Jan H. Schut
The most interesting new technology at the Society of Plastic Engineer’s recent 31st Annual Blow Molding Conference in Pittsburgh October 12-14 (www.blowmoldingdivision.org), is certainly W. Mueller GmbH’s continuous physical foaming extrusion head. Mueller (www.w-mueller-gmbh.de) in Troisdorf-Spich, Germany, introduced the head at NPE 2015, but the blow molding conference was the first presentation of the technology.
The three-layer, continuous foam extrusion blow molding head has been under development for a year. It uses an injection and dynamic mixing module to inject and disperse nitrogen into the plastic melt flow inside the head, where a special mixing element combines the two into a foamed middle layer. The amount of nitrogen injected into HDPE ranges from 0.05 to 0.12 L/min, reducing part weight by up to 20%, Mueller says.
Chemically foamed monolayer bottles and parts have been commercial for over 15 years, but aren’t widely used. Physically foamed bottles with gas disbursed in the extruder are also made commercially, using technology licensed from Mucell Extrusion LLC in Woburn, MA (www.mucellextrusion.com), such as foamed preforms for reheat stretch blow molding from Plastic Technologies Inc., Holland, OH (www.plastictechnologies.com), foamed extrusion blown automotive parts from ABC Group in Toronto (www.abcgroupinc.com), and foamed bottles from Alpla Packaging in Austria (www.alpla.com).
Mueller’s patented technology (DE Pat. # 102013105749), however, is believed to be the first physical foaming in an extrusion blow molding head and requires no license. Customer trials are going on now in Europe. It can also be retrofitted.
Other blow molding conference news includes prize winning parts and containers with unusually complex shapes, made with intriguing, if not new, combinations of mold movement. A backhoe fender from Deere & Co., Moline, IL (www.deere.com), won overall 1st prize for industrial blow molding, made in a five-part automated mold with two side platens, a base, and two compression molding slides. Prize winning containers include two unusual dual bottles.
AND THE WINNERS ARE…
Deere’s backhoe fender is reportedly one of the largest parts ever made with tabs formed off the parting line, says Kenneth Carter, plastics technology leader at Deere. It was converted from rotational molding with a hefty weight saving from a 13-lb roto molded part down to a 9-lb blow molded one. The horseshoe-shaped blow molded fender is partly hollow with six tack-offs, which are stronger and much lower weight than roto molded tackoffs. The mold also has a dimpled surface texture and interchangeable bases for mud flaps, required in some markets.
First, the bottom section of the mold pinches the parison to make a pillow with low blow air of around 10 psi. Then two side platens close to shape the part with two blow needles, pushing extra plastic into a fold to create a faux parting line where structural tabs are needed. Finally, two slides compression mold and core the four tabs. The part was designed by a team at Deere; the mold was designed and built by Midwest Mold Builders Inc., Waverly, IA (www.midwestmoldbuilders.com). The fenders went into production in 2013, molded by Exo-S Inc. (www.exo-s.com) in Cold Water, MI.
Midwest Mold has posted a video of the mold:
Overall 1st prize for packaging went to a small wide-bodied “pod” for soap concentrate from Replenish Bottling LLC in Los Angeles, CA (www.myreplenish.com). The 3-oz. pod becomes the base to a refillable soap dispenser. Squeezing the pod measures three 1-oz. squirts into the dispenser, which is then filled with water. Pods are molded in six-cavity, three-section tools from FGH Systems Inc., Denville, NJ (www.fghsystems.com).
Two platens close from the sides as hydraulic cylinders on the outside move the base up on two steel guide rods, while pins and rulon bushings close the base onto the side platens. FGH has built multi-cavity molds with moving bases for over 20 years, but for big 1-6 gallon bottles. The 3-oz. PP pods are by far the smallest three-section molds FGH ever built. They’re molded by Berry Plastics Corp., Evansville, IN (www.berryplastics.com), on a shuttle blow molder.
An extrusion blown dual-dispensing bottle from VariBlend, Greenville, SC (www.variblend.com), won 1st place in pharmaceutical packaging. The 30-ml bottles, which dial different combinations of two ingredients, interlock at the bottom and snap together on top. The EPET bottle halves are extrusion blown by Sonoco Products, Hartsville, SC (www.sonoco.com), in eight cavity molds also from FGH (4/4). A sliding pin forms the undercut for the interlocking bottom, then retracts into the mold.
A patented double helix promotional drink cup from Whirley DrinkWorks Industries Inc., Warren, PA (www.whirleydrinkworks.com), was exhibited in the food and beverage container category. Made with a mold built in-house, the cup looks like a dual bottle, but isn’t really. The two tubes appear separate, but share one neck finish, the crossover, and the bottom. The parting line follows the two helical curves, creating two large through holes without slides in the tool. The entwined tubes appear round, but aren’t perfectly, allowing room for the platens to open without mold automation. The dual helix cups have custom promotional embossing, using proprietary Whirley technology, and are molded from a soft PS copolymer. They were commercialized late last year for slushy drinks at fairs and events. The mold has alternative sections for either snap-on or twist lids. Whirley, a promotional advertising company, is developing a 32 oz. version to be released soon.