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Articles from 2000 In July

Materials Trend: Bold materials, colors, designs steal the show

Good news abounded on both material and design fronts at the largest NPE to date. Overall, material and colorant suppliers have definitely been listening to designers and molders. Their responses, in terms of new products, are aimed at meeting challenges brought about by two major trends: 

• Design as differentiator. The iMac started it and now the rest of the consumer marketplace is brimming with ergonomic form and tinted, transparent, and frosted plastics. Industrial designers are at the forefront of marketing efforts now, as OEMs figure out that good design helps differentiate their products. Material and colorant suppliers, as a result, are proposing new special effects and quicker color matches. 

• Doing more with less. "Finally," said a molder, "something for us!" He was referring to easier-to-process resins being offered by many material suppliers. In addition, there are now resins with performance that far outpaces their cost, another big help to molders looking for cost reduction. 

The design that started it all: Although no one who worked on the iMac can discuss his/her involvement (Apple demands strict secrecy), those who did unleashed a new era in consumer products that relies on ergonomic design and colorful plastic materials to catch the buyer's eye and stimulate enthusiasm.

This prototype car hood found in GE Plastics' booth consists of a Xenoy substrate back molded behind a coextruded film. The top layer of film is clear W-4 resin, a developmental material for automotive body exteriors. The resin offers weatherability and scratch resistance with high gloss and depth of color. Molding grades will be available in late 2001.

Another prototype, this wheel cover illustrates a special-effect Lexan PC material GE calls Intrigue Angular Metamerism. Swirls of fine metallic particles give the base polymer a color shift when viewed from different angles. Still in development, GE is working on eliminating a tendency toward knitlines with this additive.

Doing more with PP: Montell featured a Black & Decker 4-hp electric mulching mower in its booth. The green shroud molded from ProFax SB891 (an unfilled polypropylene) withstands both chemicals and weather as required by the application.

It's About Style 
Bold forms and vibrant colors are the order of the day in consumer markets. Translucent colors, for instance, are showing up in everything from computers and their peripherals to desk chairs and cellphones. Seemingly overnight, the pressure is on to integrate highly contoured and strong industrial designs with attention-getting plastics to gain a marketing advantage. 

This shift has affected designers, molders, and their suppliers. Bob Fielding, Clariant senior vp, Americas, explains that the color and masterbatch giant is no longer just a manufacturer. "We are undertaking more design services now that iMac has shattered the paradigm of color," he says. "Taking on the role of color consultants, we are helping downstream customers to analyze color and use it to differentiate their products." 

Color is now a branding tool, according to Fielding, and it is global in nature. OEMs may have parts molded in several different countries, and all must have the same color, even if the resins being used are different. As a result, Clariant has combined its thousands of products into five families that are available worldwide. 

At Ferro Plastic Colorants Div., customer requests range from impact colors and neons to fluorescent and thermochromatic hues. Allen Virant, business development manager, is working more often with industrial designers to come up with the right colorant. "We have to start at the idea stage," he says, "because no one has the time to make mistakes on color. Having input early on, and being able to suggest tool designs that work well with specific colorants, can avoid delays and unnecessary costs." 

LNP's Colorcomp line now contains thermochromic colors in nearly every resin imaginable, except PVC and TPEs. Customers can specify what color the resin will take on before and after exposure to heat, according to Josh Blackmore, product manager. In addition to design possibilities, LNP developed these compounds for applications where heat-induced color change can be a safety feature, including teapots, infant feeding spoons, and medical devices. 

Shelf appeal can be both visual and tactile, says Walter Ripple of GLS Corp. Together with Kraton Polymers, GLS is developing custom-colored TPE compounds for overmolding based on Kraton's styrenic block copolymers. "Kraton is inherently transparent," says Ripple, "so we have a lot of coloring flexibility. We're even working on compounds that use metallic flakes." 

GE Plastics solidly echoes the new design mantra with a wider range of special effect and colored materials: a colored, transparent Ultem for food service applications; a color-shift Lexan PC (Intrigue Angular Metamerism); a translucent, tinted PC (Light Diffusion); and Diamond materials with a glass-like flake added to both PC and ABS resins. 

Sparkling speakers and digital cameras may well appeal to the child in all of us. GE has added Diamond resin to its Visualfx line, available both in Lexan PC and Cycolac ABS. The glass-like additive imparts glitter and sparkle, and the material is currently available in eight colors, three of them translucent.

High gloss without paint: DuPont's Surlyn ionomer resin makes sure that this Arctic Cat snowmobile cuts a bold figure against the snow. Eliminating paint while retaining gloss are the cost-cutting goals attained by this material.

New grades of Estaloc TPUs from BFGoodrich answer several needs—faster cycle times, a broader range of material hardness, better heat resistance, and more ductility at low temperatures. Overmolding this material onto Estane TPU provides adhesion 5000 times stronger than non-TPU pair-ups, with greater scratch and mar resistance.

Has anyone seen my mobile phone? BASF featured phone covers molded of Terluran ABS and decorated by various methods. The ubiquitous black mobile phone is disappearing quickly as colorful covers become the norm.

Getting More From Materials 
Eliminating trade-offs and improving processability was the theme for materials introduced or featured at the show. Rhodia Engineering, in its first global press conference, presented a new nylon called TechnylStar that achieves twice the spiral flow length in tests against standard nylon 6. With a semidendritic, nonlinear structure, the new material also reduces injection pressure by 30 percent, and allows for glass loadings up to 65 percent with excellent surface finish. Pilot production of five grades will ramp up for commercial quantities at the end of this year. 


So, what's your e-business strategy?" It may not have been the question most often asked at NPE, but there certainly was a lot of buzz in this area. Omnexus, the multi-supplier site for injection molded resins, unveiled its new name along with plans to serve the needs of molders and simplify their lives with a one-stop shopping concept. GE Polymerland and Honeywell came to the show with news of their respective websites' increased emphasis on providing design solutions, predictive engineering, and better material selection tools. Online color matching is also on the rise. Stay tuned for details and insights on these and other e-developments in IMM's September NPE Showcase issue.

Lati USA featured a material based on Dow's syndiotactic polystyrene (SPS) called Laestra. Aimed at the E/E market, the 30 percent glass-filled compound received a V-0 rating and is antimony-free. Lati chose SPS for its low density (20 percent lower than nylon 6/6) and creep resistance above 60C, which is greater than both nylon and PBT. 

Polypropylene is a major candidate for doing more with less. At Ferro, combining scratch and mar resistance additives with a color concentrate produced a material for Visteon that surpassed a five-finger scratch test. "While 15N is the standard, we were able to reach 20N," says Ferro's Virant. "We're putting packages together based on our colorant and materials expertise to help replace engineering resins with PP." 

To make the McDonald's french fry, you have to grow the McDonald's potato. According to BASF, the same theory applies to products manufactured globally. Resins used by molders in different countries need to be the same, so BASF is producing global grades of Terluran ABS material to serve that need. It's all about production consistency—identical raw materials, process conditions, testing, and efficient compounding. 

At Eastman, customers' needs for higher productivity are increasing interest in its Durastar copolyester material, according to Doris Hobbs, business market manager. "PC and K-resin supplies are both tight, and pricing is driving customers to look for an easier processing, clear resin," she adds. Depending on geometry and process conditions, Durastar cycle times and scrap rates are lower than PC. Cooling the tool is critical, says Hobbs, but the material can be dropped into existing PC tooling as long as a chiller is added. Eastman provides strong technical support in this regard, and also helps customers to optimize processing.

IMM Review: Purchasing Injection Molds: A Buyer's Guide

Purchasing Injection Molds: A Buyer's Guide is a new book by Clare Goldsberry. This brief book of 141 pages (including glossary and index) answers concisely many of the questions the frustrated mold buyer may ask. Of course, this book is not just for the frustrated, nor only for buyers. Moldbuilders, designers, engineers, and even the seasoned purchasing manager will find valuable information and plain good sense scattered throughout these pages. 

Goldsberry identifies the key questions for readers to help them avoid expensive mistakes.
Anyone who has worked in this industry for any length of time has a string of horror stories from customers who have paid too much, or just as often, too little for tooling; or who find that they do not even own the tooling they thought they bought. (It is surprising how common the latter situation is; even quite sophisticated buyers make this mistake.) Is there any other industry in which buyers are so willing to plop down tens of thousands of dollars to suppliers of unknown quality to purchase products with unknown characteristics? It always seems that the important questions get asked only after the fact! Goldsberry identifies the key questions for readers to help them avoid expensive mistakes and points out areas where buyers need to pay particular attention. 

The book begins with an introduction of the moldmaking industry, followed in Chapter 2 with an explanation of various types of mold construction, including several good illustrations. Important concepts are covered here, such as number of cavities, tool steel selection, cost decision factors, and so on. This chapter could be expanded to a book in itself, but there is enough information to satisfy the new buyer. 

Chapter 3 covers prototype molds and parts while Chapter 4 moves on to the topic of how to request a quote. I have a list of books and articles I wish every customer had read; this book will be added to that list, and in it this chapter will be highlighted. This detailed explanation of the quoting process is invaluable to the mold buyer and will serve as a reminder to all moldmakers of what good commercial practice should be. 

Chapter 5 covers choosing the moldmaker. Chapter 6 discusses the issue of buying molds offshore. Chapter 7 explains CAD and how the world of computers has changed the process of mold buying. Chapter 8 reviews the mold build process, delivery, and fault issues. Chapter 9 explains payment methods including the ever-popular but widely abused (by moldmakers and buyers alike) subject of amortization. Chapter 10 details some important legal issues that will also be useful to both moldmakers and buyers. Lastly, Chapter 11 offers some sound advice and a summary. 

Goldsberry has succeeded in supplying a great deal of information in a concise form. This book will educate everyone during the first read and will surely become a future reference for many. The list of books and references I put on my "must read" list is short. Goldsberry has forced me to add another entry, but perhaps she has done me a favor. The next time I start to launch into that long-winded lecture on how the moldmaking industry works and why this mold costs so much, I'll just reach up on the shelf and pass along my copy. I lose more books that way!—Reviewer: Mark Bannister, vp of mfg., American Precision Products, [email protected]. 

Purchasing Injection Molds: A Buyer's Guide is one of many books selected for injection molders that are offered through the IMM Book Club and count toward a Bonus Book award. For more information, call Renee Barker at (303) 321-2322; e-mail [email protected]; or sign onto 

Goldsberry, Clare. Purchasing Injection Molds: A Buyer's Guide (2000), 141 pp., figures, tables, glossary, index, $29.95.

The smallest dryer?

The smallest dryer?--Dri-Air introduced what is believed to be the smallest dual-bed desiccant dryer on the market, measuring 10 x 17 x 18 in. It is designed for small injection molders and labs, as well as for insert and micro-part molding and other applications requiring throughputs up to 10 lb/hr.

Basically an extensive redesign, the Arid-X/10 eliminates compressed air connections and has a new electric valve. The controls have been updated with a PLC-based system that has high temperature alarm and shut-down, easier diagnostics and a five-year warranty. 

Also new are stainless steel drying towers and housings that have built-in handles for easy relocation. They run on 110- and 220-v power and are available with 5, 15 and 30-lb capacity, stainless steel insulated hoppers. Prices start at $2300.

Hopper banks with brains--Dri-Air also introduced hopper bank controls for drying management of multiple resins. The PLC-based controls have a touchscreen interface for setting start times and drying temperatures for each hopper.

Other features include start timers and automatic temperature setback, which will help take the guesswork out of unattended operation, according toDri-Air Sales Manager, Herb Wischow. "Often a backroom procedure, hopper bank drying is too easily 'out-of-sight-out-of-mind' to the point that operators might not know when the drying started, how long it has gone on or whether hopper contents are dry," explainsWischow. "As a result, resins degrade from being held too long at drying temperatures. Our new controls eliminate this problem."

The control can not be retrofit on older hopper banks but is available as an option on new banks for $1200.

Hopper banks are usually supplied with four hoppers in capacities of 5 to 300 lb, but can have any desired grouping of hoppers, different heights or sizes, or other custom features. 

Dri-Air Industries, Inc.
East Windsor, CT

Continuous gravimetric blender

Continuous gravimetric blender--Comet's Rajkovich says the GraviMix continuous gravimetric blender is the company's first. He adds that he's "looking to get back into extrusion" with this unit, which he says is ideal for all types of extrusion processes, including multilayer film and sheet, pipe, profile, cable coating and fiber. It can also be used with injection molding machines.

The unit can blend from six to eight components at rates of 2000 to 3000 lb/hr. Advantages cited for the GraviMix include: minimal setup time; easy cleaning of screws, hoppers, etc.; convenient maintenance of integral machine components (such as load cells, controllers and valves) and simple installation on the processing machine.

A high level of modularity makes this system flexible and adaptable to various production configurations, says Rajkovich. "For example, the system can be upgraded by replacing any and all of the feed screws with feed screws yielding higher flow rates."

Standard communication protocols and a specially designed software package run on a PC using Microsoft's Visual Basic and Access software. Recipes and other information canbe downloaded to controller's memory so there is access to cumulativedata for each material. It also readsthe status of each machine andother system parameters.

Comet Automation Systems, Inc
Dayton, OH 

Powder conveyor

Powder conveyor--In response to demand for smaller powder conveyors for compounding,K-Tron Hurricane introduced two compact, filtered vacuum conveyors, the MK-1 self-contained loader and the MK-1 central unit, for rates up to 700 and 1300 lb/hr, respectively. Prior to the MK-1,K-Tron's smallest filtered conveyor was for rates to 1800 lb/hr.

Both units employ the Hurricane DualCyclone design, which is said to separate up to 99% of particles from the incoming air stream in the first cyclone. Remaining fines are removed by the second cyclone and an internal 0.3 micron PTFE pleated cartridge filter with a 12:1 air-to-cloth ratio (other filters are said only to have to a 3 to 5:1 ratio). The airflow self-cleans the filter.

A by-product of the filter design is savings in installation, maintenance and replacement costs, according to K-Tron. Up to 67% less filter area is required than in conventional pneumatic systems, reducing costs and lowering headroom requirements by up to 40%. Units are available in stainless steel or aluminum construction. 

 Weigh belt feeder--The company also introduced the Smart Weigh Belt Feeder, which is said to be the first to offer continuous online auto tare. Automatic and continuous online taring of the belt is said to reduce maintenance, line shutdowns and manual calibration.

K-Tron says the unit is a good option for high-throughput applications (i.e., more than 70,000 lb/hr) where a gravimetric loss-in-weight unit would be more expensive. Weigh belt feeders are used in batch and continuous applications for higher feed rates of pellets and granular materials, where headroom is limited or when feeding friable materials that could be damaged by other feeding methods.

The unit uses K-Tron's Smart Force Transducer (Mar '99 PA, p 14) and SmartConnect control (Sep '99 PA, p 47) technologies. In addition, new control algorithms take advantage of the SFT for 0.5% repeatability and 0.25% deviation from setpoint over a turndown ratio of 20:1. 

Vibratory feeders--K-Tron's loss-in-weight vibratory feeders are claimed to have an accuracy equal to that of screw feeders, or 0.25% at 2 sigma. These feeders also incorporateK-Tron's SmartConnex control and SFT technologies (see above) and combine them with a vibratory drive.

Vibratory feeders are said to be among the most gentle of feeders and can be used for free-flowing pellets and granular materials, as well as abrasive materials (i.e., glass-fiber-reinforced resins and regrind).

K-Tron America
Pitman, NJ

Slide-gate gravimetric blender

Slide-gate gravimetric blender--Walton/Stout showed the new Bulls Eye line of slide-gate gravimetric blenders, which are designed to processbetween two and six ingredients atthroughputs from 100 to 3000 lb.Walton/Stout's Devine says these units represent "not just another slide-gate blender." He says the company conducted "intense customer and market research" and found that customers like the simplicity of a slide-gate blender, but want more from the controller than is currently offered in the marketplace.With that in mind, Devine says, Walton/Stout designed a user friendly, feature-rich controller that includes alphanumeric names for ingredients, individual color additive identification, a continual material inventory control and a 150-recipe memory

The design of the mechanical portion of the blender includes easy-to-clean weigh scale and blending chamber areas, stainless steel hoppers and a blending paddle utilizing the company's 'Turbulence' technology.

Walton/Stout, Inc.
Lithonia, GA 

Dryers for polycarbonate

Dryers for polycarbonate--The first of two dryer products licensed by Comet fromLanco, Hanau, Germany (see Industry News, p 36), is a dryer specifically designed for polycarbonates. The LTX Modular Dryers are single-bed desiccant dryers designed specifically for those polycarbonate resins used in the manufacture of CD-Audio, CD-ROM, CD-R and CD-MO, as well as DVD and recordable versions of the new optical disc format.

There are two models available: the LTX 25 can support two DVD injection molding machines or one CD machine; and the LTX40, which supports four DVD machines or two CD machines. LTX dryers have two built-in blowers for automatic loading and unloading of resin.

The LTX has a completely enclosed cabinet for dust-free production and it requires only 5 sq ft of floor space.

Comet's President, Tom Rajkovich, says the LTX will dry PC at less than 0.005% final humidity in about 3 hr. 

General-purpose dryers--The second of Comet's licensed dryers is the LTA Modular Dryer. These have large, horizontal desiccant beds (like a pizza oven, saysRajkovich) to provide a wider cross section for introduction and flow of the drying air.

The beds are 4 in. thick and have three chambers; Rajkovich says processors can use two while regenerating the third. With these flow properties, the dryers use blowers half the size of conventional desiccant dryers, thus reducing energy consumption by about 30%, he says.

The heat transferred from the warm, dry air into the resin is used for processing; and the heat generated for automatic regeneration of the desiccant is used to evaporate the water withdrawn from the granulate. Excess heat from the subsequent cooling phase is recycled for the drying process.

There are five LTA models with capacities ranging from 85 to 2000 cu ft/min. They can be used beside-the-press or configured for central operation. Rajkovich says pricing is competitive with conventional models. 

Comet Automation Systems, Inc.
Dayton, OH

Color weigh feeder

Color weigh feeder--Comet's CE-1000 Weigh Feeder is a screw metering unit designed for metering free-flowing powders and color concentrate directly into the production machine feed throat.

Comet's President, Tom Rajkovich, says the company tested the unit by having it run through 14,000 cycles with 5 gm of color for a 100-gm shot. "It was off by 58 gm, or 0.0008% by weight, at the end of the 14,000th cycle," he says.

The CE-1000 comes in two versions: the SM-D has a step motor (with a claimed incremental accuracy of 1/100 of a revolution) for injection machines and the DC-D has a dc drive motor for extrusion machines. Prices start around $5600.

Both are equipped with a stainless steel material weigh hopper. The weigh hopper and metering screw are integrated into one package. When making color changes or cleaning, the entire module is removed from the machine; cleaning can then be done away from the production area. Also, the feed screw can be changed to accommodate color concentrate additives and other free-flowing materials.

The weigh unit also has a 'teach-in' feature so the product feed rate information can be stored and recalled.

The CE-1000 SM-D for injection molding machines has an electrical control that includes a digital readout and an automatic setting for the metering screw. The injection molding machine sends a signal to the feeder on the start of screw recovery.

The feeder then meters the additive directly into the feed throat by weight during this time. The number of revolutions and the rpm are controlled by the weigh scale feed-back to match the screw recovery time. The screw range is set automatically.

Comet Automation Systems, Inc.
Dayton, OH

Loader weigh control

Loader weigh control--Mould-tekintroduced its Weigh Inventory Transfer System (WITS), which is said to ensureaccurate weighing of materials at the loader stage.

Each weigh loader, for single or dual materials, is fitted with dual load cells. The microprocessor-based WITS 99 Master Control communicates to each loader via RS-485, twisted-pair wiring. All data can be downloaded to each loader and uploaded from each loader to the Master Control.

The system can communicate and control both weigh loaders and non-weigh loaders, two vacuum pumps and up to 99 stations, all independently. All data-entry is menu-driven through a touchscreen interface. Also displayed on the touchscreen are all running conditions and material(s) inventory per station. Job identification by part number is also available.

Each WITS loader consists of a control panel with LED read-out of all parameters and a keypad for password access and data entry. The loaders have electrical- and air-actuated vacuum valves, pressure regulators with gages, stainless steel screens, air-actuated positive open/close discharge valves and cone sections with slide gates.

Other features cited by Mould-tek include:

* Materials conveying can be performed by time cycle, volume fill or specifiedweight. This also includes prioritized station loading, non-fill alarm (visualand audible), pass word protection and communication failure alarm

* Materials conveyed to each weigh loader are stored in memory and can be viewedat the Master Control or at the loaders' control panel

* Inventory reports are available from the Master Control via printer

Scarborough, ON

Dehumidifying hopper dryer

Dehumidifying hopper dryer--Nissui introduced the NS 50 dehumidifying hopper dryer that is said toallow 'super dry' air (as low as -100F dew point) to pass in only one direction, which protects the desiccant from deteriorating and provides energysavings.

This unit is priced at $13,920 and includes loaders and feeders. It has a capacity of 110 lb and can dry PC at a rate of about 44 lb/hr.

The NS 50 is said to be particularly suited for such gas-producing materials as PBT and PC. Touchscreen controls are designed to provide faster operating instructions and diagnostics.

Nissui will be introducing four new models in the NS series, a smaller unit with a hopper capacity of 55 lb, and three larger units with hopper capacities of 165, 220 and 330 lb.

Nissui Corp.
E. Lansing, MI