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Inmold everything saves time, money vs. secondary ops

The inmold phenomenon began with simple processes such as placing metal inserts into the mold and shooting plastic around them to create metal-reinforced bosses. Today, it’s inmold everything—from painting and coating to labeling, decorating, and assembly—and you can see a lot of it in action at NPE.

StackTeck Netstal IML cell

This injection molding system using a StackTeck mold in a Netstal press with CBW automation is a dedicated resource for IML projects.

TRIM container

Using TRIM technology, this 32-oz tamper-evident container shown with blue lid and label and undecorated in natural PP (r) demonstrates what can be done with IML to reduce costs.

Kuka cell

Kuka's KR16 six-axis articulated robot maneuvers in an inmold application.

Waldorf Technik IML system

This IML container mold runs in a system developed by Waldorf Technik that performs automation in label placement and quality checks.

Automating with inmold technology offers some tremendous advantages, including higher productivity, reduced secondary operations, and fewer quality problems, which can translate to higher profit margins for the molder and moldmaker. Mold manufacturers play a critical role in this technology, often acting as the choreographer in the mold design and build, and the integrator of the mold, molding press, and automation that creates a competitive advantage.

IML has been slow to catch on in North America, helped partly by the predominant use of round containers. In Europe, containers are mostly rectangular. “The U.S. needs to go to a square container to accommodate inmold labels,” notes William Llewellyn, VP and senior consultant for AWA Alexander Watson Assoc. BV (Amsterdam, the Netherlands), a market research and consulting firm that focuses on packaging. “Increased competition in IML markets comes from heat transfer, pressure-sensitive, and shrink sleeve labels, and this will keep increasing.”

One European-based company that has addressed container shape with its automation equipment is Waldorf Technik GmbH & Co. KG, a supplier of automation equipment for IML applications that recently opened a U.S. subsidiary in St. Charles, IL to serve the IML market in North America. The company, headquartered in Engen, Germany, recently completed two IML automation systems that it will be shipping to North America. Taras Konowal, president, says that Waldorf Technik has extensive expertise in designing IML systems due to IML’s popularity in Europe.

“We’re unique in that we offer a fully flex system, which means on one system we can run a round container and a lid that can be easily switched over to a rectangular container, all by changing out what we call format parts,” says Konowal. “It’s something we’d been doing for years, but given the IML market in North America is limited with lower volumes, we’ve found there are advantages to this system.”

To help U.S. OEMs justify the use of IML, Waldorf Technik offers the ability to quickly switch out molds and the automation that accompanies an IML system to adjust for lower volumes. “As volumes grow, the system can accommodate it,” explains Konowal. “The flexibility allows you to grow as your business grows, and you can run different shapes or different labels as needed. Before, you had to run 40 million containers to justify the system, but now we can address the needs of the company that runs smaller volumes such as 1 million containers/labels or has numerous changeovers.”

Quick mold changeovers for IML mean that a molder can switch from a round container to a rectangular one with a multisided label in about 30 minutes maximum, says Konowal. “The bottleneck is generally the mold changeover, so now the automation can be changed out quickly with the mold.”

Threats to inmold

One of the primary threats to any type of multiprocess inmold operation such as assembly, decorating, coating, or painting, is the complex and extended value chain. “IML technology requires all the players, including the raw material supplier, the label maker, the printer, the moldmaker, and molder,” says AWA’s Llewllyn. “If all the players are not integrated, the failures in the market will prevail.”

Waldorf Technik’s Konowal agrees, saying that it’s best for the mold manufacturer to work closely with the press maker and the automation supplier from the outset to ensure the system is optimized. “Placement of the labels into the mold is a critical operation and there are specific things that have to be done with the mold to allow it to accept the label,” says Konowal. “Typically, we use a two-headed robot that places the label on one side and removes the part off the other side, depending on where it’s injected. The end-of-arm tooling always does both.”

Unlike in the early days of automation and robotics, when automation was considered after the mold was built, today’s mold manufacturers begin thinking about the use of robotics and automation from the outset of a program, which is key to the value proposition that inmold operations provide. Pat Duda, plastics application engineer for Kuka Robotics Corp. (Clinton Twp., MI), says that, with the evolution of injection molding, parts get more complex, processes become more sophisticated, and plastics processors are finding that more complex automation is required.

Consequently, moldmakers are often required to create increasingly complex molds and assemblies to accommodate inmold operations with robotics.  Duda notes that injection molding automation has moved forward from sprue pickers through pick-and-place robots, and on to servodriven four- and five-axis robots, and finally the new six-axis robot arms that Kuka offers. “The six-axis robot makes more difficult projects easier,” says Duda. “Others can do some complex projects, but it is very difficult because they are limited by what the robot can do. Our six-axis arm is the next step in automation because it can do complicated jobs easier than in the past. With this trend, more molders are supplying full services and complete assemblies.”

Moldmakers as IML developers

StackTeck Systems Ltd. (Brampton, ON), a manufacturer of specialty high-production molds, announced a new patent-pending technology for lightweighting injection molded parts called TRIM (thin recess injection molding). The announcement was made at last October’s IMDA/IML conference in Phoenix. Jordan Robertson, general sales manager, says TRIM uses an advanced approach to plastic part and mold design to enable thinning out the part wall section well beyond the conventional approach used for thin-wall packaging molded from polyolefins with high melt-flow indexes.

Conventional thin-wall part design assumes a maximum L/T ratio of 300:1 (i.e,. ratio of flow length to average wall thickness). Using TRIM, it has been demonstrated with a 32-oz rectangular container that large areas of the part can be thinned out, which corresponds to an L/T ratio of more than 500:1. Part weight savings of 20-40% can be achieved using this technology.

StackTeck’s president Randy Yakimishyn said in a prepared statement, “Our customers are telling us that lightweighting is more important than ever, and so we are continuing to advance the forefront of this technology. At this point, we believe that we can achieve part weights that will make injection molding much more competitive against thermoforming, while maintaining key functional features such as the tamper-evident rim on a container and high top load compression strength.”

StackTeck molded a prototype part of a 32-oz tamper-evident (TE) container with a flow length of 5.74 inches, and with the recess area covering half of the part’s side wall and bottom, a panel thickness of 0.011 inch was achieved. The injection speed and pressure used to fill the part were normal by thin-wall packaging standards, and it is expected that thin-wall molders using IML can adopt this technology using existing injection molding machines. A fill time of 0.2 second was achieved at a moderate fill pressure, using a 35-melt PP from Basell.

“Designing this part took a huge amount of flow modeling,” Robertson says. “With wall thickness that is one-half the standard thickness and covers one-half of the surface area of the part, we expected to have holes, but the model told us we wouldn’t—and we didn’t.”

TRIM technology is being showcased on StackTeck’s IML pilot cell at the company’s facility with a 330-ton press. The pilot cell is a joint effort of StackTeck, Netstal (Devens, MA), and CBW Automation (Fort Collins, CO) to provide a prototyping and pilot program vehicle to the industry for IML applications. NPE attendees can get more information from StackTeck in booth S54049.

Mold manufacturer Electroform Co. Inc. (Rockford, IL) is once again preparing a mold to exhibit at the Arburg booth (S46048) for NPE2009. Electroform’s rotating stack mold that produced an assembled toy racecar at NPE2006 drew a lot of attention with its inmold assembly and labeling. Wade Clark, president of Electroform, also notes that the most critical thing for a moldmaker is getting all the parties together so that the integration of mold, molding press, and robotics/automation comes together smoothly.

“The whole integration thing brings about some extreme complexities—automation is so critical to the success of a multiprocess mold—and you can get yourself into a lot of trouble if you don’t deal with the right people that understand the process,” he says. “The project management portion of a program involving inmold production is also critical. Because there are so many operations involved, there are a lot of different players, so you need one point of contact—a good project manager at the moldmaker’s end—to pull it all together.” Clark says that with multiprocess molds, if there are any variables in the process, every step in the process becomes “screwed up.”

Tech Mold Inc. (Tempe, AZ) has a license for Spin Stack technology, and Craig Oestreich, project manager for the company, said the process starts with a checklist containing information provided by the customer, such as what type of manufacturing cell the customer has in mind, mechanical issues with regard to inmold assembly, and even an evaluation of the cost effectiveness. “Inmold assembly costs more if you’re looking at a Spin Stack mold,” says Oestreich. “After all the evaluation, sometimes inmold assembly isn’t the way to go, which makes it difficult to come up with the numbers to justify it.”

Inmold operations are a floor space issue for many companies. “If they can combine three or four assembly operations into a mold, rather than have two or three pieces of auxiliary equipment, it allows them to optimize manufacturing space,” says Oestreich. “Inmold assembly knocks out a big part of the downstream automation equipment normally needed.”

Oestreich has a patent on an inmold assembly method used for one customer’s mold that saved more than $1 million in manufacturing costs the first year and eliminated the need for a second mold and molding press. On an inmold folding operation, a customer saved $3 million in downstream equipment, he explains.

It’s important to have a team composed of the moldmaker, machinery manufacturer, product designer, robotics supplier, and the customer’s engineering staff, Oestreich says. “With this many people working on a project, open communication is critical to the success of the program. The decision tree gets bigger with inmold multiprocess operations. Every aspect has to be discussed and the customer has to really know his product to make a program like this successful.” [email protected]

Waldorf Technik has developed a roll-flex IML system with Schober GmbH that cuts labels during the manufacturing process rather than arriving precut—a method Waldorf says is helping molders gain entry into IML.

Market Snapshot: Medical disposables

All it takes is a look at U.S. demographics to understand why many molders and moldmakers are pinning their hopes for new business on the medical disposables market. Baby boomers, those of the post-WWII population surge that have produced “booming” demand for cars, houses, and many other things for the past 40 years, are entering the twilight of old age. Will that result in a booming demand for medical devices, products, and disposables?

Analysts say “yes!” The Freedonia Group (Cleveland, OH) offers up some market research supporting this forecast in a number of areas, reporting that U.S. demand for disposable medical supplies will increase 4.9% annually to more than $70 billion in 2011. The best growth opportunities are anticipated in devices such as dry powder inhalers, prefilled syringes, and blood glucose test strips for diabetes monitoring. While hospitals will remain the largest market for disposable medical supplies, the home healthcare market will grow faster as consumers broaden preventive medicine and self-treatment activities to save out-of-pocket health care costs.

Waldorf Technik cell

This system from Waldorf Technik automates a medical disposables line for pipette trays.

Waldorf Technik EOAT

End-of-arm tooling used in the molding cell.

Tech Mold test plate

Tech Mold's coining solution to its Black & Clear test plate allows the customer to run more tests simultaneously and get products to market faster.

Med Tech workstation pallet

MedTech's automated workstation pallet from Waldorf Technik is used for fast changeovers on a pipette system.

PEDI tray

PEDI's innovative answer to the 384-well tray for biological testing resulted in flatness of the molded well tray and clarity of the film as required by the customer.

These opportunities will come due to expanding numbers of home dialysis, IV, and respiratory therapy patients. Additionally, said Freedonia’s report, “improvements in design and efficacy are increasing the range of prefilled inhalers, prefilled syringes, and transdermal patches approved for direct patient use.” Gains will be led by these high-value-added drug delivery devices. Based on demand value, drug delivery, catheterization, and related products will remain the largest group of disposable medical supplies, with demand expected to increase 5.7% annually to nearly $35 billion in 2011.

The increasing incidence of chronic respiratory conditions, coupled with the need for safer and more effective therapies, will keep demand for inhalation drug delivery systems advancing favorably, to $21.9 billion in 2012 from $8.0 billion in 2002.

Demand for plastics for medical disposable applications is expected to approach 5 billion lb in 2012, due to a greater use of disposable medical products and sterile packaging materials, as well as the use of materials capable of withstanding intensive sterilization, says a Freedonia report on medical plastics. Demand for commodity plastics is expected to rise 2.3% yearly to 4.3 billion lb in 2012, valued at $4.6 billion. Leading commodity resins include PVC, PP, PE, and PS.

Engineering plastics accounted for 11% of the total volume of medical plastics in 2007, but a much higher 27% of total value, resulting primarily from the significantly higher price of engineering plastics compared to commodity resins. Demand for engineering plastics is expected to expand 5.2% annually to 630 million lb in 2012, reaching nearly $2 billion. Advances will be based on needs for higher-performing materials in surgical instruments, diagnostic testing, drug delivery, geriatric care, and preventive medicine.

However, said Freedonia’s report, the best opportunities are anticipated in surgical and medical instruments, while faster growth is expected in surgical appliances and supplies. Polycarbonate will remain the leading engineering resin with the best growth prospects, based on expanded needs for high clarity, impact resistance, and other enhanced performance properties.

High-tech automation for high-volume disposables

Following a trend toward increased automation in markets such as disposable medical products, where cycles are fast and volumes high, Waldorf Technik GmbH & Co. KG of Engen, Germany opened a facility in Chicago to serve its North American customers with engineering and aftersales service. Waldorf Technik Inc. provides complex automation systems, primarily for the medical disposables market.

The U.S. division’s president, Taras Konowal, says an efficient process uses automation not just to take the part out of the mold, but also to do something with it. Cavity separation can be used to track each cavity, and vision systems look for flash. “In products such as pipettes we look at the bottom wall thickness and concentricity of the openings, and in products such as test tubes, we do high-voltage leak testing to spot cracks or voids,” explains Konowal. “We can put a probe into each test tube and it shoots a high-voltage signal into it. If there’s a crack in the bottom or a short shot, it reads high, indicating a crack or opening. The process is done inline right out of the molding machine.

“In many cases, companies were molding parts, putting them in bulk containers, and then sending them downstream for assembly or labeling and quality control, so they’d end up assembling three or four different components, testing it, and throwing out the whole component if it was bad,” he explains. “Now, it’s 100% quality checked at the press, and then sent to packaging, knowing the parts are 100% good.”

Waldorf Technik will be at NPE (booth W119054) and it also will be showing a pipette system with camera-proofing technology at Engel’s booth (S24000).

Disposable solutions in the medical pharma market

Providing cost-effective solutions is at the forefront of serving the medical and pharmaceutical disposables markets. Like most other markets, OEMs in medical and pharma disposables need to reduce costs to manufacture, and the moldmaker can provide some unique manufacturing solutions that include robotics and other automation.

Plastics Engineering & Development Inc. (PEDI; Carlsbad, CA) is a custom molder and contract manufacturer that specializes in medical and biomedical devices, and has recently developed a customized film insert molding process for producing a pharmaceutical diagnostic tray. Using a 120-ton Sumitomo press with a Yushin robot, PEDI molds a 384-well tray for biological testing. Human cells and pharmaceutical drugs are placed in the tray wells for research and development. To manufacture the tray, plastic is molded onto the film in a Class 100,000 cleanroom. The critical requirements for this application include flatness of the tray and film clarity.

Jack Sparacio, PEDI’s president, says the new tray was designed to take the place of glass testing equipment. “It’s disposable and has good optical quality,” he says. “The reason it was important to go to PEEK is that the customer wanted to get away from washing, sterilization, and reusing the glass because that’s expensive.”

Sparacio says that while the medical and biomedical market has been “somewhat insulated from the economic debacle” the country is experiencing, there are still concerns about where healthcare is headed. “There’s always a need for innovative products,” he says. “One big thing is the blood-borne infection MRSA, and anyone who has a product that can help solve a problem such as that has a significant opportunity.”

Despite the challenges in this industry, there are also key opportunities for the innovative and solutions-oriented. And while some molders and moldmakers warn against making medical disposables a panacea for what ails plastics, PEDI’s Sparacio says, “If you’re in plastics, medical is the place to be.”

Web extra
Creative solutions wanted

A good example of advances in creative solutions for surgical disposables is a series of new products for Arthrex, a Naples, FL medical device OEM, in conjunction with B&M Precision (Ruskin, FL), which provided the metal components, and Somerset Plastics Co. Inc. (Middletown, CT), which supplied the creative design, built the molds, and molds the parts. The three companies were recently recognized with a medical device excellence award for Arthrex’s newest surgical products, Clear Cut Oval Burrs, Clear Cut Round Burrs, and Clear Cut SLAP Burrs. These single-use, rotary instruments provide flush cutting and dual-suction pathways for precise resection of target bone, while maintaining visibility during arthroscopic shoulder and knee surgery.

Cliff White, owner of Somerset Plastics, says that the company, which was founded by his father, has been in business for 30 years, and is known for being able to think outside the box when it comes to unique solutions. “It’s actually pretty clever,” says White. “It’s been tried a few times but nobody could figure out how to do it until we came up with a workable design.”

Until the new design, the tools used in arthroscopic surgery to remove bone were made of metal, and the problem with that was that the doctor can’t see through the hood piece to the cutting end, explains Ken Adams, engineering manager at Arthrex, who originated the concept. “We had gone through a number of iterations trying to figure how to make this metal piece in a transparent material so the doctors can have better visibility during surgery,” says Adams. “We were able to work with Cliff and Somerset, and dial in how the hood would attach and what material we would use.”

Sabic supplied its Lexan HPS, a gamma-sterilizable medical material that turns clear after sterilizing rather than yellow, as many plastics are prone to do. “It was definitely a collaboration between the three of us to get the design to accommodate the metal tube insert that’s molded into the hood, and it resulted in a good product for Arthrex,” Adams says.

Tech Mold Inc. (Tempe, AZ), a custom mold manufacturer for the medical and pharmaceutical disposables market, also developed a creative solution—a coining process—for its Fortune 500 customer’s redesigned test plate. The purpose of these test plates is to reduce the amount of time it takes to get a new drug on the market by 100-fold, because the test plates permit 384 tests simultaneously, with each cell being read individually to provide greater speed-to-market for new pharmaceuticals.

The outer edge of the redesigned 3-by-5-inch test plate is either black or white, and the area under the center of the plate containing the wells that hold the testing solution is a clear polystyrene that is coined in the mold to achieve the best results. Coining involves holding the mold open farther than needed, shooting the plastic, and then closing the mold on the material, which then coins or squeezes the plastic to a specified wall thickness that is thinner than traditional injection molding can achieve. This process contributes to improved optical clarity. The wall thickness of this clear material is less than 0.015 inch, which allows light to pass through properly and test accurately during the diagnostic stage. It is the center section of the product that contains 384 wells and covers 70% of the part.

Tech Mold then developed the complete molding automation cell in-house and shipped the cell to the customer after total qualification of both the mold and the process, working closely with press maker Arburg and the robotics manufacturer. “We felt the only way to achieve 100% success was to develop a fully integrated cell: mold, molding press, and robotics,” says Craig Oestreich, Tech Mold project manager. “We helped review, define, and develop the requirements that were necessary.”

Tech Mold has since made a similar small-volume, shorter-height test plate mold that runs in the same integrated molding system. This new part has two interchangeable hot manifolds to accommodate product changes. It can either be run as one color (white or black) for reflective diagnostic tests or as a two-shot system (black with a clear lens or white with a clear lens) for through-lens diagnostic testing. This provides the customer with the ability to produce four distinct products from one mold. [email protected]

Purging packaging goes green

’s (Parsippany, NJ) customers, the company now distributes its purging compound in poly-bag packaging that is 100% recyclable. When comparing 90,000 “drums “ of the new packaging with fiber drums, packaging sent to landfills is reduced from 490 tons to 41 tons, and landfill costs decrease from around $122,500 to $10,200. A recycling pickup service for the used bags is also provided. [email protected]

NPEs past and present

Almost every history professor will tell you that changes come in cycles, whether it’s war, industrial development, or the economic climate. Since the first NPE was held in 1946, there have been massive changes in the technology on display and the interests of the attendees, but through good times and harder times, the show has continued to be a venue for education and innovation.

NPE 1945

The first NPE was the only one open to the public, bringing in 87,000 visitors. (Photo: Van Dorn Demag)

NPE Chicago

Since it made Chicago its permanent home in 1971, NPE attendees look forward not only to the industry event, but also to all the city has to offer.

NPE McCormick West

For the first time, NPE attendees will visit exhibitors and participate in seminars in the recently completed West Hall at McCormick Place.

NPE 1985

SPI and NPE conference chairs kick off the 1985 event. (Photo: Jerome H. Heckman)

The first NPE was held in 1946 at Grand Central Palace in New York City and had 164 exhibits in 25,000 ft2, with many booths measuring just 10 by 10 ft. IMM’s sister publication, Modern Plastics Worldwide, exhibited at the first show and has been present ever since. The show grew gradually over the next decade, and rapidly during the ’60s, until space and electrical power needs brought the show to Chicago’s McCormick Place in 1971, where it has been held ever since.

In October 1972, Modern Plastics and the SPI established the Plastics Hall of Fame, with the first induction ceremony held the following fall at NPE1973.

In 1988, NPE was held just eight months after the biggest Wall Street crash since 1929, but it didn’t stop the show from growing, with 36% more exhibitors and 31% more visitors than NPE1985. And the first NPE that IMM covered was in 1994, only eight months after it launched.

The year 2000 was a landmark year for NPE, setting records in number of exhibitors, exhibit space, and visitor registration, with an estimated 90,000 attendees. The growing importance of the Internet was clear: An SPI survey showed that by 2000, 90% of industry companies had e-mail and 81% had websites, compared to just 50% and 42%, respectively, at NPE1997.

Several factors changed the industry by the time NPE2003 came around, including the dot-com implosion, 9/11, and a war in Iraq, but new technology and information on how to compete in the global marketplace drew much interest. NPE2006 marked the 60th anniversary of the show, with attendees showing a growing interest in energy-efficient and eco-friendly products. And despite the economy, SPI predicts NPE2009 to be a dynamic, successful event, with a massive collection of colocated conferences and expositions.

If you’re heading to the show, we hope to see you on the floor or at our Break Room (S40031), which will provide visitors with a well-deserved place to relax between visits to the various pavilions, 800 Antec presentations, and SPI’s Business of Plastics Conference. The editorial team will be covering highlights throughout the show, writing yet another chapter in the history of the country’s largest industry event. [email protected]

Collaborative supplier relationships spell success

The proof is in the productivity, which began rising dramatically when PCI abandoned conventional supply chain management strategies.

For many molding operations, relationships maintained with suppliers can border on the adversarial, or at the very least, are based solely on price. While this scenario may seem to be the only answer, Plastic Components Inc. (PCI) took a fresh approach three years ago that defied conventional wisdom, fairly confident that the change would be a positive one.

Tom Duffey

The single-supplier strategy requires good communication, such as monthly business review meetings to effectively communicate ongoing needs.

inventory turns

Daily deliveries from PolyOne Distribution helped PCI to increase its inventory turns to 24 on average, and 42 excluding resins purchased elsewhere.

Jason Piunti, Wendy Jepson

Collaboration between PolyOne seller Jason Piunti (left) and PCI vendor relations manager Wendy Jepson enabled PCI to cut materials inventory space requirements in half.

After implementing this alternative tactic for managing suppliers and tracking results for the past five years, PCI now has extensive, quantifiable evidence that it has produced significant bottom-line benefits. In fact, PCI could not be a highly automated, low-cost molder without strong links to suppliers such as PolyOne (Avon Lake, OH) and IQMS (Paso Robles, CA).

It’s not about the pennies per pound

For the first 14 years of our existence, PCI purchased resin based on a competitive bidding process, often pitting one supplier against another to gain the advantage of a few pennies per pound. Suppliers would submit a price quote, and PCI would buy from the one that had the cheapest price. Period.

It became clear that this tactical arrangement didn’t address our overall system costs, or our operating efficiencies. We made a decision to switch to a more strategic approach, telling our major distributors that we weren’t going to play the price game any longer. Instead, we asked each of them to submit a proposal that spelled out how they would improve our inventory turns, what kind of support they would offer in terms of both processing and design help, and finally, how they would ensure that we purchased material at a competitive price.

In essence, we asked for a proposal that would put PCI in a position to win business using our existing manufacturing model combined with the services each supplier could provide. Ensuring that we would never be at a competitive disadvantage due to the material prices we pay was a final requirement.

The proposal that won our business came from PolyOne Distribution. It showed how inventory could be managed for more frequent turns, and detailed the type and scope of technical support PCI could expect. It also included a pledge to consistently provide competitive pricing.

Collaboration based on trust

Although we don’t benchmark pricing or solicit competitive bids, we don’t doubt that the price we get from PolyOne is competitive. That level of trust is possible because of the relationship we’ve developed and the collaborative nature of the agreement.

Let’s take a look at the alternative, a low-trust supplier position in which a molder sets up a competitive bidding situation between material suppliers. The intent is to get one of the suppliers to cut the price by a few cents per pound, and it usually works. However, the low price may require the molder to purchase larger quantities than it needs, so the first downside will be lower inventory turns.

If this process continues, molders can end up with a warehouse full of material purchased at what they thought was a good price, only to find out that resin prices have dropped, wiping out their “savings.”

Instead, using a single-supplier strategy, PCI receives resin deliveries from PolyOne each morning, which helps us to be a lean molder that turns inventory about 24 times a year, vs. the industry average of eight times. Because PCI obtains the resin by 8 a.m., we can be molding parts by 10 a.m., and can then ship product as early as the next day.

Wendy Jepson, vendor relations manager at PCI, has engaged PolyOne’s technical staff in the development of new parts as well as problem solving on our production floor. In addition, members of the PolyOne team have hosted several “lunch and learn” programs regarding topics such as polymer families, material selection, and understanding data sheets. These onsite seminars allowed key PCI employees from various departments to expand their knowledge base.

PCI values the time commitment from PolyOne as monthly business review meetings take place to effectively communicate ongoing needs. We review pricing, negotiate, and forecast information for the raw materials we purchase from PolyOne. This allows PCI to stay on top of shifts in customer orders and minimize or increase the amount of certain materials on the floor based on upcoming customer requests. Constant communication, two to three times per week, may include material quotes, business issues, market trends, or customer followups. This is a genuine example of how a business partnership prospers.

Further, the collaborative nature of the relationship enables PCI to improve efficiency and consolidate resin buys. We currently purchase more than 59 different materials from PolyOne, but two years ago, the number of different grades stood at 73. PolyOne worked with us and our OEM customers to help consolidate resins and streamline our purchasing.

Value in higher inventory turns

In 2008, PolyOne shipped pellets to PCI more than 137 times at a 97.3% on-time delivery rate, with an average order size of 4000-6000 lb. This material had a yearly inventory turn of 42 vs. our aggregate rate of 23 turns.

There is value in being able to turn material that effectively. We use our IQMS scheduling system (see "Single software strategy boosts efficiency," below) to load our production schedules 24, 48, and 72 hours in advance based on the daily delivery schedule.

On an annual basis, PCI molds about 120 different resins, yet the percentage of our warehouse devoted to materials storage is less than 20%. People who visit our plant cannot believe that we carry as little raw material inventory as we do.

That’s a direct result of our strategy. After instituting the single-supplier relationship with PolyOne, we were able to cut our materials inventory space requirements in half. Now, we devote the space we used to reserve for excess materials storage to tool maintenance and repair. We used to outsource this function, but are now able to perform it in-house for added savings.

This kind of relationship requires a level of strategic thought that many molders don’t investigate. The idea is worth entertaining, however. It’s clear that less space spent on inventory can be used for more productive efforts. This is the kind of value proposition that resonates with molders who are looking at the big picture.


Using EnterpriseIQ from IQMS helps PCI make smart decisions faster while minimizing downtime and improving productivity.
Single software strategy boosts efficiency

PCI’s software supplier IQMS understands that customers are its greatest assets and that partnerships are critical to the success of its single-source system. Much as we did with our material suppliers, we invited software vendors to submit proposals that showed how their system would make our operation more efficient, profitable, and able to leverage information across the entire organization. IQMS responded with a proposal based on its EnterpriseIQ ERP system, and won PCI’s trust and confidence.

Today, our operation benefits from the product’s capabilities and built-in features for requirements such as family tooling and unlimited UOM conversion. We found the system went beyond the norm to bridge the gap between the shop floor and management. Information gathered from shop floor machines is fed directly to the scheduling module, and it updates various aspects of the system accordingly. This helps PCI to make smart decisions faster, decreasing downtime and minimizing excess labor and overhead.

By using a single system, we are able to push information immediately across the entire supply chain, and it also flows seamlessly between departments for better communication and less data entry. With EnterpriseIQ, PCI has eliminated traditional separate islands of information so that all employees work off the same knowledge base.

Author Tom Duffey is CEO and president of Plastic Components Inc. (Germantown, WI). Duffey is also president and a member of the board of directors of MAPP (Manufacturers Assn. for Plastics Processors).

Product popularity prompts packaging molder to expand production


Rigid packaging manufacturer Plastican (Leominster, MA) has seen dramatic growth in the company’s patented Twist & Lock closure system since its introduction in 2007, and plans to invest significant capital within the next two years to expand its operation. New molds, machinery, and ancillary equipment will be distributed among the four wholly owned manufacturing facilities in Leominster, MA, Dallas, TX, Macon, GA, and Phoenix, AZ in order to offer the easy-open plastic containers in a full range of sizes by Q4 2009.

The containers can be opened with the push of a tab and a twist of the cover, making them ideal for swimming pool chemicals, building products, and other industrial and consumer products. Enhancements are being made to the system to increase the number of applications these packages can be used for, with the existing design fully compliant with child-resistance and senior-friendly protocols, and all relevant UN requirements.[email protected]

Injection mold qualification


Fimmtech Inc. (Vista, CA) is releasing Nautilus 4.0, an upgrade to its mold qualification software that includes a Design of Experiments (DOE) module specially configured for injection molding. The software provides worksheets for process development using Scientific Molding techniques and also includes checklists, setup documentation worksheets, waterline and mold temperature diagrams, and a part quality module. A tools menu facilitates calculations such as water flow requirements, tonnage requirements, and miscellaneous conversions. A new feature in the DOE module overlays the Aesthetic Process Window over the contour plots and displays the working Dimensional Process Window. Alarm values and tolerances can be set by drawing a dynamic process window. [email protected]

University of Cincinnati SPE student chapter celebrates 25 years

(MVSPE) was celebrating its 55th year of existence, it also presented a recognition plaque to the University of Cincinnati Student Chapter of the SPE for its excellence in academic achievement and attainment of 25 consecutive years as a student section. The award was presented on the University of Cincinnati campus, and was followed by a presentation from Stephen Clarson on the past 20 years of the student section, and a poster session presented by students on academic areas of study in the plastics industry.

Today, the UC student chapter has its largest membership roster in its history. Clarson noted, “The positive environment here at the University of Cincinnati is very exciting and the State of Ohio truly is in the center of many of the new developments in plastics technology. Here at the University of Cincinnati, we anticipate continued student growth, given the involvement of many local plastics-related industries.”

Bob Rajkovich, MVSPE president, said, “Our chapter started meeting in the old Engineers Club in Dayton, OH in 1943 and became a part of SPE in 1946. Today we meet every year at Christmas at the Engineers Club in the same building where both of the Wright Brothers met and engineered the beauty of flight years ago. The great innovations and leaders in plastics technologies that have come from our chapter are simply remarkable. It is truly a great heritage and the UC Chapter as well as all of our student chapters are part of that heritage.[email protected]

Come to the turnaround rally

The road to recovery leads through Chicago.

If you read this column even occasionally, you will easily guess the only possible topic I could write about this month: That’s right, it’s NPE2009—the big show in Chicago. You may recall that I love big trade shows because everyone I want to see is there. But this one, the edition of NPE that runs through the week of June 22-26 in the Windy City, is in a class by itself. And that’s good, because we need it to be.

The molding and moldmaking sectors of the North American plastics manufacturing business, an inextricable part of the global plastics supply chain that is, along with everything else, under the spell of the deepest worldwide economic slump in about 70 years, needs a serious shot in the arm. We need to rally and start forward again. And as always, it’s a do-it-yourself job.

The timing of NPE2009 could not be better. True, the economic waters are still muddy overall, a frustrating daily mix of good and bad news. But increasingly we hear that we seem to be bottoming out, that things are not getting worse, or at least not so much as they were. Sounds like the time is right for going forward.

NPE2009 is packing into one week all we need to get our game going again.

That’s not an exaggeration. We’ve heard some negative talk about the show, understandable given the weak economy. But the facts say that talk was and is wrong. This NPE is brimming over with new technology and learning opportunities, and as always, it’s the absolute best place for making and renewing contacts and alliances.

SPI, the Plastics Industry Assn. that organizes NPE, has reached out and brought in seven other events to share the McCormick Place expo center for the week, all yours for a single admission. Plus, as I said here last month, any of your suppliers who are exhibiting have a supply of VIP tickets that get you in for free.

Am I promoting your going to the show? You bet I am. (And no, I’m not being paid to do it—darn it!) I am deeply serious about our need to rally, including me. I’m equally serious about how much there is for you at NPE and the other colocated events. There are hundreds of business and technical seminars and programs. The Society of Plastics Engineers’ (SPE) Antec conference by itself offers enough technical events to fill a week. SPI’s Business of Plastics Conference is a gold mine of ideas and strategies to get your operation moving faster.

As for the big show itself, take a look at just a fraction of the new tech at NPE, and believe me, it is only a small sampling. Most exhibitors have not provided advance info on what they’re showing. They want you to come to the show and see it. All of us on this team sincerely hope you do. IMM will be in booth S40031 in the South Hall. Come by and see us, too.

Rob Neilley
Editor in Chief
[email protected]

High-energy NPE2009 overflows with technology and events

To all who said NPE2009 would be limited by the economy: No offense, you were wrong. Here is just a sample of the technology we knew of by press time. And there is much, much more in Chicago, starting June 22. See you there.

Absolute Haitian Zhafir Venus

Absolute Haitian's Zhafir Venus all-electric

Arburg Allrounder 170S

Arburg's Allrounder 170S

Boy Machines XS Series

Boy Machines XS Series

Engel duo pico

Engel duo pico

KraussMaffei AX Series

KraussMaffei AX Series

Sodick Plustech Micro Molding Series

Sodick Plustech Micro Molding Series

Wittmann Battenfeld Microsystem 50

Wittmann Battenfeld Microsystem 50

Holliday Pigments

Holliday Pigments



Wittmann Battenfeld Feedmax B

Wittmann Battenfeld Feedmax B

Wittmann Battenfeld W710

Wittmann Battenfeld W710

Wittmann Battenfeld MAS2 auger

Wittmann Battenfeld MAS2 auger

Frigel Ecodry EDK

Frigel Ecodry EDK

Vortex Valves Wye line diverter

Vortex Valves Wye line diverter

Optical Gaging Products SmartScope Zip

Optical Gaging Products SmartScope Zip

Optical Gaging Products SmartScope Flash 200

Optical Gaging Products SmartScope Flash 200

Extol InfraStake

Extol InfraStake

Herrmann Ultrasonics HiQ

Herrmann Ultrasonics HiQ

Burger & Brown Engineering Smartline

Burger & Brown Engineering Smartline

Mold Hotrunner Solutions CV08

Mold Hotrunner Solutions CV08

Osco shutoff nozzle

Osco shutoff nozzle

Osco recessed gate tip

Osco recessed gate tip

Molding machines and systems

With North American sales of new injection molding machines at their lowest point in decades, many have been thinking we would see very few new machines debuting at NPE2009. Many were wrong. There are new machines—plus upgrades and expansion of existing model lines.

Over and above the sheer numbers of new machines, visitors will be even more intrigued by the scope and specificity of the application technology. The show is rich in its assortment of multimaterial molding, inmold decorating, labeling, assembly, and micromolding.

Though the molding machines on display tend to be application-specific, virtually all the machine suppliers are voicing a few common strategies in response to current market conditions. Energy efficiency and competitiveness are dominant, with sustainability right behind.

And when the machine companies talk competitiveness, they are talking about making molders more competitive. We’ll take a double helping of that, thank you. So here is some, and by no means all, of what the molding machine companies have waiting for you in Chicago.

Absolute Haitian (Booth S50031), the American source for the molding machines of the Chinese Ningbo Haitian Group, says it has a “total focus” on energy-saving machine tech. The American introduction of its Jupiter series of two-platen servo-pump hybrid systems makes the point. A Jupiter-based cell in the Haitian booth will mold a thick-walled laundry basket, and use an energy-savings monitor to show what the company terms significant energy economy during cooling.

Nearby will be another energy-saving machine, this one a departure from the company’s recent American marketing. A 135-ton Zhafir Venus all-electric machine (pictured) will be present on the stand, processing a higher-speed application not specified at press time. The departure is that Haitian Group is bringing a machine from its German affiliate. Zhafir machines are high-performance with advanced controls, not the more general-purpose machines that Absolute Haitian has been emphasizing in the North American market.

During last October’s Fakuma show in Germany, Arburg (Booth S46048) demonstrated its commitment to energy savings with an award to a customer that made exceptional progress in energy efficiency. Friedrich Kanz, head of Arburg’s U.S. operation, says the focus of the company’s 500m2/5400-ft2 NPE exhibit is on the performance of the fully electric Alldrive Series machines, which are energy misers by design, as well as integration of automation to create custom, complex production cells centered on its Selogica control system. The size of the stand, Kanz adds pointedly, emphasizes the U.S. market’s importance to the company.

At the NPE, the application run by a 165-ton Alldrive (Allrounder A) will include an assembly operation, while a nearby 220-ton 570A demonstrates its multimaterial flexibility, combining LSR and thermoplastic using technology from Simtec Silicone Parts LLC and moldmaker Rico. And a third Alldrive, the newest and largest (352 tons) in the series, will be running a packaging application to show off its speed-precision combination. Finally, even though at only 17 tons you might miss it, check out the Allrounder 170S (pictured, opposite) making eight micro gear wheels (0.001g each) in a 9.5-second cycle using a special POM micro-granulate. Takeout is by vacuum using an Arburg Multilift H robot that also sorts by cavity.

Boy Machines (S50054) will be showing that small is beautiful with six different examples of its brand-new XS series of injection machines (pictured), which make their global debut at NPE2009. Each takes only 9 ft2 of floor space. Five of the horizontal 11-tonners will be making parts for a personal-care kit, which will be assembled and given to attendees. The sixth will show off its micro capabilities, molding a tiny gear housing, and using a unique vibratory sprue separator.

Actually, there will be seven XS machines in the Boy stand. The XSV model, with both clamp and injection unit vertical, has a footprint of only 7 ft2, and will be insert molding a nail file. The Boy 90E is making its American debut molding a three-plate/four-cavity cap mold. It features a servo pump drive that reduces energy uptake by around 50%. Actual energy consumption will be shown on a large screen along with real-time access to the Procan Alpha controls that are standard on all the machines in the stand—including the Boy 35A making two-component LSR finger cots in a four-cavity family mold.

Though they are energy efficient, machine supplier Engel (S24000) is emphasizing its all-electric machines as much for their precision and adaptability to a variety of manufacturing configurations as for their miserly use of current. Two e-max and two e-motion machines will be working in the booth, making parts including a two-component (PP and TPE) cell phone holder (110-ton e-motion) and PP medical pipettes (110-ton e-max with an Xaloy nXheat induction-heated barrel to reduce energy even further).

The company will also be introducing its new duo pico two-platen machines (pictured), stating they provide maximum power on a small footprint and consume 25% less energy than competitors, thanks in large part to the ecodrive system. Available from 500-770 tons, the duo pico’s 2.6-second dry cycle time should help sell this system. The largest machine in the booth, a 1000-ton duo, will be showing a new way to cut the weight out of auto and other parts. Stop by and see how MuCell (from Trexel) core-back expansion molding of a prototype door panel not only cuts out the weight, but also yields a fine surface finish and five times the stiffness of the same part without MuCell microfoaming. And it’s not, Engel reminds us, just for auto apps.

Husky (S36009) needs to show more than molding machines in its booth—for example, its extensive line of hot runners—but the two machines it has running, one of which is brand new, are well worth your attention. The 72-cavity preform molding system based on a 300-ton HyPET molding machine will be turning out preforms in sub-6-second cycles. It incorporates Husky’s HPP (High Performance Package), which includes more than a dozen enhancements that extend from the material dryer to the end of the line.

Immediately adjacent stands the brand-new, purpose-designed, 72-cavity HyCAP closure manufacturing system, which will be running on sub-3-second cycles—so don’t blink or you’ll miss it. The HyCAP reflects Husky’s renewed emphasis on its traditional approach to the market: It starts with the part and builds  a system that not only molds it but also fits seamlessly into the molder’s manufacturing environment. To get the full effect of that approach, move to the center of the booth to see the company’s range of systems and tools to manage the entire shop, from machine monitoring to the Pro-Act maintenance program aimed at keeping machine performance consistent over the years.

The title of KraussMaffei’s (S36000) press release describing its NPE2009 exhibit reads, “Injection molding for energy savers,” and the focus is on the new AX series of all-electric molding machines (pictured), which is taking its American bow in Chicago. It’s a lower-priced all-electric than the company’s EX Series, and is aimed at more standard applications. Offered currently in 80-, 100-, and 180-metric-ton models, and scheduled to encompass a 50- to 350-metric-ton range, AX machines combine multiple energy-saving engineering features that the company says add up to 50% and even 60% energy savings over comparable modern hydraulic machines. Example: The moving platen travels on precision roller bearing guides that have up to 80% less friction than a sliding-support design. However, the machines are not only about energy efficiency. Described by KraussMaffei as “super-slim,” AX machines easily can be the heart of automated production cells that cut floor space about 25%. KraussMaffei will supply the automation technology and full integration, too.

The centerpiece of Negri Bossi’s NPE booth (S18014) will be its brand-new hybrid Janus series of molding machines. Direct-drive servo actuators are used for mold clamping and screw rotation, while a variable-delivery, smart-pump hydraulic system powers injection, ejector/core, and carriage functions. The Janus series, which is managed using the company’s now-standard CANbus control technology, will be available in eight sizes from 160-900 metric tons with shot maximums from 3 oz to more than 220 oz.

Negri Bossi says the technology is a combination of the best from its hydraulic designs and its all-electric machines. The Janus machines come with a long list of standards, such as bimetallic barrels, digital proportional valves, magnetostrictive transducers, Bosch hydraulics, Siemens servo motors and drives, and the CANbus interface for peripheral device control and digital wireless communications, including the company’s Amico wireless network for easy remote support and diagnostics.

Sodick Plustech (S29048) makes makes it clear it aims to push the limits of advanced technical molding. At NPE2009, the company will show off its most recent lines: the Micro Molding Series (pictured) and the LSR Sil-Pro Series. As with all of its product lines, the two new series are designed with Sodick’s Exact Dosing and V-Line Processing System, which separates the extrusion plasticating from the injection function that is accomplished with plunger technology. The company has a proprietary linear motor valve that it says gives outstanding acceleration and deceleration, as well as quick and very accurate injection phase switch-over, thanks to response time as fast as 0.2 ms. Clamping is direct (nontoggle) using a servo ballscrew drive that leads to hydraulic clamp tonnage buildup. Machines range from 5-450 tons in horizontal configuration and 20-150 tons in vertical. Multimaterial and multicolor designs are also available.

The Lumina line of structural foam molding systems from Wilmington Machinery (S36054) has been improved by simplifying the nozzle/manifolding system, streamlining the independent nozzle sequencing control, and adding larger platens and electric extruder drives. The machines now offer true independent nozzle control for molding multiple yet totally different parts at the same time.

The Lumina Pallet system will also be on display, a complete solution for molding pallets, and it now takes less floor space than previous models. And if you’ve ever thought you just can’t find the production system for you, talk with Wilmington about its custom proprietary systems. In addition to injection molding, they encompass thermoforming, extrusion, blowmolding, and proprietary hybrid systems that can separate you from your competition.

Wittmann Battenfeld (S42000) will be showing the current generation of its unique, self-contained production system for precise micro parts, the Microsystem 50 (pictured), and talking about the next generation, which will premiere at the Fakuma show in Germany this October. The forthcoming generation will offer two clamping forces, two sizes of injection unit, and additional modules for this highly modular system.

The Microsystem self-contained production cell is for parts weighing less than 100 mg. The company says it offers a processing window four to five times wider than conventional technology, with the added bonus of more stable production, a significant achievement with parts so small. It also offers cycle times shorter by about 50% and energy savings of about two-thirds, compared to conventional injection molding. The end result is parts, microparts that is, with a 30-50% reduction in overall production cost. The show system will mold two POM cogwheels every 4 seconds. Wittmann Battenfeld will also be announcing its new Micro division to be headed by Martin Ganz, who has developed the Microsystem since its inception.


Chem Polymer, a unit of Teknor Apex Co. (N92020), will introduce a new 25% glass-fiber-reinforced nylon 6 compound, an alternative to halogenated flame retardants for use in automotive, residential, and appliance electrical applications. The compound is UL-recognized in the black formulation, and offers a broader range of colorability than brominated and nonhalogenated flame-retardant systems based on red phosphorus.

Holliday Pigments, a div. of Rockwood Holdings Inc. (N6603), a supplier of ultramarine pigments manufactured with 99.5% reduced sulphur dioxide emissions thanks to a special flue gas desulphurization technology, is offering new low-dust and acid-resistant pigments. The food-contact-approved grades of Prestige pigments are dust free and easily dispersed, even under low shear conditions, in low-molecular-weight carrier resins. The new 6117 (Premier XAR) acid-resistant grade uses an inert coating on the surface of the pigment particle to make products like stadium seating both acid resistant and more photo-stable to high-energy solar radiation.

Millad NX8000, a polypropylene clarifying agent on display from Milliken Chemical (S54055), is said to offer a 50% reduction in haze compared with the current industry standard, making it suitable for PP replacing glass or other clear polymers in applications like packaging or food storage. Two complementary products will also be highlighted; Hyperform polyolefin additives improve mechanical properties, processing speed, and aesthetics in packaging, closure, automotive, and media applications, while ClearTint colorants for clarified PP add rich color and provide dramatic effects without impacting transparency.

Adding to the company’s BPA-free options, PolyOne (W113021) will introduce its Edgetek Tritan filled compounds and blends, and showcase its family of bio-related compounds and additives including GLS OnFlex Bio, a bio-based TPE, OnColor Bio IM colorants, and OnCap Bio additives. The new OnColor L liquid colorant systems will also be on display, along with OnForce LFT long-fiber thermoplastics. PolyOne will also show the company’s portfolio of Sustainable Solutions in the Biopolymers section of the Emerging Technologies pavilion in the West Hall.

Among the offerings from Sabic Innovative Plastics (W123011) will be the new LNP composites reinforced with natural fibers, as well as high-strength, long-glass-fiber polypropylene materials. Also featured will be the company’s high-flow Valox resins, which the company says enable greater miniaturization, as well as new high-density polyethylene (HDPE) natural and black precompound resins for pressure pipe, and iQ resins made from upcycled water bottles. In a special theater in the booth, Sabic will also offer a series of half-hour seminars to help customers be more successful, on topics including innovative materials and processing techniques, sustainability, metal replacement, and health care.

Sartomer (W124043) will showcase low-molecular-weight functional additives, unveil the company’s new Plastics Concepts technical digest, and present two technical seminars at NPE. Styrene maleic anhydride (SMA) resins, ionic crosslinkers, and functional polybutadienes will be on display, and free copies of technical digests with notes specifically for plastics modification are available on topics that include coupling agents for wood-plastic composites, augmenting olefins using ionic monomers, and flow modification of polyamides using SMA.

New elastomers from the Teknor Apex Thermoplastic Elastomer Div. (W106028) combine the end-use performance of thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPVs) with improved surface properties and processability. The new products in the Telcar OBC line are blends of a polyolefin and Dow Chemical Co.’s Infuse olefin block copolymers, and by crosslinking the OBC copolymers, enhanced toughness along with chemical and heat resistance is achieved, plus lower processing temperature requirements for injection molding than conventional TPVs.


A new version of the IDES (W128031) Prospector plastics search engine will be displayed at the show, with new features that help design and process engineers more efficiently research materials and analyze resins for specific design applications. Users also have a green plastics search option to find materials that are biodegradable, derived from renewable resources, or include recycled content.

The latest release of the PlantMaster manufacturing execution system (MES) from BMS-Barco Vision (N87015) adds an available full backup and recovery mode, since the wireless data units can be equipped with an additional storage capacity for local data storage in case of server breakdown or power failure. The overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) production performance reporting standard is also included, and an EnergyMaster module adds real-time monitoring of energy consumption in the plant, with implementation of the system achieving reported energy bill savings of 10-15%.


A complete redesign in the construction of Wittmann Battenfeld Inc.’s (S42000) Feedmax B loader (pictured) mounts the screen as an integral part of the cover, so it can be easily removed from the lid for cleaning. The system can be adapted to fit various tubing diameters with a modular kit, and an optional triple-shielded capacitive level sensor can help to avoid programming and faulty entry of loading times.

For applications limited by a minimum height clearance, robot automation can now be an option with the W710 T and W710 TS pneumatic robots (pictured), which feature a telescopic Y-arm, SA7 microprocessor control, and bright LCD display. Wittmann is also introducing a low-height MAS2 auger that can be used directly under the molding machine, with three rotating and two fixed knives, plus an open rotor to enable air circulation and prevention of warm sprue and part jamming (pictured).

Among the plastic shredders on display at Vecoplan’s stand (S67016) will be horizontal and vertical models, and the company’s energy-saving HiTorc drive, said to reduce power consumption by up to 85%, increase throughput by up to 100%, and stop with the quickest possible reversing action, all without the need for gearboxes, fluid couplings, and belts. Multipurpose vertical U models are designed for processing plastic waste for reclamation and recycling, as well as large reject parts and trim scraps. The shredders in the XL line feature larger rotor diameters and taller feed rams to handle large-dimension waste.

Making its global debut at the Frigel booth (S42020) is the new Ecodry EDK (pictured), replacing the EDG model with a redesigned airflow and increased efficiency of the V-shaped adiabatic chamber for greater overall cooling capacity. The company is also showcasing its advanced microprocessor control and pumping stations, like the Aquagel system, as well as the Turbogel water temperature control unit with a valve to provide automatic free cooling when ambient temperatures are lower than the process setpoint.

Motan (S12025) will display its new Luxor 50 dryer, with twin high-capacity desiccant beds and a single blower producing dry air for both the regeneration and process circuits. The ETA process, available on the Luxor dryers, returns unused heat from the drying bin back to the bin with a heat exchanger, which the company says can reduce drying cost up to 40%, depending on the material grade and consumption. Insensitive to vibrations, the Minicolor G dosing and blending unit has automatic calibration and can be used by small operations and expanded into larger central systems in the future. Also featured at the booth is Motan’s Metrolink automatic coupling station, which can supply up to 15 processing machines with up to 16 material options.

An expanded modular conveyor line will be introduced at NPE by Dynamic Conveyor (S4043), including two boxfilling systems, a tumbler separator, and a low-profile conveyor module. Over/under and inline box fillers ensure fill rate accuracy within 0.3 oz, and can be automated to allow for unattended filling of boxes by cycle count, weight, or weigh count. The tumbler separator uses a rotating cage and interchangeable sleeves with custom holes to allow for parts and runner separation, with the sleeves capable of being changed out in less than a minute. To meet tight space restrictions, a 4-inch Profile Conveyor Module is half the DynaCon standard frame height and is ideal for removing parts from under presses or taking scrap into grinders.

Bunting Magnetics (N64010) has designed a high-temperature, machine-mounted, all-metal separator (MMS) that can mount to an injection molding feedthroat to separate out both ferrous and nonferrous metal contaminants at temperatures up to 300°F. The company is also showing a new DragSlide conveyor, which uses dual chain-driven flights to drag shredded material inside an enclosed conveyor frame. It will fit under a shredder or grinder discharge to convey material up and out.

A new patented Quantum Series 4-way Wye line diverter (pictured) that will be released at NPE by Vortex Valves North America (S2045) is specifically designed to handle dry bulk solids in pneumatic conveying systems with vacuum or positive pressures up to 15 psig. Available in pipes or tubes from 2-6 inches, an advantage over traditional flapper and rotating tunnel-style diverters includes helping to eliminate trouble spots since the Wye line diverter is said to provide superior sealing, fast maintenance, and low installation weight.

Optical Gaging Products (S1037) will show its expanded SmartScope Zip line of multisensory dimensional measurement systems (pictured), which use crisp-imaging zoom optics and an automatically calibrating motorized zoom lens for advanced video measuring without contact. The company’s SmartScope Flash 200 (pictured) has added enhanced video and multisensory measurement capabilities, performing video measurement with features such as a patented LED backlight illumination source, a coaxial surface illuminator, and an LED grid projector for video focus on highly reflective parts.

A smaller-diameter module is offered on the new 20-mm InfraStake module (pictured), introduced at NPE from plastics joining equipment manufacturer Extol (S10045). The company reports that the smaller module is ideal for limited access and tight centerline staking applications, such as PC board-type assembly.

The new stroke feature on the HiQ evolution ultrasonic welding machine (pictured) from Herrmann Ultrasonics (S54031) allows for optimized sonotrode motion to save pneumatic energy and time, since after the weld the sonotrode retracts just far enough for part removal and loading of unwelded parts. Compressed air use is also reduced by up to 80%, and the HiQ has a higher generator output of 1200-6000W, while meeting the safety standards of the EU New Machinery Directive.

New controls in small cases will be on display from RKC Instrument (N67056) with the RB high-performance temperature control series condensed into a case with a depth of 60 mm, and the FB100 high-performance temperature/process control housed in a waterproof, dustproof 74-mm case. The RB control has a new auto-tuning algorithm to calculate optimum PID values, and allows the operator to adjust control response speed without changing the PID value. Three different sampling times can be selected on the FB100, as well as three levels of auto-tuning and control, and parameters can be copied to other controls through the loader port and a PC.

Mold components

Burger & Brown Engineering (N85048) will introduce the Smartline mold carrier and alignment system (pictured), which supports the center of stack molds by using a system of greaseless rollers and tiebar saddles. Each system is custom designed, and maintenance costs are said to decrease with the reduced wear on alignment components.

For balancing stack molds and family molds, the CV08 valve gate control (pictured) from Mold Hotrunner Solutions (S36081) provides time-based control of up to eight pneumatic valve gate circuits. A detachable programming unit simplifies setup, while a handheld CT05 touch-screen display shows each nozzle control zone graphically.

Osco’s (N62021) new machine shutoff nozzle (pictured) positively shuts off the machine nozzle orifice to improve cycle times through quicker recovery, while eliminating drooling caused by backpressure. Also new is a recessed gate tip (pictured) that leaves gate marks below the surface for a cleaner finish. —[email protected] and [email protected]