NPE & New Machinery - National Plastics Exposition - Industry Overview - Statistical Data Included
When the National Plastics Exposition rolls into Chicago, equipment manufacturers come up with some new or better ways to process plastics. Here's a look at what some of the builders exhibited.
Big & Electric; Done In One
UBE Machinery (Ann Arbor, MI) has built what it claims is the "world's largest" electric injection molding machine, a 1,550-ton unit that can--as might be expected of such a powerful unit--mold large parts. The tie bar space is 72 x 52 in. with a 98 x 78 in. platen; standard die height is 25.59 to 51.18 in. Designated the ULTIMA UN 1550, the machine is said to be capable of molding parts that would otherwise be handled by a 2,000-ton hydraulic machine.
UBE is also offering a skin-insert molding process that allows plastic to be injected onto a fabric, vinyl foam, paint, sheet film, or preformed skin insert--and importantly, the machine doesn't have to be dedicated to just skin-insert molding, nor is a special mold design required. An example of the process is producing a seat back for an automobile, wherein foam-backed fabric sheets are mated with a polypropylene substrate. The elements of the system are multi-stage clamp control software to control clamp movement, a servo-valve controlled closed-loop injection clamp unit, and proprietary software.
Toshiba Machine (Elk Grove Village, IL) certainly is committed to electric machines: in a comparatively short period of time, it has gone from having a single electric injection molding machine (66 tons) to having seven in its AC Servo Electric line, four of which were first shown at NPE, so that now it offers models ranging from 22 to 386 tons of clamping force.
What's more, the company has developed a new controller, the V21, which is standard on all of these machines. It provides capabilities including the ability to pre-inject material before the complete lock-up of the mold; the ability to control the filling speed with a template created by the injection pressure so as to assure repeatable filling; and a rapid slowdown function that provides fast decel prior to the packing phase, thereby insuring even distribution of material throughout the mold cavity.
Have It Your Way
Van Dorn Demag Corp. (Strongsville, OH) is part of the Mannesmann Plastics Machinery Group, a group that consists of a variety of equipment manufacturers, such as Demag Ergotech USA. The thing to know is that the people at Mannesmann recognize that any given manufacturing company (especially in the auto industry) is likely to be making the same product in more than one site around the world, therefore having equipment commonality is essential. So in the case of something like the new Integra Series of toggle injection molding machines from Van Dorn Demag, there is a global platform that is tailored for particular countries, with different companies within the Mannesmann Plastics Machinery Group handling the localization.
That is, the Integra--which will be available in 140-, 165-, 220-,330-, 400-, 500-, and 625-clamp tonnage (U.S.) models--has the basic design that is shared with its brethren companies, but the fittings and O-rings, for example, are to SAE spec, and the mold-mounting patterns, auxiliary communications, voltage requirements, and other features meet U.S. and SPI standards.
Another series of machines, Spectra, is now complete, with the introduction of 500- and 730-ton machines, which are added to the 880-ton unit. One interesting aspect of these machines (in addition to their three-year no-leak guarantee) is the fact that speed is an important issue: the 500 machine has a standard 75 hp, but there is a high-speed option of 125 hp; the 730 and 800 machines have a standard 100 hp, but they can be equipped with a 165-hp option.
HPM Corp. (Mt. Gilead, OH) bought a German company, Hemscheidt, in 1997; Hemscheidt had developed a hydromechanical retractable tie bar press with an efficient, compact design that was designated "Next Wave." Now HPM has moved that technology to Ohio, and has made some design modifications to help make them more domestic. And newer. Included in the line up that ranges from 600 to 5,000 tons:
* A modular injection unit with twin injection cylinders to help shorten the machine
* A hydraulic system that combines multiple fixed-volume pumps with one variable-volume pump, thereby providing quicker response time (and a lower cost)
* A new controller: Barber-Coleman/HPM Command 4500C, which facilitates programming.
And for those with the pre-new New Wave units, there is the ability to upgrade with new modules.
Need to load/unload an injection molding machine and it so happens that the conventional three-axis devices just can't handle the task? Motoman (West Carrollton, OH) offers a solution: a shelf-mounted six-axis robot, the UP6R, which can be located right on top of a fixed platen. The arm, which has a 6-kg payload and a 1,523-mm reach, can be programmed to do such things as insert a part into a mold prior to injection and to manipulate a complex part out of a mold after processing.
Really Handle It
In the event that there is something big that requires handling, then FANUC Robotics North America has a solution, as it has developed another unit for its Toploader line, the M-710iT, a six-axis rail mounted robot that has a 70-kg payload. It can access equipment from various angles (e.g., top, side) and can even reach behind itself. As it is mounted on a rail, it can be used to tend multiple machines.
But for the more modest handling requirements--as in the 3- to 8-kg range--there is a new series of units specifically for plastics (i.e., the M-710iT obviously lends itself to machine tool handling, too), SR Mate, with "SR" signifying "Shot Robot." These rail-mounted units, which come in 4-, 5- or 6-axis configurations, are designed for tending 50- to 300-ton injection molding machines. One of the benefits is that they are fast: they can extract a part from an injection molding machine in just 0.75 sec. (OK, they, too, can be used for non-plastics applications--after all, they are robots.)
Living in a Virtual World
Of course, equipment isn't the whole story of this year's NPE--and we don't lust mean the new materials, either. As this is apparently the "Age of e-", the Internet played a role. As in ...
Thermoplastics 'R Them
What do BASF, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Ticona/Celanese, IBM, Ariba, i2, and Andersen Consulting have in common? What's being described as a B2B marketplace for plastic injection molders, Omnexus (www.omnexus.com). It is planned to be running in the U.S. by October 1, then everywhere else in the world by early 2001. Those companies are the original participants (with the resin companies providing, well, the resins and other information, and IBM, Ariba, i2, and Andersen providing the technical wherewithal to make the portal play). The day Omnexus was announced, Solvay joined, and there are expected to be other resin providers joining the group.
Why does this exist? "Molders and OEMs want efficiency and cost control," answered acting CEO, Yaarit Silverstone In addition to the resins from the various materials suppliers, it will offer primary and auxiliary equipment, as well as tooling and MRO supplies. Users will be able to search and compare the catalog offerings, and be able to order and then track it; tool.
"This will be one-stop shopping," Silverstone stated. She estimates that more than 80% of what a molder needs will be available on the site.
In a move preemptive to the Omnexus announcement at NPE, another site, getPlastic.com, was announced lust prior to the show. According to its founders, it is the "first and only independent, vendor-neutral e-marketplace in the plastics industry." It is based on a platform called "Resinate," which combines a product search engine, a database, and formula specification and design tools. Its argument is, in effect, that a, wider assortment is better.
Meanwhile, over at GE Plastics, they were, touting a web site specifically tailored to the needs of the auto industry, www.geplastics.com/automotive. Which, of course, is about GE Plastics. Admittedly, that company has a vast array of technology, customers and know-how, but it does seem to be flying in the face of the broader-based Omnexus and the vendor. non-specific getPlastic.
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