CHICAGO (July 26, 2:10 p.m. EDT) — An advanced robotic system for in-mold plastic decoration is nearing market introduction.
The process can yield scratch- and wear-resistant graphics for applications including cellular telephones, computers, automotive displays and cameras.
The process involves putting a screen-printed preform of polycarbonate film through a vacuum former, die cutter and injection molding machine.
GE Plastics withheld comment on the subject but reportedly intends to have an operational version of the total in-line system at its development center in Pittsfield, Mass., in a few months.
The company´s Structured Products unit began collaborating with ZMD International Inc. of Long Beach, Calif., on the forming portion in mid-1999. The system is expected to include a ZMD vacuum former, a Preco die-cutting press and a 200-ton Engel injection molding machine.
ZMD and Engel demonstrated their portions of the technology at separate exhibits at NPE 2000, held June 19-23 in Chicago. ZMD sold five of the decorating formers during NPE at a show-promotional price of $105,000, said Jacob Horev, vice president of marketing and engineering.
The V222DHCG machine holds registration repeatably within five-thousandths of an inch in forming a multicavity pre-printed PC sheet.
"That is almost impossible" to achieve, Horev said.
ZMD uses its ceramic infrared radiant heat panels in 58 zones in the machine.
In earlier technology, ZMD manufactured custom-graphics formers beginning in 1998 and has shipped 14 machines to customers.
Bell Sports Inc.´s Giro division used two machines to align helmet graphics at operations in Santa Cruz, Calif., and Limerick, Ireland.
ZMD also demonstrated a $95,000 laminating press at NPE.
The PSI 859 DS uses 31 independent heat zones and was designed for applying decorative vinyl overlays to wood cores for cabinets, furniture, fixtures, housings, components and signs.
In addition, ZMD showed an easily configured, Windows-based software package for use with the firm´s vacuum forming machines.
ZMD employs 33 and is almost bursting the seams of its 47,000-square-foot facility in Long Beach, Calif. Primarily, ZMD makes economical equipment for thin-gauge packaging or single-stage vacuum forming applications. Owner Yosi Cohen co-founded ZMD in 1981.