NEWS

By Lindsey Munson, editor, Inside Rubber

The rubber industry plays a key role in a variety of market sectors, from automotive and medical to industrial and consumer goods. A central and crucial player in any rubber processing facility is its rubber injection molding equipment. The quality and capabilities of the machinery determine the processor’s ability to produce diverse applications, create specialized product designs, allow mass production with low material waste, offer consistency in quality, adapt to technology trends and more.

What technology developments are coming for rubber injection molding equipment?

Marc Vonderlage, North American director of sales, DESMA USA, Inc.: Rubber injection machines continue to evolve in the areas of refined process control, ease of use and efficiency. Vonderlage said, “DESMA has focused on these areas because of customer feedback. Recently released DESMA Sealmaster+, for example, raises the bar in many of these areas and is targeted at high-volume automated production with horizontal machines.” The machine design has been reconsidered to improve points that include:

• larger opening stroke, daylight, tie bar spacing and heating plates to accommodate larger and more varied molds;

• faster clamping system movements (up to 50%) due to redesigned and optimized mechanical and hydraulic components; and

• improved ease of maintenance due to reconfiguration of machine guarding, innovative access to auxiliary equipment, hydraulic systems with increased use of hard piping, as well as a focus on improving hydraulic oil longevity.

How does Industry 4.0 play a role in equipment advances? How can the cybersecurity concerns that come along with digital access be addressed?

Vonderlage, DESMA USA: “DESMA has been preparing for Industry 4.0 for many years, and this thought process is included in its current control system, the DRC 2030TBM. In fact, the ‘TBM’ in the control name indicates ‘Trend Based Management,’ which is intended to allow customers to perceive trends in their process so that necessary actions can be taken to further optimize if needed. Additionally, the controls are equipped for integration with automation systems (either DESMA-supplied or from a third party), as well as with customer factory management software for data collection and monitoring,” said Vonderlage. As for cybersecurity concerns, DESMA is prepared by equipping its machines with the DESMA SmartWall device – a specially configured hardware firewall designed to prevent unauthorized access. Vonderlage shared, “Furthermore, DESMA works closely with its customers’ IT departments to ensure machine networking hardware and configuration is in line with the requirements.”

What can equipment manufacturers do to help customers with automation/robotics integration?

Vonderlage, DESMA USA: As a molding systems provider, DESMA frequently works with customers on projects that include the injection machine, tooling, automation, and other ancillary equipment. With this background, DESMA strongly focuses on ensuring that every part of the system is designed and executed in consideration of the other, and that includes automation. Vonderlage said, “To be successful, the product design must be automation-friendly, the right machine with the right control interface must be used, the mold (and cold runner) need to be appropriately designed and the automation functions should be carefully defined. These are very important points because the general definition of success for an automated solution is that it must satisfy requirements 100% of the time. A 95% success rate typically is not good enough because, unlike an operator, automation systems lack the flexibility to adjust or adapt when something doesn’t go right.”

What is the biggest “ask” an equipment manufacturer receives from customers (i.e., equipment speed, changeover rates, etc.)?

Vonderlage, DESMA USA: According to Vonderlage, “From the perspective of a systems provider, the answer to this question varies greatly and is heavily influenced by several factors, including the level of customer experience with rubber molding; product design, which may be very large, very small, very complex or made from very challenging materials; product quality requirements; production environment (i.e., cleanroom) or requirements. High volumes generally correlate to high speed, while low volumes often correlate to ease of changeover. A common and challenging question from customers is ‘Can you provide a very flexible yet inexpensive automated rubber molding system?’ The answer to this question depends on the definition of ‘flexible’ and ‘inexpensive.’ In most cases, automated solutions are the best and most cost-effective when they are focused on a small number of tasks. When the number of tasks increases or the different product variations to be produced with the automation system increase, the cost and the level of difficulty to execute (and operate/maintain) often increase quickly.”

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE HERE: Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers: Inside Rubber Magazine (arpminc.com)

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