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Keywords of this article:  injection molding 
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More research and studies have led to better understanding in materials. Plastics, in particular, has to be dealt with great care because there might be harmful plasticizers released under certain conditions. To ensure product safety, manufacturers have to first make sure the production process is safe and then inspect their products with reliable inspection systems.

Sonoco said the actual figures are less than two malfunctions in 48 hours
Sonoco said the actual figures are less than two malfunctions in 48 hours
It is always important to follow the tried and trusted way, as medical equipment manufacturer Sonoco Crellin can testify. Back in 2009, one of its PMMA cuvettes customers, Alfa Wassermann has decided to bundle its total volume of orders with Sonoco Crellin, which means Sonoco has to double its production capacity.

This pushed the existing production line to its capacity limits. To be able to except the order, Sonoco invested in extending and modernizing its existing production facility. Starting in July 2010, production now runs in parallel on two lines which achieve an output of 60 million cuvettes per year.

Sonoco Crellin hoped to avoid the need to engineer a completely new production process. "The old plant had its weaknesses, but also its strengths, and we definitely wanted to keep them. Because of this, we looked for a partner who would be able to offer us a solution based on our existing process," said Michael Müller, CEO Sonoco Crellin.

"Our old parts handling and packaging system was extremely complex. They were innumerable switches and sensors that all turned out to be error prone, and frequently caused malfunctions," reports John Ballijns, Engineering Manager with Sonoco Crellin.

Engel helped Sonoco to increase productivity by keeping it simple

Concerning these problems, Engel kept the new system as simple as possible. The processing machinery producer supplied two integrated production lines, each comprising an Engel e-motion 55 type injection molding machine, an Engel ERC 23 F type linear robot and a tailor-made automation solution for packing the cuvettes.

The cuvettes are packed in sleeves, flat plastic rails, divided in the middle that hold 10 cuvettes each on the left and right. The stainless steel feed rails collect the cuvettes after injection molding and feed them into the plastics rail five at a time. During gripping, depositing and pushing of the cuvettes the automation experts had to make sure that the side walls of the cuvettes were not touched at any time. The view windows in this area are designed for visible light and ultraviolet analysis of e.g. blood samples in laboratories.

In this way, Sonoco has achieved its goal of increasing the productivity and availability of the production plant by simplifying part handling. A maximum of two malfunctions in 48 hours was the requirement, but Sonoco said the actual figures are even less.

Besides a reliable production process, a trustworthy inspection system is equally important to maintain the standard of plastics processing. Particularly in packaging industry, where the growth in the use of packaging formats poses problems for traditional contaminant detection systems.

The packaging industry is looking for high performance and cost-effective inspection technology to make sure its products comply with local and international food safety regulations, especially in Asia. Worldwide precision instruments manufacturer Mettler-Toledo Safeline said this is an ongoing trend as the demand for its AXR x-ray inspection system in Asia is growing steadily.


Xray: x-ray inspection systems are getting popular because of increasingly stringent quality standards.
"In the global marketplace, it is more important than ever that food manufacturers have a product inspection system that offers complete contaminant detection," explained Ian Clarry, Sales Manager for Asia, Mettler-Toledo Safeline. "In order to penetrate new markets, brand owners have to comply with increasingly stringent quality standards."

x-ray inspection systems gaining popularity in Asia

The AXR system, according to Mettler-Toledo, is able to detect metal, high-density plastics, glass, stones and rubber and can simultaneously perform in-line quality checks including measuring mass, counting components, identifying missing or broken products, monitoring fill level, checking for damaged packaging, and ensuring seal integrity.

The largest growth in sales for the AXR system is reported from China and Thailand, driven by the growing demand for convenience products, such as instant noodles. These products are packaged in plastics containers that have traditionally proved harder to inspect, as the density of the packaging at corners and edges can mask contamination. The manufacturers that use this packaging format require x-ray technology capable of overcoming this detection challenge.

Another reported significant area of growth is from the small and medium enterprises in China. In order to penetrate the overseas export market, more and more of these smaller manufacturers are looking for x-ray system as a turn-key solution to demonstrate compliance with food safety regulations both locally and globally.

To tailor for the need of Asian market, Mettler-Toledo has developed software capable of detecting contamination in the edges of plastics noodles pots, without masking out the rest of the product, thus ensuring complete contaminant detection. This customized software has now been introduced as standard in all AXR systems.
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