A new blow mold technology that touts the ability to double the production capacity of shuttle blow molding machines is being shown at NPE2009 by Bekum America Corp. (Booth S28039).
Developed by Fidelty Tool & Mold Ltd. of Batavia, Ill., the patented Multi Parting Line technology mold is effectively a stack mold system for a blow molding machine. The company claims it will enable molders to turn out more than 100,000 bottles a day from a 16-ton double-clamp blow molding machine.
The novelty of the Fidelity solution is that unlike injection stack mold designs, the center lines of each cavity row remain static during the mold opening cycle.
It's a remarkably simple solution to a problem that has challenged blow molding machine designers for many years: how to increase output without adding to the size of the machine or extending the mold open portion of the cycle.
In the Fidelity design, the mold is constructed as four independent mold blocks. Alternate mold blocks are connected by tie bars and driven by the machine clamp. This creates two independent parting lines that remain on the same center lines as the clamp opens and closes.
Fidelity founder and owner Jim Vassar said the idea for the mold design was hatched during a return flight from visiting one of his customers.
We were called in to see if we had any new technology or ideas to increase productivity. The customer wanted to run bottles faster, but, unfortunately at that particular time, we did not have a good answer.
On the flight back from that meeting, I came up with this idea and spent the duration of that flight about three hours sketching and working out the different ways it could be done, Vassar said.
After establishing that it was possible to fit the required tooling hardware between the platens of a blow molding machine, the next step was to source an extrusion head unit. Without a head there was no way I could build the mold, Vassar said.
He contacted W. Muller USA Inc. of Agawam, Mass., which confirmed it could build the required double row head. Vassar then approached Bekum America to get it involved in the project.
Over 10 years, starting at the K'98 show, Bekum has shown Tandem Blow, which is top and bottom blowing, and neck-to-neck blowing at NPE 2006, said Steven London, Bekum's executive vice president and CEO.
All of these technologies worked quite well in lost dome applications, but what we saw with the MPL system was the best system for a calibrated neck finish. The calibrated neck was one of Bekum's original patents, and it is the biggest advantage of the MPL system.
London said Bekum is well aware that the new technology has the potential to reduce machine sales, but at the same time it will enable the company to move up further into wheel-type blow molding markets.
This falls exactly in line with what we have been trying to do [in machine technology]. It will make us truly competitive against the wheel machines in output and floor space, London said.
The project partners moved ahead with a trial mold. We developed a beta test to see if the mold would function correctly. We set it up in a lab machine under production conditions and it worked flawlessly the first time, said Vassar. Very rarely do you even put in a conventional system and have to do nothing to it. We were very presently surprised.
The decision was taken to go ahead with a full production system, which was tested last month and can be seen at the Bekum booth during the show. Designed around a 15-ounce shampoo bottle from Alberto Culver USA, the two 4+4 cavity MPL molds are installed in a 15.7-ton BM406D double clamp continuous extrusion blow molding machine. A video shows the system running on the same production cycle time as the single parting line tooling but producing double the output up to 5,000 bottles per hour.
One MPL mold is a little more expensive than two standard molds, Vassar said, largely due to the incorporation of some additional hydraulic components. While the system can be run on a smaller blow molding machine, it is still necessary to size the machine's cooling and plasticizing capacities to the enhanced output rate.
London estimated that investment for an MPL production system would amount to 1.6 times the cost of a standard molding machine of the same clamping size; if using two single parting line mold sets, the investment would be twice as much.
Plan moves forward
Fidelity has granted an exclusive three-year original equipment manufacturer license to Bekum, which will allow the company to integrate MPL technology into turnkey container manufacturing systems.
The agreement we have with Fidelity is that everything will come through us and we will take responsibility, said London. As the customers come to us with container needs and with outputs that are suitable for MPL there will be cost advantages of looking at an MPL system.
Retrofit projects will be taken on by Fidelity itself, and Vassar plans to license other mold makers.
It would be difficult for a company our size to take on a project of this size without upsetting our business, so I am looking for investors. My goal is not to impede the ability of this technology to move forward, Vassar said.
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