Giving a boost to productivity

With the K2013 being the largest plastics show in the world, machine makers are pushed to introduce ground-breaking innovations. Highlighted are novelties and technologies that were introduced at the show with some boasting faster cycle times and higher productivity.

Injection moulding machinery

  • German injection moulding machine maker Arburg introduced the Freeformer, which is an additive manufacturing machine for 3D printing that allows for small batch production using standard resins, without a mould or prototyping. It produces parts layer by layer directly from 3D CAD files using drops of liquid resins. Also, unlike the usual 3D printer that uses filaments, resins in the Freeformer are first melted with a screw, similar to conventional injection moulding, and then broken down into tiny droplets in a piezoelectric system, at 100 droplets/second. With a droplet size of 0.3 mm, the entire process will take an hour to complete, Arburg officials noted.

  • A main benefit is that it uses standard plastics, which the firm says is “something quite new, with the price difference in a factor of a 100.” Components produced are said to boast a strength of approximately 70-80% of conventionally produced injection moulded parts. It can also be configured in either a single or two-component machine, allowing for interesting opportunities ie. hard/ soft material combinations. Arburg says it has run trials with ABS, PC and elastomers with success. One limitation would be the small material dispensing nozzles that are not able to handle glass fibres or highly filled materials. But a plus point above this is that the machine could be used to produce complex parts that cannot be injection moulded or materials with a high temperature range or it could be used for faster innovations in hardware development, and the surfaces of parts produced do not require any finishing work.

  • Furthermore, the nozzle remains stationary, while the component carrier moves along three or five axes. An advantage of this is that undercuts can be produced without the need for support structures, thus allowing a new freedom in geometry and less material wastage. The plug-and-play concept machine operates without dust or emissions, is compact, and can be used in an office, design department, or on the plant floor. The firm has filed 20 patents and says all R&D was undertaken in-house at its facility. The first Freeformer won’t be available until next year and there is no price tag yet on the machine.

  • Arburg also had 11 other exhibits on its own exhibition stand and 11 additional machines on partner stands. Amongst the highlights was a fully automatic production cell using a one-piece-flow process for the moulding and inline printing of “intelligent” name plates. It demonstrated how increasing requirements in terms of documentation, individualisation and flexibility could be linked with the Industry 4.0 Future Project. Machines and products were networked and the production data linked directly to the moulded part by means of an individual QR code. This enabled each name plate to be uniquely identified and tracked online. The Arburg host computer system (ALS) was of central importance here, recording all the necessary parameters and transmitting them to a web server. This meant that the production parameters and use of the part could be called up at all times.

  • Meanwhile, Austrian machine maker Engel premiered its v-duo 700 vertical machine, launched last year, that was shown producing latch covers for the KTM X-Bow sports car. It is one of the biggest vertical machines Engel has displayed at a trade fair. Carbon/glass fibres were impregnated with a new “snap-cure” PU thermoset resin from BASF Polyurethanes in a liquid reactive moulding process. Other partners included Wethje of Germany, the producer of the components and preforms, while the mould was contributed by Langer of Germany. Hennecke provided the RTM system, while Austrian firm KTM Technologies designed the component, including the simulation of the manufacturing process (RTM filling simulation).

  • Engel also showcased a new control solution (CC300) that looked familiar at first glance but had been updated to feature a customer-focused interface layout with a multi-function e-move key (one-touch operation).

  • Another firm showing a sports car component produced using a RTM process was German firm KraussMaffei. It premiered its production cell producing a carbon fibrereinforced (CFRP) roof shell (0.6 sq m) with a PU matrix for the Roding Roadster R1. A highlight is that the parts, which contain 50% carbon fibre volume, come out of the mould with a paintable surface. The centrepiece of the machine is a new RTM mould carrier with a compact design and a clamping force of 381 tonnes. A feature of the process is injection of the PU with vacuum assistance while the mould is slightly open.

  • Partners included Henkel for the PU system, Rühl Puromer for the aliphatic UV-resistant PU coating material, French reinforcement textile producer Chomarat Textile Industries and composites materials supplier Mühlmeier. Others were compression press producer Dieffenbacher and composites production equipment producer Alpex Technologies. Though the RTM process was able to produce eight finished roof parts/hour, it is not quite enough for mass production.

  • Another world innovation from KraussMaffei is the CellForm process that was used to make a washing machine cover 35% lighter. A fully electric AX 130- 750 machine, equipped with Trexel’s MuCell foaming system, was processing the ASA/ PC copolymer cover. The weight savings are achieved due to the foam core, which still produces a high-gloss surface without any streaking. This is possible due to the low melt viscosity that has enabled a thinwall part to be moulded while the high-gloss surface has been obtained through use of dynamic rapid heating and cooling in the mould. CellForm also allows the use of a machine with a lower clamping force, while the fast cycle time of 37 seconds reduces production costs.

  • KraussMaffei’s Swiss subsidiary Netstal-Maschinen launched the new all-electric Elion 2200 and an Evos 4500 machine with an integrated Eco Powerunit drive. A new Elion 4200 hybrid-drive machine, which made its debut in September, was moulding HDPE beverage closures in a 96-cavity mould from Schöttli Mould Technology, in a cycle time of 2 seconds, which the firm says “cannot be matched by all-electric machines with the high output faster than compression moulding.” The fast cycle time is achieved with the machine’s injection unit, with Netstal claiming that energy consumption is 50% lower than conventional hydraulic toggle machines.

  • With its theme of “Think Green, Act Blue”, Japanese/ German machine maker Sumitomo Demag showed technology aimed at energy savings. It has also set a target of reducing energy use by 30% by 2016. A highlight was the fully automated IML/IMD production cell using a 200-tonne Systec to produce a 5 in. multi-touch display in one step. It featured the shear-free SL (Spiral Logic) plastification system, which has been sold in Japan for several years and operates without the traditional compression zone. The resin is melted by barrel heaters, preventing overheating by shearing, resin stagnation and thermal degradation. Combined with a switchcontrolled non-return valve, the technology is ideal for the production of technical precision and optical parts. SL is currently only available as an option for the all-electric SE-EV series machines.

  • Besides PolyIC (functional film) and Leonhard Kurz Stiftung (IMD decoration film and IMD film handling), other partners were mould maker HBW-Gubesch Kunststoff-Engineering, automation supplier SAR Electronic, cleanroom specialist Max Petek and Kist Maschinenbau that supplied modules for the UV film hardening and cleaning of finished parts. The IML/IMD cell is currently operating at automotive firm VW’s main plant in Germany.

  • Another machine maker Boy also showcased a novel plasticising system. With the combination of the servomotor pump drive, the Procan ALPHA 2 control, the two-platen clamping unit and the EconPlast plasticising unit, the German firm says that energy savings of 50% are possible when processing thermoplastics. The patent pending EconPlast works on the principle of electric resistance heating, allowing for heating up to 400°C, with shorter start and heating times, and does not require insulating sleeves. It also allows for improved control of the feeding zone cooling and improvement of the material melting with optimised homogeneity. It is optionally available for all Boy’s machines from a screw diameter of 24-48 mm.

  • Austria-based Wittmann Group’s machine subsidiary Wittmann Battenfeld showcased a four-cavity IML production cell, based on the TM Xpress 210 moulding machine, with an inspection module. It had a 4.5-second cycle time and 0.7 seconds for the robot’s operation time. This short operation time for inserting the labels plus parts removal has been accomplished by using the “allwheel” drive concept, where both cog belt wheels of the horizontal axis are synchronised and driven by dynamic drive systems. Furthermore, Wittmann says its 3D visual inspection boasts “a best possible rate of nearly 100%”. Four high-resolution cameras are installed around the conveyor belt, which take pictures of every single product transported on the belt.

  • Other highlights were the e-hybrid MacroPower, producing a 14 l bucket, while an EcoPower demonstrated the Airmould gas injection technology to produce a long glass fibre PP hockey stick. It showcased dimensional stability over the length of the part and good surface finish due to the gas injection process.


  • Canadian firm StackTeck Systems showcased on Engel’s e-speed 650T machine a 2x8 dairy thinwall, 16 oz, container mould in a cycle time of 3.3 seconds. It claims this was the best cycle time for the veteran mould, which ran 17.8% higher productivity compared to demonstrations at past shows. At the booth for Wave machines, there was a next generation StackTeck mould running an 1881 CSD tamper-evident beverage cap in a 2.8 second-cycle time. This faster mould design demonstrated a productivity increase of 30%. The firm says there was strong interest regarding displays of thinwall co-injection barrier designs. A two-cavity co-injection cup mould was shown as a static display, compliments of Mold-Masters. In a separate display, several thinwall co-injection samples were shown, compliments of Kortec. The continuous trend towards higher productivity systems is “clearly alive and well”, says the company.

  • Swiss mould maker Georg Kaufmann, together with partners, has developed the LIPA (Lightweight Integrated Process Application) technology for the mass production of lightweight composite parts. Cut-to-size blanks of Tepex organic sheet (fabric-reinforced thermoplastic) are first pre-heated and then placed in the mould, where they are thermoformed and at the same time provided with moulded-on ribs, bearing eyes and other working parts with the aid of the long-fibre direct injection moulding process developed by Arburg. The result is a lightweight part with high strength and stiffness. Project partners included Bond Laminates (Tepex sheet), FPT Robotik (automation), Kistler Instrument (mould sensor technology), HRS (hot runner system) and SKZ-KFE (process monitoring and quality control).

  • Hot runner technology provider Mold-Masters, which was acquired by Milacron this year and also celebrated its 50th year in business, showcased the newest addition to the Master-Series family of nozzles, the Accu-Valve MX, that offers gate sizes down to 1 mm for tight pitch applications. It has been tested on PC, ABS, and PP. It also displayed the Melt-CUBE, which allows for higher pitch density and easy tip replacement in the machine; IRIS co-injection technology and the E-Drive electric valve gating system for multi-cavity, precision moulding in cleanroom environments.

  • US firm DME introduced a new line of pre-machined high-temperature insulator sheets, for standard mould bases, to help mould makers reduce their labour costs. Pre-machined features include locating ring clearance hole, assembly screw clearance holes, and mounting holes, thus saving time and machine wear. The sheets are made of high-compression-strength, asbestos-free material, making them ideal for high-temperature applications. The thermal insulating properties of the glass-reinforced polymer composite material inhibit heat transfer from the mould to the platen, or from the platen to the mould. The insulator sheets are used on moulds and dies between the top clamping plate and the stationary platen and between the bottom of the ejector housing and the movable platen.


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