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Intelligent Controls for High-Speed Injection Moulding Machines

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Enhanced technologies for plastics production

Plastics have become ubiquitous in everyday life and the plastics manufacturing industry plays a key role in Europe’s economy. EU-funded researchers provided new tools and technologies that promise to enhance Europe’s competitive edge in this booming sector of the world economy.

Industrial Technologies

One of the most common methods for plastic parts production is injection moulding, a process by which the heated material is forced (injected) into a mould cavity where it cools and hardens to form the desired part. Compared to other production methods, the cost per unit is relatively high unless very large quantities are produced. EU researchers supported by funding of the ‘Intelligent controls for high-speed injection moulding machines’ (Icon-Hisim) project sought to develop new technologies for high-speed injection moulding. Specifically, goals included enhanced productivity and reliability with simultaneous decreases in cost and energy consumption to enhance European competitiveness in the booming field of plastics production. Investigators developed a simulation tool including the drive or control systems for the clamping and injection units that facilitated virtual design and optimisation of system performance. Three different virtual prototypes were developed incorporating adaptive control of the clamping unit for enhanced accuracy and performance as well as iterative learning to control injection velocity for high-quality reproducible parts. Icon-Hisim successes included development and testing of a compact control system for the clamping unit as well as development of optimum process control of the injection unit, the latter of which resulted in reduced energy consumption and an approximately 50% increase in system efficiency. Use of the virtual prototype tool should facilitate reduction of set-up costs associated with high-speed injection moulding as well as of overall costs via enhanced efficiency with decreased energy consumption. Additionally, commercialisation of the prototypes has the potential to enhance reproducibility and reliability of products. Overall, Icon-Hisim project outcomes could significantly enhance European competitiveness in the worldwide high-speed injection moulding sector used to produce a plethora of common plastic components.

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