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Every aisle at NPE brings surprises

Issue: June 2018

One of the fun aspects of attending NPE is encountering the unexpected, things that are cool, or things that are ingenious in their simplicity.

An eight-person Plastics Machinery Magazine editorial team visited more than 300 exhibitors at NPE and saw some very cool products you will read about in the next four months.

I was fascinated by Conair’s new Uptime Guaranteed program. The company is promising to fix or replace equipment when a problem occurs and to work with customers to achieve the guaranteed production uptime. It will gather, aggregate and analyze data from hundreds of locations and be able to tell processors how their equipment is performing compared with averages.

At first blush, it sounded like a marketing gimmick. But Sam Rajkovich, VP of sales and marketing, said that a team led by Conair President Larry Doyle spent three years studying everything that could interrupt production, including its own equipment, then developed a system to monitor equipment, and anticipate and respond to problems.

“This is another way that we become our customers’ partner,” Rajkovich said. “People like to know there is a guarantee behind the equipment.”

Ron Shinn, editor

So, what is an acceptable amount of unplanned downtime? It appears that will vary depending on maintenance and operational practices, but Rajkovich said less than 1 percent for a production line on an annual basis is a reasonable goal.

Here are some things that impressed other PMM writers.

Managing editor Angie DeRosa: Novatec’s DigiTwin technology is a telemetry diagnostic tool that goes far beyond PLC data reporting. Processors see in real time exactly what is going on inside the dryer because 20-plus sensors track every component.

The name comes from the digital twin of the physical machine that lets an operator see what’s happening inside the machine. In addition to visual alarms, DigiTwin sends a text message when a filter needs to be changed, when there is a problem with an individual heater, a blower motor is vibrating more than it should or lubrication levels are low. Troubleshooting time is reduced.

Novatec has been a leader in monitoring its equipment for predictive maintenance. DigiTwin looks like another step in that technology. Watch for the story in the July issue.

Correspondent Allan Gerlat: Sorting black plastic has long vexed recyclers and machinery makers. Black does not reflect light like other colors, so traditional infared sensors cannot see it.  And with cameras, black commodities become invisible on black conveyor belts.

Two companies offered intriguing solutions. French machinery maker Pellenc has developed a new optical sorter that scans from an angle so it can see a shadow. The new sorter debuted at the IFAT show in Germany following NPE2018, but Pellenc officials discussed the development at NPE2018.

Canadian machinery maker Eagle Vizion displayed its new black flake sorter that identifies and sorts black plastic flakes based on polymer type, whether it is PP or PE or a blend. The machine uses a different type of infrared detector, and can sort by flake size.  See the story in the July issue.

Senior staff reporter Mikell Knights: Exhibitors showed interesting innovations in small-tonnage molding machines.

MHS Mold Hotrunner Solutions, a supplier of valve-gate hot-runner technology, developed its first injection molding press, a micro molding machine. The M3 micro injection molding machine incorporates magnetic technology not for clamping the mold to the platen but to clamp the mold prior to injection. The turnkey machine produces direct-gated parts as small as 0.001 grams with a gate diameter of 0.5mm in a multi-cavity mold.

Boy Machine showed a Boy XXS model with 7 tons of clamping force in which the temperature-
control unit/chiller is integrated into the press, saving space on the plant floor.

Senior staff reporter Bruce Geiselman: Absolute Robot showed a flexible, low-cost, in-mold labeling system built by Well-Lih Robots. It can be used on injection molding machines with 160 tons to 420 tons of clamping force. The system has quick-change end-of-arm tooling and a label magazine that can be easily reconfigured for a different number of mold cavities.

The system on display was running a four-cavity yogurt cup mold with a cycle time of 3 seconds. See the story next month.

Correspondent Phil Britt: Frigel’s new monitoring controls for its Microgel combined chillers/temperature-control units fell into the area of “cool” — pun intended. The controls monitor cooling on an ongoing basis, allow users to store alarms and show exactly how much energy is being consumed to cool each part.

This energy-monitoring feature allows the part manufacturer to roll the cost of cooling into the price of the product. Other production costs already are considered in a company’s pricing decisions, but Frigel said that previously there had been no way to separate out the cooling cost per product made.

See the story in the September issue.

Ron Shinn, editor