Tech II Inc., a Springfield, Ohio, company known for its injection molded lids and food containers, has started up its thermoforming line with in-mold labeling — the first in North America.
Tech II Vice President Eric Shiffer gave details about the groundbreaking process during a presentation Sept. 24 at the SPE Blow Molding Conference in Grand Rapids. He said Tech II recently started to extrude its own sheet.
IML thermoforming offers high-end graphics with the efficiency of thermoforming, Shiffer said. “And some of those efficiencies are due to cavitation, faster cycles, thinner parts, and really, this is in relation to injection molding in-mold labeling,” he said.
Tech II purchased a midsized thermoforming machine, an FT3500, from Thermoforming Solutions LLC. The machine does trim-in-place. A TSL tilting bed moves the bottom platen into position allowing the Hekuma GmbH automation system to insert the label into the mold. The same robot pulls out the finished parts and stacks them on a conveyor.
Shiffer said Tech II plans to install a vision system to check part quality and label placement.
“Getting the process right while being limited by what the label can handle has been somewhat of a challenge,” Shiffer told fellow thermoformers. “It is very easy to be too hot and distort the label. Or be to cold, where you don't get the adhesion you need.”
Tech II has two customers lined up, and Shiffer said they are both small local companies.
The vacuum forming line uses plug-assist.
This is a big move for family-owned Tech II, which was started in 1969 by Eric's father, Gerald Shiffer, in a garage. Today, the firm employs 300 at two plants and runs 50 injection presses.
Tech II molds 15 million pieces a day, according to Eric Shiffer.
“Our mainstay has been lids,” he said. “But due to the commodity market — the commodity of the lids — it's a mature market, very competitive. We really felt that we needed to do something different.”
Shiffer showed a video of the line in Springfield, which he said runs a 14-cavity mold on a 51/2-second cycle.