Month: May 2024

Top Five All-Electric Injection Moulding Myths: Getting Real About Reliability And Repairs

All-electric injection moulding machines have many excellent qualities, including greater precision, higher power density and lower carbon emissions. Yet there’s a preconception that these systems are more expensive to repair. Ashlee Gough, Area Sales Manager at Sumitomo (SHI) Demag UK delves into and discredits the top five myths regularly encountered.

  1. Capacity planning is a moving target

Struggling to stay on top of everything is one of the greatest challenges for production engineers. Yet, Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) is one of the simplest reliability measurements for polymer processors. It is also probably the most valuable KPI for equipment-reliant operations as it provides an accurate method for measuring machine availability, and helps with the planning of maintenance schedules, as well as capacity planning.

With fewer moving and wear parts, the time-lapse between one failure to the next is significantly less on all-electric moulding machines. Proving this, a study of the overall machine MTBF on a Sumitomo (SHI) Demag IntElect2 under warranty was on average 4.4 years – double that of an equivalent hydraulic machine. 

This MTBF metric is not just attributed to the machine design, but also how well an operative repeatedly handles or interacts with this valuable asset. A poorly executed repair job or implementing a quick fix and running the machine until it finally goes bump can just as easily result in a low MTBF result.

2.    Same or similar service time

Electric machines are less mechanically complex. With no flexing of hoses, no sensitive valves, perishable seals or hydraulic fluid, the risk of an emergency callout is significantly lower.  

Studies conducted by Sumitomo (SHI) Demag revealed that a 130 ton hydraulic machine operating 24/5 needed 39 hours of routine service work, compared to just six hours for an equivalent IntElect2 model.

Analysing and treating oil in order to maintain its optimum properties, as well as changing the oil filter, are essential routine maintenance task on hydraulic systems. The timing of these tasks  are critical and any delay or neglect can drastically increase the risk of machine failure.  Performing a filter change to the proper standards realistically takes a couple of hours. If an oil change or complete flush through is required, this not only results in unplanned downtime but also comes at a great expense.

Additionally, hydraulic hoses should be regularly inspected. It is recommended that they are replaced every ten years. Contamination and airlocks are always a danger when replacing hydraulic hoses. Because of this, it is recommended that this work should be undertaken by a professional.

Hydraulic machines with accumulator technology should ideally have the bladder replaced periodically. Inspecting the accumulator housing for cracks every ten years using x-ray is equally advisable. 

3.    Drives are expensive to repair

Typically, all-electric machines have the reputation of being expensive to repair when they go wrong. This view is often based on the cost of replacing an entire drive system.

Many moulding machine suppliers source their all-electric drives from external OEMs, which makes it more challenging to source component replacements, exchange or access service support. In the best-case scenario, moulders might be able to source and switch out a power or control module. Yet in most instances, sourcing a new complete drive is the reality, which of course, runs at a premium cost.

That’s one of the key reasons why Sumitomo (SHI) Demag has an R&D centre dedicated to drive development and designs and builds its own drive motors, designed purely for injection moulding machines, in-house. Being able to source individual replacement boards is a more sustainable solution for customers. Spares are also held for immediate shipment.

Drives that are designed to be modular are also much more cost efficient. Why replace three power modules, when you can replace just the one that’s failed? It can be the difference between several hundred pounds and a quick fix, rather than a complete drive replacement which could run into a few thousand.

4.     Infrastructure savings takes a long time

The savings when switching to all-electric are instant and can often be significant. Because each axis of an all-electric injection moulding machine is independently controlled, parallel functions are possible. This means that they can perform multiple tasks at once, for example ejection during mould opening or ejector retraction during mould closing. Resulting in faster cycle times which significantly increases productivity, output and component quality.

The increased efficiency delivered by direct drives means that they use considerably less energy than hydraulic machines – in the case of the IntElect between 40% and 85% less than conventional solutions. As electric drives generate less heat than their hydraulic

counterparts, they require less cooling than conventional machines of a similar size. Additionally, the recovery of kinetic energy while the clamping unit is braking generates energy which can be used for plastification.

This not only reduces the burden on existing infrastructures but also lessens the investment when building or relocating to new premises.

5.   Wear and tear is a guessing game

Reducing costs, risks and disruption are high on the priority list of many moulders aiming to achieve optimum processing efficiency, with machine reliability being the most influential factor.

Regardless of machine type, it is imperative to monitor and routinely service moving parts, e.g. toggle systems, seals or bearings, which are subjected to varying degrees of wear and tear.

It is often easy to identify wear on mechanical components via sensory diagnosis – surfaces may appear worn/scored, it may sound out of place or it may smell “hot”. However, electrical systems can often be overlooked as it can be very difficult to diagnose wear on electrical components such as electrical drives, motors, contactors, relays and PCBs. A moulder often won’t be aware of an issue until the machine stops. Thermal imaging offers a big advancement in this area.

Regular thermal imaging checks of electrical cabinets can give an early indication of impending component failure and are a quick and cost-effective way to spot potential issues early on. 

The use of thermographic equipment for condition monitoring is included in Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s annual activeCare check. Rather than a ‘best guess’ diagnosis, activeCare engineers can assess the collected data and determine when equipment or parts are likely to fail in service.

The biggest mistake moulders can make is discounting high-performance all-electric machines on price alone.  The price difference between hydraulic and all-electric injection moulding machines has dropped considerably over the past 15 years. When considering the potential energy savings, productivity improvements and prolonged reliability, further total cost of ownership savings can be realised. 

For all-electric machine service costs, the studies speak volumes with the facts outweighing the fiction.

Ashlee Gough from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag UK dispels 5 misconceptions about all-electric moulding machine costs.

Thermal imaging a direct drive can provide a good indicator of any inefficiencies, heat emissions and even wear and tear.

Fanuc presents the future of Aerospace Manufacturing at Farnborough 2024

Stand 4900, Farnborough International Airshow, 22-26 July 2024

Factory automation specialist FANUC UK will showcase a suite of next-generation automation solutions at Farnborough International Airshow to enable higher rate aircraft and aerospace manufacturing. Spanning the entire supply chain – including solutions for the burgeoning eVTOL sector – visitors to stand 4900 can witness the future of aerospace manufacturing first-hand. FANUC’s automation demonstrations, in conjunction with their industry leading partners, will cover a variety of key applications essential for the aerospace sector such as dispensing, polishing, inspection, machining and drilling, helping manufacturers to meet increasing order levels by boosting productivity.

Futureproofing to increase output rates

The aerospace industry is booming. Commercial revenues are expected to grow 14% year-on-year over the next 10 years, while passenger traffic will grow by 3.6% annually up to 2044. Around 22,120 new aircraft will be delivered between 2024 and 2033 – this equates to nearly 200 a month, every month, for the next 10 years.

“While this is great news for the industry, it means that manufacturers will need to find ways to increase production rates,” says Oliver Selby, Head of Sales at FANUC UK. “Operations have to be more streamlined and cycle times must be cut, all while maintaining the highest standards of quality and safety.”

Flexible future of the factory floor

Flexibility in manufacturing will be another key element in the industry’s successful growth. To this end, the FANUC stand will feature the University of Nottingham’s world-class OMNIFACTORY project. A five-year, £3.8 million facility that employs advanced technology and methodology to make manufacturing more efficient and cost-effective, OMNIFACTORY is a bespoke test-bed floor which autonomously adapts to the next product’s environment and specifications. The demonstrations around the project’s AGV show a combination of digital technologies, robotics and artificial intelligence including robotic surface preparation and dispensing. The aim of this proof-of-concept project is to inspire a new generation of smart, highly efficient factories, embedded in local supply chains.

The power of partnerships

A variety of automated systems from some of FANUC’s key partners – each employing FANUC robots at the heart of their technology – will also be on display at the event. One such example is an advanced metrology solution from Hexagon. Showing how data can be used throughout the product lifecycle to accelerate aerospace innovation and efficient manufacturing, Hexagon’s Presto Robotic Metrology system dramatically cuts the time required to devise inspection routines, by reducing them to a single step. Built on leading scanning technology, this flexible, modular cell has been designed to effectively meet the evolving needs of modern manufacturing. 

Meanwhile,an aerospace drilling cell developed by Electroimpact and featuring a FANUC CRX-25iA cobot, will demonstrate accessible and cost-effective pre-validated drilling functionality for the aerospace sector, offering improved reliability, repeatability and traceability compared to manual practices.

The growth of eVTOL

Finally, with the eVTOL sector being a key focus at this year’s event, FANUC will also showcase its ROBODRILL vertical machining centre, featuring a Nikken 5AX-201 tilting rotary table. This combined machining and turning cell enables difficult to hold components to be rapidly mounted and changed, even where space is limited.

“With a compact footprint, this is a perfect, cost-effective solution for small castings, using aerospace grade alloys, for products like eVTOL motor housings,” Oliver explains.

To learn more about the future of aerospace manufacturing, visit FANUC on stand 4900 at the Farnborough International Airshow, 22-26 July 2024.

Factory automation specialist FANUC UK will showcase a suite of next-generation automation solutions at Farnborough Interantional Airshow to enable higher rate aircraft and aerospace manufacturing.

An aerospace drilling cell developed by Electroimpact and featuring a FANUC CRX-25iA cobot will demonstrate accessible and cost-effective pre-validated drilling functionality for the aerospace sector.

FANUC will also showcase its ROBODRILL vertical machining centre, featuring a Nikken 5AX-201 tilting rotary table.

Plastics Industry Award Categories Refreshed for 2024

PIA 2023 Logo The 2024 awards are now open for entries     Seven new categories have been added to the Plastics Industry Awards 2024, which are now open to enter. Companies and individuals from across the UK and Republic of Ireland plastics industry are invited to enter online at:   Award winners will be announced at a glamorous, black tie gala awards ceremony with live entertainment at the five-star InterContinental London Park Lane on Friday 22nd November.   The seven new award categories for 2024 are:   Sustainable Product Design Recycler of the Year Recycling Machinery Innovation Supplier Partnership – Extrusion & Blow Moulding Supplier Partnership – Injection Moulding Supplier Partnership – Auxiliary Additive Manufacturing Solutions   “As the Plastics Industry Awards enter their 23rd year, we felt it was time to refresh our award categories to reflect the evolution of the industry as a whole and to broaden their appeal to every part of the UK & Eire plastics community,” said Matt Barber, Global Events Director at Crain Communications. “The category changes recognise the importance of plastics recycling and sustainability along with highlighting the contributions made by injection moulding, extrusion & blow moulding and additive manufacturing.   The sustainable product design award covers both industrial and consumer products with an increased focus on sustainability. Recycler of the year and recycling machinery innovation are all-new awards for 2024.   The ever-popular Individual awards include the apprentice or trainee of the year, which carries a prize of £500 donated by the Polymer Machinery Manufacturers and Distributors Association (PMMDA), the unsung hero award and of course the distinguished plastics industry ambassador.   One of the most sought-after awards remains the processor of the year trophy. There are supplier partnership awards for injection moulding, extrusion & blow moulding, toolmakers and auxiliary.   Additional categories recognising innovation include best training & development programme and best business initiative.   “Our thanks go to our Platinum sponsors Engel UK and Distrupol and Gold sponsors Arburg Limited, Hasco, Meusburger, PlastikCity and Interplas for their generosity in ensuring we celebrate the achievements of the industry in style again this year,” Matt Barber added.   The awards also enjoy the support of industry associations including the BPF (British Plastics Federation), the GTMA (toolmakers’ trade association), PMMDA (Polymer Machinery Manufacturers & Distributors Association), the SPRA (Scottish Plastics & Rubber Association) and the Sustainable Plastics magazine and website.   Additional sponsorship packages are currently available (complete with generous table allocations) for any organisations looking to raise their profile by supporting the UK & Eire’s long-running and prestigious awards for the plastics industry. For more information, please contact Matt Barber on 01622 370570 or   Table bookings for the gala dinner and awards ceremony are now available. Tickets include a champagne reception, four course dinner with wine, awards presentation and after-dinner entertainment featuring a charity casino sponsored by Arburg.   The full list of Plastics Industry Awards 2024 categories:   •    Apprentice of the Year •    Best Business Initiative •    Sustainable Product Design •    Material Innovation Award •    Additive Manufacturing Solutions •    Processor of the Year •    Recycler of the Year •    Recycling Machinery Innovation •    Best Training & Development Programme •    Unsung Hero Award •    Plastics Industry Ambassador •    Supplier Partnership – Extrusion & Blow Moulding •    Supplier Partnership – Injection Moulding •    Supplier Partnership – Toolmaker •    Supplier Partnership – Auxiliary   The deadline for entries is 12th July and finalists will be revealed in September. The diverse judging panel for the Plastics Industry Awards comprises independent judges representing every part of the UK plastics industry including design, manufacturing, engineering and recycling.   For online entry and more information about the Plastics Industry Awards 2024, visit:    

The Plastics Industry are back for 2024  

Entries for robotics contest up 50% as FANUC continues to inspire Gen Z

Industrial automation experts FANUC UK have reported an impressive 53% year-on-year increase in the number of young people that have applied for the WorldSkills UK Industrial Robotics competition. A record 80 young people have registered to take part in the 2024 initiative, which aims to gives students and apprentices the chance to learn key robotics programming and operating skills with help from FANUC experts. This is a significant increase on 2023, which attracted 52 applicants.

This year’s entrants hail from all corners of the UK. Wales, Northern Ireland and the South-East are particularly well represented, but there are also teams from the West Midlands, London, Yorkshire, the North-East, the South-West, the North-West and, for the first time ever, the Isle of Wight.

The first stage of the competition will see contestants work in teams of two to take on a simulated entry-stage task on FANUC’s ROBOGUIDE system, which is provided free of charge. Successful competitors will then undertake training with FANUC before competing at the live qualifier stage at FANUC’s stand at Smart Factory Expo, held on 5-6 June at the NEC Birmingham. The most talented teams will be invited to programme and operate a robot in a real-world task at the National Finals during FANUC UK’s Open House event in Coventry this November, with the winners having the chance to represent Squad UK in Shanghai in 2026.

“The WorldSkills UK Industrial Robotics competition is vital for igniting a passion for automation among young people who might not otherwise get the chance to experience it,” says Oliver Selby, Head of Sales for FANUC UK. “This is the fourth year that we have partnered with WorldSkills UK and it is an initiative which we are proud to support. The future success of UK manufacturing depends on increasing the current levels of robot adoption and in equipping our future workforce with the real-world skills that employers need. Providing hands-on training to this year’s crop of talented competitors and building on their enthusiasm will hopefully inspire many of them to go on and follow a career within automation, so it is particularly encouraging that this year’s competition has attracted a record number of applications. Everyone at FANUC is excited to see this year’s students in action for the first time at Smart Factory Expo – and if you think you’ve got the skills to match them, there will be the chance to have a go at the WorldSkills UK challenge yourself at Stand 4-B80!”

Industrial automation experts FANUC UK have reported an impressive 53% year-on-year increase in the number of young people that have applied for the WorldSkills UK Industrial Robotics competition.

Industrial automation experts FANUC UK have reported an impressive 53% year-on-year increase in the number of young people that have applied for the WorldSkills UK Industrial Robotics competition.