High performance plastic mold monitoring

    Although some plastic raw materials can be cheap, regardless of the product, the molds are always expensive. The high-precision, complex and heavy-duty plastic molds are orders of magnitude more expensive. Damaged molds are very costly and production downtime is a cause of lower profits. Avoiding damage or avoidable wear and tear is therefore a top priority.

High performance plastic mold monitoring

Although some plastic raw materials can be cheap, regardless of the product, the molds are always expensive. The high-precision, complex and heavy-duty plastic molds are orders of magnitude more expensive. Damaged molds are very costly and production downtime is a cause of lower profits. Avoiding damage or avoidable wear and tear is therefore a top priority.

The most common cause of damage occurs when a product is not fully ejected from the mold before the next cycle begins. Push pins and other methods of ejecting the product from the mold are not always 100% reliable.

Traditional CCD cameras have been used to detect the presence of non-ejected components, but are affected by ambient light and variations in product color, resulting in false readings that stop operations and delay production. Thermal imaging cameras are independent of lighting and are only slightly affected by color deviations. Thermal cameras detect components that have not been ejected and cause the machine tool to stop operating until the condition can be corrected. The additional costs of the thermal imaging camera compared to conventional cameras can easily be justified by savings in tool changes and reduced downtimes.

Dozens of process sensors model PSC-400 IMMS thermal imaging cameras are currently being used successfully by a leading high-performance plastics manufacturer in 24/7 operation together with a customer-specific data acquisition and logic interface system.

The market

Plastics and products are diverse. They range from soft and pliable to rigid and durable, impact-resistant materials. The applications for plastics are just as diverse: from the styrofoam coffee cup to the hard materials used in weapons, cars and even furniture.

There is also a huge field of application for the molding of small precision electronic connectors, medical devices, and military components. Product specifications are demanding and almost always expensive to manufacture. Small intricate parts, as well as some types of plastics that are molded, tend to stick in the mold cavities.

The application

Most plastic products are made either by injection molding, in which the molten plastic is driven into a mold under very high pressure, or by compression molding by filling the mold with powder of a blank material and then applying mechanical pressure.

About the author

Scott Nagle is an IR Division Manager / Application Specialist and an expert in IR temperature measurement with process sensors.

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