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Keywords of this article:  injection molding 
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(Left) Tom Curtiss, Markus Klötzl, Felix Weitmeier, Vinod Ponnambalam and Dr. Mesut Cetin from KraussMaffei
(Left) Tom Curtiss, Markus Klötzl, Felix Weitmeier, Vinod Ponnambalam and Dr. Mesut Cetin from KraussMaffei

At NPE 2018, KraussMaffei presented for the first time a FiberForm application in connection with SpinForm technology for multi-component injection molding. The combination of soft and hard components together with the high strength of the components, results in completely new potential applications — and not just for vehicle construction.

New design options and weight reduction

The FiberForm process combines organic sheet thermoforming and injection molding into a single process. The result is fiber-reinforced plastic components that are incredibly lightweight considering their strength, making them ideal for automotive applications.

"Our groundbreaking FiberForm system is second to none when it comes to lightweight production using fiber-reinforced plastic components. Our customers appreciate the high quality, reliability and cost-efficiency when manufacturing fiber-reinforced lightweight components in large quantities and fast cycle times," explained Paul Caprio, President of the KraussMaffei Corporation.

The armrest produced at the NPE has softer and more appealing surfaces thanks to its TPE component.The FiberForm process can also be joined efficiently with multi-component injection molding, as the company demonstrated effectively at the NPE trade show booth.

At the show, a GXW 450-2000/1400 SpinForm with swivel plate technology was producing a center armrest for the vehicle interior. A continuous-fiber-reinforced organic sheet with a 1 mm thick, continuous-fiber-reinforced composite sheet was first encapsulated with polypropylene (PP) and then overpacked directly with a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE).

Thanks to the TPE component, the center armrest produced at NPE has functional parts and visible parts with surfaces that are extremely soft and visually appealing, which increases comfort and visual aesthetics in the vehicle interior.

KraussMaffei sees great potential for the combination of FiberForm and multicomponent technology in applications such as vehicle manufacturing for semi structural lightweight components in the interior or between the passenger compartment and the engine bay.

SpinForm swivel plate technology excels

The SpinForm swivel plate technology offers numerous advantages compared to other technologies such as the rotary table, index plate and sliding table. Using two mold parting lines provides twice the number of cavities with the same clamping force, results in higher cost-efficiency.

As rotation takes place between the vertical bar pair, the SpinForm technology offers a great deal of space, even for large molds. This makes it ideal for producing large-format components or multiple components. Furthermore, APC plus allows for the integration of special processes such as compression molding.

Intelligent automation solution supports short cycle times

Cost-effective swivel plate technology is combined with intelligent automation solutions and heating technology that is optimally adapted to the injection molding process.

"This enables us to attain cycle times of under 60 seconds," said Dr. Mesut Cetin, Product and Project Manager for Lightweight Construction at KraussMaffei Automation.

The composite sheet is initially transferred to the production cell via a simple drawer system. Optical inspection of the organic sheet ensures transfer to the mold with position accuracy. This ensures that only semi-finished products that are free of defects are forwarded to the IR 600 R3000 K/S industrial robot and picked up by the robot in the same manner each time. Then, the organic sheet is heated up on both sides in the infrared heating station and transferred vertically to the mold system.

"The heating of the composite sheets and the demolding of the components take place in parallel, and the individual process steps are thus decoupled from one another. This, in turns, saves valuable cycle time," explained Cetin.

Seamless traceability of process data

Another highlight of the GXW 450 FiberForm at the NPE was the DataXplorer, an open system from KraussMaffei integrated into the MC6 control system that continuously detects up to 500 signals at the machine. It provides information about all important system and process data. Unlike Euromap 63 and the actual value report of a machine, this happens continuously — that is, in the curve progression, and not as a discrete value in a discrete moment. This is particularly advantageous for safety-related components.

The DataXplorer is part of the Plastics 4.0 solutions that the company uses to support its customers in implementing the potential and benefiting from the opportunities arising in the course of Industry 4.0.

At NPE, KraussMaffei also provided a demonstration of the thoroughness with which production data can be collected and traced using the FiberForm technology. An individualized QR code on the center armrest manufactured on site guided the owners of smartphones to the specific report for their article.

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