Plastics Technology

JAN 2019

Plastics Technology - Dedicated to improving Plastics Processing.

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"printer farm" of 3D printers to be served by collaborative robots from Universal Robots (UR) for unloading finished parts. EVCO already has 12 Markforged printers that use fused-filament fabrication (FFF). EVCO also uses UR collaborative robots, or "cobots" for assembly, insert loading and boxing parts. Interfaced to the injection press, these are flexible and cost-effective automation tools, says EVCO automation engineer Jimmy Lee. Cobots free up labor from simple, repetitive tasks: "We have labor shortages like everyone else. Vision- assisted cobots let us use people for higher-level functions." Another important new venture for EVCO is launching the firm's first painting line. It will start production soon, pending customer approval of UV-cured sample parts. The first job will be electrical housings, followed by lawn/garden and heavy equipment. In addition, EVCO is adding more intensive process monitoring of its injection machines, which Bernie Degenhardt, automa- tion manager, describes as one of the company's initial steps into Industry 4.0. He says the goal is to tie together production and process monitoring and automatic quality control into one central system capable of archiving large amounts of historical data. This is starting in the firm's medical molding operation, which requires extensive documentation of product quality. Evans explains that over the past 20 years, EVCO's eight North American plants have employed a Syscon-PlantStar system for produc- tion monitoring. "I can see the cycle time of machines in Georgia or Mexico, and real-time scheduling tells us when jobs will be done and helps us schedule people, materials and equipment." The firm also uses the PlantStar system for monitoring sensors on plant systems such as central chillers, air compressors and power usage. Now EVCO is pursuing real-time process monitoring on its injection presses. The machine controls monitor sensors for cavity pressure and other parameters on every shot to make accept/reject decisions. The PlantStar system archives 10 process variables from presses of different brands and model years. The system also monitors auxiliary equipment such as dryer temper- atures and water flow and pressure from TCUs. E VCO Pl a s t ic s — De Fore s t , W is . Full Plate of New Technologies on the Table at EVCO Plastics A new low-pressure molding process, 3D printing of production parts and prototype tooling, collaborative robots, and process monitoring with automatic QC are all on the menu. Managing nine plants in the U.S., Mexico and China with more than 1400 employees and 183 injection machines from under 100 tons to 3500 tons; and serving business segments as varied as medical cleanroom molding, thin-wall packaging, and large parts for automotive, agricultural equipment and appliances—all that might seem more than enough to keep one company busy. Not at EVCO Plastics. Based in DeForest, Wis., the custom molder and contract manufacturer is pushing ahead to adopt a handful of new or enhanced technologies to expand its services and capabilities. First on the list is launching the iMFLUX low-pressure molding process from a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble. This novel approach shows promise for reducing cycle times, melt temperatures and clamp-force requirements, while improving part quality and consis- tency (see March '18 feature). Last month, EVCO began installing iMFLUX controls on five or six machines running some of the most challenging jobs. The first is a 400-ton Toyo press running a Noryl pressure vessel, where EVCO hopes to increase weld-line strength with iMFLUX. Next in line will be Husky packaging machines running 64-cavity stack molds, where "saving an extra second in cycle time would be nice," says EVCO president Dale Evans. Other new initiatives are in 3D printing. One aspect is printing mold inserts for prototyping. Another is branching out into 3D printing as a process to complement injection molding for proto- types and short runs of up to 600 parts. The firm is building a By Matthew H. Naitove Executive Editor A "printer farm" with a dozen Markforged 3D printers for prototypes and short runs of up to 600 parts is a new compliment to EVCO's injection molding business. 56 JANUARY 2019 Plastics Technology PRO CE S S OR 'S ED G E EVCO is applying UR cobots to tasks from insert loading, assembly and packaging to tending its 3D printers, as in this test cell.

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