Ube Machinery Inc., which unveiled an in-mold painting demonstration at NPE 2003, also said it has constructed a 20,000-square-foot expansion to build all-electric injection presses in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The firm also launched its series of hydraulically driven, toggle-clamp presses, the Ube Z-Max, dubbed the UZ line, in Chicago.
Imprest in-mold painting drew crowds to the press maker's exhibit, as a 385-ton, all-electric press molded motorcycle side covers with a high-gloss, Class A finish.
Normally, plastic automotive parts need to be painted in a separate step. That means painting can not usually be done at NPE because of the release of volatile organic compounds, Ube said. But Imprest does it all right inside the mold. After the part is molded, the tool is opened, liquid paint is injected and the tool is closed again. The process does not produce any volatile organic compounds, according to Ube.
Sherwin-Williams Co. of Cleveland supplies the paint.
Imprest ``is literally liquid painting inside the injection molding machine. We're doing that all within the cycle,'' said Daniel O'Keefe, general manager of injection molding sales, at a June 25 news conference at the show.
Ube gave NPE visitors an early taste. While Imprest is being used in Japan, the technology will not be available widely in the United States for another 18-24 months, officials said.
``Automotive is really driving us to introduce an environmentally friendly, plastic painted part,'' O'Keefe said. ``All our customers are hammering on us, wanting to get away from the spraying and the VOCs, the pollutants that are out there in the painting and secondary operations.''
Jason Forgash, Ube's regional sales manager for injection molding, said Imprest needs to be used on an Ube all-electric injection molding machine. All-electric technology moves the clamp very precisely, hitting the exact set points each time.
``We're controlling the thickness of the paint with the clamp of the machine,'' Forgash said. ``So the controllability of the clamp mechanism is the key to what we're doing with this technology.'' He said the mold gap is held to one-tenth of a millimeter or less.
In other news, the company added a second manufacturing bay at its U.S. assembly factory last year so it can begin building Ube's Ultima line of all-electric presses. Ube's Ann Arbor plant, which opened in 1996, now measures 70,000 square feet.
So far, O'Keefe said, Ube has built three Ultimas in Ann Arbor, where the firm is based. Initially, the electric presses will have 100 percent Japanese content, but O'Keefe said Ube is working with U.S. suppliers to boost domestic content gradually.
Parent company Ube Machinery Corp. Ltd. of Nagoya, Japan, has sold more than 200 of its large-tonnage, all-electric presses since the company got into electrics at the K'98 show, officials said.
The machines come in clamping-forces of 720, 950, 1,100, 1,500 and 2,000 tons. Under a joint venture agreement, Ube also builds smaller all-electric presses for Niigata Engineering Co. Ltd.
Forgash said Ube has sold the largest all-electric ever made, a 2,000-ton Ultima, to Kantus Corp., an automotive molder in Lewisburg, Tenn.
To make the large-tonnage presses, Ube synchronizes multiple servomotor together to perform certain functions, such as the clamp and injection. Three motors are linked together to drive the injection unit.
``This allows us to inject plastic 11/2 times faster than we have been able to do on a traditional hydraulic machine,'' Forgash said.
Also at NPE, Ube announced a new, U.S.-built Z-Max line of hydraulically driven toggle-clamp presses. The company was molding a rear door panel on a 1,000-ton UZ press at the show.
Features include Ube's wide platen design as a standard feature on models with 720, 1,000 and 1,500 tons of clamping force. The wide platen and a wider tie-bar spacing mean customers can run larger molds.
Only the 500-tonner will keep the standard tie-bar spacing.
``The concept behind this machine is to build a North American machine, with North America parts wherever we could, to satisfy our customers' quick need for spare parts and reliability,'' Forgash said. For example, Ube will use a combination of Vickers and Tokimec hydraulic components.
Z-Max presses will be equipped with a personal-computer operator panel, running Windows 2000. The new Mitsubishi Q-series controller includes an option that allows Ube engineers to do remote troubleshooting.
Molders also can send information from the controller to a central database.