Latest machines bring versatility, energy efficiency
Makers of thermoforming machinery brought their most innovative wares to NPE2018, emphasizing speed, versatility, energy efficiency and the need for reducing labor costs.
Customer input guided some of the technologies, but for SencorpWhite, a market analysis also provided some direction. According to Brian Golden, SencorpWhite’s product manager for thermoformers, the OEM determined that thermoforming companies wanted a more precise machine, with optimum control of form and trim operations and a large forming area.
To address those needs, the company unveiled its Ultra 2, which it hails as the largest production steel-rule-die in-line thermoforming machine. In-line steel-rule dies allow for faster tooling changeovers in production, officials said.
The machine has a forming area that’s 34 inches wide and 48 inches long; its footprint is 50 feet by 11 feet. The machine provides 35 tons of clamping force on the former and 130 tons on the trim press. Servo motors, rather than pneumatics or hydraulics, actuate clamping. That eliminated a number of mechanical components that carry extra costs and assembly time. The servo motors also operate the rail-system indexers, increasing machine productivity by about 40 percent, officials said.
With the machine, SencorpWhite sought to give users the ability to put more quality parts in the box at the end of the day, produce less waste, use less energy and increase profits, Golden said. Compared to previous models, the machine can handle higher-volume jobs and produce more parts per cycle. It can produce packaging for health and beauty products; medical packs; clamshells and high-capacity containers.
The machine was in development for about two and a half years, according to Siemens, which supplied the Panel Pro IP67 HMI, heat-control system, servos and other motion-control components. Most of the development time was focused on engineering the electrical and electronic controls.
The machine has 44 temperature zones that are controlled by the Siemens Siplus HCS4300 control system, which can detect internal faults in the load circuit, blown fuses and defective heater cables. Network voltage and internal temperatures also are monitored by zone, according to Siemens. Heat radiates top to bottom, with individually controlled zones for forming and trimming.
The company has sold two of the machines to Lacerta Group Inc. of Mansfield, Mass., which had officials on hand at NPE2018 to answer questions. (See PMM’s company profile here)
One of the key advantages of the machine will be the data that it collects, Lacerta President Ali Lotfi said. “We are measuring the sheet temperature across the back,” he said. “You get a lot of data from the sheet, from 35 locations on the sheet, where we can see the temperature of the sheet. That helps us to design our profile so that we can produce more consistent parts from cavity to cavity. Troubleshooting is easier, and you get consistent parts across all your thermoformers. In thermoforming, sheet temperature is key.”
BROWN MACHINE GROUP
Brown launched its Quad series for continuous thermoforming in 2009; for NPE2018, the company introduced an upgrade to achieve faster cycle times in thin-gauge applications.
Previously, the machines had speed limitations, officials said. The company started to see strong demand for Quad machines no matter the product or material because customers wanted high-tonnage clamping and holding forces. But Brown found that opening and closing speeds were limited when the machines made light-gauge lids or containers. The original design of the Quad machine was focused on coining forces exceeding 180 tons.
To address that, the company upgraded to a dual servo-drive system that allows more than 40 cycles per minute. Each platen is driven by two Yaskawa servo motors and has four mechanical toggle assemblies that are corner-guided by four linear bearings, the company said. The toggles are strategically positioned on the honeycomb platen, which is designed to eliminate deflection and guarantee consistent material distribution.
During the show, officials said that customers need versatility because they may not know what material they will be running next.
“There are a lot of conversations around materials, a lot of customers are being asked to run propylene but once they do make that investment, maybe the propylene project doesn’t come, or it could come a few years later,” sales director Bob Gordert said. “Meanwhile, they need to be able to maintain their existing product offering, which may not be propylene.”
The Quad series can handle anything from PS cups for soufflé to PP cups for beverages. The machine also is Industry 4.0-compatible, Gordert said. “We are able to connect our machines through a network, and we also had added the adaptation of an iPad,” he said.
Customers who have Quad-series machines with one servo drive can purchase a retrofit kit to convert to a dual servo-drive system.
“We needed to look at it from the view of, ‘How can our existing customers take advantage of this?’ ” he said. “It is plug and play into their machine.”
Via its partnership with thermoforming machinery maker Geiss, Berg Engineering GmbH is increasing its presence in North America. To that end, Berlin-based Berg displayed its single-station, closed-chamber Berg M7 vacuum forming machine.
Now in its seventh generation, the machine has gone from prototyping applications to full production, Berg managing director Michael Berg said.
“We now manufacture production-level machines, and this is the reason that we want to increase our market presence,” he said.
The machine is available as Series 1, known as the compact version, or Series 2, known as the universal system. Series 1 can process sheet ranging from 1.3 feet by 0.98 feet up to 2.3 feet by 1.64 feet; Series 2 can process sheet measuring up to 3.28 feet by 1.97 feet. A standard quartz infrared element heats the top and bottom. The company also offers short-wave halogen elements that can reduce heating times by about 40 percent.
The clamping frame is infinitely adjustable. Siemens controls include individual heater element controls; a Simatics S7-1500F controller; and a touch panel. Optional components for the Series 1 machine include a pyrometer, sheet loader and roll feeder. The machines also can be equipped with Siemens servo drives for a table with 0.75 ton of closing force; plug assist with 0.5 ton of closing force; and a clamping frame with 0.75 ton of closing force.
For the Series 2, options include a motorized, stepless adjustable window plate and clamping frame, which takes advantage of patented Geiss technology to allow sheet sizes to be adjusted seamlessly. The sizes are saved along with other processing parameters, and that data is loaded automatically upon selection by the machine operator. The machines also can be equipped with Siemens servo drives for a clamping force of 15 tons for the table and plug assist. As an option, users can specify twin-sheet machines or machines that form with pressure.
By mutual agreement, Berg does not build machines bigger than Geiss machines. Berg’s biggest machine can handle 3.28-feet-by-2.3-feet sheet; Geiss machines start above that forming dimension.
“So, we are not a competitor of Geiss, we are a partner,” Berg said.
Illig unveiled the latest generation of its IC-RDKP 72 automatic roll-fed thermoforming machines, which have been customized for the needs of American plants, said Georg Sposny, who handles public relations for the firm.
The model can process PS, PVC, amorphous PET, PE and PP in thicknesses ranging from 0.18mm to 2.5mm. Key enhancements include an improved pneumatic chain-tensioning system; a reinforced heater carriage; enclosed return rails for the material transport chains; and a water-cooled heater cover that can be moved into a storage position and does not need to be removed.
The material spreading device can be adjusted via servo, even during process sequencing, and parameters are stored with the recipe. The clamping frame also is servo-driven. This allows for smooth sequencing that can be adjusted with greater precision and is more easily replicated than the sequencing provided by a pneumatically operated frame. To provide for quiet and reliable operation, the machine frame is completely reinforced.
The machines are equipped with Illig’s Intelligent Control Concept — known by the “IC” in the name. IC includes Illig’s ThermoLine Control, which controls all machines in a line and stores all data associated with them. Equipment on the line can be operated and controlled from the operating panel of the thermoforming machine. As part of IC, data analysis and notifications about errors from individual machines are displayed on one screen.
The system also is able to automatically optimize the number of cycles based on actual production data logged by the machine, rather than on an operator’s opinion. This allows the machine to adapt to achieve the highest production performance. The system provides guidance regarding tool changes based on operators’ technical understanding.
The machine also takes account of ambient conditions. For example, heater settings change automatically to compensate for the initial temperature of the material roll, the ambient temperature and the temperature of the machine stand itself. IC also provides self-adaptive startup (sas-up), which takes into consideration forming time, the speeds of the tables and valve switching as if in full-production mode. This is especially important with new tools or after a tool change, according to the company. It allows for troubleshooting earlier in the process, facilitating faster ramp-up to full-production mode, with less material waste.
K2016 attendees might have seen a prototype of Polytype OMV’s RM77 Revolver thermoforming system producing PP cups in a 51-cavity revolving mold.
In May, officials descended on Orlando, Fla., to showcase the production version. The company has sold two of the machines to an undisclosed customer in the U.S. The patented system was designed to compete against thermoformers with tilting molds.
Antonio Staffoni, CEO of OMV Machinery Srl, Polytype OMV’s parent company, said the intention was to bring a mature system to the U.S. for NPE2018. The “RM” means “revolving mold,” and the tools for the machines have three semi-molds: a female and two males that are placed on the same vertical axis. The female half operates at full speed while the two male halves complete one cycle for every two cycles the female half completes. The formed material remains in the cavity for an additional cycle. This improves part quality, according to the company. Having two cavity sets allows for an increase in speed. OMV also has integrated a simple stacking and parts-handling system into the new machine.
The biggest benefit to the user is that “we are at the same time forming and extracting the parts, so the only open mold time is just the time to revolve,” Staffoni said.
“This revolving movement, thanks to the torque system and the special tricks that we did, it is extremely fast and provides a lot of closed mold time in the cycle. The percentage of closed mold time in the cycle is something like 30 percent higher than any other machine. That translates directly into productivity efficiency. Theoretically, if you could always keep the mold closed and just open for a moment and close again, that would give you the most efficient machine, because the forming and cooling all happen with a closed mold.”
The machine represents an important step forward in torque motor systems, he said. “Torque motors are not new, but of that size, they were incredibly expensive until recently. It was the progress in the torque motors and the mass production of the same that enabled us to make such a machine.”
Angie DeRosa, managing editor
Brown Machine Group,
Beaverton, Mich., 989-435-7741,
Durham, Conn., 203-988-9426,
Polytype America Corp.,
Mahwah, N.J., 201-995-1000,
Hyannis, Mass., 508-771-9400,