Keys to the Future of Blow Molding
A look ahead at the Future of Blow Molding from the point of view of a machine supplier and mold manufacturer:
Increased customer support. This is necessitated by ongoing trends toward reduced maintenance staffs and shortages of highly trained personnel among blow molders. Machine builders and mold manufacturers have compensated partly by making control systems more intuitive—but also more complex. One thing they have lacked to date is automated process-optimization routines.
Increased customer training. Molders and their customers need to get new products to market faster, and they need to make better use of processing equipment—such as decreased cycle times and light weighting where possible. A process simulator that mimics exactly the look and behavior of actual machine controls, and shows the effects of control commands on a 3D simulation of the machine – this simulation includes a “transparent” mold presentation where users can see internal details like the blowing needles coming into position.
More process simulation. Although there is already, limited use of computer simulation of the mold blowing process to predict wall thicknesses throughout complex-shaped industrial parts such as fuel tanks, and foresee this technique being applied even to bottles in the future.
Machine upgrades and retrofitting. Upgrading an older machine with new hydraulics and mechanical components will only restore it to its original condition, not bring it up to today’s standards. To make an older machine more competitive requires the mold manufacturers retrofitting new controls and sensors and adding new technology, such as robotics and reverse-flushing capability.
Increased uptime. Processors today are looking for faster changeovers, especially with higher-cavitation molds, so that one machine can do the work of two or three. This will require more standardization of molds, blow pins, and other tooling. The long-term goal for blow molding is automatic machine changeovers. In addition,there is more to be done than faster mold changes: Faster color changes are another target, which will require work on head design and perhaps wider adoption of technologies like liquid colors. An entirely different aspect of improving uptime is preventing and solving machine or process problems sooner and faster.
Emergence of Industry 4.0. Collaboration of machinery in the internet age is the next biggest trend. Sensors on the molding press, and on upstream and downstream auxiliaries, along with a global-standard communication interface, will allow connected devices to “talk” to each other. It will require mold manufacturers to add more sensors to the equipment, among other things.
More innovation. Technology suppliers will need to listen closely to customers to anticipate their needs. Achieving cost reductions through multilayer structures is one example—using colorants or special additives only in outside layers; or incorporating recycled materials in inner layers where it does not affect product appearance; or using foamed inner layers for weight and material savings—again without compromising surface finish.
More investment. To keep up with growing demand and shorter product cycles, equipment suppliers must invest in new facilities to shorten lead times. Investment in people is just as important—particularly investment in young people as the workforce is different from the past and the mold manufacturers need ideas from everyone.
To find out more about Monroe Mold and blow mold tooling, call 734-241-6898 today!