Toshiba: big plans for Italy

EPF Plastic has opened a new plant in Italy: a centre dedicated to injection moulding machines manufactured by the Japanese company Toshiba Machine

by Paolo Sirtori

Established in 1961 and headquartered in Carrù (Cuneo, Italy), EPF is a dynamic and innovative company with a highly specialised staff that supplies mechatronic and robotic solutions for the automation of both single process phases and entire production lines. Over the years, EPF Automation, the firm’s historic industrial automation division, has been joined by the EPF Plastic division that proposes plastic injection moulding solutions and has become official distributor and service partner for Toshiba Machine, leading Japanese manufacturer of full-electric machines and technological solutions for plastics moulding.

From left to right
Automotive part produced by a EC350SXII electric machine.
The part is submitted to careful quality control through a 3D vision system developed by EPF
IML injection moulded tray produced by a Toshiba EC230SXII. The machine is equipped with two robots for unloading, a belt conveyor system, and a vision unit for checking the quality of the parts

In July this year the partnership between the two was further strengthened with the opening of the new headquarter of EPF Plastic in Casei Gerola (Pavia, Italy). The new site, which covers a surface area of over 1,000 square metres given over to a showroom, offices and a warehouse, will be used as a base for putting together the automated turnkey work cells that constitute the real strength of his Italian-Japanese partnership.

Growth prospects

EPF’s wealth of experience in the creation of complex automation systems featuring the most advanced mechanics and electronics, gained over more than 50 years in the business, together with its expertise in robotic applications, has been placed at the disposal of Italian moulders with the EC SX III series of full-electric injection moulding machines, available with clamping forces of between 50 and 2,500 tons. «Toshiba Machine has a 35% share of the Italian market and around a hundred machines installed here, making this its most important market» explains Moreno Carvani, managing director of EPF Plastic. «And it is set to strengthen this position further following the launch of a new centre that will allow us to supply, from Italy, turnkey moulding cells that integrate automation, conveying and assembly functions, as well as advanced visual controls and artificial intelligence applications for quality control purposes». Indeed, EPF Plastic is targeting applications in high-tech areas (ranging from the automotive, medical and electronics sectors to the rapid moulding of packaging), where added value is the factor that makes the difference. «Working with our customers, we want to develop complete moulding solutions; our aim is to be the one-stop technical and commercial partner for the entire plant, allowing customers to benefit from the system integration expertise offered by the EPF group» Carvani says. Today, EPF is able to offer flexible, modular turnkey technological solutions, integrated and automated, and designed to meet the customer’s application needs. These solutions are applicable in the world of moulding world, but also in other settings, in line with the integration and interconnection requirements of Industry 4.0. EPF is a forward-looking company that generates innovation and competitiveness according to the rules of interconnection and digitization, while nevertheless remaining true to its own history and values.

The inauguration of EPF Plastic’s new plant in Casei Gerola (Pavia, Italy)
High-tech solutions on display
The inauguration of EPF Plastic’s new plant was divided into two parts. In the morning, the EPF team, together with a large Japanese delegation led by Mr Kasai Toshihiro, General Manager Toshiba Machine Japan, and Mr Daichi Mukaeda, Sales Director Toshiba Machine Europe, presented the latest technological innovations in plastic injection moulding technology before an audience of over a hundred customers, partners and journalists. In the afternoon, the participants had an opportunity to take a close look at the applications installed in the Casei Gerola (Pavia, Italy) showroom: from the EC130SXII machine which was moulding medical items, to the EC230SXII, used for moulding tubs with IML packaging, and finally the EC350SXII, a leading system for the moulding of automotive parts, which are submitted to careful quality control through a 3D vision system developed by EPF. The success of the event was also down to the contribution of the various technological partners presenting monitoring and supervision systems, hot runner injection systems for plastics moulding, conveying and integrated logistics systems with shuttles and Cartesian and anthropomorphic robots.

The sixth generation

First launched on the market in 1998, the ECSX series of electric injection moulding machines is built entirely at Toshiba Machine plants. These facilities look after a range of aspects, from the castings to the production of the servodrives and the control electronics. The work is done by a network of six factories, three in Japan and one each in China, Thailand and India. Together, these factories produce about 3,000 machines a year. Today’s market demands consistent moulding performance levels for the processing of technical components, ever thinner thicknesses, and an ever higher process yield, all of which goes hand in hand with the need to cut costs. Toshiba Machine’s EC-SXIII series of injection moulding machines was created on the basis of an analysis of these very requirements, and indeed the series combines a series of key features: absolute precision and repeatability, high productivity and technological innovation.

The ECSXIII machines are equipped with advanced process control functions and they leave the factory fully equipped to meet the requirements of Industry 4.0, not least thanks to the new V70 control unit with 19” screen, which increases the range of functions available to the operator, simplifying both the management of the machine and its maintenance operations.

The control unit used in the system provides special algorithm-based supervision of the entire moulding process, ensuring that even less experienced operators will not encounter difficulties during the cycle start-up phase or in setting the parameters during moulding tests.

«This is an important feature that is also associated with a special management and monitoring sensor that is designed to guarantee predictive maintenance and timely, real-time detection of any malfunction and/or wear of the various mechanical parts» concludes Moreno Carvani.

Turnkey solutions at K 2019
Technological innovation, advanced automation and process digitization are the key themes being dealt with by Toshiba Machine and EPF at the forthcoming Düsseldorf fair (Hall 15, Booth B04). The Japanese manufacturer will be turning the spotlight on its latest series of SXIII injection-moulding machines, which it will be presenting though an innovative LSR moulding cell manufactured by EPF. In particular, visitors will be able to watch production of LED headlamp optics for the automotive sector on a EC50SXlll-1A injection-moulding machine equipped with two robots for unloading and a belt conveyor system, all this accompanied by a vision system for checking the quality of the parts. Instead, a Toshiba Machine EC100SXlll-2A system will be used to illustrate an application that uses a polymer filled with metallic flakes, thereby promoting a process that involves no painting. All the solutions being shown at the fair are connected through the IoT system thereby allowing monitoring of the entire production cycle in accordance with the smart factory concept.