TOYOTA ADDS 3 GIANT PRESSES FOR MOLDING BUMPER FASCIAS

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Toyota Motor Manufacturing USA has installed three fully automated injection molding machines at its Georgetown, Ky., assembly plant to help keep pace with a sharp boost in production.

The Cincinnati Milacron hydraulic presses will be used for production of wraparound bumper fascias and interior quarter panels on the new Sienna minivan, which is scheduled to start production in late August. The parts are made of thermoplastic olefin composite material.

``The machines will be exclusively dedicated to the minivans,'' said John Luxmore, assistant manager of plastics pro- duction engineering at the plant. ``That way, we don't have to interrupt production of our other car lines.''

The 8 million-square-foot plant is making more use of its existing capacity as production levels escalate, said Toyota spokesman Tom Harris. The Toyota plant estimates vehicle production to rise to 435,129 units during 1997, a 13 percent increase over 1996 production of 385,657 vehicles.

Much of the increase can be attributed to assembly of the new Sienna and heightened demand for the redesigned Toyota Camry. The plant expects to make 28,166 Sienna units in 1997, while the plant also expects an 8 percent increase in Camry production to 324,415 units.

The three Vista 4000-540 molding machines, known as VL 4000s, are manufactured by Cincinnati Milacron Inc.'s U.S. Plastic Machinery Division, based in Batavia, Ohio. Each machine has a clamping force of 4,000 tons and is capable of melting up to 540 ounces per shot. The machines were installed between August and January.

The installation brings the total number of molding machines in the plant to 20, including 10 other Milacron units. Milacron, which has its headquarters in Cincinnati, won the contract by bid.

Each machine cell includes hot and cold mold-temperature controls, a hot-runner system, an automatic mold clamp, an automatic mold changer table, robotic part take-out and part-handling equipment. The machines were assembled and tested at Milacron's Batavia plant. The price was not disclosed.

The equipment offers some enhancements over previous Vista machines used at the Toyota plant, said Gary Carmichael, supervisor of sales project engineering for the plastics machinery division. Among its features is a new valve gate design that uses sequential filling. The process allows mold injection from different entry gates, thus limiting flow distance and mold pressure for better fill effectiveness.

The automated machines also reduce rapid mold change times from 11 to 21/2 minutes compared with nonautomated units by performing tool changes simultaneously with material purging, Carmichael said. In addition, the machines are equipped with a hydraulic nozzle shutoff valve that cuts material change time by 30 percent, he said.

The presses are the largest made by Milacron. The publicly traded company recorded 1995 sales of $1.6 billion.