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Keywords of this article:  injection molding 
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automotive 
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injection mold 
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injection mold 
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robot 
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A rotating mounted dual cutting station, which processes two wheel arches in parallel. When changing production from front to rear wheel arch the tool is changed and the cutting station indexed 180°.
A rotating mounted dual cutting station, which processes two wheel arches in parallel. When changing production from front to rear wheel arch the tool is changed and the cutting station indexed 180°.

US injection molder Proper Polymers relied on FIPA's customized tool to finish a project from a well-known automotive manufacturer.

The automotive manufacturer is having its front and rear wheel arches manufactured by Proper Polymers. The project presented considerable challenges, achieving a viable solution maintaining zero vestige, producing a cutting station that would handle two different size arches, and achieving an acceptable delivery date. It demanded this even though the gate faces inwards and is concealed in the assembled state.

The original project partner of Proper Polymers was unwilling to produce a single cutting station that would handle both parts, therefore less than three weeks after the project started, the company had to look elsewhere, which is where FIPA came in.

FIPA immediately began with design and construction of the degating station. Both the precise cut and the robot's limited workspace presented challenges. It is common for two parts to be molded in adjacent machines in the automotive industry, but in this case it was not an option.

At the time there was only one injection molding machine available for this project, so the parts are molded alternately in the same machine.

If the workspace had been sufficiently large and adjacent machines were available, the two parts and two cutting stations could have been arranged next to each other and have the respective parts cut on separate cutting stations.

The solution soon became evident: a rotating mounted dual cutting station, which processes two wheel arches in parallel. When changing production from front to rear wheel arch the tool is changed and the cutting station indexed 180°.

A robot picks up two wheel arches from the injection molding machine and inserts them into the cutting station. FIPA air nippers remove the gates with zero millimeters of remaining gate. The robot then takes the two wheel arches and the runners out of the cutting station and places them on a conveyor.

Due to restricted space and safety concerns, the cutting station was mounted above head height and out of reach when in operation and while being rotated pneumatically. This ensures the blades of the air nippers cannot come into contact with workers in the work cell. FIPA parallel grippers hold the wheel arches in position during gate removal.

Several problems in the start-up phase were identified and remedied. The gate geometry was difficult, the standard blade opening width, smaller than the gate, causing interference between the gate and the blade. In order to achieve sufficient clearance, stiffer springs were inserted in the blades and the cutting station's drive was replaced with a custom solution designed to allow for the wider opening. This solved the issue with the blade opening dimension.

In addition the parallel grippers with HNBR pads designed to securely hold the wheel arch in position, while not marking the part, required greater opening tolerance to allow for easy insertion of the part into the fixture due to minor variations in presentation. This was resolved by modification to the mountings of the gripper's HNBR pads on the non-visual side. This achieved a reliable operational tolerance while maintaining precise positioning of the part prior to degating.

Although the system was very complex and delivery schedule challenging, FIPA nevertheless succeeded in delivering the system on time. Proper Polymers was impressed by the result: The cutting station machines a pair of wheel arches in the allowed cycle time of the machine.

Mark Foster, Engineering Manager at Proper Polymers, said, "FIPA worked miracles to get us our degating solution, support was second to none."

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