Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

FP7

ROTOFAST — Result In Brief

Project ID: 243607
Funded under: FP7-SME
Country: Italy

Breaking the mould in plastic design

Compared with other moulding techniques, rotational moulding is regarded as a slow process since no external pressure is applied to mould the products. EU-funded scientists are developing a cutting-edge rotomoulding machine that is energy efficient and produces plastic parts at a considerably faster rate.
Breaking the mould in plastic design
Rotational moulding is a manufacturing method for producing custom plastic products, especially hollow plastic designs. Although this process allows large and even-walled durable plastic pieces to be formed at virtually no pressure, it is energy intensive and requires a long manufacturing time.

This technology faces intense competition from a growing market of goods from low-cost–labour countries. To enhance European competitiveness in the rotational moulding sector, scientists in the ROTOFAST project are focused on reducing cycle time, energy consumption and product cost. For this reason, they are developing a novel rotomoulding machine with advanced heating and cooling technology.

To get homogeneous heat over the mould surface, the project team developed a mould made of multiple layers from different thermal insulation materials. This allowed decrease in heat losses by approximately 80 % compared to conventional radiant ovens.

The automatic rotomoulding machine incorporates an induction heating system that optimises energy generation, resulting in 70 % less energy consumption for each manufactured unit. Furthermore, the system heats the mould tool cavity, getting a homogeneous polymer in 30 % less time.

The prototype unit also includes an internal cooling system that is based on ionic liquids. This reduces cooling cycling time by 20 % compared to conventional cooling processes. By cooling external surfaces and the internal cavity through a closed loop design, it avoids any liquid losses.

Finally, a rapid prototype protocol was developed to improve the quality of design. Using a computer-aided design file, it simulates electromagnetic fields in the system, induced heating, temperature distribution in the mould, and heat exchange between the mould and the polymer.

ROTOFAST is helping the future development of faster and more efficient moulding machines for plastics. The lower costs will also benefit consumers.

Related information

Keywords

Plastic design, rotational moulding, heating, cooling, polymer
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