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Leak and flow testing in single package




Molders seeking ways to cut testing costs can now use the InterTech M-1075 mass flow leak detector from InterTech Development Co. (Skokie, IL) with built-in machine control functions that eliminate costly PLC controls for combination leak tests and flow test solutions. Jacques Hoffmann, president and founder of the company, comments, "Simply selecting the lowest-cost test instrument from the shelf does not mean you are going to get the lowest-cost testing solution. He adds, “In this and similar applications, InterTech's Applications Lab has demonstrated the ability to cut testing costs up to 25% [through developing customized solutions]." [email protected]

Advanced heat control

Watlow’s (St. Louis, MI) new EZ-Zone PM Express panel-mount PID control provides advanced control functionality with a basic user interface. It features a friendly user interface supported by two menus and a streamlined list of parameters—appropriate for basic applications and user levels—plus the Express menu eliminates complexity and reduces training costs and user errors. The control comes with PID auto-tune for fast, efficient startup, and includes one universal input and the option for up to two outputs. Available in 1/32- or 1/16-DIN panel-mount packages, the EZ-Zone Express can be ordered as a PID process control or a dedicated over- and under-temperature limit control. [email protected]

Inline moisture analysis

Mettler-Toledo International Inc. (Columbus, OH) has introduced a plastics-specific version of the HR83 Halogen Moisture Analyzer. This enhanced unit comes preloaded with plastics applications and is ready for use right out of the box. The HR83 quickly determines the moisture content of plastics directly during manufacturing and drying processes, helping to optimize production processes and ensuring product quality. The HR83 provides fast and uncomplicated moisture analysis in just three steps, and is easy to operate, even while wearing gloves. Measurement does not require the use of chemicals and can be carried out by untrained workers, giving a reproducible and straightforward pass/fail analysis. The compact analyzer fits comfortably within the production line and its durability reportedly allows it to withstand the most demanding of environments. [email protected]

Upgraded imaging software

Expanding the toolset of its hardware-independent VisionPro software, Cognex Corp. (Natick, MA) has released v. 5.2, which includes an easier-to-use version of PatMax technology, enhanced color tools, and an enhanced architecture to harness the power of multicore PCs.

The release includes new SearchMax and Color Extractor color tools. SearchMax uses color features to search for objects, and is said to be extremely powerful in applications where geometric data is insufficient to align the part. ColorExtractor locates colored regions in complex scenes with minimal training and is optimized for high speed applications such as those required in the packaging industries. VisionPro 5.2 also simplifies the acquisition from any imaging source: Now any combination of frame grabbers or direct-connect cameras can be used in a single application. [email protected]

Medi-Globe Corp.: I’ll take my firm’s insourcing over your outsourcing

Kurt Eva, corporate VP manufacturing at Medi-Globe Corp., says his firm’s multiple competencies are critical to maintaining the highest product quality and process control.

When MPW met Kurt Eva, corporate VP for manufacturing at Medi-Globe Corp., at the Medtec Europe tradeshow in Stuttgart in March, he quickly launched into the benefits on his “insourcing” strategy. We caught up with him after the event to hear more.  

MPW: At the Medtec show you were clearly enthusiastic about Medi-Globe’s insourcing strategy. What does insourcing mean for your company?



Privately held and based in Tempe, AZ, Medi-Globe Corp. controls 12 subsidiary companies and saw its 2008 revenues eclipse $100 million as the firm's focus on minimally invasive surgery, hospital supplies, and wound care proved succesful. The company employs more than 500 and is active throughout the world with manufacturing and sales offices in Europe, the U.S., Brazil, and China.


Eva: We develop, qualify, and manufacture products for various medical applications, mainly disposable products. Our focal areas are gastroenterology, urology, surgical dressing, and cardiology. That starts with our company’s own development department in Germany, which has access to internal rapid prototyping processes, and continues in production facilities in Germany and the Czech Republic. During the production process, in-house toolmaking—including engineering—with injection molding for thermoplastics and elastomers in cleanrooms, is available for customer-specific products. Furthermore, our own specific extrusion lines manufacture multi-lumen, co-extruded thermoplastic medical tubes.

The further processing of the tubes into catheters or implants underlies GMP terms (die cutting, forming of catheter tips, thermoprinting, thermal forming, thermal bonding, US welding, UV bonding). Due to our background in precision engineering, we have production processes like laser welding, hard- and soft soldering, and crimping processes at our disposal. In order to conform to different hygienic guidelines, we run several cleanrooms of different sizes and ISO categories at multiple locations. The products are packaged in hard- and soft blister forms as well as disposable bags. We can sterilize the products in our own ETO-sterilizing plant (ethylene oxide). We are producing surgical dressing products for chronic traumata on the basis of a glycerin/water polymer. Distribution of the Medi-Globe products takes place via our own group distribution network. OEM products and components can be ordered from our headquarters in Munich.


MPW
: That’s clearly a wide range of services. Outsourcing is the trend; you are doing the exact opposite. Why swim against the tide?

Eva: First and foremost we guarantee highest product quality and we want to minimize any sort of risk. We can best control and judge our very own production process and we need special know-how in our area of application, the production of medical technology. The high vertical range of services that we offer demands a thoroughly organized production process tailored to each individual product. Considering all that, it is initially only difficult to get to critical mass. Then it becomes much easer to swim even against the tide.


MPW
: Why is it so important for you to do everything in-house?

Eva: We demand high value creation, comprehensive know-how. Incidentally we have high requirement figures for certain areas, such as tubes, that need to be covered reliably and with highquality. Also, the technical development for smaller batch sizes is gaining momentum—and we want to take advantage of that. You know, the entire world needs to learn how to think in smaller units—not just in large quantities. However, due to high third-party demand for components and plastic products as well as production processes as a service, we decided to invest in new technologies and enhance our core competencies. First and foremost that means flexibility for our customers.


MPW
: Your insourcing philosophy is only possible because Medi-Globe consists of a group of companies and therefore has the necessary means and expertise, correct?

Eva: The know-how of our long-standing employees who have a background in fields like aerospace engineering, the automotive industry, and other technical and natural science areas is certainly an advantage. Having a solid network and financial resources also helps. On the other hand, the willingness to engage in new products and manufacturing methods is a necessary requirement for fast changing markets—both from a commercial and a technical point of view. We are happy to provide this advantage to our medical technology customers who can definitely take advantage of that as well.


MPW
: What are the pros and cons of your strategy?

Eva: Above all, our advantages lie in the individual customized manufacture of products, as well as swiftness, flexibility, independence, and our value-creation potential. Skilled employees have to be fast and flexible, which requires the development of experienced personnel structures with the willingness to communicate, and it requires experience with project management. News grows old quickly and you have to invest constantly. We don’t necessarily see any disadvantages at this point—unless you get bogged down or focus on the wrong production methods or competencies.


MPW
: Do you have any advice for other firms that are considering in- or outsourcing?

Eva: Well, first you really need to know your core competencies. That is one of the main arguments whether you would want to and should do everything in-house or not. Another important aspect is the know-how of the employees, who—in case of insourcing production processes—have to be qualified accordingly. Also, the so-called “critical mass” and the resulting costs need to be looked at closely and calculated in. If certain processes are going to be outsourced, thorough planning, detailed specification, design transfer to external production including the required documentation are of course necessary, so that internal processes will conform to the ones being outsourced without creating any discrepancies. And you can’t forget the costs; those need to be well thought out for the long run.

In addition to that, every company needs to understand that when outsourcing important processes, the know-how will suffer in the long run. This is a rather strategic element that needs to be evaluated by the management. What I find really important is that companies need to have more confidence in their employees. Everything is just looked at from a financial standpoint. Skilled workers like technicians are the ones who best know the processes, but most of the time they are not being asked for input.


MPW
: Your CardioPlast business unit manufactures molds and tooling for your plastics processing operations. Does CardioPlast also manufacture molds for other firms, acting as a separate profit center, or are all of its molds used in-house by Medi-Globe?

Eva: We market all industrial activities and components under the brand Medi-Globe to third parties. We also produce injection molds for external companies in the med-tech industry. Most of the molds at Medi-Globe CardioPlast we produce for our own group of companies. [email protected]

NPE2009: Right show, right place, right time

The abundance of events in Chicago this June will prep you for the recovery—if you’re there.

By now virtually all the pundits and economists have admitted that the global downturn, recession, or whatever you want to call it, caught them by surprise. That appears not to have been the case with the visionaries at the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), who for more than three years have been planning NPE2009. When the show kicks off on June 22 at Chicago’s McCormick Place—with the traditional marching bagpipers—this edition of NPE will be able to legitimately claim that it is offering plastics professionals much more than any previous version of the show.

Though some veteran NPE-goers may be skeptical, it’s true. Just when we really can use a strong kick-start on our way to recovery, NPE2009 is there to give it to us. The big question is, will we see you there? Did you say why?

NPE2009

McCormick Place, Chicago, IL

June 22–25, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

June 26, 9 a.m.–3 p.m.

Registration opens at 8 a.m. each day

Discounted preregistration at www.npe.org

For starters, it’s a lot more than one show this time, even if the main event is a mega-show like NPE—near to 2000 suppliers standing in about a million square feet of display space. That should be enough, but wait: There are eight separate plastics events sharing McCormick Place that week, nine counting NPE. Any one of them would be time well invested, but when you find them all in one place at one time (and for one admission price), that’s a plastics bonanza. What are they?

About 800 tech presentations

The Society of Plastics Engineers’ (SPE) Annual Technical Conference (Antec) will host roughly 800 technical presentations and peer-reviewed papers covering every plastics technology there is, with a lot of attention to injection molding.

And how’s this for the right thing at the right time: SPI’s Business of Plastics Conference is offering more than 100 meetings during the week on strategic and management aspects of the polymer sector, such as marketing, energy efficiency, global markets, sustainability, best practices, and much more.

Next month’s IMM will bring you highlights of the new technologies, products, and services that will be on display at the show, and there are plenty of them. Our industry website, www.plasticstoday.com, is also loaded with useful show info.

Another excellent place to start is the NPE2009 website. It’s easy to use and packed with the details you need to optimize your show visit. Besides telling you virtually everything show-related, you can use (at no charge) MyShow Planner (look under the “Attend” menu), a software tool that helps you find what you want to see at NPE2009, and more important, helps you organize it.

If those are not enough reasons to go, remember this: Pulling our industry out of this economic ditch is a DIY job for every one of us. But for support, tools, and ideas, NPE2009 is the best place you will find for a long time to come.

And one last word if you still need a reason to go: Chicago. You’ll work hard at NPE2009, but you’ll be doing it in one of America’s best cities for good times. See you there!  [email protected]

Easing your journey

In mid-March, the SPI, recognizing the current economic slump, launched an NPE Stimulus Package for both exhibitors and attendees. Full details are available at www.npe.org, but on the attendee side, admission prices were rolled back to 2006 levels and discounts sweetened for companies sending multiple persons. It also took half off the original prices for the Business of Plastics program, bringing it to $75 for one day or $225 for the full program, again with volume discounts available. It was a bargain at the original price. Besides NPE, Antec, and Business of Plastics, events include:

• MoldMaking Expo 2009
• International Plastics Design Competition
• NPCA/FSCT Coatings for Plastics Conference
• PET Strategies Conference
• Seminario Latinoamericano en Español
• Time Compression Expo

Economists turn to animal spirits

Molders and moldmakers, switch on the afterburners!

In my mind, the title for this Setup originally was, “What good are economists, anyway?” But those words appeared on the cover of the April 27 issue of BusinessWeek magazine. It turned out to be a good thing, as it helped me realize that’s not what I really wanted to say, even though almost all economists did not see our current mess coming, yet managed to pooh-pooh the few that did as doomsayers.

Currently, the economists are abuzz about a new book, Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism. The authors are two respected senior economics professors, one having won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2001. I confess I haven’t read the book, but based on the publisher’s blurb, reviews, and blog comments, I gather they are saying that nonrational forces are endangering the world economy today by creating things such as fear, corruption, bad faith, and blind faith.



They are acknowledging what most economists ignore, yet what is to a layman the most obvious, and unpredictable, factor in the game: human nature. The term “animal spirits” comes from an economist who did not ignore them, John Maynard Keynes, who said people often act from noneconomic irrational motives, which have economic effects, often destabilizing.
Is this a problem without a solution? The authors say the problem is the solution: Acknowledge the importance of the animal spirits that cause (for example) loss of confidence, and factor them in.

This seems sensible advice in general, including for those of us in the plastics industry and the overall manufacturing sector. I will read the book because reviewers say the authors propose that the animal spirits can be used to good effect; they can make things better. I hope it’s true, but in the meantime, stick to the basics.

The molders and moldmakers we see who are doing well—and there are more than a few—generally have a solid plan and business model, plus a clear-eyed view of their markets, upside and downside. They can be opportunistic when the opportunity fits their model, and when it doesn’t, they can pass.

Speaking of opportunities, NPE2009 takes place in Chicago, June 22-26. The big show will be a rallying point for us all, a place to connect with the support we need to go forward. Life may seem mostly a do-it-yourself proposition, but you don’t have to do it alone. There really is strength in numbers, and allies.

As for that opportunity, here it is: free admission to NPE2009. Among the incentives in SPI’s NPE2009 Stimulus Package is a rollback in the visitor admission price to $60 for advance registration and $90 onsite, the prices of the last NPE. There also are discounts for groups of six or more and 20 or more. However, free is better, right? The SPI has distributed double the normal amount of VIP passes that grant free admission to show exhibitors. Some 340,000 of them are in circulation. So contact your suppliers that are exhibiting at NPE2009. Free is a very good price.


Rob Neilley
Editor in Chief
[email protected]

Ferromatik in fast lane with Vitesse

Malterdingen, Germany—Many have tried, few have had much success, but Ferromatik Milacron officials speaking on May 12 during the firm’s open house predict their new machine range, dubbed Vitesse (French for “speed”), could help the company put even more pressure on the most established manufacturers of high-speed molding machines for thin-walled packaging, namely Husky and Netstal. About 20 of the Vitesse hydraulic machines have been in testing at selected customers since 2007, said Guy Moillet, the company’s managing director, with feedback from these already coordinated into the range so that it is now ready for broader marketing.


With sub-2.0 second cycle times on some applications, Ferromatik Milacron hopes to make waves in the thin-walled packaging market with its new Vitesse machine range.



“We did not have to change much from these prototypes” to realize the commercial models, Moillet said. The new range is in essence an improved and more versatile version of the Cap-Tec machines for closure molding which the firm introduced two years ago (read story here) during its open house. The Vitesse range will envelop the Cap-Tec closure molding machines, but with the new machines offering molders more space between platens for larger molds and thus greater flexibility with regard to applications. The packaging industry, which usually accounted for about one-third of the company’s sales, has risen in importance and now accounts for about half of sales, said Moillet, as demand from processors in consumer goods, E/E, and other markets slows.

Thorsten Thürman, manager process engineering and systems, said the Vitesse range includes a number of molder-friendly aspects.  For instance, the base of the machines is built on a sandwich design so that water lines for mold cooling can be fed through the base and up to the mold, freeing space around the topside of the machine. The screw length has been extended to 25 L/D to enable the machine to plasticize more material and thus feed larger molds. To now, the largest model offered in the range is a 400-tonne machine, but a 500-tonne press will be offered by year’s end, said Marc Tesche, applications engineering director.

Among interesting applications running during the open house on the new machines was an inmold-labeled lid being processed on the Vitesse 400 (400-tonne) machine, with the labels converted by Italian label supplier Viappiani featuring pictures of strawberries that also smell like the fruit. Japan’s Star Seiki, via its European subsidiary, supplied the automation for the IML unit. Lids weighed 24.8 g and were molded in 4.4 seconds/cycle.

Most vividly demonstrating the speed possible with the Vitesse range was a 200-tonne machine molding polypropylene egg cartons, each holding six eggs and weighing 21.8 g. Wall thickness of these was just 0.4 mm, and cycle times hovered between 1.8-1.9 seconds. As on other applications running, the material, in this case grade FPH50 Flowpact, was supplied by Sabic. A hot runner system from D-M-E, mold from AVM, and material feeding system from Colortronic completed the package.  [email protected]

Laser sintering of PEEK sold to commercial user

Not long ago MPW reported on the introduction by polyetheretherketone (PEEK) supplier Victrex and rapid prototyping/manufacturing system supplier EOS (Krailling, Germany) of a new material, PEEK HP3, the first grade of high-end plastics suitable for processing on EOS’s laser sintering systems. Now, reports EOS, it has found a buyer for the first of its systems able to process the high-temp material.



Rapid prototype bureau FKM will use its new EOS system for small-series rapid manufacturing of PEEK parts.


The company, FKM (Biedenkopf, Germany), a service bureau for rapid product development, is the first to purchase an EOSINT P 800 machine, specifically developed by EOS to process high-end thermoplastic-based materials. Laser sintering and other additive manufacturing systems were until recently limited to processing either metal, sand, or ceramic powders, or materials based on commodity thermoplastics. This limited rapid manufacturing’s ability to move into markets such as aerospace that are clamoring for low-cost ways to make a small series of parts in high-end plastics.

FKM says it acquired the system precisely to manufacture parts for customers in the aerospace and medical industries. The new unit brings the number of laser-sintering systems it has for processing plastic, metal and sand to 14. 

EOS claims its EOSINT P 800 is the first machine capable of processing high-temperature materials such as PEEK via laser sintering.  Parts made of the PEEK HP3 material reach tensile strengths of up to 95 MPa and a tensile modulus of 4400 MPa. [email protected]
 

KraussMaffei opens doors, more than 1000 processors rush in

More than 1000 processors, 400 from outside Germany, accepted the invite from Munich, Germany last week and made their way to the parallel customer events organized by plastics processing machinery manufacturer KraussMaffei’s three technology divisions: injection molding, extrusion, and reaction processing. All-electric injection molding machines, direct extrusion lines, and processing of polyurethane (PUR) composites were in the spotlight at the event, which was held at the company’s headquarters.



KraussMaffei’s open house was a showcase for a number of different technologies, including this line for inline compounding and extrusion of highly filled three-layer PP pipe.


 “I’m delighted that today, we once again had the opportunity to demonstrate our combined know-how in these three decisive technologies,” said Dietmar Straub, CEO of KraussMaffei AG, who emphasized that the company’s ability to supply all three processing technologies continues to be a strongpoint as processors take on more work and, often, new plastics processes. “Over 50% of our guests today registered for not one but two, or even three, of the Spotlights,” said Straub.

During the event, the manufacturer’s injection molding machinery division demonstrated its whole spectrum of energy-saving, all-electric machines in its AX and EX series, while the extrusion technology division showcased a direct extrusion (integrating compounding and extrusion into a single system) line for producing three-layer PP pipe with a highly-filled core layer.  On the PUR front, the company showcased its Long Fiber Injection (LFI) molding process. [email protected]