is part of the Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Articles from 2012 In May

Siemens' new CTRL-Energy for machine tools

To help reduce energy costs in machine shops and mold companies, Siemens performed an energy analysis of individual machine tool components with the goal of achieving significant cuts in energy consumption through its Sinumerik Ctrl-Energy. With Sinumerik Ctrl-Energy, Siemens can provide a range of solutions for the energy-efficient operation of machine tools, encompassing its Sinamics drive systems and motors, CNC and drive functions, PC software solutions and services. Sinumerik Ctrl-Energy offers energy-efficient solutions covering every aspect of the machine’s lifecycle, starting from machine design and engineering through machine operation and partial or complete retrofit.

Using a simple ‘Ctrl’ and ‘E’ key combination on the operator panel, Sinumerik CNCs can provide a fast evaluation of the machine tool’s energy consumption and also manage energy consumption during machine downtime, according to Siemens. The ‘Ctrl-E Analysis’ function also enables the user to analyze the amount of energy that goes into machining every individual workpiece as the basis for machining strategy improvements.  The Ctrl-E Profiles’ function provides a configuration platform for the management of the machine’s energy saving modes, helping to selectively shut down specific power loads during downtimes.
Additionally, the Siemens Sinamics S120 drive system allows dynamic energy management in the DC link and makes use of a highly efficient power recovery system, which initially stores generated braking energy in a DC link and optionally feeds it back into the grid rather than allowing the brake resistance to turn it into heat. Siemens noted that its Sinamics drives and Siemens motors have been design with a clear focus on energy efficiency aspects, allowing machine tools with these integrated drive modules to reach a high efficiency rating of 97-99%.
Sizer is the Siemens software tool used to configure energy-efficient drives by calculating energy consumption and losses incurred with the anticipated load cycles (ramp-up, idle running, running  under load, braking, cycle times, etc.), as well as the influence of regenerative feedback, allowing the energy efficiency of alternative motor/converter combinations to be evaluated. Using this information, configuration of the feed and main spindle axes can be optimized in line with the process and the anticipated cyclical work flows. Sizer also helps users to avoid over-dimensioning, also in terms of infeed, and to minimize energy consumption.

In’Tech Industries adds its 13th SLA system

“Industrial growth and demand of quick cast investment patterns are on the rise,” commented Randy Stevens, Virtual Translution Manufacturing (VTM) division operations manager. “With our in-house SLA system maintenance and strong engineering expertise, our SLA systems’ downtime is kept to an absolute minimum. These capabilities support our ability to keep our systems tightly maintained and tuned so they consistently provide high-tolerance parts for the investment casting and industrial markets.”

Dylan Tierney, RP/RM Sales person for In’Tech, told PlasticsToday at the company’s RAPID 2012 booth, that “Demand for this technology is getting bigger as more people are getting educated about what it can do. We used to spend a lot of time just educating people, but not so much anymore.”

In’Tech Industries was founded in 1967 as an engineering, tooling and injection molding company in Ramsay, MN. The company honed its expertise and became a major precision mold supplier and molder of components for the hearing aid and medical industries.

In 2000, In’Tech acquired in-house SLA capabilities to support its own product development as well as to offer services to additional medical and dental markets. Today, the company provides a wide range of parts from sculptures for artists to connectors for a Fortune 500 connector manufacturer.
Additionally, the company has 40 injection molding presses and provides engineering services, precision tooling, insert molding, reel-to-reel and overmolding, and employs 110. 

Sacmi and Sipa collaborate on new PET preform and closure solution

Italian packaging companies Sipa and Sacmi have partnered to produce a new PET preform and closures solution for the operation of a cap on the neck of a PET bottle.

This collaboration combines Sipa's experience in the development of preforms, with that of Sacmi in the caps and closures marketplace. 

The proprietary solution is referred as the acronym S.U.P.E.R., and features a combination of preform neck finish and lightweight caps that "solve several key problems" associated with the operation of a cap on the neck of a PET bottle, with results "previously not thought possible."

S.U.P.E.R. stands for Sustainable, Unique, Productive, Easy, and Reliable.  

Here are some of the key features, according to the companies:

  • Sustainable. The closure will be lighter than the average of alternatives on the market today, reducing the processor's consumption of raw materials and energy.
  • Unique. This is a proprietary solution and is protected by patents.
  • Productive. The companies stated it reduces the time and cost of equipping production lines. When switching between containers for various types of products, including water, soft drinks, and aseptically filled drinks, very little modification is required to lines for either preforms or closures.
  • Easy. The positive LB angle, which means the leak angle is greater than the bridge-break angle, is a feature not available on the market today. This gives the perception of a closure that is very easy-to-open.
  • Reliable. The special tamper evidence system provides an immediate breakage of the security strip, rendering the bottle secure, with no risk of blow-off.

"What we have achieved has exceeded even our most optimistic expectations," the companies said in a joint statement. "We think it is the best way to differentiate our two companies from the pack, and to help us strive for excellence in a marketplace as competitive and complex as that of plastic bottles.

'Smart' hospitals fight medical errors

ActiveWave of Boca Raton, Florida, says RFID can be used to:

  • Track locations of patients, doctors and nurses in hospitals in real time;
  • Track the location (and ensure sterilization) of instruments and equipment;
  • Restrict access to drugs, pediatrics, and other high-threat areas to authorized staff;
  • Monitor and track unauthorized persons who are loitering around high-threat area;
  • Facilitate triage processes by restricting access to authorized staff and "approved" patients during medical emergencies, epidemics, terrorist threats, and other times when demands could threaten the hospital's ability to effectively deliver services; and
  • Use the patient's RFID tag to access patient information for review and update through a hand-held computer.

RFID is a way of remotely storing and retrieving data using tags or transponders consisting of an antenna connected to an electronic chip and insert molded into plastics such as polypropylene or polyester. Sterilization processes in hospitals can require higher-end materials, even metals at times. Special electronics may also be required.

In a "smart" hospital, tags would be placed on all medical devices, staff members, patients, pharmaceutical packages, and blood bags. Staff members are equipped with mobile devices with RFID readers.

WaveMark, a provider of RFID-based supply-chain optimization products for hospitals and medical device manufacturers, announced a collaboration with UMass Lowell this month to bring a new RFID product to market.

Under the umbrella of the UMass Lowell Capstone engineering program, a team of students in the Plastics Engineering program worked with WaveMark engineers to develop a specialized RFID tag for hospital use. It is said to improve hospital storage efficiency, enabling more products to fit into existing WaveMark RFID cabinets used in hospitals.

Shipment of the product will begin this summer.

Acetal grade offers durable solution for vehicle safety

Seat belt system manufacturer Key Safety Systems (KSS; Sterling Heights, MI) has adopted the latest impact-modified generation of Hostaform S polyoxymethylene (POM) for the safety system in the subcompact VW up! The material is supplied by Ticona (Sulzbach, Germany).


Low-emission, impact acetal compound makes the grade in seat belt retractor system ratchet wheel (above) for VW up! (below).

KSS made the ratchet wheel of their new seat belt retractor system using Hostaform S9364 XAP². The deciding factor in favor of this particularly low-emission grade is its well-balanced set of properties. Due to its high-level impact toughness and rigidity, the new material is able to absorb very high G forces while retaining its high strength and stability. The ejector in the belt buckle was also made from the same material.

Emissions of Hostaform XAP² are lower than the limits demanded by the automotive industry today. Furthermore, the enhanced low-emission material possesses the same tried and tested properties as a material for vehicle interiors such as chemical and scratch resistance and high-temperature dimensional stability. It also retains its good mechanical properties over a wide temperature range.

Hostaform S 9364 grades are a very special class of their own among the impact-modified POM grades according to their supplier. They set a new scale for impact toughness and weld line strength. This mix of properties allows molded part designs to be optimized further and material to be saved.

"The new generation of materials allows us to offer tailored material solutions that specifically meet the challenging requirements of the automotive industry. Its impact toughness, stability and joint line strength mix in a remarkable way that may help to enhance efficiency of molded part designs and, thus, to reduce the costs per part. When it comes to meeting stricter requirements in the future, its special combination of properties may translate into cornerstones of innovative solutions," says Michael Hörr, project manager of Ticona's Automotive Business Unit.-[email protected]

Fanuc FA America awarded new patent

Increasing machine tool productivity is critical for moldmakers in their bid to be globally competitive. To assist with that goal, FANUC Factory Automation America (FANUC FA America) and Jerry Scherer, engineer with FANUC FA America (, have recently been awarded a patent (US 8, 135,491 B2) for the development of their CNC Adaptive Control System for on-demand integrated adaptive control of machining operations. This system was developed to increase machine tool productivity with FANUC FA America’s iAdaptS adaptive control solution.   

The newly patented CNC Adaptive Control System measures the present value of the spindle load and then compares this value to a present value of a target spindle load. The adaptive controller is configured to control the feed rate of the machine tool relative to the work piece to maintain the present value of the spindle load approximately equal to the present value of the target spindle load using one or more calculations of the first feed rate value, the first feed rate dither adjustment value and the second feed rate dither adjustment value.
As the base technology in FANUC FA America’s iAdaptS solution, it improves material removal and minimizes cycle time by automatically optimizing the cutting federate based on the actual spindle load. Additionally, integration of the iAdaptS software solution within the CNC now eliminates the need for mounting hardware, simplifying installation while improving the capabilities of the original iAdapt product.
The original iAdapt product introduced the concept of roughing cycle productivity to CNC customers. The ”On Demand” control feature simplified the use of the adaptive control by making it easy to set up and operate. iAdaptS extends tool life by keeping roughing tools fully loaded, putting the heat into the chips rather than the part. As a result there are fewer minor stoppages which further increases productivity and reduces labor costs.
FANUC FA America headquarters is located in Hoffman Estates, IL, and supports 37 offices and service centers throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina.

As AM evolves, so does RedEye’s business model

Today, the company’s evolution reflects the changing demands of manufacturing, specifically that of moldmaking’s role in product development. According to Jeff Hanson, business development manager for RedEye, customers were moving away from just visual, conceptual prototype parts to functional models and end-use parts.

“Customers were ordering prototype parts out of ABS or some other thermoplastic we offer, and going to field trials or beta testing with them,” Hanson said. “The key for us was to find the emotion of the customer and push that button. For 60% of manufacturers, the designs submitted to moldmakers for tooling development had to be modified. That’s when I started migrating toward manufacturing and reaching out to product development engineers and purchasing people with the next phase of this evolving industry.”

While prototypes were good ‘feeders’ into RedEye’s business, they wanted the manufacturing, and the new buzz word in the industry to define this evolution was Additive Manufacturing (AM).

Tool alterations as a bottleneck

Finding out where RedEye could fit into the supply chain of product development meant finding the pain points of the OEM. “Tool modification is the bottleneck in product development,” explained Hanson. “The process usually involved designers going to the purchasing agent who would then get the mold quotes from the moldmaker. As the mold was designed and steel started to be cut, the engineers defined areas that needed design modifications. This process put product development at risk, often resulting in programs being over-budget and late.”

Additive manufacturing is a way of mitigating those risks, which means OEMs are more on target in their product launches. To promote this positioning, RedEye began adding specific terms to its web site such as “no capital investment up front.” That told customers ‘don’t invest in a mold yet—ride it out with additive manufacturing and mitigate the risk factor.’

“If you submit your design directly to tooling, it’s become static,” Hanson said. “But with additive manufacturing it’s dynamic. With the ability to modify designs on the fly, we can make changes to the part without penalties in cost or time.”  
Another constraint with tooling is the draft angles required. Engineers often submit the part design to tooling only to find it must be redesigned for manufacturability. “Additive manufacturing gives you freedom of design without constraints, and you can produce better product,” Hanson stated.

From selling prototypes to delivering production parts
With all the ‘buzz words’ added to RedEye’s marketing message, the orders started getting bigger, including one half-million dollar order for end-use parts from a customer. “Suddenly we were selling production parts, not prototypes,” said Hanson. “That development became the catalyst for the change in Stratasys’ and RedEye’s business model. We did a study of where our parts were going and the results of that changed the game for the company to move from ‘rapid prototyping’ to actual manufacturing.”

Because of Stratasys’ ability to produce AM parts from real thermoplastic materials vs. “plastic-like” materials in the company’s FDM process, RedEye has become a true product-development company. With the recent addition of Objet to Stratasys’ business, Hanson said that RedEye can provide complete solutions from prototypes using Objet’s process, which has a strong role in the conceptual modeling and prototype phases of product development.
“We’ve been using Objet’s process for the last seven years,” Hanson noted of the recent purchase of Objet by Stratasys. “Each technology is a bridge to the next technology we offer. For example, depending on geometry and application, Polyjet can be a bridge to FDM. The technologies are complementary. We use all the processes harmoniously along the product development path until customers get to the point of needing tooling and molded parts.”

Drinking the Kool-Aid

As RedEye On Demand has moved into manufacturing, Hanson is picking up on trends, specifically he’s seeing less resistance from moldmakers and injection molders to work with RedEye. “The moldmakers and injection molders are starting to drink our Kool-Aid, adding additive manufacturing to their product portfolio, and coming to us if they don’t have in-house AM capabilities.”
Working in tandem with mold manufacturers and injection molders, RedEye can quick-turn a project and get the customer parts in hand where they can identify design flaws and make dimensional or functional changes virtually overnight. Multiple iterations of design can be produced so that the tooling design can be solidified.

“If I was a moldmaker I’d bring this technology in house as a way to get additional margins,” Hanson said. “The AM process helps them find new customers and develop the molding process, and can be used as an early relationship builder, enabling them to win customers at the front end of a project and convert that to a high-volume mold down the road when the product has been determined viable.”
Today, the molders and moldmakers RedEye works with are adopting this business model. Because of RedEye’s capacity and capabilities in all phases of product development, they use RedEye as a bridge to take their customers from prototypes to full production tooling.

While prices have come down on most AM production equipment, it’s still a “cost issue” for many moldmaking companies, Hanson added. “As price goes down and awareness among OEMs increases, the early adopters will bring systems in house."

Portola Packaging reduces energy by almost 20%

Contributing to the energy conservation efforts at Portola Packaging were more than 20 different initiatives across all of its North America plants, which included wastewater management and improved air compressor optimization.

In addition, the company credits the energy reduction to the replacement of poor efficiency equipment.

Roy Robinson, VP strategic marketing for Portola, told PlasticsToday the company continues to invest in new compression molding equipment such as twist-on/twist-off tamper-evident (TE) closures.

"This newer style of TE closure is preferred by consumers because it adds functionality," he said. "The closure can easily be screwed back onto the bottle and spills can be averted. This is not the case with injection molded TE snap caps."

Robinson said Portola's conservation goals began with "responsible" manufacturing.

"Responsible manufacturing means that the upstream processes utilize material in the most efficient way possible so that there is less need to recycle on the back end," he said. "At Portola, we have closed loop-manufacturing systems. For example, our raw material is never touched by human hands from rail car to product manufacturing."

Portola plants recycled in excess of 3 million lb of material in 2011. Portola's material recycling efforts included production scrap/regrind (mostly high-density polyethylene and polypropylene), corrugated shippers, hydraulic oil waste, scrap metal, aluminum cans, paper, and more.

The company is also working with customers on an individual basis to convert shipments from corrugated boxes to Gaylords. This will enable 30-35% more closures to be shipped per truckload, which can reduce fuel and packaging materials costs, according to the company.

Participating in these initiatives are the company's four U.S. facilities, plus three Canadian plants and one in Mexico. In addition to Portola's North American operations, the company's five international manufacturing plants in China, the UK, New Zealand, and the Czech Republic are also working on a similar environmental stewardship path.

Robinson said each facility is given specific energy-reduction goals every year.

"One of Portola's initiatives is to create ways to better monitor its energy consumption," he said "That allows us to identify the areas of high consumption and explore ways reduce kilowatt-hours."

Sabic launches two new high-clarity polypropylenes

Sabic has extended its PP Qrystal line with the development of two new high-clarity polypropylenes. These random copolymers, suited for injection molding, were specially designed with unique flow behavior, providing processors with the flexibility to produce parts faster and with lower energy consumption, according to the company.

The new PP Qrystal grades include:
Sabic PP QR674K, with a melt flow rate (MFR) of 40 g/10min, was developed for sensitive food-contact applications, owing to its organoleptic performance. Typical target applications are caps and closures, houseware, kitchenware, and food/non-food containers.

Sabic PP QR678K, with its high MFR of 80 g/10 min, is suited for production of parts with complex shapes and/or long and narrow flow paths.

Sabic has a broad package of PP random copolymers for a wide range of applications. The Sabic PP Qrystal range, which was launched in 2010, now comprises four grades, with MFRs ranging from 25-80 g/10 min.

The company claims all of its PP Qrystal grades have a good balance of impact strength and stiffness and enable customers to produce parts without losing transparency or aesthetics.

"When we started developing the Sabic PP Qrystal range, we looked at how we could develop materials that not only yielded a better finished product, but which also enabled our direct customers, the injection molding companies, to produce them as cost-effectively as possible," said Ricardo Calumby, technical marketing engineer PP at Sabic.

The Sabic PP Qrystal grade family is produced both in Europe and the Middle East and can be delivered globally.

"We have substantial technical resources in-house, but it's only by developing long-term relationships with our customers and listening to what they really want, that we can use expertise from both sides to channel those resources in exactly the right direction," Calumby said. "I think the launch of these new grades demonstrates that this cooperative process is working very well. We have best-in-class aesthetics that are achievable within a broadened processing window."

New technologies revolutionize prosthetic devices

New technologies revolutionize prosthetic devices

Better materials, manufacturing approaches and electronics are rapidly improving the quality of prosthetic devices, making them more responsive, more comfortable and better looking.

It's a development that could improve the quality of life for large numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, as well as many thousands more around the world who have lost limbs as a result of land mines, natural disasters or illnesses, such as diabetes.

Elastomeric device mimics biological foot action. Photo: DuPont

One example is a prosthetic foot—called the Rhythm Foot—made with Hytrel thermoplastic polyester elastomer, a material that combines the flexibility of elastomer with the moldability of thermoplastics.

The foot anatomically mimics biological foot action and can be adjusted to fine tune its performance-a big difference from existing prosthetic feet. The foot is intended for use as a permanent option or as an interim prosthesis for the shower, swimming or for post-operative use.

"There are more than 20 million people without lower limbs who could benefit from this type of foot—the challenge was affordability," said its inventor, Rob Gabourie, a Canadian prosthetist and the owner of Niagara Prosthetics and Orthotics International Ltd. (NPOI), based in Ontario, Canada. 

Tested in El Salvador
Researchers at the Human Mobility Research Centre at Queen's University and Kingston General Hospital also were part of the team of people and organizations that collaborated on the development.  They conducted laboratory tests and, in partnership with the Universidad Don Bosco in El Salvador, coordinated a number of field trials to refine the foot and to confirm its effectiveness in use.

It won the gold award in the rehabilitation and assistive-technology products category at this year's Medical Design Excellence Awards (MDEA).

In another development,  additive manufacturing creates the potential to produce custom-made prosthetics in hours from plastics or metals. In the additive manufacturing process, three-dimensional forms are produced one tiny layer at a time through a process driven by computer-aided designs.

A company called Bespoke Innovations, which was founded in 2009 by an orthopedic surgeon, combines 3D scanning and 3D printing (additive manufacturing) to create specialized coverings that surround an existing prosthetic leg. The concept won a 2011 gold design award from the The Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA).

3D acquires Bespoke Innovations
3D Systems, the company that invented additive manufacturing in 1986, this month acquired Bespoke Innovations, putting technology and financial muscle behind the concept.

"This is an exciting and timely development that fuses together essential Bespoke and 3D Systems technologies to deliver an expanded range of life-enhancing, cost-effective treatments for the benefit of patients and providers alike, within existing insurance reimbursement codes," said Scott Summit, co-founder of Bespoke Innovations.

Abe Reichental, president and CEO, 3D Systems, said: "We plan to fast-track additional Bespoke products to market and to enhance their affordability and availability through our technology and manufacturing infrastructure."

Another enabling technology to make prosthetics more personalized is microprocessors, which have largely replaced analog circuits in prosthetic devices. Clinical trials are under way for motorized limbs that allow rapid movement. In the future, they could even be guided by neural action, the way natural limbs work.