Canadian Plastics

Material Comforts: Unique Solutions to Handling Challenges

In principle, raw materials handling systems carry out the seemingly simple task of transporting your resin from storage to process. However, the successful implementation of an effective and integral...


September 1, 2007
By Umair Abdul, editorial assistant

In principle, raw materials handling systems carry out the seemingly simple task of transporting your resin from storage to process. However, the successful implementation of an effective and integral system must take a number of factors into account, ranging from the type of material being processed to the size limitations of your plant.

Canadian Plastics visited four different operations to analyze some of the challenges that may stand in the way of implementing a raw materials handling system. Each processor serves a different niche market, and their day-to-day operations range from PET film extrusion to automotive parts manufacturing.

But despite their differences, all four companies have partnered with equipment manufacturers to implement a fully-integrated and fine tuned raw materials handling system.

MARK IV AIR INTAKE SYSTEMS

The plant: Montreal, Que.-based Mark IV Intake Systems is a Tier 1 and Tier 2 supplier of air intake manifold systems, with 1 million intakes produced each year. The plant currently occupies a 152,000 square foot facility, manufacturing 10 different products on 16 injection molding presses. The company is currently making use of 70 per cent of its capacity, and plans to add approximately three injection molding machines by September 2008.

The challenge: The facility has been producing manifolds using 30 per cent glass-filled nylon since 1999, and the abrasion of the material on the handling equipment was a big concern. The plant also does a lot of post-molding work such as welding and ultra-sonic molding, so an effective drying process was imperative. Material that has not been dried properly can negatively impact the properties of the end product.

The solution: Mark IV’s material handling equipment is housed in a 50 x 30 foot room, with five blenders along one wall. The three older Motan, Inc. units have a capacity of 300 kg/hour, and the most recent addition — installed two years ago — can process 1,000 kg/hour.

The material is then put through eight drying bins, seven of which are supplied by Motan. The bins dry the raw material for four hours at 175 F, and are powered by three large dryers. The dryers are desiccant units, and the desiccant pellets further assist in the efficient absorption of water vapour. Several vacuum pumps then deliver the glass-filled nylon using a stainless steel piping system to a receiver on each injection molding press.

In order to protect the system from the abrasive nylon material, Motan installed a valve wear plate on the line that connects the silos to the blending units. Motan’s engineering staff has also worked with Mark IV to customize the receivers on top of the injection molding machines. Some of the earlier units were ceramic coated, and the newer receiver units have been outfitted with an added section of tubing that makes the units easier to repair. Motan also experimented with putting the receiver’s gasket directly on the plunger with a wear plate to reduce the impact of the nylon.

For the expansion, management is currently working with Motan distributor Dier International Plastics Inc. to extend the system’s capabilities. However, because of the flexibility of the existing system, Mark IV may utilize the additional capacity in one of the drying bins to start manufacturing a new engine cover before the expansion.

Normand Lgar, Technical Coordinator: “They listen to our needs…Motan gave us a lot of support by adding features to help us to reduce the wear in our material handling equipment.”

Resources

Motan Inc. (Plainwell, Mich.); www.motan.com; 269-685-1050

Dier International Plastics Inc. (Unionville, Ont.); www.dierinternational.com; 905-474-9874

A.B.M. CANADA INC.

The plant: a.b.m. Canada Inc. is the North American facility for household retail products and the custom molding business for parent corporation a.b.m. Italia. The company commenced its new operations earlier this year, and currently molds and assembles consumer products on ten lines. Although the company conducts its operations out of a new 120,000 square foot Brampton, Ont. facility, a.b.m. Canada’s manufacturing environment only comprises 15,000 square feet of the plant.

The challenge: The company needed a materials handling system built from scratch to automate the delivery of material to the injection molding presses. a.b.m. also needed a system with excess capacity and design flexibility so that they can bring new injection molding projects online without having to retrofit the system.

The solution: Wittmann Canada Inc. provided the company with a customized turnkey system that addresses every materials handling need, from resin storage to press-mounted loading and blending.

Wittmann prepared the site for and erected three silos outside the manufacturing operation, two of which were moved from another location. Since each silo contains a different resin, the raw material is transported to three separate surge bins and delivered to the injection molding presses by a system of four vacuum pumps and filters.

The overhead stainless steel piping system, which consists of six lines to each machine, transports the raw material to two loaders — one for regrind and another for virgin material — and a gravimetric blender atop each injection molding machine. The facility already has the infrastructure to add three additional large-tonnage injection molding presses to the operation.

Additionally, Wittmann has provided a.b.m. with the capacity to bring more presses online. The entire handling system is controlled using a Wittmann M7-Touch material handling network control system, a user-friendly touch screen interface that allows the operator to control the loaders on each machine.

Chris Koehler, President: “There were no real special conditions, other than we knew we wanted to expand on the system down the road. We wanted to incorporate some flexibility into the system for that future expansion. Once we add some higher-ton presses here, we want to be able to feed the presses and maintain the integrity of the materials handling system throughout the whole plant.”

Resources

Wittmann Canada Inc. (Richmond Hill, Ont.); www.wittmann-canada.com; 888-466-8266

PAR-PAK LTD.

The plant: Par-Pak Ltd.’s Brampton facility extrudes biaxially oriented polystyrene (BOPS) and amorphous polyethylene terephthalate (APET), with the capacity to extrude up to 100 million lbs of sheet annually.

The challenge: The Brampton facility recently commenced operations on its second PET extrusion line, and the company required a materials handling system that could process up to 6,000 lbs an hour. However, the building envelope limited the implementation of larger handling equipment because of height restrictions. Additionally, Par-Pak also wanted a dryer system that could be powered using either the gas-fired burner and the electrical supply in order to reduce downtime and provide flexibility.

The solution: Par-Pak approached Universal Dynamics Inc. to provide the components of a turnkey material handling system. The system consists of a large-capacity blender, crystallizers, dryers and vacuum conveyance equipment.

Once the PET has been blended, the raw material is split into two loops with an identical crystallizer and dryer. The two parallel systems are a better fit for the building envelope, and reduce the facility’s reliance on a solitary system should the unit fail.

The material is crystallized and then conveyed to one of the desiccant dryers for further drying. It is then conveyed to the extruder hopper, alternating vacuum sequence b
etween each of the two drying loops.

Par-Pak also had complete energy redundancy built into the dryers and crystallizers, where the equipment can function as a complete gas or complete electric unit. In addition to addressing the dryers’ reliance on a single power supply, the redundancy provides the plant with greater flexibility for potential projects in the future.

For example, the plant’s technical group noted that if they decided to run a material like corn-based polylactic acid (PLA), they would have to use the electric supply instead of gas burners as PLA processes at much lower temperatures.

Edmund Chin, Extrusion Lab Manager: “We wanted a lot of redundancy built into the system, and from what I understood, no one other than Una-Dyn has complete redundancy built into the dryer.”

Resources

Universal Dynamics, Inc. (Woodbridge, Va.); www.unadyn.com; 703-490-7000