Progress on processes
Rhiannon Garth Jones looks at developments in production technology.
There is an increasing demand for more efficient processes, particularly with regards to cost-cutting and energy reduction. French firm Hutchinson has made working on new manufacturing processes central to its composites strategy, building a Composite Technical Centre to facilitate the creation of new methods in areas such as thermoforming, injection processes and filament winding, and it is not alone in focusing on this area.
MTI Mischtechnik, Germany, has created a line of Uni tec universal mixers to maximise efficiency and save energy. The Eco Line systems, which prepare plastics across a range of applications, can mix, homogenise and dispense bulk stock of differing characteristics. They can be customised to specific operating environments, combining multiple process steps such as drying and pelletising specific materials, therefore enabling increasingly complex process workflows.
An ultra high-efficiency, single-cell heat exchanger provides the improved condensate removal of the new Tundra range of refrigerant air dryers from Hi-Line, UK. The improved efficiency of the heat transfer process also comes with reduced energy costs. The flow-mixing chamber is located at the outlet of the air exchanger, enabling stable air temperatures with uniform flow, which optimises the exchange within the refrigerant fluid. All units are designed to operate at air pressures varying from 2–16 barg, with a maximum inlet temperature of 60°C.
Protection of equipment during processing is also receiving attention, with Atlas Copco, UK, releasing a new range of standard and high-pressure filters to reduce all types of contamination in its compressed air systems. The low-resistance airflow path creates energy savings, and the high-performance stainless steel filter cores ensure durability of the cartridges and reduce the risk of implosion. High-purity filtration is provided by new micro-glass fibre filter media and a six-layer wrapped construction.
French firm RocTool has developed a rapid moulding process that uses induction to heat the moulds, reducing production time and improving the surface quality of composite parts. Taiwanese company Ju Teng has been using this process to increase its manufacturing production rates of smartphone parts, and is aiming to make one million parts per month.