CHICAGO — It resembles a plain, rectangular box. But, inside could be the key to sleeping in on a Monday morning.
Auxiliary equipment maker Maguire Products Inc. (Booth N7171) leapt into a new line of business when it unveiled its new vacuum-drying technology Tuesday that reportedly cuts the time needed to dry resin by more than 80 percent.
"We're giving the customer the means to dry material in 40 minutes, where it formerly took four hours," said B. Patrick Smith, Maguire's vice president of marketing and sales.
So, how does it work?
In three phases. Over a 20-minute period, resin is heated to between 160§ and 220§ F, which is enough to make the molecules inside the pellets start moving. All the while, the moisture inside the pellets is migrating to the surface.
The vacuum then sucks the moisture out of the pellets in about 20 minutes, eliminating the traditional four hours needed for hot air to keep the pellets heated long enough for the moisture to rise voluntarily to the surface.
While the vacuum process is occurring in one cylinder, another cylinder is being loaded, and the heating process is just beginning. After the initial batch is dry, it is transferred to a third cylinder where it then moves to the processing line.
"Because the material is distributed among three vacuum chambers, processors who don't plan ahead for color changes are never left with more than 35 pounds of unused material," Smith said. "It is possible to change colors without wasting material or stopping production."
Maguire says the portable dryer is maintenance-free due to the lack of motors, gears, bearings and dessicants. Smith also claims the unit reduces downtime and the need to come in on a weekend or in the middle of the night to get the resin dryer ready for first shift to begin.
Chick Schubert, president and owner of Schubert Plastics Inc. in Lenni, Pa., should know.
His weekends were cut short by having to run into his small custom injection molding shop on a Sunday night or waking in the middle of the night to start the dryer. Having it ready for production for the first shift Monday morning was quite a burden, but he had no other options.
Being only a few miles away from Maguire's headquarters, Schubert helped with research and development and also agreed to experiment with the first two low-pressure dryers to come off the lines. So far, so good, he said.
Now, Schubert said, "I don't have to leave dryers unattended during the night."
Instead of losing manufacturing time, the material now is dry before his 10 injection molding machines are ready to process, he added.
Smith noted: "If they have to wait for the resin to dry for four hours, their machine isn't running. Instead of losing four hours of production, in 40 minutes they're up and running."
Though the vacuum process has been around for many years, only giant processors could afford it, he said. Such equipment could dry anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 pounds per hour, but was expensive and it was just too much for smaller firms, Smith added.
"No one had figured out how to make it easy to use in a reliable, affordable configuration," he said.
Known for its gravimetric blenders and liquid color pumps, Aston, Pa.-based Maguire unveiled a 100 pound-per-hour unit, which Smith said would suffice for about 65 percent of today's processors. Maguire already has plans to release a 30 pound-per-hour dryer by the end of summer and, by year's end, a 400 pound-per-hour model.
"As we get larger in size, we'll learn better how high we can go," he said.
Maguire will manufacture the dryers at its new 25,000-square-foot facility near its headquarters in Aston.