By: Bill Bregar
January 24, 2014
KENT, OHIO — Brazilian rotational molding machinery maker Rotoline Industrial Equipment Ltda. has started U.S. assembly, at a 38,000-square-foot plant in Kent.
The Kent facility will handle final assembly, with U.S. sourcing of some components, and serve as a showroom for Rotoline machines. The plant has a CR3.60, three-arm carousel machine and a 2.5-meter shuttle machine on display.
Manager Alain St. Pierre said that, as of mid-January, the company is assembling two more shuttle machines that have been sold. He declined to name the customers. Another shuttle machine, a 4-meter machine, is next in line for assembly.
St. Pierre said Rotoline is shipping critical parts from its headquarters plant in Chapecó, Brazil, such as the arms and the head-blocks that hold the mold at the end of the arm. That factory is set up to do the precise machining of the arms, the shaft and the bearing housings, he said. The rest is sourced from U.S. suppliers — many within 30 miles of Kent. These components include frames and control cabinets.
Rotoline North America has packed the carousel machine with modern technology. The CR3.60 in Kent has three independent arms, two of them are straight arms and the third is an offset arm. The rotomolding machine is prewired, so it can be easily configured with a fourth arm, plug-and-play style.
"This machine is equipped with all the bells and whistles," St. Pierre said. "You have the internal temperature control on it. You've got the gas monitoring on it."
Rotational molding technology is evolving into more of a closed-loop control technology. Rotoline fully integrates the process into the machine controller.
Historically many U.S. rotomolders were hesitant to invest in new advances, but that is changing, St. Pierre said. "They're replacing old equipment. We see that people see the advantages of replacing old machines that are non-performing, and cost a lot of energy to run," he said. "And they cannot really add this new technology on an old machine. So it can be easier just to replace the machine, and in a year, it pays for itself." A new machine runs more efficiently, turns out higher-quality parts with lower levels of scrap, and needs less downtime for repairs.
Rotoline North America will handle sales, service and spare parts. St. Pierre said the parent company will decide where to do final assembly — Kent or Brazil — based on what location makes sense, including considering free trade agreements.
Rotoline now has two temporary workers building the first machines. St. Pierre said the company will expand to four production people.
One big advance is internal temperature control — done through the machine controller, to give consistency to the molding sequence. The company calls it the RWTC, for Rotoline wireless temperature controller. You determine at what temperature the cycle should be completed, then remove the molds from the oven, and how fast and how long the cooling should be.
"You can finish by time or by temperature, so your cure is always perfect," said Raphaeli De Luccas, general manager of the U.S. operation.
St. Pierre said running the cycle by temperature is very accurate. "There will be a lot less scrap. By using that system you're controlling your warpage better." Cooling that is too fast or slow can cause warpage, he said.
The RWTC uses a thermocouple that measures the mold's internal air temperature.
Another feature is the ability to monitor consumption of natural gas, to heat the oven. The technology uses three different sensors. The system can measure how much is spent for gas to heat each part.
Executives can do detailed production reports, using the data, for example, on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. "All the stuff can be broken out," De Luccas said. "Who did it? Which operator did it? When? What time? How much plastic did he put in the parts? What temperature did this part go to?" He said that allows you to control material and match material usage to production.
The carousel and shuttle machines feature Rotoline's rounded oven, which cuts energy use. Many of the components are the same on Rotoline carousel machines and its shuttles — such as burners, sensors and mechanical parts — so a molder can use many of the same spare parts on both types of equipment, De Luccas said.
There are about 70 Rotoline rotomolding machines installed in the United States and Canada.