Driving down defects in automotive mouldings

Nifco UK, one of Europe’s largest suppliers of automotive functional plastic components, has recently installed its seventh Sumitomo (SHI) Demag injection-moulding machine.   The company, based in Stockton-On-Tees for over 40 years, has built up a solid reputation for an unswerving attention to quality and technical innovation, supplying major automotive assembly plants, including Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Ford and Jaguar Land Rover.  Nifco’s newest Sumitomo installation is the all-electric IntElect, which is delivering instant results. Besides cutting the company’s carbon footprint it is significantly reducing scrap waste, cutting noise pollution on the processing floor, and boosting output.  

Nifco designs, manufactures and supplies a wide portfolio of functional plastic components, which it manufactures using multiple Sumitomo (SHI) Demag systems ranging from 160 to 650 tonnes. Driving down defect rates is a critical factor for automotive industry suppliers.  Mirroring this uncompromising attitude to quality control, Nifco is maintaining its competitive edge and challenging itself to consistently achieve zero defects.

Sumitomo’s IntElect all-electric technology has proved a major factor in scrap reduction, comments Nifco’s production engineering manager, Richard Clements: “The accuracy and consistency we have achieved represents a significant improvement over conventional moulding machines. Applications which have caused us problems in the past – like cavity balancing and elderly tooling - have run much more smoothly on the IntElect presses.”

Manufactured in-house by Sumitomo (SHI) Demag, the IntElect all electric machines use direct drive systems. Designed to cope with the most demanding elements of the moulding process, these direct drive systems accurately transmit drive inputs into the machine functions, improving efficiency and increasing precision. The activeDynamic control architecture is 10-times more responsive and faster than standard drive technology. Rather than utilising gearboxes or belt drives, these drives are manufactured specifically for their intended purpose, ensuring the correct torque and speed required for moulding.  Richard continued:  “The advanced drive mechanism, coupled with Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s activeFlowBalance technology, provides us with much greater control, resulting in smoother running and uniform, dimensionally stable mouldings, even from the most demanding tooling.”

For consistent monitoring of all aspects of the mould cooling function, the Sumitomo activeFlo feature enables the operator to monitor the temperature and coolant flow within the tooling, feeding back data from intelligent manifold sensors into the machine parameters. In addition to this, the IntElect machines are also fitted with Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s activeFlowbalance system, which controls melt front behaviour uniquely. Multi-cavity imbalance is corrected, resulting in a consistent stream of accurate, defect-free mouldings to drive up productivity.

Leading the pack in energy-efficiency

With its direct drive technology, Sumitomo (SHI) Demag, which pioneered the fully-electric machine concept, is proving to be a real environmental game-changer for plastic manufacturers. IntElect machines consume up to 85% less energy than conventional equipment, making drives from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag the most energy efficient on the market.  The drives run and consume electricity when required, compared to the ‘always on’ technology of standard hydraulic machine. This allows for higher levels of precision, improved repeatability and shorter cycle times than indirect electric drives.

Another benefit of the IntElect machines that instantly struck the production team at Nifco was the reduced noise pollution. Compared with hydraulic or hybrid moulding technologies, which can emit noise levels of over 70dB, requiring operators to wear ear defenders, it’s a much quieter machine. The sound pressure level of IntElect series is only 59 dB, which is slightly less than a normal conversation or noise emitted by a household air conditioning appliance. What’s more, because there are no consumables, such as hydraulic fluids and filters, the IntElect is cleaner and requires less general maintenance and housekeeping.

The Nifco team is quick to point out the ease and speed in which they were able to introduce IntElect into their operations. “The touchscreen control panel is intuitive to use and guides operators through any adjustments that they need to make to optimise process efficiency,” said Richard. “Monitoring the machine parameters is an effective first step in helping us to eliminate quality issues in our extremely large and diverse product range. Our quality assurance process is multi-layered and can include on-line visual checks, vision inspection systems, and pre-packing inspection, depending on customer specifications as well as the function of each component. The machine enables us to maintain our uncompromising commitment to quality control.”

Adopting all-electric automation to accelerate productivity

In the drive for improved productivity, all of Nifco’s IntElect machines are fitted with 6-axis robots so that finished mouldings are handled with consistent precision. Sumitomo (SHI) Demag has a flexible working philosophy, working with both established and innovative suppliers to deliver a complete moulding solution, precisely tailored to their customers’ requirements.

Voicing his opinion about the benefits of all-electric moulding technology, Richard said: “Our experience has shown that electric machines are best equipped to solve the quality and cost-efficiency challenges we face in a demanding and competitive market, in particular zero defects and maximising production uptime. The ability to produce consistently accurate mouldings throughout a production run gives us a real economic advantage, reducing waste, increasing uptime and lowering energy consumption.

“Our investment in all-electric technology has paid dividends in terms of increased productivity due to lower scrap rates, and we are determined to build on this success by exploring new opportunities for improving quality and reducing costs.”

Equally enthusiastic about future prospects for the company’s IntElect range of machines is Dave Raine, technical sales manager at Sumitomo (SHI) Demag UK: “Nifco is precisely the type of application where our all-electric technology comes into its own. Manufacturers of mass-produced precision parts are choosing IntElect machines to improve the quality and volume of their products, from closures to medical devices, packaging, automotive and electrical components.”

Combining Demag’s mechanical engineering know-how with the pioneering direct drive technology from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag, has brought new levels of precision, performance and productivity for critical moulding applications. Add to this the savings in reduced energy consumption and it’s easy to see why the IntElect range of all-electric presses is fast becoming the technology of choice for leading UK manufacturers. 

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