KraussMaffei System Doubles Pultrusion Speed

The staid process of pultrusion is getting a substantial facelift with a new approach from KraussMaffei that includes aspects of injection molding.

Traditional pultrusion is a form of extrusion in which reinforced reactive plastics are pulled (rather than pushed) through a die to form a constant cross section. Think ladder rails, one of the main applications for the process, which dates to the 1950s.

In the new iPul system by KraussMaffei, fibers are encapsulated in a closed “injection” box, which it says permits use of fast-reacting systems of epoxy, polyurethane, and polyamide 6. Production speeds rise from the usual 0.5 to 1.5 meters per minute to approximately 3 meters per minute, approaching extrusion speeds of thermoplastic PVC profiles, according to KrassMaffei.

Visitors had an opportunity to view the system in operation at KraussMaffei’s headquarters in Munich, Germany on July 13. Four of the ten largest global pultruders attended as did manufacturers of sporting goods, windows and automakers.

Development partners for the technology include Covestro (polyurethane matrix resins), Evonik (pultruded glass fiber reinforcement in construction), Huntsman (wind power applications), and Thomas Technik (curved pultrusions).

KraussMaffei readies new pultrusion line for July 13 demonstration.

Automotive, Construction, Europe, Industrial, Polyamides, Reinforcing Material

Injection Molded Ammo Wins Over Skeptics

Intellectual property and sales are growing for injection molded ammunition.

While the original goals of the technology were to reduce use of copper and other

Patent images depicts an exploded view of the polymeric cartridge casing having an over-molded primer insert. (USPTO)

expensive metals, other benefits are starting to win over an army of skeptical sportsmen. One is the lighter weight of the plastic composite cartridge, which translates into less wear and tear on guns as well as flatter—and more accurate—trajectory, according to manufacturers and patents, which exceed 100. Lead replacement is also an important benefit of the new ammunition.

Conventional ammunition for large caliber weapons is made from machined brass or lead that is machined, cast, molded or coated.

At least three companies are now injection molding ammunition: PCP Ammunition of Vero Beach, Florida; Polycase of Savannah, Georgia; and True Velocity, which is opening a new manufacturing plant in Garland, Texas.

A patent application published last Thursday by True Velocity shows the nature of the technology.

The polymeric cartridge casing could be made of a glass-reinforced polyamide, although several other plastics are mentioned in the patent application. Top and bottom halves would be welded together, a common practice in plastic processing. Injection molding would permit faster mass production with easier implementation of design features such as multiple cannelures that would improve effectiveness of the projectile. The projectile is injection molded with metals or ceramic alloys and can also include complex design features.

Polycase, which began making molded ammunition in 2012, operates two 80-ton Sumitomo Demag injection molding machines. It partnered with PolyOne to develop a special high-density compound for lead-replacement.

Defense, Injection Molding, Metal Injection Molding (MIM), North America, Polyamides, Sports

Printable Steel Powder Targets Molds, Tools

An improved additively manufactured steel suitable for use in injection molds may be on the way.

NanoSteel, a producer of nanostructured steel materials based in Providence, Rhode Island, is launching BLDRmetal L-40, a case-hardening steel powder that provides high hardness and ductility (case hardness >70HRC, 10%+ core elongation).

SLS can produce complex shapes such as die set made with new steel. (NanoSteel)

Robyn Kennedy, marketing communications manager of NanoSteel, told The Molding Blog: “We haven’t tested this material in an injection molding application yet. However, we believe the BLDRmetal L-40 material would be suitable because it has superior hardness and ductility than materials currently available for additive manufacturing, such as M300 maraging steel. Injection molders would like to use P20, but this material cracks when used in in the laser powder bed fusion process, and we believe that the L-40 material will be able to deliver competitive performance without cracking, thereby delivering on the benefits of 3D printing.”

In a demonstration with printing partner CFK GmbH of Kriftel, Germany, an 8-inch roll thread die set was printed with the new ferrous printing material.

“We tried nearly every combination of material and conventional CNC machining process to create our dual-thread die sets, none of which could cut or grind the complicated dual-thread geometry,” said Mark Doll, President and CEO of Perfect Lock Bolt America Inc., the only manufacturer of dual-thread fasteners in North America that are said to be resistant to self-loosening. The new die set is going into production this year.

“For us, the most important attributes of NanoSteel’s BLDRmetal L-40 are that it is easily implemented and creates crack-free high hardness components, which sets it apart from the many other tool steels we have tested” said Christoph Over, CEO at CFK.

Use of SLS to make tool inserts has been around for more than 20 years, but has not taken off. The new material claims superior material properties over those currently available. Most 3D printing of tool inserts is done for short runs with plastic materials.

Founded in 2002, NanoSteel is a privately held company funded by investors including GM Ventures, Lear Corporation and SPDG.

Additive manufacturing, Molds & Moldmaking ,

Gardner Takes Over NPE Dailies: A Changing of the Guard?

There may be an important changing of the guard at NPE2018, which will take place in Orlando, Florida May 7-11, 2018.

The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) announced yesterday that Gardner Business Media, publisher of Plastics Technology, MoldMaking Technology and other media, will be the official publisher of the NPE2018 Show Daily.

That will end a 27-year run for Crain’s Plastics News, which first published a show daily in competition with Modern Plastics in 1991, and then exclusively since 2000.

The change is interesting because PLASTICS (formerly the Society of the Plastics Industry) is a conservative organization that does not make changes lightly.

No one could claim that the show daily was wrested from Plastics News because of poor performance. Its show dailies both for the NPE and the K fairs were of consistently high quality, featuring excellent, fresh reporting by a very good editorial staff. And content was timely. Modern Plastics, the longtime industry leader, had gotten fat and lazy, often preprinting large sections of early show announcements.

It seems that Gardner put forth a first-class bid centered on its breadth of technical reporting and expertise as well as its experience in publishing a show daily at the giant IMTS show at McCormick Place. Its flagship plastics publication, Plastics Technology, has consistently emphasized technical and product news with excellent interpretation by industry mavens. That may be a better fit for many of the equipment exhibitors at the NPE. The focus at Plastics News was often corporate or business news, and not product news.

The PLASTICS official announcement hints at that.

PLASTICS President & CEO William R. Carteaux said: “We look forward to seeing how Gardner uses its technical expertise to capture the spirit of the show, and the spirit of the industry, in new and exciting ways with their singular vision for the show’s print and digital media.”

Rick Kline, Jr., president of Gardner Business Media, said: “We are very excited to be partnering with the PLASTICS team to deliver a one-of-a-kind Show Daily to the attendees of NPE2018. Gardner has a strong commitment to the plastics industry and to American manufacturing as a whole, and we look forward to highlighting the amazing technology and new products that exhibitors will have on display at the show.”

Don Loepp, the longtime head of editorial at Plastics News, provided this statement to The Molding Blog: “Plastics industry readers know we excel at covering NPE, we’ve been doing it since 1991 and we’ll do it again in 2018…Our dailies, at NPE and other trade shows, have eight times been honored with Azbee awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. That’s a competition where we go up against the best editorial work from all business-to-business journalism, not just the plastics industry. Even though we won’t be doing daily print issues at NPE2018, we’re already planning to cover the show the same way we always have, with a full editorial team and lots of digital products including breaking news stories and video.”

Jim Callari, editorial director and associate publisher of Plastics Technology, provided this comment to The Molding Blog: “Throughout its 64-year history, Plastics Technology has focused its editorial efforts on delivering unparalleled coverage of new technology—and how it can be deployed at plastics processing plants. The NPE Show Daily will bring that editorial expertise to attendees of NPE2018. Plastics Technology has assembled a powerhouse team of highly experienced editors who know the technology developments that are important to processors inside out. What’s more, as part of Gardner, we will also be tapping into the editorial know-how of sister brands MoldMaking Technology, Composites World, Automotive Design & Production, AutoBeat Daily, and Additive Manufacturing to provide complete coverage of all new technologies that will be exhibited. Gardner is no stranger to show dailies, having produced and delivered the IMTS Show Daily since 1994 for AMT-The Association for Manufacturing Technology. As part of our arrangement with PLASTICS, Gardner will also produce a half-day Additive Manufacturing workshop tentatively scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.” 

It’s not clear what all the issues were that factored into the decision to change NPE show publishers.

PLASTICS wanted the dailies to be branded as NPE dailies. Gardner agreed to that. It’s probable that some type of revenue sharing was involved.

Whatever, it’s an important change. First of all because it’s close to a million-dollar business. Also, it establishes significant exposure and credibility for the publisher. Modern Plastics was clearly the industry media leader when it published the show daily. That flipped to Plastics News by 2000.

Is Gardner now the plastics industry media leader? Maybe. I remember 17 years ago when Plastics Technology was an orphan ditched by VNU, which had purchased it from a private equity group.  Rick Kline took a flyer on PT as a way to hedge against continuing declines in the machine tool industry. Then he added Moldmaking Technology, composites publishing assets, industry conferences, and beefed up the editorial staff with a particular focus on improving digital properties.

It’s not clear if this development will have any bearing on who publishes the English K Show daily—another gem taken over by Plastics News when Modern Plastics collapsed.

Loepp comments: “The 2019 K Fair is more than two years away; it’s early in the planning process to discuss that project. But we will be doing show dailies at Fakuma in Germany and Plastimagen in Mexico later this year. This is the second time we’ve done dailies at Plastimagen, which are entirely in Spanish.”


Injection Molding

Metal 3D Printers Form Trade Group

The metal additive manufacturing industry is forming what is shaping up as a formidable trade group within the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF). It’s an interesting thrust for machinery producers and users, who have been part of several different organizations, such as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers where 3D plastics printing predominated.

An organizational meeting held in Las Vegas June 16 attracted 52 companies.  To date, twenty-one companies have applied for charter membership in the Association of Metal Additive Manufacturers (AMAM).

“These soon to be charter members recognize that metal AM represents a natural relationship to powder metallurgy (PM) technology and that MPIF is already well established as the organization representing the worldwide interests of virtually all facets of PM technology,” says James P. Adams, MPIF CEO.  

The additively manufactured fuel nozzle for the LEAP jet engine. (GE)

Adams continued: “Immediate needs facing the metal AM industry include establishing and sharing of best practices related to the safe operations of metal AM facilities; establishing an industrywide approach to metal AM marketing including an online media strategy; organizing of classroom and online educational programs to expand knowledge of metal AM’s key differentiators including design for AM shape capability, tool free manufacturing, mass customization, use of unique alloys, and design for metal AM microstructure; organizing of educational programs to train new metal AM technologists; take an active role in industry research with a focus on metal powders and new alloys to expand potential applications in the industry; collaboration with or without other standards development organization to prioritize and create key standards for metal AM final material properties and testing methodologies, and guidelines for machine installations, processing, design, and recycling; and collection and reporting of key commercial benchmark statistics within the metal AM industry.”

The MPIF has also been home for several years of a sub group involved with metal injection molding.

The MPIF did not release the names of any charter members, but a list of attendees at its annual meeting in Las Vegas was available on its web site. They included officials of 3D Systems (equipment), EOS (equipment), Stratasys (equipment), Formlabs (equipment), GE (equipment and parts) and Heraeus Additive (metal powders).

The equipment producers represent three metal additive manufacturing approaches: laser-based, electron-beam, and ink-jet processes (aka 3D printing). In addition to making parts captively, GE sells equipment from its acquisitions ArcamEBM and Concept Laser.

The MPIF says there are three well-known commercial PM applications for additive manufacturing: titanium medical implant parts, cobalt-chrome dental copings, and cobalt-chrome aircraft-engine nozzles made by GE at the rate of 40,000 annually. Rolls-Royce is also testing a prototype front bearing housing made from a titanium–aluminum alloy for its Trent XWB-97 engines.

A number of powder makers are working on qualifying gas- and water-atomized powders for AM.

GE Additive announced last week that it is creating the world’s largest laser-powder additive manufacturing machine. “The machine will 3D print aviation parts that are one meter in diameter, suitable for making jet engine structural components and parts for single-aisle aircraft,” said Mohammad Ehteshami, VP of GE Additive. “The machine will also be applicable for manufacturers in the automotive, power, and oil and gas industries.”

Additive manufacturing involves taking digital designs from software and building them layer by layer from metal or plastic powder. Additive components are often lighter, more durable and more efficient than traditional casting and forged parts because they can be made as one piece, requiring fewer welds, joints and assembly. Complex designs are possible.

Additive manufacturing

Medical Leads Steady MIM Growth

Innovative new designs continue to lead steady growth for the traditional metal injection molding (MIM) industry. The medical market is a strong performer, while firearms—the traditional leader—is down significantly so far this year. That’s according to the new annual report from the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF), which also released its design winners.

A MIM surgical keel punch made for Paragon Medical that functions as a broach to remove bone during knee surgery won the Grand Prize in the Medical/Dental. The part is molded net shape from 17-4 PH stainless steel The molder is the ARC Group Worldwide, Longmont, Colorado.

MIM broach cuts away bone during knee surgery. (MPIF)

U.S. MIM sales rose 10 percent in 2016 to an estimated range of $350 million to $400 million, according to the MPIF. That adds up to 3–3.85 million pounds of metal powder.

Stainless steels and low-alloy steel represent an estimated 83 percent of powders consumed. Other MIM materials include also used are titanium, tool steels, Inconel 625 and 718, and tungsten carbide.

The industry includes about 25–30 commercial job-shop parts makers and 15–18 captive operations making medical & dental and firearms for their own products.

Medical, Metal Injection Molding, North America ,

P&G Unit Unveils Dramatic Improvement in Mold Cooling

Procter & Gamble’s mold design and production subsidiary called Imflux received a patent this week on an evaporative cooling system using exotic fluids that dramatically cuts mold production costs while also improving part quality. Cooling fluid channels are confined to mold support plates.

Designed for Imflux’s low-pressure molding technology, the molds are made from some combination of aluminum and beryllium copper. The concept is not all new. An Australian company has been licensing an evaporative cooling approach for molds for more than10 years.

Baffles help improve cooling. (USPTO)

The lead inventor is Ralph Neufarth, who heads the R&D team at Imflux, which is located in Hamilton, Ohio and was spun out of P&G’s innovation labs in 2013. The company is highly secretive. Neufarth is a former P&G engineer and mold designer at Corning Precision Lens.

The patent claims that use of refrigerants such as CFCs can improve cooling versus liquid coolants as much as 500 times due to a phase change from liquid to gas when absorbing heat in the mold. Cooling lines are located farther from the mold cavity than in conventional mold designs, creating a more uniform heat experience for the part, according to the patent.

Simplified version of Imflux cooling approach. (USPTO)

Cooling/Heating, Molds & Moldmaking

BMW Invention Boosts Efficiency of Composite Molding

BMW is developing a roll-fed technology to produce thermoplastic composite parts that reduces costs and improves efficiencies.

In the new system, a roll of glass or carbon fiber mat is fed first into a heating unit where it is consolidated and then into a mold where it is cut off and then overmolded.

A recent patent application states: “The energy balance is improved since heating for consolidating, forming and the injection-molding process is necessary only once. The complicated handling devices in the case of a large number of, or large, organo sheets and the necessary higher manufacturing tolerances for consolidated organo sheet inlay parts can be eliminated.”

In Europe, thermoplastic composites are often called “organo” sheets.

European auto producers—more so than in the United States—are aggressively introducing thermoplastic composites to replace metal both for weight savings and the beneficial properties of the composites.

The patent application states: “In fabrics and crosslays, the fibers can also extend at right angles to one another, such that the mechanical properties of organo sheets, such as rigidity, strength and thermal expansion, can be defined better than in their metal precursors. In contrast to metal sheets, the tensile and compressive behavior and other mechanical and thermal properties are not isotropic.”

The thermoplastic composites also are also more corrosion resistant than steel.

New equipment required to implement the technology include: 

  • A receptacle for a roll on which a not yet consolidated endless organo sheet is wound;
  • A heating unit;
  • A gripper for drawing a front portion of an endless organo sheet from the roll and for introducing the front portion into the heating unit; and
  • A cutting unit which is arranged between the heating unit and the injection mold.

In the BMW invention, a roll of carbon or other type of fiber sheet (2) is pulled from a roll (3) into a heating station (5) and then pulled by a gripper and clamp (6) into an open injection mold, where it is overmolded with thermoplastic into a part (1). The invention eliminates complicated handling equipment and reduces energy use. (USPTO)

Automation/Robotics, Automotive, Carbon Composites, Europe, Insert Molding, Reinforcing Material , ,

Donald J. Trump– Good Or Bad For Plastics?

President Trump’s feared trade confrontation with Mexico has not happened and looks to be nowhere in sight. The American plastics industry has a large trade surplus with Mexico and has nothing to gain from a trade war with Mexico–or Canada or China for that matter.

While his planned pullout of the Paris Climate Accord is obviously a major error, its impact on plastics is only on the fringes. Possibly there will be less demand for plastics in wind turbines, but market forces are going to be more important than action by Trump.

On the other hand, his proposed protection of the American steel industry (which the business-friendly Wall Street Journal feels is stupid) may speed the substitution of plastics-for-steel, a trend already in full force and propelled by lightweighting, preferable properties of plastics (particularly corrosion resistance), and the design benefits of injection and blow molding. It should be noted that engineering plastics keep muscling up to compete in automotive applications. Note, for example,  the new high-heat, high-strength polyamides introduced at K2016 for steel-replacing under-the-hood automotive parts. For companies like DSM, it’s the future.

Following are some interesting points, including data from the lead editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Cold-rolled steel coil (the type of steel used for automotive body panels) is 34 percent more expensive than the same product made in China and 27 percent more than the Southern European equivalent. In other words, plastic parts are more cost competitive versus steel parts made in the U.S. than they are in China or Europe, on a relative basis. That’s thanks to the federal government, which has never shown support for the American plastics industry to anything like the extent it has shown to the steel industry for more than 50 years.

And that support has totally backfired on steel producers, who were often heavy handed in dealing with governments local and national.

Due in part to a long history of federal protection and  jawboning (starting with JFK against U.S. Steel in 1962), the American steel industry has become increasingly noncompetitive and is now dominated by steel made in electric furnaces that cannot compete against plastics for high-end engineering applications. The great names of American steelmaking are gone, except for USS, which is a shell of its former self and would have been wise to shift its business model to self-driving cars. Steel made by electric mini mills make up two-thirds of domestic production today compared to one-quarter in 1980.

The last great steelman in America was Edgar Speer, who told me it was his dream to build a new world-class fully integrated steel mill on Lake Erie in the late 1970s. Speer was replaced by finance man David Roderick who noted the mill would cost more than half of the company’s total capitalization at the time, and killed the project– with the board’s grateful blessing. Today the cost would by many, many multiples of the company’s capitalization.

Trump’s proposed duties (Bush also guilty here) would penalize car makers and other downstream consumers of steel, whom I imagine are stepping up plastic value engineering programs.




Injection Molding

3D Printer Creates In-Machine Castings

A Tennessee 3D printing startup is targeting a very specific production niche: cast plastic and metal parts in the 100 to 1000 volume range.

Collider Tech of Chattanooga, Tennessee, developed a 3D printer based on DLP lithography to produce “molds” made of photopolymer plastics that include “injection pipes” that perform like runners in an injection mold. The molds are then filled with casting plastics or metal which cure in the machine. The pieces are then moved to a water bath where the mold casing and pipes are removed.

Plastic roller made with Collider’ s Orchid 3D printer.

The process competes primarily against parts cast in silicon molds, and is said to have a cost advantage. I would assume that’s a cost advantage if you have to make a lot of different small-run cast parts over several years because you have to amortize the cost of the machine, which has not been disclosed. In some situations, the process may also compete against short run production services such as ProtoLabs, which uses aluminum molds to make parts from conventional thermoplastics.  

The production materials are urethane rubber, silicone, rigid polyurethane and flame-resistant polyurethane. The rigid PU could be used to make mechanical parts and the FR PU could be used to make interior aircraft parts.

The DLP process uses a digital projector screen to create a single image of each layer across a platform. Compared to the better known SLA process, DLP can achieve faster print times for some parts, as each entire layer is exposed at once. SLA can achieve tighter tolerances.

Build volume is 355 mm X 304 mm X 203 mm. Build speed is 36 cm/hour.

Machine shipments are still a year off, but beta manufacturing can be conducted at the company’s Chattanooga site. The process can also be used to make stainless steel and copper (heat sinks and custom valves) parts.

Additive manufacturing, Aircraft, Industrial, North America