Imflux’ auto viscosity adjust feature lets processors adapt to changing demands of PCR
As the plastics industry grapples with solutions for a circular economy, low-constant-pressure molding is stepping up with breakthrough advances to run difficult sustainable materials, reduce energy use and offer design flexibility to lightweight parts.
Developed by Hamilton, Ohio-based Imflux Inc., a software and engineering firm that is subsidiary of Procter & Gamble, the processing software called Imflux uses low pressure and low heat to mold while taking advantage of the way polymers flow.
It’s essentially the opposite to conventional high-pressure, fast-fill injection molding. The process is less abusive to the polymers, has lower shear rates and expands the capabilities of injection molding machines to run more post-consumer recycled content (PCR), according to Imflux Chief Technology Officer Gene Altonen.
Imflux has been partnering with machine builders, starting with Milacron in 2018, to integrate the processing technology into presses. The subsidiary also has strong partnerships with JSW and Haitian and is collaborating with more than 20 other machine maker OEMs to make Imflux broadly available to injection molders around the world.
In one demonstration at K 2022, a Milacron injection molding machine is producing custom krinkle bags made from PCR with different viscosities selected by trade show attendees.
“We’re letting people make their own batch. They can mix whatever blend they want between a 14 melt flow index (MFI) and a 65 MFI, so there’s a very big swing in viscosity. They feed it in and make their own unit,” Altonen said. “We’re showing the versatility of the system to adapt to whatever viscosity you throw at it. It recognizes the change and still molds a perfect part. We believe that’s the future.”
When it comes to running PCR, Altonen said the industry needs to embrace variation.
“This means we need to embrace technology solutions that enable running highly variable materials, since it is unnecessarily expensive and complex to attempt to remove this variation from PCR material,” Altonen said.
Imflux offers the most effective adaptive technology available to handle this variation, he added, pointing to the Auto Viscosity Adjust feature, which automatically adapts the process to the resin viscosity changes experienced with each shot.
The company recently has quantified the range of viscosity changes the technology can handle.
“We enlisted the help of UL to independently certify Imflux’s sustainability advantages, which confirmed Imflux’s ability to run +/- 50 percent variation in viscosity, reduce energy consumption by 15 percent and reduce part weight by 4 percent,” Altonen said. “These are advantages we believe no other technology solution can match, and they are proven and available for immediate implementation, which is what the industry urgently needs.”
The company also has partnered with Moldex3D, which has automated the simulation curve to find the lowest pressure required to fill a part.
In addition to enabling presses to run extreme variation in resin viscosity, Altonen said Imflux compensates for issues such as down cavities and leaking check-rings, and makes intelligent process adjustments on the operator’s behalf, avoiding the need for operator touches.
Imflux is focused primarily on the consumer products, automotive, medical and electronics industries as employees work with other researchers and developers to unlock new options.
“The medical industry is quite hot,” Altonen said. “Molders serving this industry see Imflux as an opportunity to deliver greater product consistency, productivity, increase data from closed-loop control and elevate machine control.”
This also has been a busy year for the subsidiary with increased interest in sustainable solutions, reduced carbon footprints and the desire to lightweight, which are all addressed by Imflux, Altonen said.
“Imflux customer sites run more reliably with fewer operator adjustments,” he added. “Customers produce higher-quality parts, reduce costs and lower capital — all while advancing their sustainability efforts.”
Imflux holds more than 250 global patents for its technology.
The company also is getting ready to launch a major new software version in November. The latest version of Imflux enhances key features, such as automatic viscosity adjuster, auto-tuning, intelligent default set points and user wizards to setup new systems and processes.
To access support, a new wireless email feature connects the user to a technical support team.
The new features will enhance the user experience, simplify integration on customer molding machines and take the industry further down the journey to autonomous molding systems, Altonen said.
“The machine builder and Imflux in collaboration must offer solutions to run highly variable PCR materials, reduce heat and shear conditions for many sustainable resins, reduce carbon footprint through lower energy consumption and enable lighter parts,” Altonen said. “We are watching a major transformation in how machine builders are prioritizing and innovating to achieve these outcome, and we see Imflux as a major enabler.”
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