(Munich, June 15, 2016) Complex technologies have to be easy to operate to become accepted – for example when producing fiber-reinforced lightweight components. KraussMaffei has perfected its FiberForm process even further and will present a close-to-production manufacturing cell at the K 2016 trade show in Düsseldorf, where visitors can observe the manufacturing of a prototype component for the automotive industry (October 19 - 26, 2016, Hall 15, Booths B27/C24/C27/D24).
Significantly improved mechanical properties
FiberForm entails the thermoforming and over-molding of organic sheets, which are plate-shaped semifinished products with continuous fibers made of glass, carbon or aramid embedded in a thermoplastic matrix made of polyamide (PA), polypropylene (PP) or other matrix systems. In this process, these semifinished products are first heated, reshaped in the injection mold and then back-injected with a fiber-reinforced polymer. "Parts with integrated organic sheets have significantly better mechanical properties compared to those that are purely composed of shortfiber-reinforced injection molding material. For example, manufacturing complex structural components results in completely new design options," explains Dr. Hans Ulrich Golz, president of the Injection Molding Machinery segment of the KraussMaffei Group and Managing Director of KraussMaffei.
A significant part of the process is heating the organic sheet, because overheating the organic sheet leads to thermal degradation of the matrix and, therefore, to scrap. Thus, KraussMaffei developed a control process for infrared emitters that is fully integrated into the MC6 machine control system. Here, the new control process not only enables a fast heating process without exceeding the set temperature, but also makes it possible to check the current heating curves in process data acquisition. Finally, heating time and actual temperatures are stored for each individual component – important for customers who have to produce safety-related articles and document all process steps.
Intelligent automation concept saves cycle time
Another new innovation concerns automation within the manufacturing cell. Within the protective housing of the CX-300 machine, two LRX-250 linear robots were installed, which are coupled on a shared Z-axis. They do something that may be seen as inefficient at first glance: they transfer the organic sheet. Actually, this trick saves cycle time, because the semifinished product is heated and the finished component is removed simultaneously. Robot 1 picks up the organic sheet and hands it to robot 2. Then, the robot moves to the position for component demolding. Robot 2 feeds the semifinished product into the infrared oven and brings it into the injection mold after heating it. From there, robot 1 removes the finished part. "Compared to earlier versions of automation, the process was able to be harmonized even further. This improved the process capability even more," explains Thomas Marufke, Managing Director of Automation Technology at KraussMaffei. The robot 2 grippers were also optimized further to be able to transport the organic sheet – which is approximately 280°C and, therefore, flexible – from the oven into the injection mold without fluttering. By integrating all handling processes into the standard machine housing, there is now space for six machines, where previously, only five could be accommodated.
Overall, the revised FiberForm system provides its users with extremely robust processes, high availability and the efficiency required for high-volume series projects. Development partners for the project included Lanxess Deutschland GmbH (Tepex organic sheets), Bond-Laminates GmbH and Christian Karl Siebenwurst GmbH & Co. KG.
Live demonstration of Industry 4.0
Live at the KraussMaffei trade show booth, the FiberForm system will demonstrate how the vision of Industry 4.0, the networking of machines and production processes, can be implemented efficiently in plastics processing and highlight the advantages this creates. All quality-oriented process data, for example, organic sheet heating curves or injection pressure curves, is not only recorded in a KraussMaffei database, but also documented individually using a QR code on the component. A printer integrated into the machine housing prints the QR codes immediately during manufacturing; the respective QR code is affixed to the component. This makes it possible to seamlessly trace all product and process data for each component – globally, online via mobile phone, tablet or PC. "This allows us to provide our customers with a valuable tool for controlling and documenting the quality of their production in a sustainable manner. Potential troubleshooting, quality analysis and many other evaluations are possible regardless of location and beyond company boundaries," says Dr. Reinhard Schiffers, Head of Machine Technology at KraussMaffei. Under the umbrella name Plastics 4.0, the KraussMaffei Group bundles its Industry 4.0 activities into three areas: Intelligent Machines, Integrated Production and Interactive Services.
KraussMaffei at K 2016, Hall 15, B27/C24/C27/D24