Common Sense Innovation and Moldmaker Collaboration

As I walked the aisles of NPE last month, taking in all the plastics-related technologies and solutions on display, two obvious trends emerged: logical innovation and moldmaker collaboration.

One trend is focused on technological solutions often overlooked or underused by moldmakers and molders that can truly impact process efficiency. The other is focused on mold builders working together with their supply chain to not just market their presence at the show, but collaborating to improve their molds and their customers' products.

When it comes to logical innovations, several products come to mind. For example, Fast Heat’s new CableXChecker and MoldXChecker, which easily diagnose heater, thermocouple and connectivity problems within the hot runner system and mold.  Jobs that can take up to 30 minutes can now be completed in less than two minutes. The CableXCheck­er allows molders to remotely diagnose problems and helps mold repair technicians troubleshoot problems before the mold is removed from the machine.  The MoldXChecker quickly identifies thermocouple short circuits, heater short circuits, and other heater quality problems before the mold enters the production cell.

Over at ToolingDocs, the company has finally packaged its custom maintenance bench used within its training facility. The benches are perfect for mold assembly/disassembly with a convenient working height, shelf for storage, Blanchard Ground steel work surface for easy positioning of mold plates, radiused corners on legs to reduce knee injuries and all welded construction. It can be further optimized with a tool storage unit, water manifold and flow meter, air manifold and electrical outlets.

Molders World offers an eco-friendly mold and die saver, but more interesting were the simple zip lock bags and shrink wrap plastics for storing and shipping molds.

And because water cooling is oftentimes an afterthought with molders and moldmakers, Frigel develops cooling systems and intelligent control systems to ease water cooling and keep molds running efficiently longer.  Its next-generation controller automatically adjusts the integrated cooling system to ensure optimum performance based on ambient temperatures. An HMI interface relays information in the user's language for ease of use and extended functionality, and remote access quickly resolves issues and minimizes downtime.

Products designed for serviceability were another logical innovation. These included a variety of new offerings from Alba Enterprises, MHS-Mold Hotrunner Solutions, Synventive and DME, Milacron.

And since you can never have enough information on your molds or processes, a variety of monitoring devices and technologies were introduced and updated, including those from AST Technology, S.I.S.E., Milacron, RedEInnovations, Sigmasoft, ToolStats and MoldTrax.

When it comes to moldmaker collaboration, numerous mold builders were running molds in molding machines throughout the show showcasing innovative mold technologies.

Crest Mold Technology partnered with Milacron, SINGLE, Contura, ICS Laser, MoldMasters, DME, RJG, Trexel MuCell and material suppliers to design and build a high-performance mold producing parts demonstrating combined technologies to substantially reduce material costs, decorating, weight, and distortion while improving physical performance and dimensional stability using advanced thermal technology.  Along with molding Class A resin rich surfaces using glass fiber reinforced materials with MuCell, these molds produced parts with QR codes that can be read with data collection devices and even cellphones.

Next Mold Craft, Celanese, Sodick and LPKF teamed up to mold a complex part simulating a medical device cover that they call a vented processor housing using laser direct structuring--plastic is processed with a laser and then electroless copper, nickel and immersion gold plated just in those areas excited by the laser. Mold Craft created the small, thin-walled part with different surface finishes, special cavity inserts and very tight tolerances.  Celanese provided its Vectra® LCP material, Sodick offered its LP20EH3 micro injection molding machine using a two-stage plunger injection and LPKF engineered the part's complex circuitry. 

Cavaform designed and built a direct-gated concept mold for narrow thin wall 3-inch 1000 ul pipettes using its proprietary patent pending technology. The mold ran in a Sumitomo DEMAG press using an RJG's monitoring system, a Star Automation robot, Clariant's resin and a Comet Plastic Equipment vision monitoring system. This collaboration served to demonstrate that consistently straighter parts can be achieved with two gates when the length-to-diameter warrants is, as compared with one gate for which core deflection can be a problem. The tool can also be serviced in the press with complete access to the cavities.

As a final note,  not only did the collaboration stand out, but so did the sheer number of mold manufacturers exhibiting at this triennial event.  I believe this is evidence that the true value of marketing and collaborating is being realized.

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