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Molds: keep up-to-date!  #3 (25), 2005

 Aleksei Belousov
official representative
of Demag Plastservice
in Volga region

Molds: keep up-to-date! In the peak of plastics ware production in the beginning of XXI century in Russia demand on high-quality molds has been constantly growing. Correlation "price/quality" remains for sure a key factor for consumers. Nowadays molds of Russian production are approaching their optimum.

In the peak of plastics ware production in the beginning of XXI century in Russia demand on high-quality molds has been constantly growing. Correlation "price/quality" remains for sure a key factor for consumers. Nowadays molds of Russian production are approaching their optimum.
In Plastiks #2 (16), 2004 we told you about break-through in the sphere of molds and tooling production by Russian companies. We hope the headline of the article "Dare, Russian moldmakers!" has become a guide to action for talented Russian producers.
According to statistics for the last 3-4 years there is a considerable increase in import of equipment for elaboration, production and quality control of molds: graphic stations, machining centers, electroerosion machines, and control and measuring equipment. In large plastics processing enterprises tool-making sections are totally reequipped. Throughout the whole country small and medium-sized companies that stood out from former defense industry enterprises ("postboxes") are increasing production rate. In large industrial centers known for their unique companies of defense industry - Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Perm, Izhevsk, Ulyanovsk, the number of high-class moldmakers equipped according to the latest trend in technique is ever growing.

New tendencies
What are the main tendencies in the sphere of elaboration and production of molds nowadays? What new injection molding technologies connected with changes in constructions of molds are coming out in the world?
Molds: keep up-to-date! Nowadays there is more economical and efficient way of molding instead of forming and pressing that were used earlier. So for example, German company Elmet offers tooling for production of miniature wares out of silicone and other materials that often replace rubber. In-mold-labeling technology is becoming more wide-spread. It guaranties that the product manufactured will not be forged and makes it more recognizable and original.
Such automatic complex for labeling (on any surface available) is offered for instance by German company Becker Automation. To cover plastic wares with various decorative materials (cloth, leather) in-mold-decoration technology is applied.
Corresponding tooling for leading auto-producers of Europe is offered by Sarna company from Germany. Demag Concern has recently equipped industrial works of Volkswagen Group with similar complexes for production of cars" spare parts with cloth covering.
In the sphere of unique and large-scale molds production for Russian automotive industry we should point out a number of Portuguese companies, especially Moldoplastico and Techmolde that have their own representatives in Russia.
AutoVAZ and its main suppliers (Plastik, Syzran, Kinelagroplast and others) are working with molds from Portugal. Portuguese moldmakers stand out for a perfect time proved quality and reasonable price. Besides they willingly respond to customers" wishes and suggestions. In cooperation with Portuguese producers Russian moldmakers and automobile parts producers managed to improve their own professional level and to offer a unique project. By their combined efforts companies Moldoplastico and Kinelagroplast (Samara) have elaborated an original technology and manufactured molds for production of full-sized lockers (underwings) for automobile Ford Focus C-307 by injection molding. Earlier such wares could be manufactured by molding. The Portuguese company managed to apply a number of know-how, and the lockers manufactured by injection molding machines in Kinel successfully passed all the tests at the factories of Ford Motor Company. A number of technological questions were also solved by elaboration of a mold for "new Focus" radiator deflector. As Kinelagroplast suggested, the mold was elaborated for available Demag IMM with clamp force 1000 tons, although at the beginning Portuguese companies advised to use for that purpose a machine of not less than 1300-1500 tons. Production of this mold was entrusted to Russian company - JSC Forsh (Ulyanovsk). During elaboration and production of a mold for a deflector a lot of new technological suggestions were applied. The company from Ulyanovsk took into consideration customers" wishes and advice of the Portuguese company. By combined efforts the task was completed, and now the deflector manufactured in Kinel by a machine of 1000 tons, is being tested in Ford factories in Vsevolzhsk.
Molds: keep up-to-date! In Russia there is quite a lot of companies appeared (especially in the sphere of automotive parts production) that apply multi-component (multi-colored) molding.
Quite actual has become molding of complicated wares, including deployable ones, or on the contrary those that fold up while they are derived from the mold (for example, caps for shampoo bottles). For that purpose special molds are required. They are produced by Wahlau&Mueller, Braun and other companies. Austrian company IFW is one of the leading companies in the sphere of complicated molds production, in particular molds for plastics pipes conjunctions (fitting). It has patented a system of folding up rods that release ring-shaped grooves from a mold, which is of great importance in complicated fittings production. This company has also elaborated rod mechanical drive without hydraulic cylinder, which saves space in IMM and to a great extent reduces assembly and cycle time.
Recently it has been noticed that plastics processors show aspiration to increase IMM application, capacity and effectiveness owing to reduction of cycle time and amount of wastes. It can be achieved thanks to application of hot-runner and the so called level molds.
Due to application of molds with hot-runner pouring gate systems it is possible to reduce cycle time and material consumption in a construction (because of diminution or complete exclusion of pouring gates). To reduce time of cooling (which is the main part of the cycle time) heat exchange intensification is improved in cooling channels due to application of some standardized elements. A station of hot-runner monitoring is used to control the operation of such a mold.
Hot-runner molding contributes to design of a product, as there is an opportunity to mold the surface of a product with a minimum print in a mold.
We should mention however that the cost of hot-runner molds is rather high. Sometimes the price of such molds may be higher that the one of an injection molding machine. But it is susceptible to damage, especially by careless exploitation, or if IMM does not suit such molds. That is why it needs increased attention and careful maintenance. To ensure safe exploitation of a hot-runner mold it is necessary to be installed to those injection molding machines that have a function of operation with hot-runner molds in their programs. Injection molding machine should also be equipped with a system of active mold protection. It is possible for modern injection molding machines of the 4th generation with a feedback monitoring system. Such a system monitors up to 8-10 vitally important parameters of injection molding process.Application of multi-level molds arouses even greater interest.
Molds: keep up-to-date! So two-level 2x24-cavity mold Tradesco installed in high-speed injection molding machine Demag EL-Exis 550 for production of thin-walled packaging enables this complex to compete with a whole line of vacuum molding. The mold consists of two moving plates with identical respondent forming elements that close up towards symmetrical central part.
With the same distance between columns of injection molding machine it is possible to produce twice as much products! And as the machine is high-speed, its cycle is only 3-4 seconds. And a significant amount of wastes in vacuum molding makes injection molding more preferable. Another advantage of such technology in comparison with vacuum molding is that the construction of this mold possesses a hot-runner pouring gate system. As it has already been mentioned, it contributes to reduction of cycle time and of material consumption compared to cold-runner mold.

Designing of molds
CAD/CAM systems of continuous automated designing are used in elaboration of molds. Mold designing systems Mold-Works for SolidWorks are meant to automate constructor"s work and fulfill tasks of automated arrangement of molds. Nowadays companies apply a designing system of a new generation Mold Design - integral part of CAD/CAM. Tests of a mold as for its "spillage" are conducted on computers with the help of Mold-flow analysis. Leading software suppliers in the sphere of designing and production of products of complicated geometric shape - molds, dies, molding tooling - are Unigraphics, ProEngineer, Cimatron, Delcam, Kompas. World-known automotive concerns - Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Nissan, Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai, AutoVAZ and other - apply as a rule, 2-3 software products, in order to be constant leaders in equipping their production and design departments with software. As every system it has its own advantages and disadvantages, besides programs are renewed in a different time. It is a big advantage if a company that offers software has also a section of molds production. This combination enables to take into consideration in the software peculiarities and subtitles of complicated tooling production technology and make it perfect in its actual putting into operation.
Molds: keep up-to-date! Nowadays it is a common practice to apply a system of fast production of technological tooling, molds and experimental products consignment made by TAFA technology. Molds construction is equipped with standardized elements manufactured after catalogues of EOC Normalien and Hasco Normalien GmbH (Germany), Heatlock (Sweden), as well as Husky, DME, Strack and other. That enables tooling producers to concentrate their attention only on forming elements treatment and finishing, reducing labor consumption and molds production time. In this case production is divided into three parallel trends: independent forming details production; purchasing and finishing of standardized parts; original parts production. Thanks to application of standardized elements, manufactured by companies specialized in this sphere quality and longevity of molds are improved. Joint Russian-Finnish company Fodesko-MAK (Tver) has experience in production of standardized parts.

Mold market in Russia
In Russia well-known are molds manufactured by Otto Hofstetter, Schottli (Switzerland); Beckenbach, Desma, Elmet, Erwes, Ferromatik, Kloeckner, MHT, Stamm, Wiro, Wurth (all of them - Germany); Moulin Group (France); Marubeni (Japan).Among Russian moldmakers the following are actively developing: Tekhnoresurs and Molds and Dies Production of AutoVAZ (Togliatti), Forsh (Ulyanovsk), Izhavtoinstrument (Izhevsk), Betar (Chistopol), Tekhnoform (Samara), KamAZ-Instrumentspetsmash and Tekhnotron - Tatelektromash (Naberezhnye Chelny), Interkos-IV (St.-Petersburg), BiznesSfera, ZShP of GAZ and Daki-Nip (Nizhny Novgorod), Delta-Pro (Novosibirsk), SIZ-Pumori, Nipromash and Formotekhnika (Yekaterinburg), Alvi, Del-Sar (Saratov), Russian-Latvian companies Mold&Plastic and Agora-Plastilife; Moscow companies Imid, Krasny Proletary, some instrument productions of large factories. Quite known are engineering companies AB Universal, Pallet Tracks, Amain, Scorpogroup, Espotec, Premmo and many others that offer the whole complex of services: beginning from working out design and elaboration of a product, to making working sketches for a mold, and if the customer wishes, production of a mold by a "third" company.
Quality and reliability of molds manufactured in Russia are increasing considerably. Leading instrument-producing plants begin to specialize in production of molds, dies and technological tooling only, without scattering their forces on other trends. For several years these leaders have invested considerable sums in development of their own production. They buy premises they rented earlier, carry out and support power, communication and other infrastructure of technical maintenance of production.
Molds elaboration is carried out on modern graphical stations (for example, Unigraphics system, widely spread in Russia). In construction and technology departments, as well as in other departments, where used to work mainly specialists of defense industry, there are now more and more young specialists who acquire experience and offer their own new ideas.
Equipment is being renewed. Many companies install the latest machines Haas, Schaublin, Heckert, Boehringer, WFL Millturn Technologies, which enables to manufacture standardized elements and mold"s spare parts in small series. Most leading companies in mold and tooling production apply equipment Charmilles, Mikron, Hauser, Hermle, Huller Hille, Mecof, Agie, U.Shipman, Trevisan, Mikromat, Fidia, Rambaudi.
Instrument and carbide insert applied are from Sandvik, Walter, Emuge&Franken, Wohlhaupter, Mitsubishi.Equipment available in above mentioned Russian enterprises allows to process parts out of every known material used in mechanical engineering. Advanced companies use European tool steel, such as Buhler, Thyssen Krupp. Process of output control and molds testing is also of a great importance. Some companies control the quality of products manufactured in thermo-constant conditions with control and measuring machines from such companies as, for example, Karl Zeiss, Schmitt.It is possible to carry out tooling smoothing and production of pilot batch parts on lapping presses from Reis. Some Russian producers test molds directly in injection molding machines of a customer. But usually in order to increase efficiency tests are conducted in nearest molding productions equipped, as a rule, with out of date machines. Some moldmakers have their own injection molding machines, more often it is worn-out Ukrainian injection molding machines or old well-known Kuasy.
Perhaps it used to be enough for production of simple molds. But hardly any customer will apply to such producers who are not able to test and finish more complicated and expensive up-to-date molds in a shortest period.
It is especially true for such trends as production of automotive parts, fittings, precision wares, thin-walled single-use dishes, original packaging for cosmetics and food industry.
Such serious customers find moldmakers who correspond to their needs everywhere, except Russia. For example, in Portugal which is known for high-quality and relatively inexpensive molds. So, in this not very large country there are nearly 60 moldmakers, and the most well-known and responsible companies apply up-to-date injection molding machines from Demag for mold testing.
That is why nowadays advanced Russian companies are planning to purchase new injection molding machines for more accurate and efficient mold testing. Such machines are already installed in Tekhnoresurs, Forsh and Betar companies. This approach makes it possible to increase capacity as well as the number of orders not only for mold production but also for plastic wares molding. And ever more interesting clients that earlier worked with European companies become our customers.
Of course, there is no sense in purchasing one or two injection molding machines only to test molds 2-3 times a week.
Production capacity may increase by application of the available equipment more efficiently. And the most up-to-date injection molding machines enable moldmakers to become significant plastic wares producers. Information, that a company known for production of high-quality molds and for efficiency of manufacture is equipped with up-to-date injection molding machines of some well-known trade mark, attracts new customers, helps to acquire strategic partners and to come up to a new, inaccessible earlier, level.

Chained up together
What is the influence of moldmakers" activity on the work of their customers?
For example, in AutoVAZ molds and dies production is one of key divisions in the process of preparation of new models production and improving of series cars already manufactured. Speed of the main conveyor influences the operation of molds and dies production as well as of other partners of Volzhsky motor-car factory who produce or finish tooling.
For instance, on every level of molds and dies production in AutoVAZ there is responsibility to provide every stage of production of Kalina cars in time.
As the motor-car factory produces new models and at the same time modernizes and improves quality of cars already manufactured, corresponding changes are brought in tooling and equipment in operation. Molds and dies production carries out sufficient amount of work on tooling repairing both at AutoVAZ itself and at its partners" factories that manufacture various completing parts for LADA cars.
Nowadays mathematic modeling is applied in designing new cars at VAZ. A number of companies that are occupied with molds and tooling designing for automotive industry, such as JSC Tekhnoresurs, JSC Forsh, molds and dies productions and other companies have modern construction and technology departments CAD equipped according to the latest trend of technique. Graduates of technical universities come to work there and they are already trained for this work and are able to work wonders in computer modeling and design. Young specialists are the future of every company. That is why today companies rely not just on industrious workers but on bright specialists who are ready to study and to learn. For example, JSC Forsh, JSC Tekhnoresurs and molds and dies production of AutoVAZ cooperate with Samara State Airspace University, as well as with State Technical Universities of Togliatti, Ulyanovsk and Samara. Topics of course and diploma works for the students are offered by workers of these companies. Diploma practice, by agreement with management of universities, can be organized directly at these factories.
And estimation for projects of would-be engineers will be efficiency of the project"s application in production, quality of manufactured molds and, at last, of plastic wares and cars. Such cooperation is beneficial for every part: universities, their students, production, as well as for consumers of ready-made products - that means for all us. Universities achieve extra professional skill and real prospects for their students. Students get the opportunity to ensure their occupation after graduating from the university. Production gets qualified specialists that have studied in detail peculiarities of operation of factory department, and who are able to solve more complicated tasks in future.
A lot of attention is paid to extra training of the staff, workers are sent to take skill-raising courses, and young specialists are being motivated. All that lets us hope for good future of our instrument production that is now a part of modern technical structure. And if it is up-to-date then our plastics processors will be able to get inexpensive and high-quality molds from Russian producers.

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