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Turning Japanese: Wall-to-Wall IPF

A technology tour de force, Japan's triennial International Plastics Fair (IPF) packs oodles of cutting-edge plastics processing into its week-long run. PlasticsToday's Stephen Moore roamed the halls of the Makuhari Messe from October 25-29 for those who weren't among the 43,475 visitors who trekked to Chiba City to see the more than 700 exhibitors.

Below, links to all the stories Stephen filed, covering everything from injection molding, extrusion (from an unlikely source), something called transcription molding, and more from a process standpoint, in addition to new technologies geared towards applications in transportation (automotive and motorcycles), electronics (LCD light guides, lenticular lenses), and packaging (inmold labeled PP tubs). Bill Carteaux, president of the Society of the Plastics Industry even makes an appearance, talking up NPE2012, in what we can say with confidence is the most comprehensive coverage of the show you will find anywhere.

Sumitomo enhances all-electric credentials

Sumitomo Heavy Industries (Tokyo) has unveiled its latest all-electric series comprising 50, 75, 100, 130, and 180-tonne presses under the Sumitomo Demag EV Series banner at the IPF Show in Tokyo. Taking over from where the DUV series left off, Sumitomo says it has further upped the ante in terms of energy savings, environmental credentials and ease-of-operations with its latest offerings.

NPE2012 show approaches sellout: Japanese presence assured

Leaders of the Japanese injection molding machinery sector and other local plastic industry heavyweights were out in force a few nights back at a reception organized by NPE organizer SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association (Washington, DC) coinciding with the IPF show in Japan. SPI President and CEO Bill Carteaux welcomed almost 90 industry players to the event.

Nissei enjoys hybrid success; debuts new all-electric series

Processors no longer think "Shall I go all-electric or stick with hydraulic or hybrid," according to Nissei Plastic Industrial President Hozumi Yoda. "Now that 'hybrid' machines employing our [inverter-driven] X-Pump drive enable energy savings over standard hydraulic machines close to that achievable with all-electrics, the question is more 'Which is the right machine for my application'," he explains. "You might go for an all-electric for a high precision application but a hydraulic machine if extended holding pressure is required."

Optical polystyrene grade challenges incumbents in LCD applications

LCD displays are becoming ubiquitous in all manner of electronic products from smartphones through to large-screen TVs and as such, processors with capabilities in light guide panel and diffusion sheet molding are enjoying good business volumes. But like many molding jobs that processors take on, there is constant pressure to cut costs.

Carbon fiber/polyamide composite engine cover outperforms aluminum alternative

Lightweighting has been a key trend for some time in the automotive sector and this even extends to the two-wheeler segment as evidenced by a 30% carbon fiber reinforced polyamide (PA) 66 motorcycle engine cover being molded at the Toshiba Machine Co. (Tokyo) stand at the recent IPF show in Japan. The reinforced PA part weighed in at 130 g versus 263 g for an aluminum piece. The plastic cover was even lighter than its magnesium alternative, while tensile strength of 250 MPa was on a par or better

Niigata gets into extruders

A compounding extruder solution for developing innovative plastic blends and alloys has come from an unlikely quarter in Niigata Machine Techno (Niigata, Japan), best known as a manufacturer of injection molding machinery and metal machining centers. The High-Shear Processing Extruder was unveiled at the recent IPF show in Japan.

More options for high-gloss surface finish

Rapid Heat Cycle Molding (RHCM) received a performance boost at the recent IPF Show in Japan with the announcement of the availability of a "dual controller" option for the processing technology for producing high gloss surface finishes. This option allows the processor to heat the surface of a part from both cavity sides at different temperatures, or alternatively apply two temperatures to different sections of a part from the same cavity side.

Melt transcription delivers nano-level thermoplastic resin processing

The Micro-nano Melt Transcription Molding Process might sound a mouthful but developer The Japan Steel Works (JSW, Tokyo) views it as a promising process for molding exotic precision products such as lenticular lenses and biochips. Demonstrated at the recent IPF show in Japan, the process can mold in thicknesses of between 100 µm and 5 mm in aspect ratios of up to 12. The process employs square stamper tools of standard size 130 x 130 mm or 148.5 x 124 mm, and resin is laid into the tool through a flat die that traverses over it. Then follows the stamping process.

Ube debuts injection press for Asian auto molders; three-shot foam molding process

Ube Machinery Corp. (Ube, Japan) entered the all-electric arena in 1996 through joint development of the MD Series with Niigata Machine Techno (Niigata, Japan). At IPF Japan 2011, the machine builder introduced its first wholly original all-electric machines, the UF Series.

Toshiba opts for systems approach as differentiator

Toshiba Machine Co. (Tokyo) views production cells and system-based solutions as the way ahead amid an increasingly competitive market for injection molding machines. "The number of machines we ship is declining while simultaneously, more of our customers are asking for complete systems," explains Hideo Tanaka, a Toshiba advisor. Toshiba's approach is to employ its injection machines mated with the best available peripheral equipment, no matter where these may emerge from globally.

Molding machine offers injection blow, injection stretch blow options on a single unit

Processors delving into both injection blow and injection stretch blow molding (ISBM) might want to consider the ASB-12N/10 one-step ISBM machine from Nissei ASB Machine Co. (Nagano, Japan) now offered with an option enabling conversion to the injection blow process and vice-versa within two hours. According to Nissei ASB Section Manager Katsuo Ishiguro, injection blow molding with a vertical tool in the combo machines brings various advantages compared with conventional injection blow molding machines where the tool opens vertically and the preforms are horizontally aligned.

Foam use expanding in autos

Foams made from polystyrene, polypropylene, polycarbonate, and even biodegradable polylactic acid (PLA) will play a key role in vehicle lightweighting moving forward according to foam bead supplier and molder JSP Corp. (Tokyo, Japan). The company sees potential for another 10 kg of foam use in addition to the 5-6 kg that is estimates is currently used. On show at the IPF show in Japan was a concept foam sandwich door, with partially bio-derived unsaturated polyester (UP) resin covering both sides of an expanded PLA foam. Fellow IPF exhibitor Sekisui Chemical (Osaka, Japan) pegs foam usage at 10 kg per vehicle for the OEMs that it serves. The company's strategic product is a blend of PS foam and polyethylene foam.

DSI investigates use of flexible heaters

Die slide injection (DSI) might have been first reported by us in 1992 but that's not to say that its developer The Japan Steel Works (JSW, Tokyo) has not continued refining it. Occupying pride of place at the recent IPF show was the latest iteration of the technology, employing flexible heaters to heat the entire interface surface of both sides to be heat welded. Previously, an additional shot was employed to bond the two halves of the part together but this was only achievable over the parts' exposed surfaces. A simulation of the conventional DSI process can be found at this link.

Sodick goes thinner and faster

In perhaps the thinnest part being molded at IPF, a Sodick LP20EH2 machine with a 16-mm diameter plunger was demonstrated molding a camera shutter from polyacetal resin with minimum wall thickness of 0.08 mm at its tip. The shot was injected in 6.4 milliseconds at a speed of 800 mm/s translating to an acceleration of 12.7 G. The part was being molded in a four-cavity tool at IPF, although in a production environment, an 8-12-cavity mold would most likely be used according to Shuji Aiba, Senior Manager of the Application Engineering Division at Sodick.

Fanuc casts its net to capture auto, packaging applications

By its own admission, Fanuc (At the Foot of Mt. Fuji, Japan) traditionally focuses on high precision, high added value applications centered on the electronics sector but at the recent IPF show, two machine exhibits hinted of aspirations to play a greater role in other sectors.A 100-tonne Roboshot S-2000i100B injection press operating on the show floor was molding PBT connectors in what Fanuc described as a demonstration of lower running cost and energy saving for the cost-sensitive auto sector.

Robot series boosts environmental credentials

Robot supplier Yushin Precision Equipment (Kyoto, Japan) graced the recent IPF show in Japan with a take-out solution promising savings in energy and air consumption, plus faster part removal times to boot. The YC/YC II Series for injection machines of 80-450 tonnes clamping force has undergone mechanical component design optimization that has reduced the weight of moving components by a total of 34.1 kg. The end result is that smaller servomotors can then be employed for driving and an energy saving of 26% can be derived versus the company's YA Series robots.

In-line sputtering process boosts plating efficiency

Vacuum coating of plastic substrates using conventional batch process machinery requires a significant investment on the part of the processor as well as high labor requirements for manual loading/unloading of parts. By moving this process in-line and machine-side, The Japan Steel Works (JSW, Tokyo) reckons it has a lower cost and more flexible solution. At IPF, the vacuum coating unit from Watanabe Co. (Yokohama, Japan) sat alongside a J55-AD-60H all-electric JSW injection press molding toy blocks from  polycarbonate (PC) resin in a four-cavity mold with a 20-second cycle time. These blocks were transferred robotically to the vacuum coater three shots at a time.

Niigata boosts all-electric credentials with extended hold time

Long a proponent of "No hydraulic!," Niigata Machine Techno (Niigata, Japan) had a mission at IPF: to prove just what is possible with all-electric injection molding machines. One particular area of emphasis is extended hold pressure and here, the OEM's Long Pressure Hold (LP) option used on a 130-tonne MD130S6000 press was demonstrated molding an acrylic part with 20-mm wall thickness in a cycle time of 23  minutes. The hold time for this particular product was 45 seconds, which is 50% longer than normally achievable. Extended holding pressure time is achieved through Niigata's Dither Control function.

Lenses, connectors get precision boosts through advances in clamping, injection

Lens molding was taken to a new dimension of precision at IPF Show by Fanuc with its Roboshot S-2000i30B press molding 3-mm-diameter lenses for smartphones from cyclic olefin copolymer (COC) resin. Nowadays, smartphones require up to eight such lenses. The press at IPF featured large linear guides on the clamp end as part of a high precision clamping option, while servo-driven nozzle touch was also employed to reduce platen bending. Fanuc's Satoshi Takatsugi said mold stability is advanced even further through the use of 30-mm-thick temperature control plates placed between the mold halves and the platens to smooth out temperature gaps between the tool (140°C) and the platens.

Mold shop peak power requirement slashed

Reduction of peak power in a processing shop can contribute to lower investment costs for transformers and other supply infrastructure as well as lower basic electricity charges in some countries. With this in mind, The Japan Steel Works (JSW, Tokyo) presented a prototype device at the recent IPF show in Japan that more than halved the peak energy requirement of a 1370-kN J140AD-180H machine operating on the show floor. The injection press was running on a 24-kW supply at 100 A rather than the 83 kW at 250 A normally required.

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