Going Beyond the Basic “Blue Box”
The old blue box temperature controller is simply no longer an acceptable option for many molding operations. The primary characteristics to look for in a hot runner controller are accurate and repeatable temperature control, followed by reliability, ease-of-use and affordability. Multi-material parts, engineering grade resins, increasingly challenging applications and part tolerances in the range of 25 microns are becoming more common. Having a high level of control not only provides the benefit of higher quality parts, but also helps to drive part cost down through increased efficiency of employed capital. There is also the additional cost savings associated with reduced part inspection and segregation of bad parts.
At the same time, there is an increased demand for improved quality and lower part cost. The expectation for more technically challenging parts at a lower per piece part cost is a constant reality and the only way to achieve these results is to employ more sophisticated technology.
This scenario has created a demand for more sophisticated temperature control technology for all applications. Achieving a balance between quality and cost is a vital necessity to remain competitive, regardless of the number of cavities being molded. It is equally important for a 64-cavity closure tool to deliver consistent quality parts from each cavity as it is for a four-cavity thinwall mold. In addition, you can leverage training and spare part inventory across a broader array of molds if employing the same type of equipment for all molds.
Next Step in Temperature Control
In this highly competitive molding market, more than the standard PID2 controls are needed. A user-friendly interface, modular construction and competitive price are all important factors, but performance remains the main priority. Active Reasoning Technology (ART) delivers on all of these benefits because it offers an enhanced control algorithm that, when compared to typical PID2 controllers, keeps tip temperatures closer to set point.
Requiring no intervention by the user, ART automatically determines the thermal conditions under which nozzles operate in each zone of a mold. There is no need to classify zones as tip, sprue or manifold, as this is done automatically. This is possible because ART is able to calculate the rate of temperature change when power is applied to each zone and evaluate the cooling profile when this power is removed. After analyzing the reaction of each individual zone, the optimal control algorithm is applied to fit each unique profile. The result of this automated process is an accurate and repeatable temperature control algorithm. In comparison, standard controllers are not able to adapt to each individual zone or nozzle surroundings.
In addition to optimizing part quality for each individual drop, ART builds a custom control algorithm for every zone and pairs like zones as a defense against future thermocouple failures. This is done by evaluating each zone, comparing set point, current draw and thermal profile. In the event of thermocouple failure, ART uses this intelligence to automatically maintain closed-loop control by slaving the paired zone’s thermocouple.
Industry-leading equipment suppliers are adapting their technology to meet this demand. One example is Altanium Neo2, Husky Injection Molding Systems’ expansion of its line of Altanium temperature controllers. Altanium Neo2 incorporates sophisticated design and features that are normally only associated with high-end temperature controllers on a platform that provides two to 24 zones of control, yet at a competitive price. Using ART, Altanium controllers are able to achieve precise and optimized temperature control.
Husky is continually looking for ways to close the loop between design and manufacturing. The goal is to accelerate time-to-market in both tool production and the validation of process. The complete line of Altanium controllers provides extensive diagnostics routines that can evaluate tool performance and save this data for comparison to future test. These comparisons can help to determine heater life, performance of cooling within the tool and other key performance indicators. Future systems will compare flow analysis results with actual tool performance and record this data via the Altanium hot runner controller to improve the next iteration of mold design.
Simplicity, Durability and Flexibility
When custom molder All Service Plastic Molding, ASPM (Dayton, OH) was approached by Husky to test the Altanium Neo2 hot runner controller, they were interested in a flexible hot runner controller that is able to adapt to a variety of molds, systems and configurations. They needed a controller that was able to move smoothly between different machines in the plant and could easily adapt to a variety of applications and materials.
After running a 12-zone Altanium Neo2 in their facility for several months, ASPM was pleased. Technicians were impressed with the unit’s intuitive and user-friendly interface that made it easy to navigate through different screens. The set-up made it straightforward for making sure everything was functioning correctly because technicians could view a mass of critical information simultaneously, including the status of different temperature zones and amp draw. The compact size also made it convenient to move around from one machine to another.
“We were most impressed with the way the Altanium Neo2 was able to teach itself what to send to the heater to maintain a steady temperature,” explains Tim Banfill, Technical Manager, ASPM. “The controller sends the heater a target temperature and makes an adjustment if there is even a slight change. This capability greatly improved the productivity of our operation.”
ASPM currently maintains two molding facilities and is in the process of expanding its business. With two Altanium Neo2 controllers currently in production, they have plans to purchase additional units. “The Altanium Neo2 is sophisticated, yet offers great value for the price. Across the board, we found that its ease-of-use, accuracy and product value far exceeds any other controller we have ever used in the past,” adds Banfill.