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Research & Development Plastics: Technology Advances

New additive manufacturing machine

New additive manufacturing machine

In addition to manufacturing injection molding machines, Arburg is entering the additive manufacturing market. At a press conference on the day before the opening of the K Show, the company unveiled its “freeformer”, an additive manufacturing machine that enables fully functional parts to be produced in small batches mold-free and using standard types of resin.
The new freeformer produces parts layer by layer directly from 3D CAD files using droplets, resulting in components with strength approximately 70-80% of convention injection molded parts. Thanks to the liquid drops, the freeformer can be used to achieve good mechanical properties and a homogeneous layered structure. This results in fully functional components.

The freeformer uses standard resin –that is, the user does not require a special material, but can use his customary one. This is something quite new. The price difference versus using special additive manufacturing materials is a factor of about one hundred. So far, Arburg has run ABS, polycarbonate and elastomers in the freeformer, but any type of resin could be used. The only exception would be highly-filled materials. Colored material can be processed with no problems.

The nozzle of the freeformer remains stationary, while the component carrier moves along three or five axes. Undercuts can be produced without the need for support structures. This means new freedom in terms of part geometry and less material waste.


The freeformer can be configured both as a single-component and two-component machine. This opens up interesting opportunities, for example with hard/soft combinations.

Very little plastics expertise is needed to operate the freeformer. Its control system generates the necessary parameters from the 3D files. Material preparation is integrated into the machine. The plastic melt is prepared in a conventional plasticizing cylinder. From this point onwards, everything is different. In the discharge unit, a patented nozzle closure featuring piezoelectric technology generates plastic droplets from the melt by means of high frequency.

The machine operates without waste, dust, or emissions. It is compact and will fit through any doorway. It is plug-and-play and can be used in an office, design department, or on the plant floor.

All development activities have been carried out in-house. Arburg is both the inventor and manufacturer of the freeformer. Shipments from the company’s plant in Lossburg, Germany will begin next year. The company did not specify a price, but said it would be comparable to a high-end additive manufacturing machine.

For a video of freeformer, click on this link.

Arburg Inc. (Newington, Conn.); 860-667-6500

  Dier International Plastics Inc. (Unionville, Ont.); 416-219-0509

  D Cube (Montreal); 514-272-0500


New options in thermocouples; advanced hot runner clamps

Hotset introduced smaller diameter thermocouples (0.5 mm and 0.75 mm) which will be of particular interest in automotive applications.

Also of interest is its dual sensor MIT (mineral insulated thermocouple). If one sensor fails, the other sensor can be easily switched on, thus reducing machine downtime. Advanced clamping systems for hot runner nozzles was another feature at Hotset’s booth, due to customer demand for custom clamping options.

Hotset is positioning itself in the market as a heating systems solutions provider.

Hotset America Corporation (Swainsboro, Ga.);; 912-289-1844

  Nordic Sensors Industrial (Terrebonne, Que.); 514-323-7172


Fast, accurate all-electric blow molding

Plastiblow exhibited a fully-electric blow molding machine producing cosmetic bottles using a 6-cavity mold. The PB10E/DXL, a double station, servo-driven machine has a clamping force of 24 tons and an extruder plasticizing capacity of 300 kg./hr. Thanks to a new modern design of the machine structure, the footprint is now more compact.

Plastiblow has over ten years of experience in the manufacture of electric blow molding machines that offer speed, accuracy and consistency. Several patents cover Plastiblow technology, such as the servo-driven parison thickness control. Each blow pin can be adjusted through the control while the machine is in operation, for superior accuracy and better neck finishes.

The servo-driven cutting of the parison is very fast and maintains a straight drop and even wall thickness. This is particularly important when producing thin-wall bottles.

Plastiblow SRL (Corsico, Italy);

  Hamilton Plastic Systems Ltd. (Mississauga, Ont.); 905-890-0055



Virtual injection molding software saves time, money

The start-up production of new parts in injection molding is always linked to extensive mold trials and iteration. Sigma Engineering GmbH unveiled a new technology designed to significantly reduce the production costs in injection molding and offer injection molders the possibility to effectively bring their know-how early into the development process.

Called “Virtual Molding”, the method reproduces virtually the complete injection molding process up to the very detail with the Sigmasoft software, and therefore reduces substantially the processing efforts at the machine and the linked material, personal, processing and energy costs.  

Up to now, the company said, the only way to get good parts was to stay in front of the machine and to vary parameters with the mold already built until the parts fulfilled the quality requirements. With Virtual Molding, this optimization will take place long before the steel is cut; the planning and optimization of the injection molding process in parallel to the geometry design and the mold development makes troubleshooting at the end superfluous. Processing problems can be identified and resolved, before they even appear.

A further important advantage, according to Sigma Engineering, is that, with the demonstration of all process parameters and its consequences in the injection molding process on the screen, at any time and any location from mold and part, the process is made even clearer – and many effects that can’t be explained in practice are understood based on the physical information about the flowing and cooling effects of the plastic material.

Sigma Plastic Services Inc. (Schaumberg, Ill.);; 847-558-5600


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