15 Headlines I’d Like to See in ’22
Maybe your fantasy headline for ’22 would be, “Resin Prices Fall Dramatically” or “No Long Waits for Machine Delivery” — but here are some more technologically oriented speculations. (Graphic: Getty Images/elenabs)
After recently reviewing the major themes evident in our magazine’s pages over the previous year, here’s something of a look ahead. This is more of a wish list than a prediction, as I don’t actually expect to see all these advances emerge in the next 12 months. Many of them no doubt need a bit more gestation before being born. But wouldn’t it be fantastic if our editors were able to report stories like these in the near future?
Ocean Plastics Hit the Road
Those who doubt that recycling “ocean plastics” is practical may want to reconsider:A major auto maker (insert Ford, GM or other here) will outfit its 2023 model (insert nameplate) with (interior/exterior/chassis/drivetrain) parts made from recycled “ocean plastics.” This represents a breakthrough in volume application of such material.
‘True’ Melt-Temperature Monitoring Makes Its Mark on Injection Molding
After many decades of attempting to solve the “mystery” melt temperature inside an injection barrel, some newly developed technologies are providing more reliable data that offer a new “handle” for process control and quality assurance. A growing proportion of molders are adopting one or more of these technologies, and the data from these systems is influencing improved injection screw designs.
Industry 4.0 Interface Standards Library Completed
The Smart Factory has taken a big step forward, now that the Joint Working Group of EUROMAP and the OPC Foundation has completed its current project of Industry 4.0 standards for universal communications between intelligent devices. These include EUROMAP 77 for the interface between injection molding machines and MES computers; EUROMAP 79 for the data exchange between injection machines and robots; EUROMAP 82 for interfacing injection machines with liquid temperature-control devices (82.1), hot-runner devices (82.2) and LSR dosing systems (82.3); and EUROMAP 84, Parts 1 through 12, for interfacing extruders, hauloffs, melt pumps, filters, dies, pelletizers, cutters, calibrators, corrugators, calenders and entire extrusion lines.
80% of Injection Machines in U.S. Run Without an Operator
Despite many decades of availability of injection molding robots, U.S. molders are only now catching up to the intensive application of automation among their peers in Europe and Japan, according to a recent survey. Acute labor shortages following the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated adoption of automation, according to molders surveyed.
3D Printing Eases Some Supply-Chain Delays
Major suppliers of standard mold components, hot-runner systems and robot end-of-arm tooling are adopting additive manufacturing to produce metal and plastic components on a quick-ship basis.
Stretch-Blown PP Challenges PET in Hot-Fill Containers
Adoption of PP for high-volume food jars and bottles with high clarity and hot-fill capability helps kick-start PP collection in curbside recycling.
Injection Machine Anticipates Molding Problems Before Production Starts
The latest extension of the trend to integrate molding simulation with injection machine controls downloads a simplified version of a simulation program including a meshed model of the part to be molded and relevant resin properties. Then, artificial intelligence software analyzes the totality of process settings to warn the operator/technician of potential molding problems (overpacked/stuck parts), tool damage (e.g., from excess clamp force) and part-quality problems (shorts, flash, sinks, flow lines, weld lines, etc.) that could result from those settings. It also suggests corrective modifications. For further explanation, the premium Expert Edition of the software refers the user to relevant Injection Molding Know-How, Tooling Know-How and Materials Know-How columns in Plastics Technology.
Sandwich Injection Molding Preserves Long Fibers & Surface Smoothness
Attrition of long glass fibers during injection into the mold is reduced by cushioning the long fibers within the center layer of a “sandwich,” with unfilled resin in the two outer layers serving as protective “padding.” This technique not only maximizes the reinforcing properties of the long fibers, but provides a smooth surface that otherwise might be difficult to achieve.
Automated Purging Setup Speeds Changeovers
A new hardware and software package from a supplier of advanced purging compounds includes an auxiliary hopper for purging agent, plus a small feeder that delivers measured amounts of purge to a short pipe connecting the main resin hopper to the feed throat of the extruder or molding machine. Special software initiates a purging cycle, which involves halting the resin feed, adding purging agent, adjusting barrel temperatures, if necessary, and applying a “soak” time, if required. The software then initiates extrusion of the contents of the barrel, followed by feeding the new resin or color. After a short period of extrusion or molding of a shot, the software asks the operator to examine the shot or extrudate and indicate whether the purge is satisfactory or not. If yes, normal production resumes; if not, a second purge cycle is initiated.
Automation Controller Lets You Configure Cells On- or Offline
A well-known supplier of robotics and automation has introduced a cell controller that can integrate various types of robots (three- to six-axis), conveyors, parts feeders and box fillers. On a control pendant, the user “places” these automation components in a simplified layout diagram and enters the key operating parameters—setting up the robots, for example, much as with individual robot controllers—but here all robots are set up from one controller, along with the conveyors and other cell components. The cell controller interfaces with the injection machine, and it can be used to change settings during production.
80% of U.S. Plastics Plants Use MES or ERP Systems
A milestone in the journey to an era of “smart factories,” this result of a recent survey indicates that a large majority of U.S. plastics processors are now taking advantage of the efficiencies and cost savings (or avoidance) afforded by automated production monitoring, scheduling and inventory tracking.
Controller Prevents Drying Errors
This dryer lets you choose the resin from an onboard library (expandable by the user), along with the desired throughput rate in lb or kg per hr, and software then determines the appropriate drying time and temperature. Adding the starting the moisture content of the resin, if available, yields more precisely calculated settings.
‘Smart’ Scheduler Plans Your Production More Efficiently
To get started, populate a database of your plant’s injection machine clamp and shot capacities. Add in any historical data, if available, on which machines have run particular jobs most efficiently, as well as the status of any current jobs already running. Then, when you enter new jobs into the program, it will assign them to the most appropriate available machine and update the overall plant production schedule.
PET Beer & Seltzer Cans Are the Life of the Party
Injection molded PET cans with a recyclable barrier finally hit the big time in the U.S. for beer, cider, hard seltzers and premixed cocktails. Clear-walled cans offer new marketing options while retaining the convenience of aluminum tops with “pop-top” opening tabs.
No More Damaged Fruit, Thanks to Thermoformed ‘Pocket’ Containers
Easily damaged fruits and vegetables like figs, peaches, apricots and small tomatoes can be protected from farm to supermarket to table by packaging them in thermoformed PET or PS foam with pockets for individual pieces of produce, similar to egg cartons.
INJECTION MOLDING AT NPE: Molding Exhibits Show Off Cell Integration with Multiple Processes & Operations
If you’re interested in lightweight composites, IML, LSR, multi-shot, inmold assembly, barrier coinjection, micromolding, variotherm molding, foams, energy-saving presses, robots, hot runners, and tooling—they’re all here in force.
You can meet the stringent requirements of the medical market without having to invest in a full-blown production clean room.
Injection molded parts are typically demolded with simple pick-and-place automation—a top-mounted, gantry-style (also called Cartesian, linear, or traversing) three-axis robot.