Canadian Plastics

Best of NPE, according to our panel of experts

Highlights from NPE in materials, with special focus on automotive applications...

July 1, 2006   By Rebecca Reid, managing editor



Highlights from NPE in materials, with special focus on automotive applications

Expert:Dr. Donald V. Rosato, Sr. Research Analyst, Plastics, Technical Insights, Frost & Sullivan

Contact: 352 Thoreau St., Concord, Mass., 01742-3604; www.frost.com; gander.psi@verizon.net; Tel: 978-371-0749; Fax: 978- 371-0293

Dow Chemical’s line of olefin block copolymers (OBCs) INFUSE, which are manufactured using its INSITE technology. These provide better performance at high temperatures, faster set-up for reduced cycle times, better abrasion resistance, as well as better elasticity and compression set properties at both room and elevated temperatures.

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INSITE is a catalyst system that enables control of the molecular architecture required to produce the olefin-block structure, but in a continuous process. INFUSE can be based on ethylene, octene and butene and can be processed on standard machines if temperature adjustments are made.

Bayer MaterialScience AG has established a start-up firm, Lyttron GmbH, that will be investigating applications for electroluminescent films that light up when an electric current is applied to them, the firm said. Previously, this has only been possible for flat surfaces, but the technology used at Lyttron now lets the films to be molded into any shape, increasing the number of design possibilities. Smart Surface Technology (SST), a co-development of Bayer MaterialScience and electroluminescence (EL) and precision electronics specialist Lumitec, allows films to be shaped to illuminate any conceivable geometry.

Bayer sees the main applications for this technology to be in the auto industry — incandescent lamps in cars will become obsolete, instrument panels will be designed to take up less room and a car’s interior headliner will glow in a soft glare-free light.

DuPont moves into the biopolymer business with plans to release two bio-based polymers in 2007.(Covered by Canadian Plastics on pg. 5)

Electroform Co. Inc. created a proprietary tool and automation system with two-shot molding, in-mold decorating and automated assembly of six separate parts, which were all molded at Wauconda, Ill.-based Progressive Components International Corp.’s booth. Electroform’s system used standard components from Progressive, and a standard robot and press. Electroform makes its own proprietary parts as needed but draws much of the processing improvement by designing the tool and automation system together from the start. At NPE, the system manufactured toy cars — one of three complete programs the company has made so far.

COPERION’S LAB-SCALE PERFORMANCE COMPOUNDING

The Coperion Group debuted a tiny compounder for laboratories developing plastic compounds, masterbatches and powder coatings that simplifies scale-up to production quantities.

At NPE, Coperion exhibited an 18-millimetre (mm) twin-screw ZSK machine.

The ZSK 18 Megalab has engineering characteristics , such as diameter ratio and specific torque, and can carry out reliable tests for batches from 7 ounces (oz.) up to 88 pounds an hour (lb./hr.).

The processing section of the lab extruder is available in 10-barrel and six-barrel lengths. Formulation ingredients can be added directly to the melt downstream through a ZS-B twin-screw side feeder with a flange connection for quick-action coupling. The main powertrain is rated at 15 horsepower (hp), while the side feeder provides about 0.5 hp.

KIEFEL’S MDO FILM LINE PRODUCES TRULY FLAT, BROAD FILMS

Kiefel Inc.’s machine-direction orientation (MDO) film line, Kirion MDO , which reduces edge trim compared with competing systems, allowing processors to make truly flat films rapidly and in broad widths, made its first public appearance at NPE.

The firm ran three-layer polyethylene (PE) film at its booth. The inner layer, which was comprised of bimodal high-molecular-weight high-density polyethylene (HDPE), accounted for 56 per cent of the film’s weight.

The outside layers were linear low-density PE (LLDPE).

The line can run up to 1,000 feet per minute and stretch the film by a factor of 10. MDO treatment reduces film thickness, cutting costs, and increasing film stiffness and strength. Orientation also can boost gas and vapor barrier properties. Optical properties like transparency and gloss are greatly improved. Because of their properties, MDO films can lead to breakthroughs in food packaging and efficient production of conventional films for hygiene, labels, shrink labels and stand-up pouches.

Trends and highlights in blow molding machinery

Expert:Ottmar Brandau

Contact: OB Plastics Consulting; 434 Oakland Rd., Mahone Bay, N.S., B0J-2E0; www.blowmolding.org; Tel: 902-531-2028; Fax: 419-844-7759

REHEAT STRETCH BLOW MOLDING MACHINES

Linear stretch blow molding machines are approaching speeds seen before only in rotary machines. Now there are machines that can produce between 1,600 and 1,800 bottles per cavity per hour; only a few years ago, linear machines topped out at about 1,000 bottles per cavity per hour.

In rotary stretch blow molding machines, Mag-Plastic Machinery Inc. had a unit to orient preforms without a neck support ring. Manufacturers are also offering neck orientation features. Krones Inc. has changed the way in which its machines handle preforms. In most rotary machines, the preforms are turned at some point, but in these machines they are always right side up. It’s a good feature because the more preforms are turned, the more likely that problems occur. This feature increases reliability and efficiency; the new Sidel Compact Linear machine also employs this preform handling method.

SINGLE-STAGE INJECTION STRETCH BLOW MOLDING MACHINES

Nissei ASB Co. showed the first all-electric blow molding machine, the ASB-15N/10E. The firm says the machine consumes 60 per cent less energy compared to hydraulic machines, has better shot repeatability, generates less noise — which is a given because hydraulic pumps make a lot of noise — and requires less maintenance.

Machinery with multiple stations were also widely exhibited. Automa showed a single-stage hybrid machine with four stations. The clamps were hydraulic, but the screw was electrically operated. The Aoki machines have only three stations, while Nissei ASB and Uniloy Milacron also exhibited machinery with four stations.

EXTRUSION BLOW MOLDING MACHINERY

Two manufacturers — Automa and Techne Inc. — both came up with systems to greatly reduce cycle time, traditionally the Achilles’ heel of this type of machinery. They both work by optimizing water cooling in the mold and by using refrigerated air to blow the container.

Bekum showed a machine that was blowing two containers in one cavity using a needle blow. One was on top of the other and they were connected by, and blown through, the neck.

This type of system is used in wheel machine — rotary machine — technology, but the machine running at NPE had a different look than those used for polyethylene (PET).

The exhibited machine had two stations with five cavities each; each cavity has two bottles for a total of 20 cavities, and a wide mouth and the wide mouth cutter was incorporated into the machine.

Adding value inside the mold through multi-component, multi-material molding

Expert:Jack Avery, principal of Avery Plastics Consulting

Contact: 1450 Laird Ave., Salt Lake City, Utah, 84105; www.averyconsultants.com; jack@averyconsultants.com; Tel: 801-583-1328

FERROMATIK MILACRON TWIN CUBE TURNING STACK

Ferromatik Milacron’s Twin-Cube Turning Stack reduces labour and handling, because with a single cavity it allows parts to be molded, assembled and removed.

There are two cubes that are in the mold within the platen and all four surface areas of the cube are used in the process; there are also two injection units. More specifically, there are 180-degree opposing injection units and then they rotate 90 degrees and within that rotation you can do a couple of things.

In the first stage, the material is injected on each exterior of the surface. During the second stage, a label could be added or the stage could be used to cool the parts. Then the cube rotates again, and during the third stage the two components will be oriented opposing each other, allowing for them to be assembled. In the fourth rotation, the parts are removed from the mold.

Because there are four operations or phases as opposed to one — i.e., just injecting the material into the mold and waiting until it solidifies to take it out — molders could realize significant cost savings.

Electroform took in-mold assembly to another level at NPE. The company showcased its proprietary automation manufacturing, and was producing a toy car that had six parts in two different colours; one part was a preform decorative film.

Five parts were molded in two colours — they were assembled and out of the mold came a little racing car. Everything was boxed up, because it’s still patent-pending, so it was impossible to see exactly how it worked. But, they did a nice job of showing what you can do in a mold.

Demag Plastics Group Corp. also exhibited multi-molding capabilities on several machines. NPE was the 1100 Titan’s North American debut. The line was introduced at K2004. This series has replaced Demag’s Caliber large tonnage machines.

For NPE, Demag converted a single-shot 1100 Titan to a multi-component machine by adding a Demag Multi-Plug to produce an automotive cowling. First, Multi-Plug released a shot of 20 per cent talc-filled polypropylene (PP) then Multi-Plug released a shot of Santoprene. The fully integrated production cell included a Wittmann Inc. robot and conveyor.

With a clamp force pressure of 1,100 tons and a screw 80 millimetres (mm) in diameter, with an LD of 24:1 — the multi-plug’s screw was 40 mm in diameter with an LD of 20:1 — the cycle time for this application was 45 seconds (s). Pump rating for the Titan was 150 hp, compared to the Multi-Plug, which had a pump rating of 30 hp.

Extrusion trends, technology and the increasing representation of Chinese firms

Expert:Allan Griff, Consulting Engineer, Edision Technical Services and Griff Extrusion Seminars

Contact: 5101 River Road, Bethesda, Md., 20816; www.griffex.com; Tel: 301-654-1515; Fax: 301-654-1414

Basically, extrusion machinery hasn’t changed much in 25 years or more, and what little has changed is not overly critical. Synchronous torque motors (gearless) — although they work well — will appear on some new lines, but maintenance people won’t know about them and the old ones — and they are not so old as that — still work just fine. Claims of energy savings may be true, but the dollar value is insignificant.

There has been lots of enhancements to the extrusion of different products, such as internal mandrel cooling of film, variable-diameter sizing of pipe, and choker-adjusted sheet dies. Most of these are not new, but are gaining prominence.

Systems that collect data about extrusion processes and present it in a meaningful way — meaning it allows operators and businesses to relate the manufacturing processes to the business — is an area where extruders should be looking to get an edge.

CHINESE EXTRUSION MACHINERY PRESENCE REMAINS SMALL

The Chinese have not quite launched an extrusion machinery offensive in North America, as they have done with injection molding and other products.

Despite the statistics showing a record number of Chinese exhibitors NPE, there was a very small number of Chinese extrusion machinery exhibitors, and they tended to have small exhibits; it was possible not to realize they were even there. The Chinese will nibble at the fringes of the business and but probably won’t get as far as they’ve gone in injection molding or in finished products.

As well as a large number of Chinese firms, there were lots of exhibitors with little stands, or who exhibited on the TaiwanTrade Council stand, who offer to make all the equipment the big firms manufacture, but cheaper. They will draw some third-world business away from European and North American firms.


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