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Special Report on FCS 35th anniversary
Source：Plastics News Asia
Date Published：6/6/2019 03:06:30 PM
On its 35th anniversary, FCS looks back to the development and application of multi-component injection molding technique in China
According to the surveys of relevant research institutions, the volume of current global injection molding machine market is about USD 13 billion. The injection molding machines (IMM) are widely used in automotive, household products, electronics and home appliances, construction, packaging and medical equipment industries. In recent years, with the development of industrial technology, multi-component injection molding technique is widely adopted. Multi-component molding technique was firstly represented by multi injection (known as the multi-component IMM commonly used in the industry) and started in the 1960s by German companies. At that time, the purpose of developing two-component molding technique was to improve the production efficiency of two-component parts, where the injection process and mold making technique were more complicated than those of the single-color injection technique. However, prior to 2000, due to the technical and cost factors, the two-component injection molding technique has not received great attention in China. However, in the 1990s, Taiwan played an important role as the global electronics foundry. Many injection companies have introduced the two-component molding technique. In order to reduce the price of imported two-component IMM, Taiwanese injection machine manufacturers have begun to develop their own two-component molding process jointly with mold manufacturers, which marked the development milestone of multi-component injection molding process in the China Region.
The technical development of two-component IMM can be divided into two main technical orientations: the first is represented by European and American enterprises, which are inclined toward universality and form two-component IMM with the dual-purpose feature based on a single-color injection machine and related configuration; the second is represented by Japanese and Taiwanese enterprises, which are inclined toward specialty. Their two-component IMM are dedicated, and integrate many customized functions, making them more suitable for professional mass production of two-component products. Among the many IMM companies in the China Region, FCS is renowned for its dedicated two-component IMM, which has been adopted and favored by many users for many years. Its two-component IMM enjoys a high reputation. The precision two-component IMM developed by FCS are divided into turning model, turning shaft model, electric model, laminated model, and color mixing model. Through strict test and real verification by market customers, FCS has formed 4 series of models consisting of more than 30 specifications, and the mold clamping force ranges from 135 tons to 1,900 tons. These models are widely used in automotive, mobile phone, laptop computers, pen making, handworking tools, high-end commodities , cosmetics, home appliances, and electronic product industries. According to internal statistics, as of 2018, FCS has sold more than 4,500 multi-component injection molding machines, and the cumulative sales volume has exceeded NTD 10 billion, of which more than 200 large-size two-component IMM with a mold clamping force of 700 tons or higher have been sold. The development of FCS two component IMM reflects the development and application of a multi-component injection molding technique in China. As 2019 marks the 35th anniversary of FCS multi-component injection molding technique, this paper will review the development process of multi-component injection molding technique in the China Region and explore the past and present of the two-component injection molding machine.
FB series-Classical popular two-component IMM of FCS
In 1984, FCS launched the first generation of two-component IMM (KT-300D), which made FCS one of the few manufacturers that could produce two component IMM. At that time, the two-component IMM was mainly applied in the daily necessity industry, which was the early stage of two-component injection technique. In the 1990s, Taiwanese electronics industry started booming, and many foreign famous electronic information product companies placed their foundry manufacturing in Taiwan. Therefore, the two-component process was used in 3C product industry, including mouse, buttons, knobs, remote controls, grips, and game consoles. In addition, with the improvement of living standards, two component IMM was used in the cosmetics industry to improve the added value of the products. The most representative two component IMM of FCS in this period is the FB series. At present, FB has almost become synonymous with the two-component IMM in the China Region, which manifests its profound influence.
First generation of two-component of FCS in 1984 (KT-300D)
First generation of rotary axis two-component IMM of FCS in 1993 (FB140T)
First generation of interval IMM of FCS in 1993 (FB110C)
In addition to product design, the most critical factor to the success of FB series is high-performance positioning. When the market was still dominated by ordinary IMM, FCS two-component IMM was positioned for high performance, which played a leading role for the subsequent two-component injection molding process. This highly forward-looking layout has also created the competitive advantage and leadership of FCS two-component IMM. After 2000, four major developments in two-component IMM process have taken place: large-size, precision/specialization, multi-injection and multi-function, and vertical turning shaft.
Development of large size two-component injection molding machine
In January 2001, FCS launched a large-size two-component IMM (FB-1000R) with a mold clamping force of 1,000 tons and a diameter of 1.6m, which was mainly applied in the automotive industry, and was one of the largest domestic two-component IMM in Taiwan at that time. Before the introduction of FB-1000R, if the plastic product manufacturers wanted to produce large-size two-component products, most of them could only choose imported models, which were, however, very costly. In addition, the maintenance was inconvenient, and they could not meet the special function requirements. After the launch of the model, due to the high-end positioning, international technical and quality levels, and customized functions, it has been widely purchased by many customers based on cost and other considerations. According to customer feedback, after testing multiple molds, customers are extremely satisfied with the quality of this domestic two-component IMM, and consider them better than the German imported two component IMM. The R&D technique and product quality of FCS two-component IMM were once again recognized by customers. The product not only ended the technological monopoly of imported machines, but filled the gap of the domestic large-size two-component IMM. Furthermore, it won the Taiwan Excellence Award in 2002.
First large-size two-component IMM of FCS in 2010 (FB1000R)
Prior to 2006, there were extremely rare domestic large-size two-component IMM in the Chinese market. With the increasing market demand for medium and large-size two-component IMM, the automotive, home appliance, laptop & computer, and houseware industries started to adopt two-component technique. Therefore, FCS introduced the production of large-size two-component IMM with a mold clamping force of 700 tons or higher to Ningbo FCS in 2006 to realize the localized mass production of medium and large-size two-component IMM, and set a development milestone for large-size two-component IMM in the Chinese market. Since then, FCS medium and large-size two-component IMM has been well received by the Chinese mainland market. From 2006 to 2010, it realized the massive production of large-size two-component IMM with a mold clamping force of 700 to 1,420 tons in China. In 2015, the mold clamping force was further increased to 1900 tons. In the meanwhile, the Taiwan plant of FCS continued the R&D of large-size two-component IMM. In 2012, it launched a super-large two platen horizontal rotary table two-component IMM (HB-1900R) with a mold clamping force of 1,900 ton, which won the Ringier Technology Innovation Award and the Taiwan Excellence Award in 2017. Later, in 2013, the super large two platen two-component IMM (LM-3200LB) with a mold clamping force of 3,200 tons was introduced. As the largest two platen two-component IMM in China, it can produce both single-color and two-component products, which increases the investment efficiency. By 2018, driven by the demand of automotive, home appliance and laptop computer industries, FCS has manufactured over 60 large-size two-component IMM every year, which shows that the application of large-size two-component IMM in the Chinese market has matured.
HB1900R won the Ringier Technology Innovation Award in 2017
Largest two platen two-component IMM in China in 2013 (LM3200LB)
Precision development of two-component IMM
In August 2001, FCS first introduced the AE series high-speed hybrid IMM, which combines oil and electrical structures. On the one hand, it has electric positioning accuracy and energy-saving features. On the one hand, it retains the high thrust characteristics of the oil structure. In other words, with a cost lower than that of electric IMM, the hybrid IMM can effectively improve the high energy consumption and low accuracy of traditional oil IMM, and greatly reduce the pollution and noise. To achieve continuous, high-speed and precise injection, the mold clamping unit adopts high-rigidity structure and closed-loop control of German high-response servo valve. The control accuracy of mold clamping force is ±0.5%, the injection speed error is ±0.1%, the injection positioning accuracy is 0.05mm, the time control accuracy is 0.01s, and the weight error of the finished product is lower than 0.1%. To sum up, the overall injection accuracy and stability of the hybrid IMM are equal to those of the electric models, making it applicable to produce super thin parts and fine complex precision products. This model is equipped with a multi-segment injection compression function, which can independently control the position and speed of each segment and work with the injection action to compress the starting point and the end point. Therefore, it can adapt to the needs of many different injection molds. Due to the hybrid structure, the compounding actions of feeding, accumulating, mode switching and ejection can be carried out simultaneously, which greatly shortens the molding cycle. Basically, the launch of FCS AE series has advanced the high-end injection industry to a new stage.
FCS then applied this technique to the two-component IMM, and launched the high-speed closed-loop hybrid two-component IMM (HB-250Y) in the same year, which drives the screw feed through an electric servo motor and is equipped with accumulator and high-speed injection device to form a hybrid multi-circuit system. Its injection closed-loop control, injection compression function (multi-segment low-pressure injection) and 500mm/s injection speed were all extremely advanced at that time. Both injection unit adopt the German high-response closed-loop servo valve with an injection speed of 600mm/s and 400mm/s respectively, and an injection response time of 25ms. In addition, it adopts closed-loop servo control and has the advantages of precise feeding, energy saving, high-speed injection and shortened molding cycle. Moreover, it is the first domestic two-component IMM based on the hybrid structure. It is used to produce thin CD cases. Combined with servo robot and automatic stacking device, it shortens the molding cycle to only 7s, manifesting high speed and high automation production capacity. It not only breaks through the manual assembly bottleneck of traditional on the traditional CD case production lines, but improves the product and mold quality. In addition, it can complete the work of two machines, which improves the production efficiency and quality, and reduces the investment cost.
The servo electric feed structure, the injection closed-loop control, the injection compression function (multi-segment low-pressure injection) and the 500mm/s injection speed were all extremely advanced at the time. The mold clamping unit adopts high-rigidity structure and closed-loop control of German high-response servo valve. The model parallelism error is lower than 0.05mm, and the position control accuracy of mode switch is ±0.1mm. Both injection elements adopt the German high-response closed-loop servo valve with an injection speed of 600mm/s and 400mm/s respectively. In addition, the injection response time is 25ms, the injection position accuracy is ±0.1mm, the pressure control accuracy is ±0.5%, the time control accuracy is 0.01s, and the weight error of finished product is lower than 0.1%. This model also has multi-segment injection compression function, and the injection compression segment is accurate to 0.01mm. This model is the first domestic two-component IMM to adopt closed-loop system with high-speed injection, and has single-color, two-component, homogeneous, heterogeneous and multilayer injection functions, which shortens the process, increases the productivity, reduces the cost, and makes great progresses toward high precision, high quality and multi-function two component molding.
This model was awarded the “Excellence Award” in the “Innovative Product Competition for Plastic Rubber Machinery R&D” at the Taipei International Rubber and Plastics Industry Exhibition in 2001 and the “Taiwan Excellence Award” in 2002. However, the electric screw feed structure (Electric Screw Drive, ESD) was very common in the IMM in Europe and the United States, but still not applied in domestic IMM. Therefore, this high-speed precision two-component IMM enabled FCS to rewrite the technical development of the domestic two-component IMM, and FCS was reputed as the pioneer of high-end precision molding technique in China. (Source: China Plastics Processing Equipment Industry Research Report)
HB250Y won the “Excellence Award” in the “Innovative Product Competition for Plastic Rubber Machinery
R&D” at the Taipei International Rubber and Plastics Industry Exhibition in 2001
In addition to the increased precision of the injection unit, the continuous optimization of the turning structure is also an important progress of the two-component IMM. The turning speed and accuracy of the turntable and the shaft have been greatly improved from the earliest rack structure, to the hydraulic motor drive, to the servo electric drive. In 2005, Ningbo FCS received the order of the CE specification two-component IMM from German electronics manufacturer, which is the first two-component IMM order that Ningbo FCS received from Europe. On the one hand, FCS two-component IMM has been recognized by foreign customers. And FCS two-component IMM has met the European safety standards and reached the international technical level, which has opened the export of domestic two-component IMM to Europe and the United States. At present, FCS two-component IMM has passed the CE certification, offering favorable conditions to enter the European market.
Since 2006, servo power-saving models have become popular. In 2007, FCS launched a servo power-saving two-component IMM to open the high-precision and power-saving path for multi-component IMM. In 2014, in order to meet the new technical requirements of two component molds and customers, FCS introduced the second-generation FB two-component IMM, and upgraded the specifications of the small two-component IMM below 400 tons to optimize structural rigidity and turntable performance, and added more injection unit options, which not only successfully assisted customers in product technology upgrades, but ensured the continued leading advantages of FCS two-component IMM.
Second-generation rotary table two-component IMM in 2014 (FB230R)
Second-generation rotary axis two-component IMM in 2015 (FB280T)
Professional development of two-component injection molding machine
In general, the two-component IMM is industry-specific and highly customized, which is significantly different from the general single-color IMM. In December 2001, Ningbo FCS was established. At that time, the ordinary IMM had already been saturated in China. At the beginning of the establishment of Ningbo FCS, the dedicated IMM was the mainline. There was already two-component IMM dedicated for pen-making industry in the Chinese market. However, after investigation and verification by FCS, there were many aspects requiring improvement. In June 2003, Ningbo FCS launched the “Dedicated pen-making two-component IMM” (FB-200R), which enjoy wider mold space, faster and more precise turntable positioning, movable center distance, shorter molding cycle, and higher product yield. These characteristics make the FB-200R highly popular after its launch. In the beginning, the leading pen-making enterprises in Wenzhou adopted the FCS two-component IMM. Later, the pen-making enterprises in Ningbo and Shanghai also purchased the FCS two-component IMM. Finally, the top five pen-making enterprises in the entire Chinese pen-making industry used the FCS two-component IMM, which increased the popularity of FCS two-component IMM in the mainland market. This machine not only promotes the upgrade of the Chinese pen-making industry, but spurs the development of the two-component IMM in the mainland.
Application of two-component IMM in various industries
Since 2000, the global mobile phone industry has been booming, and the demand for mobile phones has increased exponentially every year. In the production process of mobile phones, in addition to various electronic components, the production of mobile phone structures, such as housings, buttons and connectors, required high-precision machinery to produce high-quality products. Given this demand, FCS launched the FB-140R dedicated button-making two-component IMM for the mobile phone industry in 2004. This model has improved the efficiency and accuracy of the original injection elements. After the launch, it not only has been adopted by domestic customers, but well received by a large number of Korean mobile phone manufacturers. In 2004, the sales volume reached nearly 50 sets in a single region. Even in 2018, some Korean customers still purchased the dedicated button-making two-component IMM. The long-term high sales performance of this model once again prove that FCS two component IMM not only meets the customer needs, but creates higher customer profits.
After 2006, the application of the two-component IMM has been extended to automotive spare parts industry (automotive lights and interior & exterior decoration). The FCS models of over 1,000 tons are basically targeted at the automotive light industry, and sold in Changzhou, Suzhou, Taizhou, Kunshan, Shanghai, Wuhu, Baoding, Shenyang, Chongqing, Guangxi and Qingdao. Later, large-size two-color injection machines are applied for large-size interior and exterior automotive parts. FCS large-size two-component IMM focuses on the bearing capacity and positioning accuracy of turntable as well as the plasticizing design of injection element, which promotes the rapid development of multi-color molding technique and multi-component interior and exterior products in the Chinese automotive industry. In addition, since the beginning of 2015, FCS large-size multi-tasking three-component IMM has been developed and applied to solve the problem of complex multi-component process in Chinese automotive spare parts industry, and has advanced the multi-component molding technique of Chinese automotive spare parts to internationally leading level.
Dedicated automotive light two-component IMM in 2008 (FB1420R)
In the automotive spare parts industry, the sealing performance required for air-conditioning pipe valve systems has generated a high demand for multi-component molding technique. Therefore, FCS launched the two-component IMM with piggyback injection structure in 2009 (FB-350). Since the injection elements adopt a compact up-down configuration, it is suitable for injecting two products with huge weight difference, and automotive parts with seals. In addition, the piggyback structure of this model can produce single-color products, which expands the scope of use, and creates greater benefits for customers. The W-type piggyback injection structure is more common in the injection machines in Europe and the United States. Many molds that had to be produced by the imported two-component IMM were gradually produced by the FCS W-type piggyback two-component IMM. From then on, FCS two-component IMM started to replace the imported two-component IMM.
Among the FCS two-component IMM, FB-260R is the best-selling model, and can be described as the “classic” of FCS two-component IMM. A large part of FB-260R is used in the cosmetics industry, including lipstick tubes, facial cream boxes, eyebrow pencils, razors, hair removers and facial massagers. This model was introduced into FCS Ningbo for mass production in 2004. The model is positioned toward high-performance applications, and especially suitable for cosmetic containers with high precision and appearance requirements. The market performance shows that FCS two-component IMM has stable performance, high product yield, high injection speed and excellent surface quality. Besides, it provides low-speed stability for thick and highly transparent products. Due to good reputation, many large cosmetics companies in Taiwan, Japan and France have adopted FCS two-component IMM. In 2014, FCS upgraded the model to the second generation, continuing the legend of the classic two-component IMM.
In 2008, Apple introduced the thinnest and lightest laptop the world has ever seen (MacBook Air). In 2010, Apple’s iPad raised a wave of tablet computers. Since 2012, China’s thin laptops and tablets have gradually emerged, and the characteristics of thin laptops and tablets must integrate the design of fixtures and seals to reduce the weight and improve the assembly efficiency. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt the two-component injection technique. However, the precision, complicated structure, and high-quality appearance characteristics of the electronic components have higher requirements for the two-component IMM. In view of this, FCS launched the high-precision two-component IMM dedicated for thin laptop computers in 2014, FB-700R and FB-850R. The medium-size high-precision two-component IMM have been greatly improved in terms of turntable speed, positioning accuracy, mold-closing accuracy, and injection speed, making them especially suitable for thin, high flow ratio, and sophisticated electronic products. After the launch, they were widely purchased by a large number of customers, and developed new application fields for medium-size domestic two-component IMM.
Dedicated laptop computer two-component IMM in 2014 (FB700R)
As mentioned above, the classic FCS two-component IMM, FB-260R, is widely applied in medical equipment industry in addition to the cosmetics industry, including dual-layer syringes with light barrier properties, breathing masks, and medical packaging covers. In the injection molding field, the medical equipment occupies a certain share. However, the application of two-component molding technique in medical products must consider clean room space, height, production area cleanliness, heat source emission control, waste rate control and other factors. In order to meet the above special needs, FCS improved this model and launched the two-component IMM dedicated for medical products, which has been adopted by domestic and foreign medical equipment companies.
In the two-component molding process of medical equipment, the combination of soft and hard rubber is the technical focus, which poses high requirements for the positioning accuracy of the injection element and the rigidity of the mold clamping element. Especially, small deviations in the production of multi-cavity products can lead to defective products. The product that best reflects this technical difficulty is the production of multi-cavity multi-component toothbrush handles. In 2012, FCS worked with related mold manufacturers to introduce multi-component IMM FB-550R dedicated for toothbrush, which was widely applied by the international toothbrush manufacturers.
In 2016, FCS launched the upgraded dedicated toothbrush machine FB-600T (including multi-component), in which FB-600T two-component IMM replaces the original nine single-color machines (secondary molding process), which not only saves half of the space, but reduces the manpower (three shifts from 24 persons to 3 persons). More importantly, the yield (from 95% to 99%) and efficiency are improved. The FB-600T multi-component IMM shoulders the responsibility of “import replacement”. Combined with high-precision molds and automation peripherals, it replaces the imported multi-component IMM that customers originally used, and creates higher profits for customers with super high cost performance. The customer compared the FCS multi-component IMM to the Golden Chicken. This is also the mission of FCS two-component IMM: “Continuously promote the development of domestic multi-component IMM, become the best substitute brand for imported machines, and create higher efficiency for customers”. In December 2018, the FB-600T multi-component IMM of FCS Ningbo (dedicated toothbrush handle multi-cavity multi-component IMM) was selected as the “40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening Up-Outstanding Products of Machinery Industry” organized by China Machinery Industry Federation, which affirmed the advantages of FCS multi-component IMM. (During the Chinaplas in Guangzhou in May 2019, FCS will present a multi-component toothbrush handle molding system. Welcome to visit. Booth:3.1 F21)
Multi-injection development of two-component IMM
As mentioned above, the development of multi-component injection machines starts with two-component IMM. As the product complexity increases, the demand for tri-color or four-color products emerges. In general, there are two types of tri-color IMM: two-station tri-color IMM (commonly known as fake tri-color IMM) and three-station tri-color IMM (commonly known as true tri-color IMM). In fact, the difference between the two does not lies in the number of stations but in the different turntable control methods based on product structure design (two pairs of molds or three pairs of molds). Two-station implies that the turntable is positioned in two positions, which is equivalent to the 180° turntable control mode of the two-component IMM. In other words, two of three injection elements of the two-station three-color injection machine simultaneously inject at the same pair of mold. Therefore, if the boundaries of the two components in the product are not adjacent (can simultaneously inject in the same pair of mold), only two pairs of molds are needed to produce the tri-component product, which is suitable for the two-station three-color injection machine. The case of three-station is different. The turntable can be positioned at three positions (120°). The three injection elements of the three-station tri-color IMM respectively inject at three pairs of molds. Therefore, if the boundaries of the three components in the product are adjacent, the three-station tri-color IMM is applicable. Likewise, the four-color IMM can also be divided into two-station and multi-tasking four-color IMM. From a technical point, the control accuracy requirement of multi-tasking turntable is higher than that of the two-station turntable. Therefore, the production cost is relatively higher. Therefore, it is not necessary to blindly pursue the multi-tasking multi-component IMM, but to select the most effective solution according to the product structure requirements.
As early as 2005, FCS had launched the FB-450M tri-color IMM. FCS was one of the few manufacturers that could produce tri-color injection machines at that time. The launch of this model also opened the development path of domestic tri-color IMM. With the increasing complexity of multi-color product design, the demand for multi-tasking tri-color IMM is increasing. Therefore, from 2010 to 2017, FCS successively developed large and medium-size tri-color IMM. In 2015, FCS launched the FB-1900R super large three-station tri-color IMM with a mold clamping force of 1,900 tons and a turntable diameter of 2,250mm, which was the largest multi-tasking tri-color IMM on the market and also an important development milestone of FCS tri-color IMM. In 2017, FCS developed the electric turntable multi-tasking tri-color IMM with a full range of mold clamping force from 160 tons to 1,900 tons, which are widely used in the market. As mentioned above, since 2015, FCS has introduced and applied large-size multi-tasking tri-color IMM with a mold clamping force of over 1,000 tons, overcoming the difficulties of complex multi-component process in Chinese automotive spare parts industry, and advancing the multi-component molding technique f in Chinese automotive spare parts industry to the internationally advanced level.
In terms of four-color IMM, FCS also invested a lot of research and development resources. From 2010 to 2016, FCS launched the development of two-station four-color IMM with a mold clamping force of 1,250 tons to 1,600 tons and put them on the market. In 2018, based on multi-tasking tri-color IMM it introduced the FB-1600R multi-tasking four-color IMM and pushed the large-size multi-component IMM to the technical peak. It has become the main product of FCS large-size multi-component IMM.
First large-size four-color IMM in 2010 (FB1250R)
Injection pattern of multi-component IMM
With the development of multi-component injection machines from two-color injection machines, tri-color injection machines to four-color injection machines, and with the changes of the vertical and horizontal turntables, the configuration of injection elements has been diversified. In order to facilitate communication and avoid misunderstanding, FCS summarized the various configurations developed over the years in 2017, and first proposed the definition of multi-component injection pattern. In the case of two-component IMM, there are five basic patterns including: P-type (two-injection, parallel), L-type (right-angle two-injection, horizontal), V-type (sky-side two-injection, vertical), W-type (back two-injection, piggyback), H-type (opposite two-injection, opposite). Based on the five basic patterns, the definition of injection patterns of tri-color and four-color IMM can be derived, totaling 19 configurations. The above patterns have been verified by the market. According to FCS, there will be 25 injection patterns of multi-component injection machines in the future.
It can be seen that the technical changes and customization of multi-component IMM far exceed those of single-color IMM. How to quickly meet the diversified product needs is the key to multi-component IMM. Although the external hardware structure design can be easily realized, the inner software needs to be accumulated by experience. FCS has accumulated 35 years of technical development experience on multi-component IMM, sold more than 4,500 sets, developed thousands of industry product application cases and control procedures, and cooperated with multi-component partners (professional molders and trial mold factories) all over China. Such huge database and cooperation network lay the foundation for the strong competitiveness of FCS multi-component IMM. Therefore, FCS sells not only multi-component IMM, but multi-component molding technical solutions.
Multi-functional development of multi-component IMM
As mentioned above, the increase of the injection elements in the multi-component IMM and the different configuration modes satisfy the molding requirements of diversified multi-component products. The realization of the injection movement function is the truly key to equip the multi-component IMM with diverse functions and elastic production modes. Since 2014, FCS has deployed the injection movement function in the large and medium-size multi-component IMM with a mold clamping force of 700 tons or higher, enriching the purposes of the FCS multi-component IMM. For example, equipped with the injection movement function, the LV-type multi-component IMM will be able to realize single-color, P-type two-component, L-type two-component, V-type two- component, L-type multi-component, V-type multi-component, LV-type multi-component and LV-type multi-component functions. For companies with diversified products, the multi-function machine is an excellent choice. In the automotive light industry, the configuration of the injection elements enables one multi-component IMM to simultaneously meet the production requirements of automotive head lights and tail lights.
In the five basic two-component IMM patterns, the H-type dual-colored IMM is a new structure developed in recent years. The horizontal dual-colored IMM with the two-plate mold clamping element and the stack mold can double the production capacity of single-color products. In 2019, FCS launched the HB-2350D super large two platen H-type two-component IMM, which was equipped with full servo power saving system, electric screw drive (ESD) and injection closed-loop control. It is applied to large-scale logistics products, and can complete the production tasks of two single-color machines, which saves energy, reduces floor space, and increases production capacity by more than 70%.
Super large two platen H-type two-component IMM in 2019 (HB2350D)
In general, multi-component products are made up of different plastics. Multi-layer molding of the same plastic based on multi-component IMM is a modern technical progress, which applies multi-component molding technique to thick-walled transparent optical products, such as lens and light guide block, thus solving the problems of long single injection cycle and uneven shrinkage.
Multi-component molding technique can be divided into three categories in terms of product combination patterns: multi-component, interval, and sandwich. In 2001, FCS developed a “gas-assisted sandwich co-injection” molding technique, which combined with gas-assisted injection device with the sandwich co-injection processing element to form a gas-assisted co-injection mixing device. The process is to inject high-pressure nitrogen generated by special gas device instantly to the sandwich co-injection molding plastic to complete the gas-assisted sandwich co-injection process, which can maintain the molding performance, reduce the warpage deformation, improve the yield, reduce the costs and increase the product features.
This technique, combined with gas-assisted injection system and sandwich/interval IMM, can produce products of two effects. One is transparent and hollow structure, which forms a special appearance effect, and increases the added value of the product; the other is sandwich and hollow structure, which reduces the weight, increases the strength and lowers the costs. In addition, in 2017, FCS launched the FB-250C three-component interval machine. The three injection elements inject from single nozzle, which can produce unique patterns. It is applied to sports equipment grips and other products, and is rare in China.
Vertical development of the turning shaft of multi-component IMM
It is well known that the German K Exhibition which is held every three years is the world’s leading plastic molding technique event. In the 2004 K Exhibition, many horizontal turning multi-component molds were displayed, including: small horizontal turning stack mold, horizontal turning four-sided cubic mold, and twin horizontal turning four-sided cubic mold. Specifically, Milacron exhibited a 250-ton two-color injection machine equipped with twin cube turning stack mold, which was combined with two-color + IML (in-mold labeling) + IMA (in-mold assembly) + turning stack mold, and attracted a lot of attention. In the same K Exhibition, Engel exhibited 1,500-ton two platen horizontal two-component IMM with horizontal turning stack mold and injection compression function, and produced automotive sunroof with PC glass technique, which provided an important direction for automobile lightweight development.
In the 2007 K Exhibition, Krauss-Maffei exhibited 2,300 tons two platen IMM equipped with horizontal turning stack mold, which was used to produce automotive door trims. Combined with turning stack mold and reactive injection technique, PC/ABS substrate and tri-color PUR online spraying technique constitutes a four-color leather touch surface layer, and then forms an automated production module for the automobile door trim with laser cutting processing element, which integrated the complicated post-processing and attracted great attention. In the same K Exhibition, Engel exhibited 900 tons two platen horizontal two-component IMM equipped with horizontal turning stack mold to produce the central automotive armrest combined with micro-foaming technique; Milacron exhibited 450 tons two-component IMM with horizontal turning stack mold to produce bathroom linker. Demag exhibited 300 tons hybrid two-component IMM equipped with horizontal turning four-sided stack mold and in-mold assemble technique to produce a double-layer cap. From the above observations, after 2000, the application of horizontal turning mold in multi-color injection machine has expanded from 250 tons to 2,300 tons machines. At that time, there was almost no development record in the localization of related techniques in China.
FCS has long been concerned about the development trend of multi-component molding technique in European and American companies. In view of the application trend of horizontal turning multi-component molds, FCS established a horizontal two-component IMM project team in 2009, and developed the two platen horizontal two-component IMM with mold manufacturers. In 2012, it launched the HB-1900R super large horizontal rotary table two-component IMM with a mold clamping force of 1,900 tons, which was one of the few super large two-component IMM in Taiwan at that time. This model has two major features: the first is that the turntable is horizontal, and the mold is mounted on both sides of the central turntable wall. Due to the horizontal turning motion, there is no obvious gravity and mechanism limitation, which enables the mass production of large-scale two-component mold products, and eliminates the inclination wear of the vertical turntable due to the mold weight. The second is that the injection elements are horizontally opposed, and cooperate with the horizontal rotary table structure. Compared with the vertical turntable, the application scope of the mold is larger, and it can cope with the mold design requirements of longer slider stroke. The model integrates multiple techniques, including two platen machine, two-component IMM, horizontal rotary table, stack mold and servo power-saving, which leaves a new record in Chinese’s multi-component injection molding technique.
Compared with the vertical turntable two-component IMM, when the product size is larger and the mold structure is more complicated, the two-component production by the horizontal rotary table can avoid the inertia problem of the vertical turntable production and the influence of gravity, which shows obvious application advantages. Therefore, this model is especially suitable for large-size flat-panel TV frames, automotive interior and exterior trim, automotive sunroof, corner windows, automotive light housings and other products. In addition, as the model adopts a two platen mold clamping structure, two horizontally opposed injection elements and stack mold technique, if applied to the production of single-color products, it will double the output, and greatly improve the benefits. The application in deep cavity products also shows great advantages. This model won the Ringier Technology Innovation Award and the Taiwan Excellence Award in 2013 and 2017 respectively.
Later, at the 2014 Taipei Exhibition, the 2015 Guangzhou Exhibition, and the 2016 Shanghai Exhibition, FCS exhibited the HB-350R horizontal rotary table two-component IMM which is used to produce sunroof products. FCS presented the horizontal turntable stack mold technique to the customers. The launch of the model immediately attracted the attention and consultation of many customers, and in 2014, it won the “Special Award” for the Taipei Exhibition R&D Innovation Product Competition. In order to meet different customer needs, FCS completed the serialization of HB-R models in 2016, and expanded the mode-locking force from 350 tons to 1,900 tons. In 2018, the horizontal rotary table two-component IMM was expanded to tri-color and four-color models, which broadened the application scope of this series, and received positive feedback from customers.
Future trend for multi-component IMM
Based on previous K Exhibitions in Germany, in 2004 and 2007 K Exhibitions, combinations of various applications in multi-component molding technique were demonstrated, such as: two-component + IML (in-mold labeling), two-component + IMA (in-mold assembly) , two- component + stack mold, two-component + turning stack mold + IMA, two-component + IML + IMA + stack mold, two-component + interlayer, two-component + Mucell (micro-foam), tri-color + IMA, tri-color + embedded molding, two-component + silicone molding (SIM) , two-component injection + water auxiliary injection, two-component + reactive injection. However, super large horizontal turntables, electric two-component IMM, three-station three-color rotary axis, four-color IMM and other high-tech products also appeared at this stage. In other words, multi-component molding technique must be combined with other techniques to create higher efficiency, which becomes the challenging target in the next stage. What applications in the development of China’s multi-component IMM for more than a decade have been localized is a question worth pondering.
The key issue is the development of multi-component molding technique and automation peripherals. In-mold labeling, in-mold assembly, horizontal turning four-sided stack mold, micro-foaming and silicone molding all require related molds and peripherals. Therefore, the technical integration and co-development of IMM, molds and automation peripherals is the key to the development of multi-component molding technique so as to form highly automated production elements. In the future, the two platen horizontal rotary table multi-component IMM will keep developing. In particular, the application of horizontal turning four-sided stack molds, combined with electric drive elements, such as turning elements and injection elements, is also the important basis for high-precision and multi-functional multi-component IMM. With the development of intelligent IMM technique, multi-cavity flow balance, variation control of injection melt, online monitoring of mold clamping and other technical applications advance multi-component IMM towards high performance.
Looking back on its 35-year development process, FCS has launched two-color, tri-color to four-color IMM, from two-station to multi-tasking, from small capacity to large capacity, from vertical turning to horizontal turning, from hydraulic drive to servo drive, and from dedicated machines to multi-functional machines. The core development concept of FCS is to “lead the development of Chinese’s multi-component molding technique, promote the application of multi-component molding technique become the best alternative brand for imported machines, and create higher efficiency for customers”.
In February 2018, Ningbo FCS joined in the Standard Working Committee of China Plastics Machinery Association, and participated in the drafting of the standard for “multi-component plastic injection molding machine”; in July 2018, to support the training of professional talents for the Chinese plastic machinery industry, Ningbo FCS provided experimental demonstration equipment (FB-200R two-component IMM) for Beijing University of Chemical Technology, which was applied to build the “China Plastics Machinery Talent Cultivation Base” in Beijing University of Chemical Technology. In October 2018, FCS Group and the National Plastics Machinery Product Quality Supervision and Inspection Center jointly established Multi-component Injection Machine Science and Technology Center, and cooperated in multi-component injection machine technology innovation, standard formulation, detection method research and new product development. The Technology Innovation Building of the Center will be officially opened in May 2019 at the Ningbo Plant of FCS.
As the old saying goes, “Rome was not built in one day”. Things cannot be rushed for success. Instead, only efforts and perseverance can yield success. In the development of HB-R two platen horizontal two-component IMM by FCS, FCS set up the project team in 2009 and officially launched the product in the market in 2012. After rigorous market technology survey and patent search and analysis, it repeatedly demonstrated the technical solutions and reliability, and finally formed its unique innovative machine. Where the tears are sowed, where the fruits are harvested. It reflects the development history of FCS multi-component IMM. Looking back on the hard-won achievements and development progresses in the past 35 years, FCS hopes that the industrial peers will abandon the counterfeiting competition, strengthen independent technological innovation, improve the cultivation of multi-component technical talents, and jointly make greater contributions to the sustainable development of multi-component molding technique in China.