Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the mobility industry, is focused on continuous improvement in every aspect of its business. It was this focus that caused the Engineering Department to develop a new tool to help the company determine which injection molding press should be used for new production jobs.
Each time Team 1 Plastics is awarded a new production job that requires a mold to be built, the company must determine which injection molding machine will be used to manufacture the parts. The Engineering Department must consider factors such as which press will the mold fit into, what type of resin will be used, and what robotics are needed?
Until recently, Team 1 Plastics did not have a very efficient way of determining which press should be used. Dave Seedorf, Engineering Manager for Team 1 Plastics, said that there have been times when the company had planned to use a particular press for a job, and then when the newly built mold arrived at Team 1, they discovered that the mold could not fit into the designated press. He said that having to move a job to another press can disrupt timing of trial runs of parts and negate the planning and preparation work done by Process Engineers.
“For example,” Seedorf said, “a job might be earmarked and quoted for a 100-ton machine. The mold is built with this in mind. But, when the mold is completed and arrives, it doesn’t fit into the specified 100-ton machine or there is some other reason why it cannot run in the specified machine. We have to put it in a 150-ton or a 180-ton machine. Unfortunately, we have a trial scheduled, and the Process Engineer had planned and prepared to put it into the 100-ton machine. Things have to be changed because this doesn’t fit, or the robot doesn’t work, or some other factor needs to be adjusted. Things get really hectic, because you’ve got to start making parts. Moving from one machine to another is very stressful.”
Mitch Hemgesberg, Process Engineer for Team 1 Plastics, added that he had observed that there might be “five or six people emailing back and forth asking each other whether a new mold would fit into a certain press.” Hemgesberg thought, “Why don’t we just have one person determine whether it will fit and know for sure?” And, then, he did something about it.
Using conditional formatting in a Microsoft© Excel spreadsheet, Hemgesberg created Team 1’s Molding Machine Calculator which Seedorf described as a tool that “takes a lot of information from mold sizes to machine parameters to shot size. It determines a good or bad situation of using a particular mold in each of Team 1’s presses, displaying green, yellow, or red for each of the criteria. The factors that are okay are green. If any of the boxes are red, we know that we can’t use the mold in that press.”
The Molding Machine Calculator is currently using the following 12 parameters to determine which presses could be used for a job:
- Shot Weight
- Mold Stack Height
- Mold Width
- Three-Plate Mold (Dual/Single Arm Robot)
- Clear Material Press
- Number of Hydraulic Cores
- Scara Robot Required (Tray Packing)
- Part Handler Required
- Clamp Pressure Required
- Injection Pressure Required
- Hygroscopic Material/P-Certified Press Required
- K-Cut Required
Seedorf said that the Molding Machine Calculator has definitely made a difference in efficiency and accuracy of planning the press to use for each job. “We are about 98% accurate in our press selection. I think the Calculator has made the entire process — not just the molding process — but the whole manufacturing process more efficient.”