from 25 to 575 metric tons, Moldin's machines are positioned to leave space for a variety of secondary operations.

Pad printing can be centralized, as shown, or located at the machine, as can welding, hot stamping, and assembly.

A centralized material handling system from Piovan was the first thing installed when the old building was renovated.

During 1999 and 2000, Moldin Budapest became a working partner with Hewlett-Packard after HP decided to move European printer production operations from Spain to Hungary. It established a plant in Budapest not far from Moldin's factory, and another facility about 65 km (40 miles) outside the city. With HP waiting for delivery, Moldin opened one production area while renovation was still taking place. The second hall began production shortly thereafter. Now specialized by location, Moldin's Budapest plant is almost completely dedicated to printer components and assemblies, while the Szombathely plant concentrates on monitors and TVs. 

Moldin Ltd., Budapest, Hungary 

Square footage: 25,000, production (2358 sq m)
Annual sales:
$28 million (both Moldin plants)
Markets served:
Teletronics, appliances, office equipment
Philips, Hewlett-Packard
Parts produced:
4.3 million/year (molding and assemblies), or 350,000 monitor and printer sets/month
Materials processed:
Resin consumption:
>7500 tons/year
No. of employees:
Shifts worked:
Three shifts, six days/week
Molding machines:
26, 22 Krauss-Maffei, four Engel, 25 to 575 metric tons
Molding technology:
Gas assist, insert, multimaterial, machine networking, remote access
Secondary operations:
Welding, painting, pad printing, hot stamping
Internal moldmaking:
ISO 9002, QS 14001 

A Successful Marriage: Technology and People
The production space in the Budapest plant now has 22 Krauss-Maffei C Series and four Engel injection machines. The K-Ms are coupled with Wittmann automated removal and handling systems. Moldin's clamp force range extends from 25 to 575 metric tons and the available technologies include gas-assist, insert, and multicomponent molding. In response to customer preferences for semifinished modules, Moldin has expanded its assembly capability and offers a variety of welding, decorating, and finishing technologies beside the press or offline. 

Rimár says automation has had a significant positive impact on the plant's productivity, as have effective management systems. All the machine controls are networked and are accessible remotely using the Internet. Rimár uses this feature himself, and likes being able to check scrap rates on running machines from home, and make adjustments if needed. This allows nearly lights-out operation with the technician reachable by mobile phone. The automated machines, which are virtually production cells, are a collaborative
effort between Krauss-Maffei and Wittmann with the former holding single-source responsibility. 

Of course, automation also provides consistency and reportability. The Wittmann robots on the machines here use CANbus technology for rapid signal passing and easy integration into the machine controls. Payback time for the robotics, says Rimár, is easily less than 18 months, and the performance benefits begin on day one. 

Here he stops and pointedly says that, by far, the employees are the best technology offered to clients by Moldin and Pannonplast. A commitment to technical excellence among its workers is written into Pannonplast's mission statement. Technical positions have strict educational standards on entry, and continuing education is used to keep skills up to date. Fortunately, as Rimár notes, Hungary has a large base of well-trained technicians and engineers. 

Exploiting Group Resources 
Moldin Ltd. has a wide range of support available for customers, as well as for itself, but whether or not this support is in-house depends on how you define the term. The Pannonplast Group has 18 separate companies, each involved in some aspect of plastics production. Its main product categories are plastic pipes and tubing, a broad assortment of injection and blowmolded packaging, and plastics-based industrial components and assemblies—Moldin's area. Two of the 18 companies do not process plastics; they support the other 16, plus a number of Pannonplast joint ventures. 

Therefore, although Moldin does not have moldmaking in-house, another member of the Pannonplast Group called Dexter Ltd. has two well-equipped shops for making injection and blow molds, one of which is in Budapest. Between the two plants, Dexter employs more than 130 people to operate a long list of wire and sink erosion machinery, high-speed machining centers, and a regularly upgraded CAD/CAM group that brings extensive design support to Moldin's clients. Thanks to the availability of a good-sized, well-educated technical workforce in Hungary, Moldin offers clients engineering services from concept and design to assembly and testing. Moldin can call on technical support for its own use that is also not quite in-house. 

Pannonplast established a separate research and development company—which happens to be next door to the Moldin Budapest factory—to handle projects for clients and to support development within other Pannonplast companies. Rimár says the thinking is that operating companies cannot take production specialists offline to develop and set up new technology without disturbing production. Therefore, they supply what amounts to an in-house consultant. 

For example, when Philips won an order to supply black-colored monitors to Dell, a new paint line was needed at the Szombathely plant. The R&D company handled the design of the paint line, screened suppliers, trained operators on the technology, supervised the installation, and, in general, put Moldin in the position of client. "We were offered choices at every phase," says Rimár, "and the communication was excellent. So are the results." For efficiency, the paint line is fully automated, which ensures a consistently high level of throughput without quality problems. Instead of six painting operators, two per shift, robots do the work in a closed atmosphere that eliminates both safety and ecological issues. 

The history of Pannonplast, the parent group of Moldin Ltd., began in 1922 in a suburb of Budapest with the company making thermoset buttons and various rubber products. Active in 18 countries by 1932, Pannonplast was nationalized after World War II. It began to mold plastics, specifically PVC, in the 1950s and established several new factories in the 1960s. In 1984 came the first of what would be many joint ventures. Polifoam Ltd., formed with Furukawa Electric and others, was the first-ever Japanese-Hungarian joint venture. Pannonpipe Ltd., created with Solvay (Belgium) and Wienerberger (Austria) in 1990, took over all production of water and sewage pipes.

Pannonplast became a limited share company in 1991, with 51 percent going to foreign institutional investors and 15 percent to company employees. Current financial statements show continuing employee ownership. By the end of 1994, Pannonplast had become a group of 18 companies supplying plastics products including pipes, blown containers, molded packaging, film, banking cards, and technical injection molded parts and assemblies. A recently established subsidiary of Moldin Ltd. combines 13 metal stamping presses with injection molding to provide assembled VCR and DVD player chassis to Philips. 

Sales in 2000 topped $100 million and quarterly reports show that sales for the first six months of 2001 were 34 percent more than the first half of the previous year. Its stated objective is to be a major player in central and eastern European markets, and the company is particularly active in eastern markets such as Romania, the Ukraine, and others. 

Building Strength 
Moldin's key to success cannot be whittled down to just one element, but instead includes many strategies. Since there is very little, if any, profit to be made in low-level commodity part stamping in Hungary, says Rimár, the company focuses on high-tech work that comes almost exclusively from large customers looking for problem solvers to work with them. Another strength he mentions is management flexibility at both Moldin and Pannonplast. They have the resources to move quickly on behalf of a customer and have proven it. Innovation is prized and the doors are always open to new ideas. 

The company culture is built on a sharing of knowledge and experience. People from Budapest are often found in the Szombathely plant for days at a time, and vice versa, despite the 230-km (143-mile) distance. The oft-mentioned low cost of labor relative to countries west of Hungary is not a great advantage, says Rimár, except in the assembly area. The technical work Moldin wants demands both automation and JIT delivery. Thus, Moldin has a wide range of machine sizes and the ability to move a mold from one machine to another, or even to another plant if necessary. 

These combined strategies work, Rimár asserts. Philips brought back to Hungary some production it had consigned to Asia for reasons of quality, and quality is what Moldin is offering, says Rimár. The molder obtained its ISO 9002 and QS 14001 certifications as soon as physically possible. Automation supplier Wittmann says that quality and consistency are at the base of all Moldin's specifications for robotics system. As Rimár puts it, Hungary is clearly better than Asia as a starting point for European distribution. Adding in quality, JIT, full support, and cost control yields the equation for bringing more business to Hungary in general, and to Moldin in particular. 

Contact information
Moldin Plastics Ltd.
Budapest, Hungary
Miklós Rimár
+36 (1) 382 7200
[email protected]

Parting Shots: Cycle time

Ever wonder if your peers are having the same kind of day you are? In this first installment of Cycle Time, IMM asked Alex Semiletow of Cherry Electrical Products to document his week's activities. 

Alex Semiletow, molding manager, Cherry Electrical Products, Waukegan, IL

Monday, Jan. 28
• Went through 188 e-mails accumulated during my short vacation last week.
• Reviewed reasons for continuous alarms from our air-drying system.
• Boss sick for the second day in a row; he must be really feeling bad. This has never happened before, but the plant is still running.
• Unemployment hearing (never a happy thing).
• Press #2 becoming a priority; staffing not available.
• A molding supervisor requested a transfer to our processing department. This is going to trigger a series of organizational changes.
• Reviewed quotes of a major program; could not find any errors.
• Two toolmakers will not return soon from their leave of absence. We are severely understaffed. 

Tuesday, Jan. 29
• Noticed a dangerously stretched 480V grinder cable; asked an electrician to rewire it (done).
• Family tools strike again. Inventory unbalance forces us to run at 50 percent efficiency by blocking cavity for unwanted part.
• Three key support people and four operators out with the flu. Might as well have stayed in bed myself.
• Discussed procedures of recall from layoff with our human resources department.
• Negotiated four operators from sister division for three days to run press #2.
• Obtained authorization to recall a toolmaker to help staffing shortage.
• Attended a meeting to review the status of a mold that has been rejected by our customer four times, all for different reasons. This mold will become an issue soon.
• Planned reorganization to accommodate personnel job preference. 

Wednesday, Jan. 30
• Press #2 tool has limited capacity. Schedules must follow the demonstrated capacity of the tool.
• 800-lb dryer continually drifts off, and the temperature comes close to the upper limit. Had a meltdown in a similar unit a few months ago, and it wasn't pretty.
• Met with high school students interested in our industry; gave them a plant tour of the molding department. It's nice to see kids interested in injection molding.
• Met with an employee to present her with an opportunity for advancement triggered by the potential reorganization, to find out if she was ready for the challenge. 

Thursday, Jan. 31
• CEO asked me if the molding plant continued to run while I was on last week's vacation. I answered, "My team made me dispensable." Was that a good thing to say in this economy?
• E-mailed manager of our plant in Germany asking for his help in shortening his lead time on a project timeline for the production tools of press #2.
• In a team of key players from different disciplines, reviewed the design of nine molds for a new program. In the current state of the economy, this is that much more of a good thing.
• Electrician found the reason for the alarms in the air-drying unit (what a great guy!). Replacement switch will arrive tomorrow.
• Robot in an insert-molding job running in a vertical press is dropping metal inserts on the surface of the mold outside the vision system's range. The lack of mold protection feature in that press is causing damage to the mold when the press closes on the part.
• In our molding staff meeting, discussed the problems we are creating for ourselves by not following our own procedures. 

Friday, Feb. 1
• Reviewed actual delivery date of a project and communicated it to sales.
• A long-term test failed in the 11th hour and we are ready to run production. We will have people on Saturday and probably Sunday studying the results of the tests, running more samples, x-raying the parts to determine the corrective action required to fix the tool, and actually fixing the steel.
• Boss requested status of a new 17-mold program to understand at what level the approval process is stuck.
• Cancelled the temporary help scheduled for Monday; mold modifications on press #2 will take three days. The customer is breathing down our neck and the air is getting dense around this issue.
• The employee who was offered the opportunity for advancement took the challenge. We're now getting ready for reorganization. 

If you'd like to submit your week to Cycle Time, contact Amie Chitwood at (303) 321-2322 or [email protected]

WEB EXCLUSIVE : Resin dryer technologies for today?s marketplace

Weigh drying, as shown in the Comet system above, is especially suitable for nylon and PET processors. It lends itself to controlling and recording, via a remote computer, the drying temperatures, dewpoint, residence time of the resin, and resin usage per machine for every shot of hygroscopic material used.
The AEC/Whitlock T Series machine-mount (above), cart-mount (above), and floor-mount dehumidifying dryers provide 10 to 225 cfm capacity. One dryer connected to multiple hoppers for a centralized drying system can dry multiple materials at different temperatures simultaneously.
The T Series features electric valves and controls drying based on bed temperature vs. time and/or dewpoint. Both two-bed and four-bed models are available. An optional advanced processor allows closed loop control of drying based on multiple thermocouples.
To find the right dryer for your processing needs and your plant?s environment, you must first understand the various dryer technologies that are available today. The following discussion from an industry veteran should help.

The Novatec NovaDrier, with no desiccant bed, is said to provide a constant source of ?40F or lower dewpoint process air with no spikes or deviations. Standard plant compressed air is passed through a two-stage prefiltering system that includes a 1-µm filter and a .01-µm filter. The air then passes through a self-regenerating drying media. After it is heated, the air is circulated through an insulated drying hopper. Moisture is purged, dust particles are filtered, and the air is reheated and recirculated along with fresh incoming compressed air.
Material drying is an important influence on the quality of plastic parts and products. Proper drying is fundamental to obtaining the best production yield possible. Drying is the only premolding process that must be performed mechanically. There are many types of auxiliary equipment that reduce or eliminate the need for labor, but drying has little or nothing to do with labor requirements.

Choosing the correct dryer can be difficult in today?s market. There are as many types of dryers as there are drying manufacturers, and all of the equipment has the same goal: dry resin efficiently and economically. So how does a processor in today?s market make sure it gets the best dryer to meet its specific drying needs? As manufacturers and distributors of multiple styles of drying technology, we will attempt to address this question.

Basics of Resin Dryers

The first step in understanding which dryer is correct for your facility is to understand what a resin dryer does. Typically, a dehumidification unit provides hot air to the resin, which allows for moisture to be released from the resin. Then it removes the moisture from the pellets with dry air, created by a drying media. This allows the hot, dry air to be reused in a closed loop and to continue to remove and release the moisture. It also recycles hot air to save energy. This is how single-bed, multiple-bed, rotary canister desiccant, rotary honeycomb bed, and some compressed air dryers function.

Normally, the distinguishing characteristics for these units are how they heat the air, how they use this hot air, how they remove the moisture from the air, and how they regenerate the drying media. The typical twin tower design of desiccant dryers as well as smaller twin bed and even rotary cartridge desiccant dryers are some of the oldest of the drying technologies sold today.

Desiccant dryers typically use large electric heaters and oversized blowers to obtain the temperature and humidity-free air that is required to dry plastics. These dryers have large beds of desiccant that create substantial airflow resistance to drying air, which is why they require oversized blowers. The scale of these units requires large heaters to maintain a constant temperature. These units function well and typically last a very long time. Desiccant dryers, however, tend to consume a lot of energy. When this technology was invented more than 50 years ago, energy was affordable and consumption wasn?t a major concern for processors.

Unfortunately, today?s ultramodern facilities demand a better use of energy to maintain quality and lower the bottom line. This is why drying systems that use honeycomb rotary bed, compressed air, vacuum, and natural gas technologies have been introduced to the market. These units offer alternative drying methods, and each is designed to use energy more efficiently.

So Many Different Dryers
Two new models of the Universal Dynamics PCT2 dehumidifying dryer have drying capacity of 2000 to 2500 cfm. The PCT2 dryer uses Pulse Cooling Technology and is available in eight different sizes. With the FN microprocessor control, the Material Saver function, and a return air cooling coil, the PCT2 uses a cabinet enclosure with a minimal footprint. The dryer has a drying temperature range of 150 to 375F.

Natural gas dryers are similar in function to the twin tower desiccant units. However, they offer a heating source that is an alternative to electric heaters. In places where natural gas is less expensive than electricity, drying with natural gas could be a good alternative. Unfortunately, increases in natural gas prices in North America over the past year have left some processors looking for lower energy consumption rather than alternative energy sources. It has become apparent, especially in North America, that cheap energy is a thing of the past. This has forced processors to find equipment that consumes small amounts of energy in order to save money, especially in areas such as Mexico, where processors have reported energy costs up to three times higher than in the U.S.
A stainless steel twin desiccant bed design, with a high-capacity molecular sieve, provides an operating dewpoint of -40F for closed loop drying in the Drymax compact desiccant dryer from Nucon Wittmann. Individual, electrically operated switch-over valves for each desiccant bed reportedly avoid heat transfer between the drying and regeneration cycle to improve process efficiency. Drymax dryers incorporate microprocessor control.

Compressed air dryers recycle dry air and eliminate the need for drying media. These dryers use a loop of hot air and compressed air?which is typically lower in moisture than ambient air?to dry resin. These units have few replacement parts, and much of the air does not require a media to remove moisture.

The downside of these dryers is that compressed air can be very expensive to generate. Typically, air compressors use tremendous amounts of energy to generate the quantity of air needed. Therefore, the energy saved in using such a unit is spent at the compressor. The design of these units assumes that the compressed air being used is dry and clean, which requires regular compressor maintenance and constant monitoring of compressed air lines.

There are newer dryers being produced that use compressed air and a proprietary media that removes moisture and contamination from the air and resin. These include electric heaters, but require large amounts of compressed air.

Vacuum drying has recently been improved and reintroduced into injection molding. These units operate by heating small batches of material. Once these batches rise to a designated temperature, a vacuum is initiated, which allows the surface moisture to be boiled off. This works because water boils at lower temperatures in a partial vacuum than at normal atmospheric pressure. The material then moves from the vacuum to a separate area, pending loading into the injection machine. Because the material is not heated continuously and not allowed to maintain this heat, reintroduction of moisture is a potential issue when drying hygroscopic resins.

There are several unique advantages to this equipment vs. other dryers. First, there are no drying media that require regeneration, which offers good energy savings. Also, since it is a batch system, a full hopper of material is not dried, making vacuum systems ideal for small part runs. The units are well suited for the predrying of nonhygroscopic resins and are known to increase production yields dramatically for these types of resins.

Hot air dryers can be a solution in areas that remain at relatively low humidity levels throughout the year. A hot air dryer with a 65-lb hopper costs around $775 with insulation. Given the correct conditions, this is an economical solution for processors.
The Low Pressure Dryer (LPD) from Maguire uses a vacuum to dry resin, with reported potential savings of $14,000 per year per processing line, as compared with a conventional desiccant dryer. In tests of two 100-lb/hr (45 kg/hr) units installed on side-by-side injection molding machines, the LPD dryer underwent Monday-morning cold startups and midrun color changes with minimal downtime, and required substantially less energy to properly dry resin.

Typically, these units, which only supply hot air and have no dehumidification system, are used on nonhygroscopic materials as a preheater. Similar to vacuum dryers, these units allow for much higher yields of materials that are not traditionally dried by removing surface moisture. In areas of North America that have relatively low humidity, a processor can use these units on hygroscopic materials with positive results. Also, with hardware consisting of only one blower and a heater, maintenance and service costs are minimal. For molders not fortunate enough to live in such dry areas of the world, dehumidification of the resin is a necessity.

The new High Performance Dryer (HPD) Series from Dri-Air can reportedly dry materials in less than half an hour. The patented four-bed unit is designed to achieve a ?100F dewpoint, reportedly providing dry material without degradation in less time than conventional dryers. HPD systems use stainless steel hoppers, laser-cut access doors, and no moving internal components.

Honeycomb rotary bed drying units are now available at an affordable price, thanks to recent advances in silica, molecular sieve, and other drying mediums. A honeycomb dryer with 50 cfm of unrestricted air now costs around $5400, with the suggested return-air cooler. Even at decreased prices, the technology is sometimes not chosen because molders are not familiar with it. Honeycomb rotary-bed drying units are similar to other forms of drying technology, except for the dehumidifying media used to remove moisture from the air. These dryers use crystallized molecular sieves and silica gels that are baked onto the drying wheel to yield dehumidified air and material. The silica gel does not create dust like a desiccant unit, which can contaminate parts. It also absorbs and releases moisture much more efficiently than any other type of dryer. The honeycomb wheel allows air to pass easily over the drying media, and because it releases moisture better than desiccant beads, only a small blower and electric heater are required, saving considerable energy.

Honeycomb dryers operate in constant process drying so that the dewpoint of the drying air is constant. Thanks to these modern silica and sieves, a lower dewpoint also can be achieved than with desiccant. The advanced honeycomb media can be washed with soapy water if it becomes dirty and can last up to 10 years vs. the two-year life of desiccant. This means that maintenance and service costs are greatly reduced. The energy savings pay off on the bottom line, and the modern silica allows for better yields in a modern facility.

Weigh-Drying Technology

Energy savings and total cost savings are very important in the purchase of any new equipment. Some recent technology in drying has come not as a result of new dryer designs, but in the systems built around these designs. One design gaining popularity with nylon and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) molders is that of weigh drying, a technology that weighs all material being dried and calculates drying settings. These patented systems also perform complex functions such as recording and controlling the drying temperature, dewpoint, residence time of the resin, and resin usage per machine for every shot of material in the facility. What this means is that a processor can guarantee to its customers that the product it is purchasing has been dried appropriately.

The weigh dryer is a good match for captive molders using high volumes of hygroscopic materials, such as nylon and PET, or heat sensitive materials. However, the system does require high-quality controls.

In the case of nylon and some other polymers, mishandling or overdrying is known to result in everything from discoloration to product failure. Weigh-drying systems give molders the ability to prove their handling conditions for every part and eliminate costly part returns and reruns of parts. A weigh system can generally be retrofitted onto an existing drying system or purchased complete. By retrofitting these systems, modern processors save money, use the equipment they already have, and are able to achieve consistent, high-quality production yields.

Editor?s note: Tom Rajkovich is president and Sam Rajkovich is dryer manager for Comet Automation Systems Inc.

Comet Automation Systems
Dayton, OH
Tom Rajkovich
(937) 296-9166

The design and operation of a carousel dryer

Carousel dryers are noted for having multiple, small-capacity desiccant cartridges, which present dry desiccant to the material drying cycle on 15- to 30-minute cycles to eliminate dewpoint and temperature spikes.

The illustration shows the design and operation of a typical Conair carousel dryer with four desiccant cartridges. Depending on the size of the dryer, three to 10 desiccant cartridges may be used. Desiccant cartridges are positioned between two sets of carousel bed plates, which index periodically on a signal from a timer or dewpoint monitor of the on-stream drying air. When the indexing cycle is initiated, the cartridges shown move one position to the right (counter-clockwise).

In the schematic, desiccant cartridges #1 and #2 (not visible) are in the on-stream drying position. The moisture-laden return air passes through these cartridges and the moisture is trapped in the molecular sieve desiccant. The dehumidified air is then reheated to the setpoint temperature and sent back to the drying hopper.

Desiccant cartridge #3 is in the regeneration position. Ambient air is drawn in through the regeneration filter, heated, and passed through the desiccant cartridge in a counter-flow direction so the desiccant releases its adsorbed moisture, which is exhausted to the atmosphere. The hot desiccant cartridge is cooled in position #4 prior to being brought back to the on-stream drying position. In Conair dryers, the desiccant is cooled with air from the dryer?s return air circuit. Although wetter than drying air, return air is always much lower in humidity than ambient air, and thus does not preload the desiccant with moisture before it enters the drying circuit.

Contact information

Ben Martin
Pittsburgh, PA
(412) 312-6000

Maguire Products
Terry Good
Aston, PA
(610) 459-2412

AEC Whitlock
Joe Sweeney
Wood Dale, IL
(630) 595-1060

Dri-Air Industries
Herb Wischow
East Windsor, CT
(860) 627-5110

James Smith
Baltimore, MD
(410) 789-4811

Universal Dynamics
John Fleischer
Woodbridge, VA
(703) 491-2191

Nucon Wittmann
Rob Miller
Markham, ON
(888) 466-8266

IMM's Benchmarking Report: Third quarter 2001, data group 3 of 3

The IMM Benchmarking Report is in its fourth year and this month provides data from the third quarter of 2001. We've developed a strong core group of molders who have volunteered this data, but we are constantly looking for more participants who want to take advantage of what the report has to offer. Its validity, vitality, and survival depend entirely on data from molders. If you enjoy and make regular use of this information, we encourage you to join the project today. 

For those new to the Benchmarking Report, the project is simple. Several molders have volunteered to share their benchmarking data with us each quarter. The information comes in two parts. The first is the profile data (see table, below), which characterizes the molders by press quantity, resin quantity processed, parts quantity, and revenue, among other measurements. The information in the pies is the benchmarking data. We're measuring nine benchmarks: machine utilization, productive downtime, training per employee, mold change time, scheduled ship date on time, accident incident rate, scrap as produced, customer returns, and employee turnover. Each month we present three of these nine benchmarks. 

If you want to get involved, participation is easy. In exchange for your time and data each quarter, you will receive from IMM detailed reports on key production and market data for every participating molder. These reports are sent in hard copy form or as Excel spreadsheets if you would like to manipulate the data yourself. To receive a sample, e-mail the address in the box below. 

Should you choose to participate, your anonymity is guaranteed. Use the contact information listed below if you are interested in joining the program, or if you have questions regarding it. We will fax or e-mail to you the forms you need to enroll and get started. This service is free of charge. 

Contact information
Injection Molding Magazine
Denver, CO
Tony Deligio
(303) 321-2322
[email protected]

Stainless steel manifolds offer large inlet sizes

The swaged end design of Smartflow stainless steel manifolds offers large inlets for improved flow. The manifolds facilitate routing and metering of multiple flow streams and are suitable for use in injection molding machine cooling water loops, lubricant oil systems, blending systems, coolant systems, and packaging machinery.

The manifold is made of corrosion-resistant stainless steel. Standard inlet sizes are 1 inch and 1.5 inches NPT. Custom inlet and port sizes and fabrication are available. Manifolds are rated for 250F (121C) maximum, 125 psig maximum for use with air or inert gas, and 250 psig maximum for use with liquids such as hydraulic oil, water, or benign fluids. Mounting options include inline, bulkhead, pipe stanchion, or rack mount.

Standard or customized port patterns and sizes of .25 to 1 inch allow mix and match configuration with electronic and mechanical flow meters, quarter-turn ball valves, dial thermometers, pressure gauges, quick-connect hose couplings, hose barbs, or process pipe fittings.

Burger & Brown Engineering Inc.
Olathe, KS
(800) 764-3518

Press hydraulic units control noncutting forming machines

Hydraulic Press Systems are complete press manifold system blocks designed in a modular format. Four basic sizes are available, determined by the size of the main directional or proportional valve size.

The press systems are equipped with safety valves, in addition to monitoring, pressure control, and directional valves, depending on the desired press functions. The valves used are standard solenoid-operated directional on/off valves or proportional valves. Cartridge valves to DIN 24342 are used for counterbalance pump loading and unloading and safety monitoring functions.

The press system?s blocks are used to control noncutting forming machines used with plastic/SMC. Basic functions performed by the manifolds include closing the press either using free fall (with prefill) or by means of pump flow, adjustable counterbalance on the press cylinder annulus for press or rapid-speed cylinder versions, and directional control with either directional on/off or proportional valves. Cylinder speed is controlled by a proportional valve, a pump delivery valve, or a manual throttle valve (free fall only). Pump pressure limitation, with proportional manually adjustable relief valves, is available with and without electric unloading.

Bosch Rexroth Corp.
Charlotte, NC
(704) 583-4338

Mold dating inserts are made for ease of use

Indexable mold dating inserts reportedly eliminate the difficulty of dating plastic parts for batch identification and quality control. With this insert, molders are able to make changes to day, month, year, or work shift without completely removing the insert from the mold. This capability reportedly maximizes machine uptime and production.

The metric insert assemblies consist of an outer ring that is press-fitted into the mold, and a front-removable inner insert with a slotted indicator arrow. The inner insert, which mounts inside the outer ring, requires only a screwdriver to modify date information or change inserts. It?s engineered to allow three counterclockwise adjustment revolutions while remaining flush with the outer ring. A positive-stop snap-in-place design ensures that the inner insert remains fixed in the correct indexed position.

The inserts are available in diameters of 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, and 20 mm. They?re machined from 55 Rockwell C hardness stainless steel for maximum corrosion and wear resistance, and can reportedly withstand temperatures up to 300F. The outer ring numeral depth is .2 mm and the inner insert arrow, which also serves as the screwdriver slot, is .4 mm.

D-M-E Co.
Madison Heights, MI
(248) 398-6000

Size reduction system produces consistent particles with minimal heat and dust

The Nibbler size reduction system uses a cutting or grating action to reportedly produce consistently sized particles with virtually no heat or dust. It was developed to meet the demands of processors that require a method of size reduction that doesn?t generate fines or cause a rise in the temperature of the product. The Nibbler uses a low-speed?less than 100 ft/min?adjustable rotor assembly that pulls the material along a perforated steel plate.

The system is available in a range of sizes from an 8-by-8-inch model to large units capable of handling many tons per hour. The perforated grate comes in .04- to 1-inch sizes and can be removed and reinstalled without disturbing the flange connections or the rotor. The system is available in mild or stainless steel with various finishes.

Gericke, Buffalo, NY
(716) 895-2100

Molders Economic Index: Just how strong a recovery? We must wait

All signs do point towards a recovery for the battered manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy. But it will be several months before we can project just how strong the recovery will be for injection molders. 

Economic news released in late January and early February indicate the manufacturing sector may have started to climb out of an 18-month recession. Comments from molders to us are that orders are increasing and that the general climate has improved. The e-mails from molders do not add up to statistically valid data, but they are in line with other economic data: 

• An important gauge of manufacturing activity moved higher in January. The Tempe, AZ-based Institute for Supply Management (formerly the National Assn. of Purchasing Management) reported that its index of business activity rose to 49.9 in January from a revised 48.1 percent in December. An index above 50 signifies growth in manufacturing, while a figure below 50 shows contraction. 

• All orders to U.S. factories rose by 1.2 percent in December, with gains posted for semiconductors, household appliances, and machinery. The advance in factory orders reported by the Commerce Dept. came after orders fell by 4.3 percent in November. Of particular interest to molders are data that show that orders for household appliances rose by 2.8 percent in December, and orders for electrical lighting equipment rose by 2.5 percent after falling by 7.4 percent in November. Orders for machinery increased .8 percent on top of a 2 percent rise in November. 

• A more narrow measure, orders to factories for durable goods, rose a bigger-than-expected 2 percent in December, while a key gauge of consumer confidence improved in January for a second straight month. The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 97.3 in January. The surprisingly strong gain followed an increase in December to 94.6. The Commerce Dept. said the December rebound in orders for durable goods followed a 6 percent decline in November. However, for all of 2001 durable-goods orders fell by a record 13.2 percent, the worst showing since the government began tracking data using the current classification system in 1992. In 2000, orders rose by 6.7 percent. 

• The U.S. economy, thanks to a surge in consumer spending on cars and the biggest increase in government spending in 15 years, grew at a .2 percent annual rate in the final three months of the year, the Commerce Dept. reported. Technically this would mean that the recession is over. While this figure may be revised downwards in the next few weeks, it could indicate that the U.S. economy had only one negative-growth quarter when it contracted 1.3 percent in the July-September period. For all of 2001, the economy grew by just 1.1 percent, a sharp deceleration from the 4.1 percent increase in 2000. 

This all adds up to a more positive outlook for molders. Overall shipments of plastics and rubber products—a rather imprecise measure used by the Dept. of Commerce and which includes extruded and blowmolded products, among others—declined in 2001 by 2.3 percent from 2000 levels. Other preliminary data show that injection machine sales for all of 2001 will show a decline of about 46 percent compared to 2000 (includes domestic and imported machines). 

But the outlook is positive now. In early February the White House predicted that the U.S. economy, fueled by consumer and business spending, would recover vigorously in 2002. Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, says he expects the U.S. economy to bounce back despite a downturn in Japan and "very modest" growth in the 12 Euro nations. 

How to Stimulate Growth 
It is increasingly clear that manufacturers have little help coming from Washington to stimulate growth. The many reductions in the prime rate have come to an end and the anticipated stimulus package is stalled in Congress. 

To see just how badly manufacturing was hit, look at any report on investment. Business investment in new plants and equipment fell for a fourth consecutive quarter in late 2001, dropping at a rate of 12.8 percent, the biggest decline since the 14.6 percent drop in the second quarter. 

But reports in January and early February show that molders in almost all sectors have started to look for new machines and auxiliary equipment. Quoting activity for equipment is up sharply from late 2001. 

Similarly, importers of molds from China, Taiwan, South Korea, Portugal, and Germany say that new orders in early 2002 are, on average, 6 percent higher than the levels seen in late 2001. 

Where are most of the new tools going? Electronics and automotive are in the lead with actual orders and quoting activity. Medical equipment, electrical parts, and small appliances follow. It is worth noting that most of the new tools ordered are destined for use in Mexico in U.S.-owned molding plants. 

Consumer spending is key and is likely to translate into solid orders growth for North American molders. Inventories in all major consumer sectors are at their lowest levels ever. This will force retailers to place new orders. 

Slow Automotive? 
We anticipate that automotive molders in Mexico, the U.S., and Canada will see little or no growth in the first four months of 2002. This comes after a very strong finish for 2001, boosted by record car sales. 

But in January 2002 auto sales dropped 5.2 percent from a year earlier. The Big Three U.S. automakers saw sales fall about 10 percent, but Japanese rivals continued to do well. For instance, Toyota Motor Corp., which sources a growing percentage of molded components in North America, reported that January sales were up 7.1 percent over January 2001. Nissan Motor Co. saw an 8 percent increase. 

Improved Growth in Electronics 
Worldwide workstation shipments totaled 1.4 million in 2001, an 11.2 percent decline from 2000, according to preliminary results from Dataquest Inc., a unit of Gartner Inc. This is the first decline ever and has hit North American molders very hard, many of whom saw actual computer part shipments decline by 15 percent or more. 

However, most analysts expect that sales of all types of computers, as well as all other types of electronics, will show solid growth again this year. E-mail from electronics molders who have seen an increase in orders since the beginning of the year support this. We anticipate that growth will be as projected in the index. 

For a PDF version of the Economic Index table click here

Agostino von Hassell of The Repton Group, New York, NY, prepares this index. Contact him at [email protected]. 

Small-quantity dosing units for injection machines, extruders

Minimix MM 16 and Minimix MM 24 volumetric small-quantity dosing units canbe used with both injection molding machines and extruders. Up to four granular or powdery auxiliary components, such as masterbatch and additive, can be added to the free-running main-pellet component and homogeneously mixed in a static mixer.

With a processing machine throughput of 500 kg/hr maximum, each auxiliary component can be added at a dosing rate of .005 to 25 kg/hr. The dosing cylinder that serves as a dosing element is driven by a brushless stepping motor and reportedly ensures pulsation-free, precise dosing. This level of precision is said to provide processors cost savings of 10 to 25 percent on additives.

The difference between the mechanically identical devices is in the microprocessor control units. Additionally, the control system of the Minimix MM 24 automatically adjusts the dosing rate to the cycle time of theinjection molding machine. It is equipped with an RS 232 interface for connection to a PC, and can be optionally fitted with an RS 485 interface for LAN operation.

Both control systems feature password-protected input of operating and configuration parameters, realization of the operating modes timer, and relay and tachometer. Both also come with an integrated calibration program, integrated control of a compressed-air-driven calibration program, and integrated control of a compressed-air-driven feed station.

Universal Dynamics Inc.
Woodbridge, VA
(703) 491-2191