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.

FANUC & Loop Technology sign aerospace deal for largest robots ever ordered in the UK

Aerospace automation specialist Loop Technology has signed a deal with FANUC UK for seven new robots – including four units of the largest industrial robot ever to be ordered in the UK, the FANUC M-2000iA/1700L.

Renowned as the strongest long-reach robot in the world, three FANUC M-2000iA/1700L six-axis units will be delivered to the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) for its new innovation facility in South Yorkshire. This is part of Project Compass (Composites at Speed and Scale), a larger £80m investment which includes an aerospace manufacturing R&D project delivered by a consortium of partners including Boeing, Loop Technology, Spirit AeroSystems and the AMRC. The Loop/AMRC deal also encompasses two further FANUC M-2000iA robots: a 1200L and a 900L model.

As part of a separate project, another 1700L model, along with an additional 900L unit, have been ordered by Loop Technology to form part of a high-rate composite preforming cell for a North American aerospace client. This brings the total number of FANUC M-2000iA six-axis robots commissioned by Loop Technology for this latest order to seven.

Decarbonising the aerospace sector

The aerospace manufacturing sector is booming, with 3,850 aircraft orders being placed in 2023 – a global record, according to ADS, the trade association for the aerospace, defence, security and space sectors. However, there is also currently a global aircraft backlog of 15,753, which is the largest on record. Increasing the level of automation in aerospace manufacturing is one of the main ways to increase productivity and help to reduce this backlog, while also tackling one of the sector’s main challenges – decarbonisation.

The new AMRC innovation facility in Sheffield has been developed to help solve composites manufacturing challenges in order to meet future demand for lighter commercial aircraft and help the aviation industry reach net zero. It aims to de-risk and develop high rate sustainable structures, with the potential to reduce large component process times from around 40 hours to approximately four hours. The facility is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

The building will be home to a raft of state-of-the-art equipment secured through a £29.5m grant from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Programme to support new capabilities, technologies and processes to reduce cost, waste, production time and associated carbon emissions.

Boosting productivity

The five FANUC M-2000iA industrial robots that have been ordered by Loop Technology for the AMRC facility will form part of Loop’s proprietary high-rate deposition cell, known as FibreLINE. This state-of-the-art high rate preform manufacturing system, with FibreFORM at its centre, can pick composite sheets (plies) and form them into complex 3D double curvature profiles before placing them onto a tool, inspecting them and heat staking them ready for the next stage of the production process, at a rate of up to 200kg an hour. Traditional methods typically operate at 40kg/hr, so this is a significant improvement. Meanwhile, the National Composites Centre, which uses a different configuration of FibreLINE that includes FibreROLL, has stated they are on track to deliver 350kg/hr.

Market-leading size and reach

Loop Technology has also ordered two further FANUC M-2000iA robots to form part of a separate FibreLINE system, for a key North American aerospace customer looking to carry out R&D applications. Once built, the entire FibreLINE system will measure more than 20m in length. It will centre around FibreFORM, a 3D double curvature preforming gripper that weighs more than one tonne, meaning that heavy-duty industrial robots with a high payload and long reach are essential. With a 1.7 tonne payload capacity and 6.2m stroke, the M-2000iA/1700L provides maximum flexibility on operations involving large and heavy objects. Capable of lifting and positioning an entire car body, it is officially the strongest long-reach robot in the world, making it the ideal choice for Loop Technology both for their North American aerospace client, and for the AMRC innovation facility.

“Being aero structures, the parts that are being manufactured on our FibreLINE systems are extremely large,” explains Alun Reece, Managing Director of Loop Technology. “These two projects therefore both require robots with high payload and reach capabilities to access all the areas necessary in order to carry out deposition or inspection activities. While we could have used precision gantries to deploy our end effectors, they limit access to the cell area due to requiring two rails on which to carry the gantry bridge. In contrast, the M-2000iA robots are mounted on a single axis rail, providing clear access from one side. They are our clear robot of choice for such projects.”

A solid partnership

Oliver Selby is Head of Sales for FANUC UK and has worked alongside Loop Technology for a number of years, helping to increase innovation in the aerospace sector. “We have been proud to have Loop Technology as one of our system integrator partners for the past five years,” he states. “Their solutions, such as the FibreLINE and its constituent parts – FibreFORM (ply manipulation), FibreTACK (ply tacking) and FibreEYE (inspection) – are helping to increase automation uptake among aerospace manufacturers. Given the labour shortage within manufacturing as a whole and the extensive aircraft order backlog, higher levels of automation are essential to increase productivity and ensure the industry continues to thrive in the coming years.”

Alun Reece adds: “Innovations in robotics around scale, precision and collaborative working are opening up new opportunities for aerospace manufacturers all the time. Whether in high rate preforming systems, fibre placement, or assembly operations such as drilling, fastening, sealing or automated inspection applications, the versatility offered by modern robotics is redefining the way tasks are performed, helping to drive down aerospace manufacturing costs while driving up quality.” 

Polymer Succession Planning … Without the Drama

If you’ve been gripped by the british award-winning series Succession, you’ll be forgiven for picturing every top-level management transition as a dynastic psychodrama. Yet, as technical toolmaker and trade moulder Cybertools can testify, the retention struggle for UK SMEs in the manufacturing space can be eased with some sensible forward planning combined with the support of external industry training.

Succession planning is something that every business needs to face. Whether through retirement or an unexpected shift in personnel, having a plan is strategically crucial. However, it is not an overnight process.

Marking an important phase in the company’s growth and having just secured a 40-percent share in a Chinese-based tooling factory, founder and leader of Cybertools Paul Brown has put in place a robust plan for the Buntingford-based firm’s business continuity. Investing heavily in his workforce, the forward-looking MD is one of the strongest advocates of removing development barriers and nurturing talent internally.  

Rather than reacting and filling positions passively, Cybertools is instead developing its workforce to grow into these future gaps. Part of this process includes incrementally adding responsibilities and booking team members onto the IOM3-accredited Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Academy courses run by Darren Vater-Hutchison.

Mould Setter Leo, accompanied by Quality Control Production Trainee Jiji, are now on an accelerated progression journey at Cybertools, with a vested interest in carrying forward the company’s legacy.

A rising tide lifts all boats

As the third largest employer in the UK, the plastics industry comprises a high proportion of SMEs. Like Cybertools, most of these are lean, family-run businesses, headed up by owners looking to retire in the next decade or sooner.

With the industry’s technical education and skills system still teetering on a precipice, and conscious that time is ticking, Paul took the proactive steps to invest in his teams’ future, earmarking several colleagues for progression and booking them onto three Academy courses. Leo is three quarters of the way through his development program at the Daventry facility, with just the Advanced Injection Moulding course to complete. Jiji is close behind.

The reciprocal, and equitable benefits of investing in development, are multiple, exclaims Paul. “We are creating a work environment where everyone can feel they can give their best and that this will lead to a fulfilling career pathway. By extension, it increases their confidence in our business, which increases loyalty. The more skilled team members become, the more I can delegate and step back from the day-to-day management tasks.”

Returning from their respective Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Academy courses at the end of 2023, both Leo and Jiji expressed heightened confidence in operating the injection moulding machines and a more detailed understanding of advanced setter processes.

Although subtle, the productivity benefits are also evident states Paul. “Confidence results in quicker set up times. This probably gives us 2-3 hours more of production capacity each week. However, the most noteworthy benefit is the swift return on investment. Knowledge equals expertise; expertise equals value; and valued people feel more seen and appreciated.”

Tapping diverse perspectives

The result is a contagious culture. “Positive and driven colleagues motivate others. When my team return from a course sharing everything they have learned with their production peers, it only reaffirms the importance of investing in skills,” adds Paul.

Examining the wider challenges, Paul encourages leaders who are scouting for talent to look for potential rather than pedigree. “Given the scarcity of academic technical training, utilising well-respected development frameworks designed by people who understand the ins and outs of our industry can help our future leaders to define and steer their career pathway. Another sideline benefit is we are empowering future mentors.”

Industry trainer and one of the masterminds behind the winning 2023 Plastic Industry Awards training & development program, Darren Vater-Hutchison concurs. Having delivered courses to over 700 industry colleagues at Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s IOM3-accredited Academy, Darren expands: “High quality industry training can help to address the lack of curriculum investment and provides a more direct and immediate solution to local and national skills shortages. Machines make parts. However, knowledge creates value. This value increases markedly as knowledge moves up the scale. Most importantly, this accumulative knowledge is being passed onto to future leaders.”

Earning the certificate in Toolsetting Technology (TSett) and Mould Mounting (MMount), Jiji, who joined Cybertools with no significant engineering knowledge, has reached the halfway point in his professional development program. Jiji comments: “The Academy courses have helped me to gain a better understanding of moulding processes and how they relate to QC issues. I am more confident in my ability to get good results from the machines with an understanding of cause and effect in the processes. This is giving me the confidence to progress as a tool setter which will hopefully open up even more career possibilities in the future.”

Testament to the progression opportunities, Leo commenced his career with Cybertools as a temporary picker and packer. Now running the UK mould shop, he recently started to provide input into major project quotations. Leo comments: “The Academy training has given me a more advanced machine understanding and guidance on ways to be more precise with process adjustments.” Leo is eager to continue putting this advanced knowledge into practice, and hopes to shortly complete the Advanced Injection Moulding (AIM) course to further his knowledge and career.

Attesting to the importance of training, Paul says that when the right person comes along who clicks with your business and culture, you just know that making the investment is worth it. “Developing staff is a long game. Jiji proved straight away that he was good with detail, which is perfect for QC work. Having tuned his technical abilities, Leo is now running our mould shop.”

Paul cautions that failure to listen and address workforce needs could result in alienating and losing your future talents and company successors. “People need to have a workspace where they can feel they can thrive and progress. Much of this can be underpinned by clear development goals and a good training program.” The Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Academy offers a mix of structured and bespoke polymer processing and industry-led training and development courses, aimed at all operational levels, from new starters to

Haitian launches Generation 5 Machines to target efficiency in UK plastics

The new Generation 5 range of Haitian moulding machines will be hitting UK shores in the coming weeks. Veronica Edmunds, head of the UK sales team, shares what we can expect from one of the world’s largest manufacturer of moulding machines.
  • According to the PMMDA, the UK has the oldest fleet of machinery in Europe, outside of Romania, and at the current rate will take more than 20 years to upgrade. 
  • Haitian Generation 5 Servo hydraulic machines will offer Electric Screw Motors as standard, enabling a more precise and reliable process with reduced energy consumption, not to mention that they are a lot quieter too.
  • Haitian UK has recently opened a new Technical Centre in Buckinghamshire to support the launch of the new Generation 5 machines.
Premier Moulding Machinery has been the Haitian distributor in the UK for almost 20 years, so obviously we have seen huge changes in technology over that time.  I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us that this fifth generation from the market-leading manufacturer is so impactful.  Haitian have always positioned themselves as a high-quality brand, for whom the customer’s experience is paramount.  Unlike some suppliers, we are not in a race to deliver the cheapest functioning machine or, conversely, to use customers as revenue streams post-purchase. The “Generation 5” range continues Haitian’s philosophy of sharing the advantages that their economies of scale produce, with our customers.  This time the step change is higher than previously seen, and that is because technological improvements are happening so quickly.  We have over 700 people working in R&D, in a constant quest to innovate and improve. There has been a massive increase in investment by Haitian to improve their manufacturing excellence and infrastructure, including a new site in Serbia to manufacture up to 3000 machines a year for the European market.

What are the main differences that moulding companies will see?
Well, as you know, we have been very vocal about the need for the UK Plastics Sector to invest in modern technology so that it can improve competitiveness and produce a rapid return on investment.  According to the PMMDA, the UK has the oldest fleet of machinery in Europe, outside of Romania, and at the current rate will take more than 20 years to upgrade.  In the meantime, European moulding companies are racing ahead, with governments offering financial assistance to their manufacturers to help reduce their carbon footprint and improve efficiencies.  Generation 5 offers energy savings of between 20% and 40% on our previously already impressive figures.  This is showing circa 80% energy savings vs. fixed or variable pump machines, which still make up the bulk of the UK market. 

So, how has Haitian achieved this?  
Features which were previously available as additional options are now included as standard specifications, including new energy-saving technology, both hardware and software.  It’s fair to say that these options would have cost thousands of Euros previously, but our economies of scale make it more cost-effective to upgrade the whole range. So, for example, Haitian Generation 5 Servo hydraulic machines will now offer Electric Screw Motors as standard, at no extra cost. Thus, enabling a more precise and reliable process with reduced energy consumption, not to mention that they are a lot quieter too.

Savings of these magnitudes offer moulders the opportunity to pay off their brand-new Haitian Generation 5 machine, with the savings they make on energy, in months rather than years.

While energy savings and a quick return on investment are often enough of an incentive to add to our rapidly expanding customer base, we believe the new HT-X tend software will further set us apart from our European and Asian competitors. 

The HT X-tend software is available on all Generation 5 and is included as a standard option in the purchase price.  Charging customers extra for features that are included on their machines is a policy that has backfired on those suppliers who have tried it.  Customers remember when car companies tried to charge to use heated seats that were already fitted in their vehicles, and the same reaction is commonplace in our sector when manufacturers will “switch on features for a price”.  Our system is free of charge and can be turned on and off, by our customers, whenever they require it. This software has been tested on over 1000 machines pre-launch and the improvements achieved when processing recycled material are of particular benefit.

The intelligent control system will optimise the entire moulding process to ensure repeatability, efficiency and lowest energy consumption, this reduces wear and tear on the machine and tooling.  It’s as though your most considerate technician has set each machine.

To support the launch of the new Generation 5 machines, Haitian UK has recently opened a new Technical Centre in Buckinghamshire.  Onsite, we have a selection of machines from our Haitian and Zhafir ranges plus our Hilectro automation, ranging from 90 to 550 tonnes.  All are available for sale and quick delivery if required.

Whilst the centre is certainly an impressive facility from which to showcase our technology,  it is also available to support customers in their machinery selection processes.  We have already run multiple tool trials, energy comparisons and training sessions.  This investment in our UK infrastructure extends to the provision of a full-quality office to enable our customers’ teams to fully investigate their own tools’ performance in our machines. Our engineering team work alongside our customers to ensure that the best possible outcomes can be achieved.  We have also been able to assist customers with some small production runs when needed.

We aim to provide the highest level of customer support alongside the best machinery available at a price which is affordable for all.  In particular, I would also like to give credit to our own engineering team whom our customers continually praise for the excellent levels of service they provide.  Whilst it may be the sales team who sells the first machine to a new customer, it is the engineers who sell the rest.  Time and time again, we hear how important it is to be supported by a team who have the customers’ best interests at the forefront of what we do.  Haitian UK have a policy of not using our engineering support as a revenue stream which enables a strong working relationship with our customer base.

The aim for us, in a commercial sense, is to provide the best machine price-performance ratio, coupled with such a high level of customer service that our customers do not consider using another supplier. It’s proved to be a successful formula so far and we are sure that the introduction of Generation 5 will X-Tend this advantage.

Europlaz Adds To Sustainable Machine Investment

Spurred on by being awarded the Silver Ecovardis Medal in 2023, high-end medical device manufacturer Europlaz continues to drive positive and sustainable production changes. The Essex-based company’s repeat order of three flexible, high-performance and energy-efficient all-electric IntElect2 machines from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag, each featuring different clamp forces, mirrors its Quality In; Quality Out business ethos.

Manufacturing and assembling millions of class I and class II medical device components annually, Europlaz Technical Director Ian Goodacre handed over the order in person at Interplas 2023. Unlike past machine orders, all three machines are for new production cells being introduced by Europlaz to increase capacity and manufacture new product streams.

This latest order, follows another significant rise in medical, diagnostic and life science project wins. The 100T IntElect2 is also equipped with a high temperature demoulding pick and place 3-axis system.

Ian describes the customisation options, compact machine footprint, intuitive processing software, interchangeable barrels, machine reliability, energy savings and service support as the unrivalled factors that align to their company’s sustainability credentials.

Equally important for the ISO 13485-accredited and FDA-registered medical moulder, the Sumitomo (SHI) Demag brand is well-respected and known in medical circles as being a reliable, high performance top-tier machinery supplier. “Many of our customers know the Sumitomo (SHI) Demag name well. Given the sustainability details we have to submit when preparing tenders, the reliability and energy efficiency statistics we can present certainly corroborates the advantages of actively selecting the IntElect series,” attests Ian.

Europlaz continues to move towards a fully electric suite of moulding machines and as a medical moulder there is no margin for processing errors. It means that the team’s focus is concentrated on moulding quality, processing consistency and consciously challenging sustainability.

Ian is also quick to rate the other unique precision moulding features included within their latest all-electric machines. Especially the activeFlowBalance and activeLock features that Europlaz specified to help maximise efficiency and output.

Both of these technology features help to optimise the melt cushion that’s so critical in tight tolerance medical device applications, reports Ian. He explains that activeFlowBalance helps to stabilise and evenly distribute the pressure of the expanding melt within multi-cavity mould tools with no additional pressure, while the activeLock feature digitally controls the closing position on the non-return valve.

Three machines, countless configurations

Europlaz took delivery of two IntElect2 75T machines, one a 110 injection unit with a 22mm assembly and the other a 65 injection unit with a 18mm and additional 14mm assembly, in December 2023. Combined with the IntElect2 100T machine with a 250 injection unit and another two further screw sizes – 40mm and 25mm – which arrived end of January 2024, Europlaz has all of the in-built flexibility to accommodate their expansive and ever-growing medical tooling estate.

Having the option to rapidly switch between five screw sizes (14, 18, 22, 25 and 40mm) ensures that the optimum screw size is selected to suit each application’s shot weight. Additionally, the IntElect2’s large platen design means that the team can fit tools with up to eight cavities that might previously have required a larger tonnage and more energy intensive machine.

UK regional sales manager and part of the Sumitomo (SHI) Demag One Global Medical team Ashlee Gough clarifies: “Both of the IntElect2 75T’s have 420mm x 420mm distance between tie bars and increased mould height. This allows Europlaz to fit mould heights ranging from the minimum up to a maximum 460mm, whilst the innovative toggle platform maintains the all-important fixed 300mm opening stroke.”

The IntElect2 75/420-110 has a shot capacity of up to 35.9g in PP. The IntElect2 75/420-65 has a micro-moulding shot range of less than 1g through to 14.5g in PP. Putting this into production context, Ian confirms that that 75T machines gives Europlaz the clamp flexibility to take on most medical moulding projects.

Adding the 100T configuration extends the tie bar distance to 470mm, enabling Europlaz to accommodate mould tools ranging from 180mm to 550mm in height. “Between these three machines we can essentially mould components of any shot weight, using any tool, from the widest variety of medical-grade polymers,” extols Ian.

Quality In; Quality Out

A special Titanium Nitrate (TiN) coated 25mm screw assembly for the 100T IntElect was also sourced to support the high-quality processing of a cyclic olefin polymer (COP). Ian explains: “As a material that is commonly used in medical applications, COP can be prone to cracking when using traditional barrel assemblies.”

The One Global Medical team in Germany recommended a Titanium Nitrate impregnated barrel. Ian describes the teams’ breadth of processing knowledge and technical astuteness as exceptional. “They really were not fazed at all by this unique request,” notes Ian. A revised quote for the TiN assembly was issued overnight.

Alongside favouring the energy performance of the IntElect2 series, the Europlaz team values the benefit of familiarity. “The Sumitomo (SHI) Demag systems and service support always feels like the complete package. From being able to call upon personalised troubleshooting and guidance, tap into global expertise and having access to the Training Academy, the team and technology genuinely feels like an end-to-end extension of ours,” exclaims Ian.

Machine reliability is the ultimate measure of efficiency. But for Europlaz, and indeed the medical device market, Ian regards quality as the true measure of value.  “Quality leads to greater customer satisfaction, higher operational efficiency and effectiveness, and even increases in productivity, innovation and workforce engagement. This is why we hold these QIQO IntElect2 investments and the Sumitomo (SHI) Demag team in such high esteem.”

Shibaura Machine SCARA robots appear at Fish International 2024

TM Robotics and Shibaura Machine demonstrated high-speed robots for process and packing lines in Germany

Shibaura Machine and its distribution partner TM Robotics, exhibited a trio of high-speed, flexible and cost-effective SCARA robots for food processing and packaging applications at Fish International 2024. Germany’s only trade fair for fish and seafood was held at the Messe Bremen exhibition centre in Bremen, Germany, between February 25 to 27, 2024.

Shibaura Machine and TM Robotics promoted automation and packaging technologies at Fish International 2024. The companies’ robots featured as part of the ‘Robotik Pack-Line’, a fully operational demonstration of an automated packaging line, which appeared in a dedicated showroom on Stand 5B39 in Hall 5.

The Robotik Pack-Line was overseen by Rolf Peters Projektmanagement, a sales project management company located in Bad Zwischenahn, Germany. Rolf Peters Projektmanagement’s specialists represent TM Robotics and Shibaura Machine in the German markets, and were on hand to greet visitors to Stand 5B39.

“This year’s Fish International was a valuable opportunity for visitors to see up close how Germany’s fish and seafood industry can benefit from the quality, innovation and flexibility of industrial robots made in Japan,” said Rolf Peters, robotics specialist, Rolf Peters Project management. “Shibaura Machine offers cost-effective solutions, without compromising on quality or sophistication.” Topics of discussion at Fish International 2024 included Shibaura Machine’s versatile SCARA robots designed for fast-cycle automation, inspection and pick and place applications. They include the THE range, a flexible and cost-effective option for food processors and system integrators featuring the compact and lightweight THE400 and THE600, and the larger and more powerful THE800 and THE1000 models.

Shibaura Machine’s THP 550 SCARA robot featured in the Robotik Pack-Line demonstration, integrated seamlessly with automation technologies from SEALPAC, ECOMA Maschinenbau, PFM Verpackungsmaschinen and other leading manufacturers. The THP 550 offers speed, precision and versatility in high-speed picking applications, and has played a crucial role in streamlining food packaging applications and increasing throughput.

Visitors to Stand 5B39 also saw a hands-on demonstration of Shibaura Machine’s THL 500. The THL Series of lightweight and energy efficient plug-and-play SCARA robots are ideal for price-conscious end-users and systems integrators seeking to automate food processes. Lastly, Shibaura Machine’s TVL700 6-axis robot was also on display. The TVL700 delivers a high speed, accurate and energy saving performance at a low cost, with a reach of 700 mm and a payload of 4 kg.

“Shibaura Machine’s high-speed, easy-to-program SCARA robots are the best and most flexible in the small robot markets for high-speed packing and food processing lines,” added Peters. “The robots’ hygienic design makes them ideal for food processing including clean room applications, and meets the IP65 ingress protection rating.”

In addition, Stand 5B39 featured an interactive education module that demonstrated Shibaura Machine and TM Robotics’ partnership with IQ Bremen, an education centre located in Bremen, Germany. Each year, IQ Bremen helps more than 1,000 students gain qualifications in industrial robotics, including technical bachelor’s and master’s degrees, aided by the use of Shibaura Machine industrial robots.

“There is a strong demand in the fish processing and packaging sector for innovative robots that can adapt to different tasks and operate at high speeds,” said Nigel Smith, CEO at TM Robotics. “Visitors to Fish International 2024 had a chance to see how the flexibility and speed of Shibaura Machine’s SCARA robots can play a vital role in the future of Germany’s fish processing industries.”

Haitian UK Stock Machines Available

Mars 3 - 200t servo hydraulic machine with optional V800 Hilectro robot
Mars 3 – 200t servo hydraulic machine with optional V800 Hilectro robot
Zeres 3 – 90t and 120t electric machines with optional V800 Hilectro robot
Jupiter 550t with optional V1300 ID longitudinal robot