Leonardo da Vinci revolutionized invention and science, and now another Italian named Leonardo this time a machine is poised to revolutionize the rotational molding industry.
Manufactured by Persico SpA of Nembro, Italy, Leonardo is a major departure in rotomolding because it can run automatically loading its own resin, opening the mold, removing parts and charging the mold with plastic, all without an operator.
Industry officials at the Society of Plastics Engineers rotomolding conference heard a lot about Leonardo, from machinery maker Ferry Industries Inc., which has a demonstration machine at its headquarters in Stow, Ohio, and from Meese Obitron Dunne Co., which has purchased two of the first Leonardos in the U.S.
The Leonardo is different. First, there is no oven. Instead of physically moving the mold through a heating oven and a cooling station, Leonardo revolves and stays in just one area. Heating is done through hot oil pumped through channels that are integral to the mold. For mold cooling, chilled oil gets pumped through the lines.
Adam Covington, Ferry sales engineer, said the heat can be controlled in a specified section of the mold, building up thicker walls in that area.
In traditional rotomolding, workers manually bolt and unbolt the molds. Leonardo uses pneumatic cylinders to open and close the mold.
When the mold opens, parts get automatically ejected from the top half of the mold onto a table that shuttles back and forth. A resin hopper at the end of the table dispenses rotomolding powder for the next cycle; during molding, the hopper gets reloaded.
Finished parts move down to a holding area.
Covington said Leonardo also features automated mold venting, operated by a mold-mounted air cylinder. That allows internal mold cooling, he said.
Meese Orbitron Dunne bought its first Leonardo in early 2008, for its plant in Madison, Ind. The following year, the firm added a second one, in La Mirada, Calif.
Persico has sold two more Leonardos to another, undisclosed U.S. customer, according to Gaetano Donizetti, sales manager for Persico's rotational division.
At the Cleveland SPE event, held April 11-13, Donizetti said Persico has sold 39 Leonardo machines worldwide, including 16 in Italy, eight in France, seven in the United Kingdom, two in Australia and one each in Spain and the United Arab Emirates.
[This is] the first machine where we control and manage the process, he said.
Meese Orbitron Dunne President Robert Dunne said investing in Leonardo is a key part of a strategy to upgrade and redesign its core products. We looked for new equipment that would give us better tolerances better weight tolerancing, better dimensional tolerancing, he said.
The Leonardo system, both machines and tooling, helped make parts with more-even wall thicknesses, fewer reject rates, reduced shot weights, lower labor costs and shorter lead times, while using less energy than standard machines, he said.
Dunne also pointed out several negatives, including the higher cost of the machine and molds. You can only run a single product at time on a Leonardo, and a molder needs a long-enough product run to justify the cost, he said.
Meese Orbitron Dunne, based in Ashtabula, Ohio, trumpets the fact that it uses the new technology. Dunne said one of the Leonardo machines is running the new 72S laundry cart, which replaces the 72P model.
The design boasts smooth, rounded corners. We tried to make it more like a modern design, like a Mac computer, instead of the box we had before, he said.
The 72S is 16 pounds lighter than the former cart, yet it can hold an extra 200 pounds of laundry.
Dunne added that his company used finite-element analysis to determine the best size so the finished carts would more completely fill a tractor trailer an attractive benefit for customers.
Dunne encouraged other rotomolding executives to look at new technology. Our competition is not each other. Our competition is other processes, he said, citing blow molding and twin-sheet thermoforming.
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