What are the driving forces behind injection moulding machine designs for 2017? Nici Solomon highlights standout features noticed at the K2016 exhibition in Düsseldorf, Germany.
IT SEEMED that every injection moulding machinery supplier we visited at K2016 was showcasing greater line efficiency and production economics through automation and Packaging 4.0, consistent and reproducible quality, and energy optimisation.
Among them, here are six key introductions that can satisfy the varying needs of South Africa’s rigid plastics packaging manufacturers.
Deep-grip, pinch-type handles the simple way
At K2016, Nissei ASB’s PF24-8B/12 machine was injection stretch blow moulding a three-litre oval PET container, suitable for fabric conditioner or edible oil applications, in a mould configuration of 12 preform cavities and four blow cavities, using a 1.5-step moulding process.
The container featured a deep-pinch, grip-style handle that uses custom-designed moulds and advanced moulding methods to form the handle by blow moulding alone. This means no handle inserter or injection moulded handle is required, resulting in a comfortable-to-grip container that Nissei claims is easy to recycle, cheap to produce and uses minimal energy.
Also demonstrated was a newly-designed neck orientation system – installed between preform heating and blow moulding – ensuring optimised material distribution of ovalised preforms and correct orientation of flip-tops or asymmetric caps.
For extra versatility, in the same configuration, the PF24 can be converted on-site to produce bottles up to five-litres; or it can be changed to 24 injection and eight blow cavities to produce bottles up to 1.5-litres.
By changing cavity configuration and moulds, it’s also capable of moulding up to 9 000 lightweight water bottles/hour.
High performance in a new dimension
Engel débuted its next-generation e-speed series for injection moulding of 310ml construction and DIY retail sector cartridges.
Patrick Bracke of Green Tech Plastics Machinery, Engel’s South African agent, was excited to tell us that the e-speed 500/90 allows cartridge decoration, using IML technology, which meets extreme length-to-diameter-ratio requirements.
Engel collaborated with system partners to make this possible – IML automation is from Beck Automation, the 16-cavity mould comes from Otto Hofstetter, and the labels from Verstraete IML. According to Patrick, cartridge production makes optimal use of the advantages of this hybrid machine, which has an electric clamping unit and a servo-hydraulic injection unit.
‘Moulding the long, hollow bodies with a wall thickness of only 1.2mm requires very high dynamics and injection performance,’ Patrick explained. ‘Very short cycle times are achieved, despite the relatively high total shot weight of 800g.’
A basic prerequisite for the high efficiency of the IML process is very precise movements of the mould mounting platen, which the Engel e-speed 500/90 ensures thanks to its all-electric clamping unit.
To avoid peak loads while operating at high speeds, even with high clamping forces up to 5 000kN, a specially-designed system stores the braking energy of the platen movements and transfers it back to the motor as needed. Patrick credits this integrated energy storage, which functions according to the flywheel principle, with allowing the machine to run with a relatively low and constantly connected load.
Productivity and speed go hand in hand
Sumitomo Demag exhibited five injection moulding machines under its ‘Electrified 4.0’ theme, underlining how each is designed to meet the opportunities and demands of Industry 4.0.
On this stand, the El-Exis SP 200 machine was marketed as the quickest IML packaging application at K2016, producing four decorated cups in less than two seconds.
According to the company, the El-Exis SP 200 illustrates the highest available system productivity and maximum speed currently possible for the production of IML-decorated plastic containers. A high-speed extraction robot intervenes through side entry in the parting level, places labels in the stationary mould half and removes the four completed cups on the moving side.
During the past 20 years, Sumitomo Demag – locally represented by Demaplastech – has constantly updated technology. Today’s El-Exis SP 200 model features a clamping force of 2 000kN, improved energy optimisation and an OPC/UA interface for communication conforming to Industry 4.0 standards.
The company also used K2106 to demonstrate the capability and performance of its partners. The robot, gripper technology and injection mould were provided by Brink, the labels by Verstraete IML and the polypropylene by Borealis.
Integrated closure manufacturing
Husky Injection Moulding Systems introduced its fully-integrated HyperSync system that synchronises closure mould, machine, hot runner and auxiliaries. ‘Combined with intelligent features and networking capabilities that highlight Industry 4.0 level connectivity, the increased synchronisation of machine and mould processes delivers faster cycle times at a lower total part cost, with no impact on product quality,’ said Steve Lawrynuik, Husky’s president of medical and speciality packaging.
We’re excited about this integrated system, which features our new eIMC in-mould closing technology. This servo-driven technology provides a 20% increase in productivity, with nearly two seconds saved per cycle, depending on the application,’ he added. ‘It also allows for the safe overlapping of mould functions, providing precise, controlled closing of flip-top closures while still in the warm position.’
Steve went on to explain that electrification of the clamp, servo-variable pumping technology, and a regenerative clamp stroke combine to deliver an impressive improvement in energy consumption over competitive systems, while maintaining optimal part quality.
Cube technology reduces cycle times
Arburg’s Allrounder Cube series is available in two high-speed models with clamping forces of 2 900kN and 4 600kN respectively, ideally suited to the packaging industry.
This is according to Andreas Reich, senior packaging sales manager, who explained that the new cube mould machines are suitable for moulds with weights up to 16 tons. ‘They feature four servo-electric axes as standard: one for forming the closure, two for dosage and one for rotating the mould,’ he stated. ‘The injection units can be driven either hydraulically or electrically, while the core-pulls for ejection and further mould functions are always hydraulic. Thanks to short dry cycle times and dosing across cycles, cycle times can be reduced by a second and output improved by 10%.’
He went on to reveal that cube mould technology is of particular interest when several machines are required to meet sales volumes using conventional technology. ‘That’s because the cube mould’s four sides available for production and two parting lines positioned one behind the other offer interesting benefits – individual process steps, such as mould filling, cooling and part removal are implemented simultaneously. Other processes, such as insertion, assembly or esting can be integrated without prolonging cycle time,’
Andreas explained. ‘Twice the number of cavities are available with the same mould mounting surface. Thus, cube moulds can more than double output and reduce unit costs.&rsquo Arburg is represented in South Africa by Hestico.
Milacron set to disrupt metal can industry
Fresh from the first commercial sale of its recyclable multilayer plastic can with in-mould labelling from Verstraete IML, Milacron ran demonstrations of the Klear Can on its Ferromatik Series 280 machine, preconfigured for easy multi-component, mono-sandwich, cube and co-injection capability.
The machine featured an integrated Mold-Masters iM2 48-zone controller, IMD inspection system and CBW in-mould labelling automation and robotics. Converters can also choose from electric, hydraulic or hybrid drive options to meet their energy and performance requirements.
According to chief technology officer, Bruce Catoen, the Klear Can is poised to dethrone metal food cans for long shelf-life items such as fruits, vegetables, fish and meats, when the technology is taken up (in early 2017) by one of Asia’s largest tropical fruit brand owners. He described results of qualitative consumer testing – conducted in Asia by Nielsen Market Research – as extremely successful because the BPA-free PP/EVOH can allows consumers to see food quality at point of sale.
Bruce listed other main advantages as its ability to run on existing filling, seaming and retorting lines; and full recyclability. ‘After use, only a small amount of metal remains on the can’s upper rim, and the residual ring on the flange separates during the grinding phase,’ he explained.
Ferromatik Milacron SA is located in Germiston, Gauteng