Big firms give birth to smaller, innovative companies

Hidden within many of the old Fortune 100 companies that drove industry for more than a century was a wealth of engineering talent, product innovation, and creativity. As those companies have downsized and right-sized over the past decade, the result has been the birth of smaller, leaner companies that are proving to be successful stand-alone businesses.

The story of Ford divesting itself of its Visteon supply group and General Motors spinning off Delphi into a smaller, stand-alone company is well known. Not so well known is what happened to the various divisions of venerable companies such as Eastman Kodak Co. In Rochester, NY, Kodak has transformed itself into a digitally oriented company with strong growth potential, while also focusing on its remaining film manufacturing business at the Eastman Business Park in Rochester.



Arnprior operates from its facility in the Eastman Business Park.



Christopher Howell applauds Eastman Kodak’s decision to divest various business functions into stand-alone companies than can service other customers rather than shutting them down.





The company specializes in complex plastic components such as this part using specialized insert molding (top), and also performs CNC machining (above).

Although the traditional operations now have a much-reduced footprint, they still involve large, complex facilities that require extensive supporting infrastructure. Kodak now operates under a new lean manufacturing paradigm, with strong reliance on nimble suppliers as partners to provide this support.

To achieve this new model, Eastman Kodak began spinning off divisions that were important, valuable components of its former business structure, but ones the company’s new model could no longer sustain. One of those is Arnprior Rapid Manufacturing Solutions, formally opened on June 4, 2008 as a new company, but with Kodak’s many years of experience and history behind it. As a division of Eastman Kodak, Arnprior developed products, performed research, and manufactured production components for the photographic products business over the past century.

Everyone wins

Christopher Howell, VP of Arnprior, was with this division of Eastman Kodak for four years. “As Kodak looked to understand their core competencies and as they got smaller, they were faced with a choice they didn’t want to make,” explains Howell. “That choice was, ‘If I can only afford half of this but I need it all, how do I get it?’”

Kodak couldn’t afford to keep all the capabilities and capacity it had in-house, and Howell was well aware of this. “We knew that unless we took the initiative, this department would have to wither away,” he says. “But that option was not good for Kodak, or the employees, or the community. We formulated a plan to make this division a stand-alone company, made a presentation to Kodak management, and they agreed to entertain it.”

Next, Howell’s team began searching for potential buyers. “We approached 20-25 different companies, and went through a selection process to find the best fit for what we wanted to do,” Howell says. American Industrial Acquisition Corp. (AIAC) was the winner. It’s a collection of companies, currently consisting of 12 manufacturers that have specific synergies among the group. AIAC is all about manufacturing in the USA—“home,” Howell explains.

It has been an ideal solution for both Kodak and Arnprior. “It provides Kodak with affordable access to the capabilities of this technology, and allows us to use the spare capacity to do work for other companies,” says Howell. “The moment we became a stand-alone company, we could take our capabilities to any company. We win because we kept the division and 160 employees, and Kodak wins because they have access to all the same capabilities they’ve always had. We can compete in the open market, and are finding the ‘wow’ factor. People didn’t know this much talent and technology capabilities were in Rochester because it was buried inside Kodak.”

Prototype development and plastics manager Andrew Mastowski explains these capabilities. “We provide services ranging from digital prototyping, sheet metal fabrication, CNC machining, and rapid prototyping to thermoforming, RTV urethane molding and casting, and injection molds from aluminum to hardened steel, with a team focused on providing plastic part solutions,” he says. “Additionally, Arnprior provides injection molding capabilities for mold qualification to short-run production, with an impressive quality record of no returned parts.”

Arnprior provides these services to a variety of companies looking for ways to develop their products more quickly and trim costs by reducing their supplier base while getting their products to market in a timely manner. With 160 employees, almost all from the Kodak division, in a 170,000-ft2 building in the Eastman Business Park in Rochester, Arnprior Rapid Manufacturing Solutions understands what “rapid” means in the manufacturing world, and offers a wide range of capabilities and services under one roof as a manufacturing solutions provider.

Overcoming obstacles

There are a few challenges as Arnprior creates itself as an autonomous company. “One of those is overcoming the perception that because we come from a big company, we don’t know how to be light on our feet,” says Howell. “But we see that as a definite advantage. We understand the big picture of manufacturing because we’ve been part of a company with the resources to train people in that way of thinking, yet we don’t have the bureaucracy of a large company. We are light on our feet because as a smaller company, we can get a decision made on a significant investment in a short time frame. We can react fast to get things done for our clients because we don’t have to get all these approvals from layers of management.”

Another challenge for Arnprior was building the infrastructure that a stand-alone company requires. As a division of Kodak, it didn’t need its own accounting department, marketing and sales group, and other departments critical to the success of a company—that was all done within Kodak. However, it did have to build the infrastructure of a “real company,” Howell explains, and has made tremendous headway over the past year. The company is ISO 9001 compliant and is currently obtaining its AS9100 certification.

Arnprior isn’t the only firm that has become a stand-alone company since Kodak’s re-engineering, Howell says. Others include ITT Industries, which focuses on aerospace and defense; Carestream Health, once a health imaging group; and Orthos-Clinical Diagnostics (J&J), previously a medical apparatus group. “We’re still supplying what Kodak needs, yet selling these services outside,” says Howell. “We participated in nearly every program Kodak had over the years, and we’re continuing to do work for them as we’ve got certain technology that Kodak will need in the future.”

Howell adds that what Eastman Kodak did has provided tremendous opportunities for the employees and the community. “The change that’s occurring is not all doom and gloom. Kodak is giving these companies—once former divisions—a chance to become vital, growing businesses rather than just shutting them down. Kodak is trying to work with the community of Rochester to grow these new businesses, and in many ways, Kodak has done the community a lot of service. They could have just shut it all down, but instead tried to follow a strategy over a period of time that shows a magnanimous way to downsize, reinvent itself, and yet preserve the supplier base it created over all those years, and allow us to serve other companies as well.”

Market Snapshot: Computers and business equipment

This market was big business for molders for nearly 20 years, but with a mature product field, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for companies to develop new gadgets to boost sales.

Ten years ago, if other market segments were down, molders could always count on computers and business equipment to keep the presses running. A lot has happened since then. Many of the major manufacturers left for low-cost countries—first Mexico and then on to China and Singapore, among others. The market has become saturated and products have matured. Add in the current economic storm and consumers who’ve developed a hunger for newer gadgets—particularly handheld iPhones and other devices that allow Internet connectivity and other previously computer-only functions—and you’ve got a recipe for low demand in mainstream computers and business equipment.



Lexmark brought nine new multifunction product models to market in the first quarter, including the monochrome X460 Series.



RTP's materials were chose for this Samsung printer for their ability to reduce noise and provide longer wear.

OEM activity

Hewlett-Packard (Palo Alto, CA), the world’s largest technology company, is tied with Dell for the lead in the United States. Just two years ago, about one-third of HP’s total revenue came from the sales of personal computers, and 27% of total revenue came from its printing division. However, by the summer of 2008, HP struggled with its printing business. On May 19, the company issued its second fiscal quarter (ended April 30, 2009) report showing that net revenue for the quarter was $27.4 billion, down 3% from a year earlier and up 3% when adjusted for the effects of currency. Revenue grew 9% in the Americas to $12.1 billion.

HP’s Personal Systems Group (PSG) posted flat unit shipments “in a challenging environment,” according to the company, with PSG revenue declining 19% to $8.2 billion. Notebook revenue was down 13%; desktop revenue was down 24%; commercial client revenue dropped 22%; and consumer client revenue was down 16%.

The company’s Imaging & Printing Group (IPG) revenues declined 23% for fiscal Q2, to $5.9 billion. Supplies revenue fell 14%. Printer unit shipments decreased 27%, with commercial printer hardware down 36% and consumer printer hardware down 23%. HP expects Q3 revenue between flat and 2% down, sequentially.

To meet consumer demand for new, smaller devices, HP introduced its expanded HP Mini family of sleek, lightweight (they start at 2.33 lb) “companion PCs” such as the HP Mini 110 XP and Mi (Mobile Internet) edition designed for Internet-centric consumers. The HP Mini 110 is designed as a companion PC for small and midsize businesses and frequent business travelers. “With these new HP Minis, we’re enhancing the customer experience by adding compelling features that allow users to interact with their Mini in a fun way,” said Kevin Frost, VP and GM, consumer notebook, PSG.

Dell Inc. warned in a recent report that the slump in demand for its personal computers had yet to hit bottom, as the PC maker posted a 63% drop in quarterly profit along with a 23% decline in revenue. The Round Rock, TX company said its results were driven by weak business spending during the three months ended May 1. Its profit was also dragged down by restructuring changes.

This marks the third consecutive quarter of shrinking sales and profit at Dell. Dell had a 20% decline in laptop revenue and a 34% drop in desktop PCs for the quarter. The division that sells to large companies posted a 31% revenue slide. Overall, Dell reported earnings of just $290 million, down from $784 million a year ago. Dell’s consumer revenue of $2.8 billion was down 16% from last year despite a 12% increase in consumer PC shipments.

Lexmark International (Lexington, KY), a manufacturer of branded printers, announced its results for Q1 2009, and revenue was $944 million, down 20% compared to revenue of $1.18 billion for the same period last year. The company blamed weak global economic conditions that negatively impacted demand for both hardware and supplies.

Despite the losses, Lexmark’s chairman and CEO Paul J. Curlander noted that the company “made good progress” on its “cost- and expense-reduction initiatives.” The company introduced a significant expansion of its laser line, particularly in laser multifunction devices and color, achieved growth in its branded high-end inkjet all-in-ones, and saw “good growth” in its laser multifunction devices.



Dell lost market share to HP over the last year as shipments declined. The company warned that the slump in demand for PCs has yet to hit bottom.
During the first quarter, Lexmark introduced nine new monochrome laser multifunction products, including the X264DN, X360, and X460 Series that “pack powerful productivity and performance into compact devices for small and medium workgroups in any size organization,” according to Lexmark. The company also announced during the first quarter an expansion of its relationship with Dell to collaborate on a broader set of printer models and related aftermarket cartridges manufactured by Lexmark and sold to customers under the Dell brand.

Another announcement was the company’s ongoing plans to consolidate manufacturing capacity and reduce costs and expenses worldwide. These include the planned closure of its inkjet cartridge manufacturing facility in Juarez, Mexico by the end of Q1 2010, as well as the continued restructuring of the company’s worldwide workforce.

What’s new in materials

What’s notable for resins in this segment is what they do not contain. Recent announcements by major computer manufacturers Dell, HP, Apple, and Intel about intentions to go bromine-free in the next two years brought out a large representation from the supply chain at last January’s IPC/Intel Halogen Free Symposium. With environmental groups continuing to target brominated flame retardants (BFRs), the IPC is yielding to pressure by announcing target deadlines for BFR removal (note that halogen-free materials are more expensive).

One major area of concern in the supply chain is connectors, which use nylon and polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) and require the addition of bromine and chlorine-based flame retardants to meet UL 94 V-0 flammability rating requirements, the IPC conference report noted. “According to a speaker from the connector industry, changing plastics in a connector product is not trivial because of varying shrink rates among substitutes,” said the report. “Mold modifications are typically required, and design changes are not uncommon, requiring product testing and requalification. While in the past, manufacturers turned to higher-cost plastic, such as liquid crystal polymers, to produce halogen-free connectors, within the past 18 months several plastic manufacturers have begun to introduce halogen-free versions of other resins, particularly nylon. These are currently being evaluated for manufacturability and performance.”

Engineered thermoplastics compounder RTP Co. (Winona, MN) was selected by laser printer OEM Samsung Electronics to upgrade color printer components and reduce operating noise. Multiple RTP wear-resistant and structural compounds were used in replacing various moving components, including the engine’s paper feeding roller, fuse gear, roller shaft, and cartridge lever.

“RTP Co. materials were selected because they incorporated advanced lubricants, which provided better lubricity and higher wear resistance, resulting in less motion noise,” says Jin-Ho Kil, sales manager at Neochem Co. Ltd., RTP’s rep in Asia. “These materials deliver a real advantage: Printers now work smoother and quieter with reduced vibration and noise emissions.”

The Materials Analyst, Part 109: The interaction of design, material selection, and processing in the failure of a gear—Part 2

Correct conclusions as to the source of problems in a molded part require good data on material behavior over time, but who has time?

In the first installment of this study, we established that a limited number of small gears molded from an acetal homopolymer had failed after approximately two years in service at application temperatures between 25°C and 50°C. The failures were related to a period of time when the interference fit between the inner diameter of a hole in the center of the gear and the outer diameter of a metal pin inserted into the hole produced a higher level of stress due to a step in the molded hole. SEM images confirmed that the failure had initiated at the inner diameter of the gear and that the initiation site coincided with the step. At this point, all of the attention had been placed on the design of the part and the assembly.
 



This series of articles is designed to help molders understand how a few analytical tools can help diagnose a part failure. Michael Sepe, our analyst and author, is an independent materials and processing consultant based in Sedona, AZ. Mike has provided analytical services to material suppliers, molders, and end users for 20-plus years. You can reach him at mike@thematerialanalyst.com.

Changes had already been made to the degree of interference in the assembly. Now the design engineers wanted to determine the stress levels on the plastic associated with the old and the new design. Finite element analysis (FEA) is the tool used to make this determination. However, accurate FEA work in plastic materials is hampered by a lack of good property data that take into account the combined effects of stress, time, and temperature. This lack of data and a greater familiarity with metals causes many analysts to use simply the short-term properties from the data sheet and assume linear elastic behavior up to the yield point.

In this case, this practice resulted in a stress calculation for the older design of 10,000 psi. This exceeded the yield point of the polymer even at room temperature and would have resulted in almost immediate failure rather than a two-year life. However, the microscopy performed on the fracture confirmed that the crack had traveled slowly through the wall of the part. One of the clues to this slow crack growth process is the presence of a significant amount of post-fracture damage as shown in Figure 1. This damage occurred after the crack had initiated but before the unit failed outright. This shows that the assembly continued to function for a period of time after the crack had extended partially through the wall.

Accelerated testing

Naturally, the design change to the molded hole had reduced the stress on the gear. But the FEA calculation continued to show stresses near 6000 psi. This raised concerns that while the product was improved, failures could continue to occur in the product over a more extended time frame that might take several years to unfold. There was a significant need to obtain good engineering data on the behavior of this material as a function of time and temperature. This would provide a reality check on the types of stresses that were actually being generated on the parts in service and it would also allow for the construction of accelerated tests that would produce failures in a relatively short period of time. With an established quantitative relationship between time, temperature, and stress, these short-term results could be extrapolated to anticipated performance at actual application conditions.
 



Figure 1. SEM image at bottom of gear (50X).



Figure 2. Apparent modulus behavior for acetal homopolymer at multiple temperatures.



Figure 3. Limiting stress vs. time plots for acetal homopolymer.
 

 

The techniques used to provide these data have been addressed in detail in past articles that discussed the phenomenon of creep. They involve performing a series of short-term creep tests over a temperature range that includes both the temperatures of interest and higher temperatures that allow for the establishment of an equivalence between time and temperature. The product of this exercise is a series of plots of apparent modulus, often referred to as creep modulus, at a variety of temperatures that can be extended out to the desired time frame for an application.

Figure 2 shows the results of this characterization for the acetal homopolymer of interest. These results are then combined with stress-strain curves generated at each of these temperatures. These curves allow for an accurate assessment of the nonlinear behavior that is so important to an accurate picture of long-term performance in plastic materials. These data can be presented in any number of ways. Figure 3 shows calculated maximum allowable stress levels for this material at several temperatures as a function of the desired lifetime of the product.

Table 1 shows the tensile yield strength of the acetal homopolymer at various temperatures. Note that the calculated limiting stresses at time zero in Figure 3 are approximately the same as the yield stress values. However, as the time frame becomes extended, the allowable stress on the polymer declines. At one year, the allowable working stress for the material has declined by approximately 70% and at 10 years it is only about 25% of the value that would have been sustainable momentarily. Table 2 provides the values that make up selected points in the plots from Figure 3. These extend out to 100,000 hours, the approximate desired lifetime of the assemblies utilizing the gears.

These data serve a number of useful purposes. First, they establish that the real stress on the failed gears, assuming an average operating temperature of 40°C and a time to failure of two years, was approximately 2800 psi, not 10,000 psi, as the linear FEA had calculated. This meant that the redesign had likely reduced the stress on the part to 1700-1800 psi. This should allow for reliable performance over 100,000 hours at a continuous operating temperature of 40°C. The results in Figure 3 and Table 2 also provide a quantitative relationship between time and temperature for a given stress level. This is shown by the horizontal line drawn through the curves in Figure 3.

If we assume that these stress levels will produce failure for the time-temperature combination indicated, then these data provide a means for performing accelerated tests designed to verify the model and the fitness for use of the product over time frames that are impractical to test. For example, Figure 3 shows that the stress level that will cause failure in 10,000 hours (about 14 months) at 50°C will also produce failure in 700 hours (about one month) at 65°C and in about 190 hours, or eight days, at 80°C. This allows the design engineer to perform relatively short-term tests at elevated temperatures to predict time to failure at much lower operating temperatures.

So maybe it is the material . . .

When this exercise was performed for the combinations of time, temperature, and stress that were pertinent to the application, the accelerated tests produced failure in a time frame for the new design that equated to an acceptable lifetime for the product. However, when the same tests were conducted on parts from the old design, the predicted lifetime was four to five years rather than the two years at which the actual failures had occurred.

While this time frame was still unacceptable, these results raised questions about either the model or the actual condition of the gears that had failed. If the model was correct, then the disparity between predicted and actual time to failure would suggest that the material in the parts was in some way compromised and did not possess the properties reflected in the tests that had been performed on standard test specimens. And that is where the processing piece of the puzzle fits. This will be the topic of our third and final installment.

By Design: There’s no such thing as too simple to fail

Often the “easy” projects are the ones that cause problems.

I lost my first job after college in the recession of 1958. That traumatic experience gave me a permanent dread of recessions. I lived through the recessions of 1958, 1974-75, 1980-81, 1989-91, and 2003. I thought each was the end of the world. In every case the economy recovered and business was better than before. I expect the same thing to happen with this recession. Greed and globalization are more pervasive today. That may slow down the recovery, but the American system will prevail.



In this recurring column, Glenn Beall of Glenn Beall Plastics Ltd. (Lib­erty­ville, IL) shares his special perspective on issues important to design engineers and the molding industry. You can reach him at glennbeall plas@msn.com.
I spent the next 10 years designing and developing healthcare products and pharmaceutical packaging at Abbott Laboratories. In 1968 I founded a company that provided product design, development, model making, and prototype molding services. One of my first customers was Walter Franks, a molder for several of the well-known cosmetic companies.

Recession-proof products

I didn’t know the significance of it at the time, but I went into business in three relatively recession-proof markets. Healthcare products continue to be developed during recessions. The cosmetics industry fights recession with new packaging, colors, fragrances, and promises. The third area was plastic packaging, which was and still is the largest single market for plastic materials. I have pursued these markets for more than 40 years and that kept the company going during recessions. What follows is one of these recession-proof products that got me into trouble.

The product came to me from Walter Franks. The purchase order called for a prototype mold and several hundred molded parts. These parts were to be used for market testing.

The project involved a hexagonal over-cap to be used on a purse-sized aerosol perfume bottle. The cosmetics company provided a beautiful rendering of the closure on a bottle, but without any details. The glass bottle was a rich reddish-brown color. The closure was to have a gold-colored, vacuum-metalized finish.

The first mistake



The inside of this hex-shaped closure was round to accommodate a round aerosol valve, but the design generated multiple flow fronts that created weldlines. 



Redesigning the closure with uniform wall thickness as a hex shape with crush ribs eliminated the uneven flow fronts.



A series of short shots demonstrates the flow fronts that created weldlines.

I was familiar with this project as a result of the sales and quoting activities. I knew this was a simple closure that did not require my personal attention. That should have been a tip-off, but I missed it. One of my project engineers designed the closure shown far left and followed it through tooling and sampling.

The outside of the closure had to be an extension of the hex-shaped glass bottle. The only place for the closure to attach to the bottle was the outside diameter of the metal aerosol valve ferrule crimped onto the neck of the bottle. The inside of the closure was round to accommodate the round aerosol valve. The diameter of the crimped valve ferrule varied from bottle to bottle. The vertical crush ribs on the inside of the closure were added to accommodate these variations.

The prototype mold was quoted as a simple single-cavity, top-center-gated, stripper-plate tool. The customer objected to a gate scar on the highly visible top surface of the closure. The mold design was changed to gate the part through the core pin. This produced an inside bottom center gate, leaving the outside of the closure without blemishes.

The second mistake

Sampling of the mold was uneventful. The closures made a secure fit on the bottle. There were slight vertical weldlines on each of the six flat sides of the closure, which was a surprise, as a top-center-gated part of this shape should not have weldlines. They were not bad, as weldlines go, and samples were sent to our customer for review and approval.

The third mistake

Walter Franks commented on the weldlines, but went ahead and metalized the parts. I learned something from that. Metalizing highlights any surface imperfections. I had to admit that the weldlines looked bad on those highly reflective flat surfaces.

Walter Franks was now late on delivery and made the mistake of submitting metalized parts to Helena Rubenstein, which assembled the closures onto perfume bottles. The alcohol in the perfume attacked the weldlines and the parts split.

At this point I was brought back into the project by being summoned to a Walter Franks damage control meeting. The molder had been embarrassed in front of an important customer, and my company was rightly blamed for the problem. I was instructed to lose the weldlines, mold acceptable parts, and be quick about it. I left the meeting with my tail between my legs.

I was ashamed to admit it during the meeting, but a glance at the parts told me what had produced the weldlines: The wall thickness at the corners of the hex was twice as thick as the walls at the center of the six flat sides.

As the melt entered the cavity, it first flowed across the top of the part. It then made a right-angle turn and flowed down the sidewalls of the closure. At that point the melt took the path of least resistance and flowed along the thicker corners of the part. As the cavity continued to fill, melt flowed from the corners and met melt flowing from other corners. When these melt flow fronts met, they created the unexpected weldlines (sequence represented in the third photo).

Eliminating the problem

While considering ways to eliminate the thick corners, it was noted that the closure could fit the aerosol valve without being round. This observation resulted in the redesigned closure in the second photo. The round inside of the original design was changed to a hexagonal shape that duplicated the outside of the closure. This change minimized the increase in thickness on the corners. A fitment onto the aerosol valve was achieved by crush ribs on the straight walls between the corners.

The round prototype mold core pin was changed to a hexagonal shape. During the cavity filling process, the melt flowed uniformly along the sidewalls of the part. The melt no longer separated into individual flow fronts that reunited to create weldlines. The closure no longer had weldlines to be highlighted by metalizing or attacked by the alcohol in the perfume. The redesigned parts were approved. Multiple-cavity tooling was built and put into production without incident.

It is interesting to note that the redesigned closure with its uniform thickness used less material. The molding cycle time was reduced and there was no longer a tendency for sink marks at the thicker corners.

The fourth mistake

The moral of this story is that complex parts command our care and attention. Simple parts don’t solicit the same concern, but they should. It is a mistake to tell yourself that a project is too simple for your personal attention. It is often the simple parts that create unpleasant surprises.

Mature products, slow moldmaking environment keep hot runner suppliers innovating

While hot runner systems have proven their worth over the years in terms of increased productivity and material savings, it’s a tough market out there. Still, most are investing in R&D to provide specialty products for new applications, and promoting the value of hot runner systems, as was evident at NPE.

It’s a mature market out there for hot runner systems, especially in Europe and the United States, say some in the industry, and that makes for a tougher sales environment. Many in that business say rather than technological innovations, they’re coming up with “tweaks” and “value propositions” such as systems designed to serve specific markets or products.



Mold-Masters’ Sprint hot runner system is engineered for ultrafast beverage closure molding.



Incoe’s Quick-Flo system is shown here for a 64-cavity, high-speed mold.



Husky offers more than 100 Pronto hot runner manifold layouts, which the company says provide increased flexibility of plate sizes and pitch spacing.



An eight-drop Pronto system features an Ultra 500 hot tip.



D-M-E introduced its Eco-Smart hot runner system at K 2007 to run biopolymers such as PLA for packaging applications.

An example of these specifically designed systems is Mold-Masters’ Purpose-Built products, introduced at NPE2009. These hot runner systems are built to address specific customer needs in the closure, medical, multimaterial, and PET markets. Purpose-built products have been engineered to provide rapid color change and fill balance, fast molding cycles, tight pitches, low energy consumption, and high levels of reliability.

“It’s clear to us that the generic hot runner solution does not address the specific needs of today’s sophisticated moldmakers, molders, and OEMs,” says Jonathan Fischer, CEO of Mold-Masters. “These stakeholders have realized that to sustain profitability, they must specialize in niche applications and utilize the very best technology and suppliers to outperform their competition.”

One of the new products Mold-Masters launched at NPE is the Sprint hot runner system engineered specifically for ultrafast (cycles between 3 and 6 seconds) beverage closure molding. The Sprint system uses a unique nozzle tip design coupled with Mold-Masters manifold technologies to provide significant performance benefits for beverage closure molders. According to Mold-Masters, the Sprint systems have 10% lower pressure drops, greater than 90% fill balance, and 25% faster color changes than comparable systems, allowing molders to reduce part weights and bring molding costs down to new thresholds.

Finding the right pockets of business

Although the plastics industry has come to accept hot runner systems as a way to improve production and reduce costs, the economy hasn’t done the industry any favors, says John Blundy, VP business development for Incoe Corp. Still, the company has developed new products to keep molders on the cutting edge. “When business is like it is, there are really only two positions to take,” he says. “You can hunker down and try to ride out the storm, or get aggressive. We’re taking the position of being aggressive. There are good pockets of business. One of the new products we’ve introduced at NPE is a hot runner line to augment our lines in new markets. There’s no one-size-fits-all, and Incoe is poised to focus on and participate in the areas of activity.”

One of the company’s new hot runner systems, Quick-Flo (QF), is designed for the processing of commodity-grade resins used in high-cavitation molds, and is in addition to the Direct-Flo (DF) Gold, which is ideal for technical part molding up to 1000g shot weights per nozzle. “The DF has been a mainstay for Incoe in the automotive, appliance, gears, and lens markets, so now we’re introducing it for packaging and medical applications,” Blundy said at NPE.

QF systems are used for caps/closures, medical disposables, pharmaceutical, and packaging applications, which demand maximum output, repeatable part quality, and superior cosmetics. Nozzles are available with flow channel diameters of 3, 5, and 8 mm and shot sizes of 3-375g. Gating options include thermal tip and valve gate.

QF also uses Incoe’s new nozzles with twin-heater technology for fail-safe operation. And QF systems that use Opti-Flo manifolds with Beaumont Technologies’ MeltFlipper technology can provide improved cycle times and processing capability, Blundy explained.

Adding value

Some hot runner suppliers are looking for ways to give their users more capabilities within existing product lines. Starting from the standpoint that a hot runner control alone is not able to detect the sensitivity of the individual nozzles because it faces a closed loop control, Priamus System Technologies added a hot runner balancing tool to its Priamus Fill hot runner control system. This tool determines automatically the sensitivity of each nozzle. Temperature sensors placed in the cavity check how the flow behavior of the melt changes when the individual nozzle temperatures have changed by a certain value.

Husky Injection Molding Systems expanded its Pronto line of hot runners to include 350, 500, 750, and 1000 models, adding the 350 model for throughputs of less than 50 g/sec. All versions offer flexible plate sizes and interface position, with both hot tips and valve gates. Husky’s Pronto program offers customized hot runners and simple integration for the cost of a standard hot runner. The system can be tailored for each customer’s specific application.

Commenting on Husky’s Pronto hot runner technology, John Galt, president and CEO, says that one of the advantages is minimizing stress on the tool and reducing mold wear, particularly when running fast cycles. Husky’s theme for NPE2009, “It All Starts With the Part,” stressed moving beyond the mold and looking at the part’s requirements, monitoring all critical variables and identifying problems before they occur. “It’s part of the whole life cycle cost,” says Galt. “It includes design, mechanical engineering, process parameters, and optimizing setup to minimize stress on the mold components.”

Running faster

A significant component of a part’s cost is cycle time, and using runnerless molds is one key to reducing it. But there are other considerations to reducing cycle times as well. Osco Inc. recently introduced a new Machine Shut Off (MSO) nozzle that improves cycle times through quicker recovery and eliminates drooling caused by backpressure.

“Faster cycle time ensures immediate screw recovery after injection,” says Osco’s Peter Rebholz. “The MSO positively shuts off the machine nozzle orifice, and this enhances productivity and profitability while eliminating waste.”

Each MSO is available with either pneumatic (air) or hydraulic-drive cylinders. Two standard-size cylinders are available: 7.14 inches for air and 5.55 inches for hydraulic. Standard Series 200 and 400 offer a variety of tip designs, valve pin and feed channel circumferences, and lengths that will adapt to any application. The MSO is also field serviceable, so repairs and adjustments can be made onsite and with minimal downtime.

Osco also came out with its new Recessed Gate Tip (RGT) with 11 different gate diameter size options (0.040-0.150 inch) that eliminate secondary setup operations required to install the nozzle and set up the cavity for machining of the tip. “The gate mark is below the surface, resulting in a cleaner, more accurate finish,” says Rebholz. “The RGT optimizes gate land and gate needle relationships, and it is available with any full body tip.”

Either full-tip or half-tip radius versions give molders the versatility they need to handle any application. Tall gate vestige and/or shearing of the resin associated with an improper relationship between the gate needle and gate land are now a thing of the past, explains Rebholz. Downtime and expenses are minimized or totally eliminated.

Running biomaterials

Of course, hot runner products have to adapt to more than just a mature market and a contracted economy. The expansion of molders processing bioresins, which requires some technical finesse primarily because of their low melt temperatures, has placed demands on runnerless molding systems. While not new to the market, D-M-E’s Eco-Smart hot runner system is designed specifically for biopolymers such as polylactic acid (PLA) to address new packaging requirements. A beta version of Eco-Smart was first introduced to the market at K 2007, and since then D-M-E has improved it for increased performance, which the company showcased at NPE2009. Eco-Smart’s application-engineered hot runner nozzle assemblies feature corrosion-resistant components and address the low pressure requirements and cooling issues that PLA users face.

With the bioresin marketplace constantly changing, D-M-E has worked with its material partners on extensive testing in real-world conditions to ensure Eco-Smart is optimized for the latest materials and technologies. The system features an uninterrupted material flow path and a thermal isolation component design, both of which minimize shear. To promote easy maintenance, Eco-Smart manifolds and nozzles are heated inside and out and have front-removable heaters, thermocouples, and nozzle tips.

“The introduction of new biodegradable resins and bio-based resins will continue to grow as landfills reach capacity and oil prices rise,” said D-M-E’s president Bob McKee. “D-M-E is committed to being an essential resource to our customers who adopt these eco-friendly resins.”

Why valve gating?

Harald Schmidt, president of Mold Hotrunner Solutions, says that the main advantage of hot runner valve gating is its consistency from cavity to cavity and from shot to shot. “Valve gates offer more processing control than traditional thermal gates using hot-tip nozzles because small changes in the processing parameters and fluctuations of the melt viscosity do not affect their performance,” he says. MHS offers multitip nozzles, hot runner systems for high-cavity molds, custom engineered tips, and its Rheo-Pro system for the production of medical parts. clare.goldsberry@cancom.com

The Troubleshooter, Part 116: Keep the toolroom informed

Proper gate and runner design starts with the moldmakers, so make sure they know the material specs.

It was one of those great Midwest rainy days when the FedEx driver rang the doorbell. The box I signed for was a small one as boxes go, and the return address brought a smile to my face. The note inside the box confirmed it was indeed from a former inside tech guy that used to work for one of the big material manufacturers from an era now gone by.



This article continues our series of troubleshooting reports from one of the leading on-the-spot problem solvers in the molding industry. Consultant Bob Hatch of Bob Hatch & Assoc. has more than 45 years of experience finding solutions to processing challenges. You can reach him at bob.hatchthetroubleshooter@gmail.com
According to the note, my old friend was now working part time for a big molder in Florida. He said that the part in the box was molded out of an olefin material and all of his previous experience was with amorphous materials. He just wanted me to provide him with a second opinion.

I looked at the part and could easily see flow lines and wrinkles on its surface, originating at the gate and flowing straight out from it. The sprue was 3.5 inches long with an O-diameter of 0.125 inch and a root diameter of 0.250 inch, and attached to a trapezoidal main runner that was 0.240 inch deep and 0.255 inch wide. The subrunner was also trapezoidal and measured 0.235 deep by 0.250 inch wide.

The gate looked like an afterthought. First, it came off the side of the subrunner, which is a profile I use in my seminars to indicate a problem with using trapezoidal runners with edge gates. Second, it was very thin—only 0.060 inch thick for a part with a nominal wall thickness of 0.200 inch. And third, the land length of this fan gate measured 0.190 inch instead of the traditional 0.030-inch maximum.

Expanded materials data

The material was identified as high-density polyethylene but I had no information about melt flow or molecular weight. Now, when working on any part and runner, I always look up the material on the IDES Prospector database at www.ides.com. (Hey, why not? I use the free part.) The Prospector database can give you a complete profile of almost any material being sold these days. I looked up the material and found out it was just a standard HDPE with a melt flow of only 5, which is pretty low.

This material information is what you need to tell the toolroom folks so they know how to design the gates and runners. Sometimes the tooling engineers or material suppliers help the toolmakers out in this area, but most of the time they don’t know the needs of the different materials themselves.

The problem with knowing the melt flow of a material is that you also need to know the condition under which the melt flow test was administered. The condition number such as G, H, I, or whatever the condition calls for tells us at what temperature the test was run and what weight was applied to give us the melt flow number. Lately I have noticed more and more data sheets are indicating a “flow condition” alpha character close to the melt flow number.





Flow lines and wrinkles emitting from the gate area pointed to restricted flow.


I have never thought the melt flow test accurately represented the actual flow properties of a given material because the melt flow test does not take into account the shear-thinning properties that injection speed provides us in actual production conditions. A spiral flow test is a much better indicator of the real flow properties for a given material than the melt flow test. (Newer tests to determine alternate flow properties were on display at NPE2009.) The spiral flow test numbers are now being supplied to us by a few of the material companies.

The spiral flow test requires a special mold that is clamped into a molding machine and each material being tested will be run according to specific heats, speeds, pressures, and mold temperatures given to us by the material companies. Then the material is injected into the mold and we see how far the material flows in the circular pattern cut into the mold. This circular pattern is cut in 1-inch increments, so if the material you are testing flows 28 inches with the parameters given, then you have a spiral flow number (SFN) rating of 28. (Molders can buy a spiral flow mold and do the testing themselves if they want or the material manufacturers can buy a mold and test their materials for us. I suspect it will be the material manufacturers that end up doing the testing and providing us with the spiral flow numbers for each of the materials they sell.)

Logic must prevail

Continuing with my visual review, I could see foggy areas on the part surface between each of the ribs. These areas most likely indicated an underpacked condition or a venting problem in the mold. Of course, they could also be the result of somebody running the barrel heats higher than normal in an effort to get the material to flow through a restricted gate and undersized nozzle orifice.

The rest of the part looked to be OK, even the 0.100-inch rib thickness in relation to the 0.200-inch nominal wall. The rule for polyethylene is that the rib thickness should be no more than 50% of the nominal wall thickness. All high-shrinkage materials need to abide by this rule.

At this point, I felt certain that the major problems with this part were the small sprue O-diameter, the resulting small nozzle orifice, the long gate land length, and the shallow gate. I also saw other areas that would have been good to fix, but I preferred to discuss each of these other areas with the molder individually to see why the rules were broken in the first place.

For instance, why was the gate design so restricted? Was it to make it easy for an operator to break the gate free from the part without having to use a degater? It begs the rhetorical question: Which is better—a good-looking part, or a part that snaps away easily from the gate?

I started on my list of suggestions to pass on to the molder:
1. With a trapezoidal runner design, I start with the depth of the subrunner that feeds the gate. In this case, the nominal wall thickness was 0.200 inch; this means the subrunner needed to be 1.5 times the part thickness, or 0.300 inch deep (it was only 0.235 inch). The width also needed to be increased to 0.325 inch from 0.250 inch.
2. With a 0.300-inch-deep subrunner, the main runner needed to be 0.325 inch deep instead of 0.240 inch, with a width of 0.350 inch instead of 0.255 inch.
3. The sprue O-diameter needed to be opened up from 0.125 inch with a root of 0.250 inch to an O-diameter of 0.375 inch and a root of 0.395 inch.
4. The general-purpose nozzle orifice diameter needed to be 0.344 inch to properly fit into the 0.375-inch sprue O-diameter. I picked 0.344 inch because it is an 11⁄32 fractional size and is the largest off-the-shelf nozzle that’s close to our requirements.
5. Venting is something I can’t see from looking at a part and runner. I could visualize that the sprue puller, runner, and parting lines are properly vented but I couldn’t be sure without seeing the mold.
6. I also couldn’t tell where the waterlines were located so just to be safe, I recommended that they not be looped on the back side of the mold. Quick disconnects should be eliminated or be upgraded to the next larger size.
7. My cycle time estimate for this part was approximately 250 times the 0.200-inch nominal wall thickness, or 50 seconds. Because of the higher-than-normal barrel heats and unknown water cooling, the present cycle was probably at least 75 seconds. If they opened the flow path and corrected water problems, they would no doubt get the cycle time down to at least 50 seconds and probably get the final cycle time into the 35- to 40-second range.

I e-mailed the molder with my suggestions and received a call from him within the hour. He had already given the toolroom my suggestions and they were going to have the mold back into production in a couple of hours. The molder said he was very relieved to get these problems fixed so he could finally start molding parts he could ship. I was just glad to have been asked to be part of the solution.

Troubleshooter’s notebook
Part/material: HDPE.
Tool: Single-cavity cold runner.
Symptoms/problem: Flow lines, wrinkles, foggy areas emitting from the gate.
Solution: Increase subrunner, main runner, sprue, and nozzle orifice dimensions.

NPE2009: Technology and innovation point the way forward

As always, the big show in Chicago did its job, providing a venue for the latest, hottest technologies to get you back on track or put you one step ahead. Here are some of the highlights.—Rob Neilley, Kate Dixon, and Clare Goldsberry

Contrary to the concern of some in our industry that the global economic slowdown’s impact on the plastics sector could result in a scarcity of new technology at June’s NPE show in Chicago, there was plenty to check out and plenty of people checking. Here, then, are just a few highlights of the molding tech that was on display—a sampler of new resins, tooling, injection machinery, automation, and auxiliaries.



EcoPure from Bio-Tec Environmental is a drop-in additive that enables bottles to biodegrade in one to five years without the need of light, heat, or moisture.



Millad NX8000 clarifier from Milliken Chemical provides a 50% haze reduction compared to the current industry standard, delivering clarity approaching that of PC without the associated expense or other drawbacks (BPA).



The new and largest (352 tons) member of Arburg’s electric Allrounder A Series made its American debut at NPE2009.



An Arburg electric Allrounder 520 A was making one of these toy cars every 12 seconds using a twin-cube rotating stack mold from Electroform, inmold labeled and fully assembled—rolling wheels and all.



Reduced energy consumption, a prevalent theme along the NPE aisles, was made simple with displays such as this one by Engel.



When this 300-ton version of Husky’s new HyCap closure molding system was making water bottle caps at about 1800/min, you couldn’t see the machine for the crowd.



M.R. Mold & Engineering ran LSR molds in three machinery booths at NPE2009.




Rapid Granulator’s Integral Metal Detection feature on its new RG-Series screenless granulators stops the machine before damage can happen.

Next month, as part of our September issue, we will bring you the NPE Showcase, an overview of as much of the new mechanical, chemical, and electronic technologies as we could harvest during NPE’s five days. And we’ll look at the most up-to-date applications of both new and existing technology. It’s an impressive assortment. So stay tuned, fellow fans of molding technology.

MATERIALS

As expected, many additives and resins introduced at NPE carried the promise of befriending the environment, but some materials continued to impress with improved properties that yielded stronger, more beautiful parts.

Additive brings easy end of life
When it comes to eliminating plastic bottle waste, several biodegradable options recently have been developed, but each is affected by factors such as heat, light, moisture, stress, or by a short shelf life. However, a new additive offering normal physical properties and biodegradability called EcoPure from Bio-Tec Environmental (Albuquerque, NM) was used in Enso Bottles’ (Phoenix, AZ) PET water bottles handed out at the show. At a ratio of less than 1%, EcoPure allows plastic to break down, but only in a microbe-rich environment, such as landfills and compost facilities.

When the bottle’s indefinite shelf life comes to an end by exposure to microbes, the polymer chains are broken down into organic monomers by expanding the molecular structure of the plastic, scissoring the polymer chain, and adding in nutrients that attract the microbes to colonize in and around the plastic. Acids secreted by the microbes further break down the molecules, yet the only by-products created are CO2, soil-enriching humus, and methane that can be used as fuel. And unlike PLA, photo-degradable, and oxo-degradable bottles that can’t break down in anaerobic environments (meaning lacking oxygen), the EcoPure bottles biodegrade in one to five years, even without the presence of light, heat, or moisture.

There is no need to change the manufacturing process since EcoPure is added in like any other additive. Also, physical properties remain the same. In addition to PET, EcoPure can be added to PE, PP, PS, and PVC, as proven in third-party testing (ASTM D5511, D5338, and D5988).

In July, PET bottle manufacturer GoodPac Plastics, a division of Goodwin Enterprises (Atlanta, GA), announced that it would offer Enso biodegradable bottles. “Over the years, we’ve taken special pride in producing high-quality products. Now, by adding our environmentally friendly Enso bottle, not only do we continue to offer excellent-quality products and superior service, we are doing our part to help to encourage bottle recycling and are effectively eliminating plastic bottle waste,” says Jim Goodwin, president of GoodPac Plastics.

Clarifier reduces PP haze by half
Polypropylene has seen wider use in this cost-cutting economy, but a lack of clarity has restricted its use in certain applications. A new clarifier from Milliken Chemical (Spartanburg, SC) is aimed at solving that problem by providing a 50% haze reduction compared to the current industry standard, delivering clarity approaching that of polycarbonate without the associated expense or other drawbacks. Millad NX8000 is said to offer excellent rigidity, strength, and heat and chemical resistance while remaining free of BPA that is used in PC. “Our Millad technology supports sustainability by broadening the potential applications of PP, which is compatible with established recycling systems and also requires less resin due to lower density,” says Jean Hall, business manager for Milliken.

The clarifier was used by Italian manufacturer Guzzini for a PP injection molded utensil tray, which was an entry in the NPE International Design Competition. The tray was originally made with styrene acrylonitrile (SAN) but Guzzini redesigned the product using clarified PP to reduce cost and boost impact resistance. The lower-density PP requires less resin than other clear polymers, and is more easily recycled in the existing waste management infrastructure, further enhancing the product’s sustainability.

INJECTION MOLDING MACHINES

Continuing a trend we’ve seen for almost a decade now, the new molding machines at NPE2009 were more often than not specialized, matched to a particular product, material, or market—and highly automated. Systems for liquid silicone rubber (LSR) molding were much in evidence, as were multimaterial machines. But there was one theme that we found in virtually every machine maker’s booth: Energy—saving or reducing its consumption—was on everyone’s mind. To be sure, that theme was not confined to molding machinery, but at NPE, an all-electric or hybrid injection system touting its energy cost savings was never far away.

Servo-precision inmold labeling, assembly
Arburg’s (Newington, CT) largest electric molding machine, the Allrounder 720 A, was on view for the first time in the U.S., popping out four packaging lids every 5.6 seconds. Nearby, a 165-ton electric Allrounder 520 A was on show, and you could say showing off—unless you routinely do inmold labeling and inmold assembly of a six-part toy race car.

It looked like the same car we saw being molded at NPE2006, but Wade Clark of tool supplier Electroform (Rockford, IL) said a number of improvements had been made to the twin-cube rotating stack mold and IML feeding system since then. And they must have been good ones to cut cycle time from 23 to 11 seconds for labeling, molding, and assembling it all.

An Arburg Multilift V (vertical) robot handled label insertion and removal of the fully assembled car. The Allrounder A’s main axes are servodriven, enabling both high precision and fast, simultaneous movements that support shorter cycle times. The car-molding machine also featured an optional integrated small-accumulator hydraulic system to run the auxiliary axes. And lest we forget, the machine carries Arburg’s “e” mark, signaling energy efficiency.

At one point, a label malfunction caused several labels to be put into the mold, which caused some damage to the mold, Clark said. “I took the cavity out, ran it over to the South Hall to my laser welder, [Lasertechnology Inc.; Elk Grove Village, IL], which was exhibiting over there,” he explains. “They had their microwelder so were able to repair the damage. We put the mold back together and were back in business quickly. It’s sure nice to have your vendors at the show with you!”

Precise motion = lighter, yet stiffer parts
For NPE2009, machine/automation system supplier Engel (York, PA) had a one-word slogan: electrified. Accordingly, the company was showing many energy-saving opportunities. For example, Engel’s brand-new duo pico two-platen machine is designed to be energy frugal. It reduces consumption by 45-60%, says the company, by using a servo hydraulic system and electric screw drive, among the other technology packed into its small footprint (
Engel also presented new integrated energy calculator software for the latest version of its CC200 machine control (hydraulic or electric). Enter the job’s shot weight on the control screen and it calculates the energy needed to mold the part using settings such as clamp motion, cooling, and ejection. Using the on-screen dashboard, an operator can adjust all motion parameters individually to achieve maximum energy efficiency without disturbing overall cycle time or throughput.

Engel attracted a lot of attention with its MuCell core back expansion molding, which combines Engel’s core back molding machine technology with the MuCell foaming process from Trexel Inc. (Woburn, MA). During NPE, Engel molded a prototype auto interior door panel on a 1000-ton duo (500- to 6000-ton range) machine. The core back technology means that the resin with the Trexel foaming agent already added is injected into the closed mold. After a predetermined time, the mold opens slightly and the internal pressure of the foam fills out the newly added cavity space.

David Bernstein, president of Trexel, says this application exemplifies a new stage in MuCell technology. The first stage, he says, has been about saving weight and material. In the second stage, products are being design-optimized to take advantage of MuCell. Wall thicknesses can vary and the normal rib/wall thickness ratios no longer apply. The internal pressure means that packing pressure comes from within the material.

Weight savings with core back expansion molding can be 50% or more of a part of the same dimensions without the foam, and the added thickness also yields a stiffer part. Steve Braig, president of Engel North America, says you need precise machine technology with the MuCell process to succeed in core back molding. The Engel duo, he continues, is the only two-platen molding machine whose moving platen has no contact with the tiebars. This eliminates friction, and allows more precise control of speed and movement. Duos also feature a platen parallelism control that allows the four corners of the mold to be positioned individually, increasing the ability to achieve dimensional accuracy.

Ultrafast closure system stopped traffic cold
Though Husky (Bolton, ON) fielded numerous examples of its technology in its spacious NPE booth—enhanced hot runner lines, new production monitoring software, three complete molding systems, and more—its new HyCap beverage closure molding system was drawing in large groups of show-goers all week. Its high-speed output of water bottle closures seemed virtually continuous. That should not be surprising when a 72-cavity mold is running at sub-3-second cycles.

Since Husky molding machines all tend to look like, well, Husky machines, it’s easy to assume the company had tweaked one of its existing speedy systems. Not true, says Mark Fitzpatrick, who manages Husky’s closure business. Virtually every aspect of the HyCap, available from 248-500 tons, is optimized for closure production adhering to Husky’s mantra: It all starts with the part.

Fitzpatrick was happy to be specific about the refinements, starting with faster clamp cycles and reduced cooling time. The Altanium hot runner control has been tightly integrated with Husky’s Polaris machine operating control. A number of modifications have been made to the machine and hot runner to attain tighter tolerances, better melt control, and minimal plate deflection, and to handle the differing needs of various closure polymers. The screw is purpose-designed, power has been increased, hydraulics are made for two to three times faster decompression, and injection speed has been increased.

As a result of this system design, says Husky, the HyCap is a good fit for making the increasingly popular shorter, lighter-weight caps—for example, the PCO 1881 neck finish. The 0.98g cap and The HyCap 300 (tons) RS65/60 system working at NPE was making caps weighing less than 1g in an HDPE grade from Dow in a 72-cavity mold made by Swiss moldmaker Corvaglia. Husky, says Fitzpatrick, works with a number of moldmakers for these systems. Resin loading was via a Piovan feeding system; molded closures free-dropped from the mold easily thanks to Husky matching the ejection and platen speeds; part handling used an IMD Vista AllinOne with part cooling, orientation, vision inspection, and boxing; and a Plastic Systems DSH1000 mold dehumidification system kept the mold area dry.

Machine nozzles for easier processing

Melt Design Inc. (MDi; St. Charles, IL) introduced an internally heated molding machine nozzle at NPE2009 for the North American market. "There's been a lot of interest in it since we've made this available," says Dick Genc, director of sales. "It makes startup and production easier, and easier to run hard-to-process materials such as PVC and high-temperature materials."

TOOLING


The striking thing about moldmaking at NPE was the number of molds running in various molding presses around the show floor. It seemed to be a real partnership between molding machinery suppliers, auxiliary equipment manufacturers, and moldmakers. What better way for all parties to showcase their products, expertise, and technology than to have a high-tech mold running in a high-tech manufacturing cell? Here are a few examples.

Automation ratchets up IML
CBW Automation (Fort Collins, CO) showcased its new inmold labeling system featuring inline cutting of the labels. Mold manufacturer StackTeck Systems Ltd. (Brampton, ON) provided the food container mold running in CBW’s stand. The system on display cut the roll-fed labels to the exact size with cutting accuracy to within ±0.005 inch. The labels were then picked up and placed on mandrels that physically inserted the labels into the mold. The cut-in-place inline process eliminates a step in the supply chain (precutting labels) and eliminates the magazines required to hold the stacked labels near the molding machines, thereby reducing the cost of labor to fill them.

The system also reduces scrap, and is versatile in that the roller diecutting tool can be changed out to a different cut on a different label in 10 minutes. After that it’s much like a traditional changeover in which you change out the mandrel and the pick-and-place for the label.

“We’ve averaged a 30% label cost reduction over the past three years with this system, and that’s a big deal,” says David Carson, president of CBW. “Additionally, the material itself is thinner—we used a label that was 45 µm—and it requires no antistat. The whole purpose of antistat is to make magazines work efficiently, so without the magazines we can actually put more static in the plastic, and the label will hold better in the mold. Also, there is a labor savings in that a roll can run for 6-8 hours of production time without the labor involved in having to refill magazines.”

LSR molding ever more widespread
When Rick Finnie, president of M.R. Mold & Engineering Corp. (Brea, CA), signed up for a booth at NPE, he knew he would also have a mold running at one of the machinery manufacturer’s stands. Finnie specializes in design, build, and process tryouts of liquid silicone rubber (LSR) molds. However, Finnie got calls from a total of three injection molding machinery makers to run LSR molds in their LSR machinery.

So the company ran its molds in Negri Bossi, Toshiba, and Boy machines, says Finnie, to enable those companies to showcase their LSR processing equipment and capabilities. “All these companies are trying to show their various capabilities, primarily because LSR has become so popular,” says Finnie. “And in this market, trying to find a niche that’s actually growing is tough.”

Finnie said he’s always amazed that, as many years as LSR has been around, “it’s still so new to so many people.” Finnie has a Technical Center at his Brea facility, in which he runs three LSR molding machines and performs R&D for new product and process development as well as mold sampling.

Creativity is what keeps M.R. Mold on the cutting edge. Over the past few years Finnie has developed and commercialized LSR baking cups for cupcakes. They come in three sizes and are wildly popular, particularly as NPE show giveaways. Finnie’s newest product is his Cold Runner System for LSR, which he has just started commercializing. The system comes with mold base plates by Royalloy; the water jackets are titanium, and nozzles are 420-SS. Nozzle tips are Vanadis powdered metal, which have a long life—up to 250,000 cycles compared to 50,000 from typical S-7 tips.


AUXILIARIES

Granulator spots metal
Increasing material costs and inclusion of recycled content in molded products makes effective grinding of sprues and rejects more important than ever. But a small metal fragment can lead to big damage to a granulator, so a patented Integral Metal Detection (IMD) feature on Rapid Granulator’s (Rockford, IL) new RG-Series screenless granulators stops the machine before damage can happen. When ferrous metals are detected, the isolated plates give a signal to switch off the machine immediately, preventing a piece of metal from breaking off a tooth, which can lead to multiple broken teeth in a closed system.

The family of eight beside-the-press basic models ranges from the RG-1 for small parts and sprues to the RG-4 Twin, which can granulate items as large as bumpers and dashboards. These slow-speed screenless granulators also have a reversible motor function (REV), which enables the machine to determine if resistance to the cutting blade is too high, in which case it reverses the rotor to reposition the part for cutting from a different angle. To help reduce wear, noise, and damage to the gear box and motor, the granulators are also equipped with soft coupling to absorb stresses and vibration.immeditorial@cancom.com

Health insurance survey shows small businesses are in 'survival mode'


The survey of 912 small to medium-sized business owners across the United States by management consulting firm George S. May International (Park Ridge, IL) found that 46% of respondents don’t offer health insurance to their employees. The company, a business consultancy, offers to help SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises) cut costs to include health insurance premiums.

In a recent report prepared by Pricewaterhouse Coopers in the U.S., “underinsured and uninsured” persons ranked No. 2 in a list of the top nine issues facing the health industry this year, topped only by the impact of the economic downturn.  

Of the 54% of respondents to the George S. May who said their companies do offer health insurance to their employees, the split between employer and employee paid premiums is: 
 
Paid by employer:

100%                            13% of respondents
90%                              10% of respondents
80%                              20% of respondents
70%                              18% of respondents
60%                              17% of respondents
50%                              22% of respondents

According to Paul Rauseo, managing director of the George S. May, “The most glaring number is the fact that 22% of those small businesses that offer health insurance only pay 50%, which is a clear sign of being in survival mode.” mpweditorial@cancom.com

RTi builds staff, adds global perspective







Prior to NPE2009, resin-purchasing consulting firm RTi added Craig Farrell (top), Caton Morris (center), and Rick DePew (above).

Consulting firm Resin Technology inc. (RTi; Fort Worth, TX) is expanding its resin-purchasing focus beyond North America and taking a global view on the plastics-buying market with the addition of three more industry experts and the internal promotion of four employees. RTi’s newest employees include Craig Farrell, Caton Morris, and Rick DePew, serving in the newly created position of international VP, and VP’s business development, respectively.

Farrell, whose 20 years of industry experience includes executive positions at Hoechst Celanese and AT Plastics, will focus on the company’s global business by working with customers that have overseas operations or are based abroad. RTi reports that DePew and Morris will be part of the company’s expansion initiative within the packaging industry. Morris comes to RTi with 25 years of supply chain experience, while DePew has more than 29 years of sales and marketing experience, including management positions at Dow Chemical, NOVA Chemicals, and Chemtura.

In a release, RTi COO Bill Bowie said, “The addition of Craig Farrell, Caton Morris, and Rick DePew will enhance our ability to reach new businesses and further meet our client’s needs both domestically and overseas.”

The internal promotions affect Mike Burns, Greg Smith, Mike Dewsbury, and Lowell Huovinen, who have been named vice presidents of their resin categories. They will now act as VP polyethylene; VP engineering resins/polystyrene/polyvinyl chloride; global business director polyethylene terephthalate; and VP polypropylene, respectively.

At NPE2009, Bowie told MPW that despite the broader issues facing the economy and plastics, his company continues to expand, setting revenue records each of the last three years. Business in 2008 expanded by 12%, and Bowie said 2009 was on pace to expand by 15-25%. mpweditorial@cancom.com

Wear-resistance properties improved in PAI grades

Wear resistance has been significantly boosted in a pair of new Torlon polyamide-imide (PAI) grades from Solvay Advanced Polymers (Alpharetta, GA) over the previous wear-resistant Torlon materials. Ideal for use in applications including bushings, bearings, sliding elements, and needle bearing replacements in industrial, aerospace, and automotive industries, Torlon 4630 and 4645 provide an alternative to metal-based designs used in high-temperature and wear applications.


“We’ve improved the wear properties of Torlon PAI to an unprecedented level in response to OEMs who seek better performance over a range of pressures and velocities,” says Brian Stern, senior global automotive market manager for Solvay.  At operating temperatures of up to 527°F, the material is said to offer excellent mechanical properties, compressive strength, sealing capability, and resistance to creep, strong acids, and most organics.

Of the two available injection molding grades, Torlon 4630 is a graphite/PTFE-filled grade for nonlubricated environments. This grade offers a reported wear factor improvement of 50% over previous grades in both high-pressure/low-speed applications and low-pressure/high-speed applications. The coefficient of linear thermal expansion (CLTE) is 40% lower than previous materials, and the limiting PV (contact pressure times velocity) is 150,000 psi x fpm.

For lubricated environments, the carbon-fiber/PTFE Torlon 4645 grade improves the wear factor over previous grades by 100%. Suitable for high-pressure/low-speed applications, this grade has a low coefficient of friction of 0.05-0.1, a limiting PV value of 750,000 psi x fpm, and a low CLTE of 3 ppm per degree Fahrenheit for tight-tolerance molding. Both injection molding grades are manufactured at Solvay’s Greenville, SC facility and are also available in stock shapes. immeditorial@cancom.com