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Development of a High Speed Production Technology For Over-Moulded Filter Membranes

Objective



Of the 38,000 injection moulding, automation and toolmaking companies in Europe, around 75% are SMEs[1]. However, the current 100M ECU p.a. plus, over-moulded filter market for components fitted in, for example, coffee filter machines, water jugs, kettles, anti-lock braking systems, pollen filters and tracheotomy tubes, as used in the automotive, medical and white goods sectors, tends to be dominated by larger, often American technology led and owned companies, using traditional highly labour intensive manufacturing steps for their over-moulded filters. Over recent years, an alarming trend has developed for European manufacturers in the white goods, automotive and medical sectors, amongst others, to source moulded filters from a growing number of cheaper Pacific Rim manufacturers. Indeed, in recent years, many of the large companies dominating the over-moulded filter sector have established manufacturing operations in these areas to capitalise on the reduced labour costs. The shift away from European supply has the effect of taking with it the typical traditional supply chains for tooling, automation and injection moulding, causing increasing concern to the core group SMEs and market sectors they represent. Around 80% of the over-moulded filter market operates using the labour intensive, manual loading of two and three dimensional filter membranes into the more expensive vertical clamp injection moulding machines, with the remainder restricting their automation to 2 and 21/2 D filters, utilising the simple insertion of, in most cases manually, pre-cut membranes, as well as roll fed 'through the tool' type systems. Automation at this level has a significant cost penalty, as around 80% of the filter raw materials cost is accounted for by the filter membrane pre-cutting operation, typically carried out off-site, or by an external contractor, while the roll feed system is flawed by it's inability to nest the filter cutting operation thus maximising material usage. In this manner the cost of automating the process is frequently deemed prohibitive in comparison with manual loading, particularly when considering small batch sizes. The industrial objective of the proposed RTD is to provide European SME supply chain companies with an automated pre-form production, handling and over-moulding technology, with the following advantages over traditional manufacturing routes, yet providing a manufacturing cost reduction of up to 50%; Increased functionality, eg. full three dimensional filter production process .Process reliability improvement of 15 to 20% 100% recyclable filter Reduction in the number of process steps and therefore work in progress Fast filter component type change over time - To achieve this a number of technical objectives must be met, including: -Development of a tool construction technology to enable accurate location of the filter pre-form during the mould close and injection phases of the moulding operation, including use with cheaper, horizontal injection moulding machinery -Development of a cutting and nesting system to enable cost effective roll-fed filter membrane material utilisation, whilst maintaining the flexibility to operate with a number of filter pre-form shapes. -Development of a high speed automated handling technology for transferring pre-forms from individual plant elements to the tool, able to operate at a production efficiency of 90%, with a resulting repeatability of 0.25mm and any increase in mould open time of less than 3 seconds. -Development of a flexible system, capable of automation plant equipment changes within the injection moulding machine's tool change time

Funding Scheme

CRS - Cooperative research contracts

Coordinator

Plastiques de France Industries S.A.
Address
845,Avenue Du Pic De Bertagne 845
13881 Gemenos
France

Participants (7)

A J PRECISION COMPONENTS LTD.
Ireland
Address
Industrial Estate, Tuamgraney
116 Scariff
DIETEC PRECISION LTD.
United Kingdom
Address
Navigation Way, Mill Park Industrial Estate, Unit 23
WS11 2XT Cannock
Mannesmann Demag AG
United Kingdom
Address
Bicester Road
HP19 3BU Aylesbury
Morphy Richards (N.I.) Ltd.
United Kingdom
Address
Balloo Avenue
BT19 7QT Bangor
Production Engineering Research Association - PERA
United Kingdom
Address
Nottingham Road
LE13 0PB Melton Mowbray - Leicestershire
Robinson Plastic Packaging
United Kingdom
Address
Lowmore Road
NG17 7JU Kirkby In Ashfield
WITTMANN KUNSTSTOFFGERAETE GMBH
Austria
Address
10,Lichtblaustrasse 10
1220 Wien