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Thinking thin: it pays to consult a specialist

14 October 2013

With more and more manufacturers looking for lighter, cheaper and more sustainable packaging, it is no wonder that demand for thin wall mouldings is showing a healthy upward curve. 

The advantages are clear; a lower moulding weight means reductions in material and shipping costs, faster cycle times can deliver significant productivity gains – so important in today’s competitive market place. And it’s not just packaging moulders that benefit.  In the automotive industry, lighter components help to reduce on-the-road weight; that means more mpg and fewer carbon emissions.

So, how can in-house or specialist moulders obtain maximum benefit from this process?  How does this translate into a healthier bottom line?  Sumitomo (SHI) Demag, experts in thin-wall plastics technology, offers some advice to prospective users.

Let’s start by considering the disadvantages of thin wall moulding. By understanding and addressing these, the way is open to achieving and sustaining the increased levels of efficiency needed for long-term growth.

Here, judicial investment is the key. Tempting though it may be to make do with existing injection moulding plant, it can often be a case of false economy. With many contracts involving millions of mouldings, a tailor-made system can achieve the extra performance which delivers a rapid return on investment.

The first step is a thorough analysis of current and anticipated future requirements. Dave Raine, Technical Sales Manager at Sumitomo (SHI) Demag, elaborates: “It’s vital to examine every potential application to ensure selection of materials, machine and tooling give the optimum blend of speed, quality and consistency.  Will in-mould labelling be required? Can robotics provide a cost-effective solution to maintain increased production levels?”

The choice of machine is obviously important, and it’s here that Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s expertise in hybrid – electric/hydraulic – machine technology is paying dividends for existing users and new customers alike. Designed to withstand higher stresses and speeds in a 24/7 production environment, the company’s El-Exis machines have become the equipment of choice for many thin wall moulding specialists.

“The El-Exis range of hybrid moulding presses was designed for high-speed production,” continued Dave Raine. “It incorporates a number of innovative mechanical and software features and typically achieves 3-5% more productivity than other machines on the market. When fast production speeds and frequent changes are required, machine versatility is vital. It’s here that advanced system controls combine with superlative build quality to minimise maintenance requirements and changeover times.”

Efficient production of thin wall plastics also relies on operator skills and experience, and Sumitomo (SHI) Demag places great emphasis on pre-installation training and familiarisation, as well as on-going process optimisation.

“This helps to ensure that start-up is trouble-free and full production can be achieved from day one,” commented Process Support Engineer Nick Smith.

“Today, injection moulders are increasingly looking to their equipment suppliers for much more than a machine.  Our philosophy is to work with our customers to provide a solution that’s exactly right for them. This can range from formulating the correct procedures to achieve optimum cycle times, advice with tooling, provision of ancillary equipment for in-mould labelling and robotic handling, plus that all-important training.”

Demands to create smaller, lighter parts have made thin-wall moulding one of the most sought after capabilities for an injection moulder.  From a machinery manufacturer point of view, thinner wall sections bring changes in processing requirements: higher pressures and speeds, faster cooling times, and modifications to part-ejection and gating arrangements.

These process changes have in turn prompted new considerations in mould, machinery, and part design.

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