Uniloy Milacron has licensed technology from ThermaForm LLC for blow molds with conformal cooling, using ThermaForm's mold blocks.
ThermaBlocks have water-cooling channels that are contoured to fit the shape of a part.
Uniloy Milacron, based in Tecumseh, Mich., and ThermaForm of Troy, Mich., announced the agreement May 12. Uniloy is now the exclusive worldwide source of molds containing ThermaBlocks that are used on Uniloy's reciprocating-screw blow molding machines.
The mold blocks can be used for new molds or retrofitted onto existing molds. By bringing the cooling water closer to the actual surfaces of the part, the patented ThermaForm technology can cut cycle times, improve part quality and reduce scrap, according to officials of both companies.
Traditional gun-drilled cooling channels go in a straight line through the mold.
Running molds with ThermaBlocks provides advantages in speed, efficiency and quality, said Dave Skala, Uniloy's vice president and general manager.
A division of Milacron LLC, Uniloy Milacron is the largest manufacturer of reciprocating-screw blow molding machines and a major maker of blow molds. The company builds molds for milk and other dairy products, other types of liquid food, industrial and automotive applications, household chemicals and personal-care products.
Tom Clark, CEO and founder of ThermaForm, said conformal cooling is better than gun-drilled channels. The traditional gun-drilled method limits cooling to straight lines, he said. As a result, conventional mold cooling is not delivered to the real hot spots in a mold because you cannot reach certain parts of the mold with the normal approach. Obviously, a straight line can't go around the round bottom of a container.
Clark said the mold blocks allow ThermaForm to tailor each mold for the specific part. We put in as much cooling as is necessary to achieve the desired results, he said.
Skala said mold cooling time typically has constrained the cycle time of the blow molding machine. Now, he said, the ThermaForm mold system means blow molding machines can operate at their actual capacity.
That means Uniloy will look at making improvements to trimmers and other downstream equipment, to make them run faster, Skala said.
The mold blocks are not cut from a solid block of aluminum. Instead, ThermaForm takes a thermal analysis of the existing blow mold.
From a three-dimensional computer model, the company uses a high-speed laser to cut a series of thin plates. When the plates are fused together, the resulting ThermaBlock has built-in, curved cooling channels.
A mold block is created for each section of the mold. Uniloy handles all final machining, finishing and installation.
The machinery and mold maker conducted several months of testing and trial runs.
Uniloy concluded that the new ThermaBlocks, in combination with improvements to the blow molding machine and the downstream equipment, will offer real production benefits, Skala said.
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