Providers of these services help to ensure that a production facility is not wasting valuable resources. For example, a compressed air ring-main will commonly have multiple leaks, adding additional load to compressors and adding costs relating to maintenance and power consumption. Sensitive equipment can be used to detect leaks from a distance, allowing them to be readily fixed.
On-site surveys with thermal imaging equipment can also highlight heat losses. For example, in a plastic processing facility, large amounts of thermal energy are required to reduce polymers to a molten state. Heater bands are fitted to plasticising units to help to achieve this, but without the correct insulation, much of the thermal energy generated will be lost to the surrounding environment.
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Third party material testing can avoid the need to purchase expensive testing equipment. Below are some examples of the types of testing services that are relevant to the plastics sector:
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Mould Flow Analysis is a technique that uses sophisticated software to simulate how the material will fill an injection mould tool. By importing a 3D design of the component, it is possible to simulate how changes to the moulding process will affect final part quality.
Factors such as melt temperature, mould temperature, injection pressure etc. can be analysed in order to achieve optimum results. Further improvements can be made through changes to the position, size and number of material injection points, as well as altering component features, wall thicknesses, etc.
Once the process and tool design have been optimised, production of the actual mould tool can commence.
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As well as physically measure one or more components using equipment such as CMM (coordinate measuring machines) or vision systems, companies can provide third-party support for new product development. Typical services include:
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Despite the introduction of all-electric technology, the majority of production equipment used for moulding plastic components still uses hydraulic systems to produce linear and rotary movements. This requires the use of hydraulic oil, and grades are available that are designed for this application.
The hydraulic oil is subjected to both extreme pressure and heat, causing it to degrade over a period of time, making it less effective in terms of component lubrication. The production of particulates can also cause wear to metal components such as hydraulic rams and associated seals, as well as cause control valves to fail.
Typical services provided by specialists in oil management and filtration include:
Depending on results, the existing oil may need to be re-filtered, or replaced in its entirety. In the latter case, the machines oil tank may be inspected and cleaned prior to re-filling the machine.
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Within a typical plastics factory, there will be several ‘circuits’ of pipework, each providing a key service. There are specialist companies that can install this pipework and any associated control valves and distribution manifolds.
Examples of pipe circuits include:
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As well as adding colour to plastic components through the addition of masterbatch to the base material, components can be ‘enhanced’ once manufactured.
Plating of plastic components involves a multi-stage electroplating process that results in a ‘chrome’ type finish. In the majority of cases, ABS (or a blend of ABS and Polycarbonate) will be the plastic polymer involved. The plating will not directly adhere to the plastic surface, so a metallic intermediate layer is first applied (typically nickel) by ‘dipping’ the components.
Typical stages of the process are cleaning>acid etching the plastic’s surface in order to create a ‘key’>neutralisation of the acid>dipping to create the intermediate metallic layer>adding the final finish using electroplating.
Vacuum Metallising of plastic components involves the deposition of a thin metallic layer onto the plastic’s surface. The process requires a pure metal sample (such as copper, chrome or zinc) to be vapourised within a vacuum chamber.
Once deposited, the resulting layer is highly reflective, making it ideal for components such as headlight reflectors. The surface is also conductive, making it a good choice for electronic applications.
Painting plastic parts can involve a highly automated process. In large-scale applications, there may be as many as 50 stations involved. A moving track system carries the plastic components through the stations, with an open-ended oven forming part of the system.
Parts are first ionised, providing them with an electrically charged surface to which the oppositely charged paint particles are attracted. Even when surfaces are uneven, this method can achieve a very even distribution of paint.
6-Axis robots are now commonly used to dispense the various layers of paints and clear protective finishes.
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By fitting sensors and switches to plastic production equipment, a sophisticated software package can provide real-time information on the status of multiple jobs. A display screen can illustrate the status of each job, i.e. if it is on schedule, behind or ahead of schedule etc. Also, an indication of the machine status is provided, e.g. ‘down’ for material or maintenance issues, undergoing tool-change etc.
These systems can ‘tie-in’ with other aspects of a company’s activities, for example:
Larger injection moulding projects frequently employ plastic prototyping and rapid tooling services. For example, a new packaging project may result in several multi-impression production tools running in conjunction, so getting a design wrong could prove to be expensive.
Once a product has been designed, producing visual prototypes using techniques such as 3-D printing will highlight any obvious potential issues. It is, however, only when products are produced using the correct materials and processes that a true ‘real-life’ evaluation can take place.
Low volume tooling can be manufactured from easy to machine metals such as Aluminium. These won’t have a long service life, but will allow sample mouldings to be produced. Once the design has been tweaked, perhaps using a series of Aluminium single-cavity tools, a fully hardened multi-impression tool can be manufactured with a high degree of confidence.
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Plastic processing facilities require large volumes of chilled water. This requires the installation of pipework to distribute the water, as well as cooling devices, some of which rely on the evaporation process to dissipate heat.
These water systems require the addition of various additives, as well as frequent monitoring.
Within a plastics manufacturing environment, it is important that strict quality management procedures are in place. There are however other measurable standards that can be required and implemented. The companies in this category are specialists in implementation and assessment of these standards.
ISO9001:2015 – This is the most common form of quality management system used in any manufacturing environment. It is an international standard, the latest edition of which was launched in 2015. All manufacturing partners on the PlastikCity site are required to work to this standard as a minimum.
ISO14001 – This is the international standard that specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system. Companies holding this accreditation are required to show an ongoing commitment to protecting the environment, e.g. through a reduction in energy consumption.
IATF16949 – This is a more stringent quality system based on ISO9001. It is designed to meet the higher quality standards required within the automotive sector.
CE Marking and Accreditation – When a manufacturing company purchases an item of equipment, it usually has to comply to EU safety standards. This is verified through the addition of a CE mark to the product by the product OEM signifying that these safety standards have been met.
If however, any amendments or additions are made to the equipment, e.g. by the plastic processing company or another equipment supplier, then the CE compliance must be reviewed. A good example would be the addition of an automation cell to an injection moulding machine.
CE Accreditation can be performed in a number of ways.
Toll Granulation is a service where the customer (e.g. injection moulder or extrusion company) retains ownership of the material. Our partners in the Toll Granulation section will take your waste and scrap plastic, reprocess it and then return it to you in granular form to be reused on your machinery.