Austria's Engel touts advances in automation

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Plastics News, Catherine Seidel Stefan Engleder, chief technology officer of Engel, attends to an e-motion 30 TL all-electric press on display at K.

DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — Officials of Engel Holding GmbH (Hall 15/C58) think the company's automation products, tied to injection molding machines, are the key to Engel's growth worldwide.

CEO Peter Neumann said Engel leaders said their Schwertberg, Austria-based machinery company has 38 percent of the global market for integrated automation cells, with presses supplied by an injection molding machinery manufacturer.

In Europe, Engel has a 50 percent market share in that category, he said.

Engel has long made its own robots, and Neumann said the company even builds 1,000 conveyors a year in-house, to give customers the right product. Engel builds 1,300 robots a year and employs 350 people in automation, he said.

At a news conference Oct. 16, the first day of K 2013, Neumann said Engel started early in its history to integrate the press and robots into the machine controller, to make it easy to use.

During K 2013, Engel is making the controller even easier to use than ever before, by introducing the CC 300 controller. Stefan Engleder, the chief technology officer, said the CC 300 has a new interface layout that is simple to use for anyone accustomed to a smartphone or an iPad. Navigation is done using a keypad, and the controller is operated with a button. A large, multifunction knob — it looks like something on a car stereo — can change speeds of the machine and robot, and change functions at one touch. Users can swipe the screen with their fingers.

"So there's a clear difference between navigation and operation." Engleder said.

Engleder is a member of the family that owns Engel, and he's Neumann's nephew. Neumann said Engel will remain family-held and stable financially to make investments.

Engel's global turnover was 950 million euros ($1.24 billion) in fiscal 2012-13, ended March 29.

Europe accounts for 65 percent of sales, but Neumann said they are growing fast in the U.S. and Mexico, thanks to a robust U.S. automotive market and the natural gas boom leading to a reindustrializing of the U.S.

Engel's K show stand has plenty of automotive, medical and packaging demonstrations. Also new is the largest-ever Viper robot, which can carry 120 kilograms.

One major area is heating fiber-reinforced sheet, heated and overmolded to form a structural, attractive part.

Other innovations at Engel include an e-speed press that holds on to its braking energy, then transfers it back into the machine for power when needed.


• A vertical Engel press is molding a lightweight, all-plastic brake pedal structure by ZF Friedrichshafen AG, a German automotive supplier. The press heats a continuous fiber-reinforced sheet in an infrared oven, which then is overmolded with nylon. The layered structure can handle the load of a brake pedal — since the car has to stop!

This technology allowed ZF to reduce the weigh by about 30 percent compared with conventional steel pedals.

The Engel easix robot is integrated into the machine controller, so the gripper can enter the mold area during the opening movement. This significantly reduces cycle times. Synchronous movements are important when it comes to handling preheated semi-finished products especially, because the parts cannot be allowed to cool too quickly ahead of the forming process, according to Engel.

• The Engel v-duo 700 is making its trade show debut, producing another lightweight auto part: latch covers for the KTM-X-Bow sports car, using the resin transfer molding process. The molder is Die Wethje GmbH Kunststofftechnik GmbH in Hengersberg, Germany. Langer GmbH & Co. in Illmensee, Germany, is the mold maker.

• A third automotive application combines three production processes in an Engel duo 3550-650 pico combi M press to make soft-touch dashboards for a Hyundai Kia car.

The TPE foils are preheated in an infrared oven. The production uses the Varysoft process from Georg Kaufmann Formenbau of Busslingen, Switzerland. To reduce weight, the substrate structure is molded using the MuCell process from Trexel Inc. (Hall 13/B46) of Wilmington, Mass.,

• Engel also is showing off thick-wall optical molding on an e-motion press for applications like car headlight lenses. The machine first makes a pre-molded acrylic, in a mold from Krallmann Group of Hiddenhausen, Germany. In another step, the part is recoated with additional layers of the same material.

Engel said that method is better than a single-layer process because recoating removes sink marks, which can mar optical quality. The recoating method also cuts cycle times.

At its booth, Engel is molding what is known as a collimator lens, which focuses arrays of LED lights to provide a single, powerful beam.


• K show visitors also will see a world premier in the medical section of the show. Drip chambers for blood transfusions, with integrated filters, will be molded on a tie-barless Engel e-victory tri-component molding machine designed for a clean room. Each chamber comprises an ABS and a TPE component injection molded in a single step, as the filter is overmolded with polyproylene.

Servo-electric drives run all movements of the indexing mold, made by Hack Formenbau GmbH (Hall 1/F31) of Kirchheim, Germany. Platen parallelism is guaranteed, even when the molds are heavy, thanks to pre­-stressing by Engel's FlexLink system and the solid C-frame design.

• In another medical application, Engel is running a highly automated manufacturing cell for making needle holders for insulin pens — on a 96-cavity mold with tiny cores that each have a diameter of just 0.3 millimeter. The mold maker is Braunform GmbH (Hall 1/F30). Cycle time: five seconds.

To counter deformation of the cores, the all-electric e-motion is equipped with a direct drive, a technology that also affords injection speeds up to 500mm per second. The cell has a camera inspection system.


• For packaging, a new Engel e-speed molding machine with 650 metric tons of clamping force can rocket up the injection speed to as fast as 800mm per second. At K, the press is molding thin-wall containers on an eight-by-eight-cavity stack mold from StackTeck Systems Inc., on a cycle time under four seconds.

The e-speed 650 uses a flywheel system to store braking energy, and then transfer it back to the motor when needed for movements such as the reacceleration of the clamping movements.

• An Engel duo double-platen press with an electric injection unit is running a Haidlmair mold using Engel's gas melt gas-assisted injection molding, with in-mold labeling. The technology shows manufacturing of beverage crates and containers.


• The new Engel e-motion 30 TL, all-electric and tie-barless is being shown for first time. The low-tonnage press is aimed at the electronics area. At K, the machine is molding a 60-pin connector on a 16-cavity mold — far more than the normal four to eight cavities typically used for this application.

The small press boasts what Engel officials said is an unprecedented injection speed of 800mm an hour.

• Another connector, with four pins, is running on a vertical insert molding machine on a four-cavity mold. Inserts are loaded by a Viper 20 robot.

• On an integrated manufacturing cell designed to make carbon-fiber-reinforced casings for smartphones or tablet computers, pre-formed sheets are inserted into a RocTool mold and overmolded with polycarbonate/ABS. The demonstration features an inline physical vapor-deposition coating inside the molding cell.

Engel also is showing multicomponent liquid silicone molding on an e-victory combi press making sensor housings for flow measurement, with integrated seals. In a first: Engel's patented iQ weight-control software is applied in an LSR molding cell as it measures and automatically compensates for melt quality changes.