Hot runners have a decisive impact on the cost-effectiveness and quality of moulded parts, and it is therefore crucial to choose the right one
by Gianandrea Mazzola
Innovation imposes shorter and shorter times to market. Therefore, when embarking on a new business venture, it is strategically important, particularly when it comes to building a new production plant, to choose partners capable of offering both design and technological expertise. Accordingly, Ancona-based Plasteel Group, specifically targeting those who espouse this philosophy, provides the mould and injection moulding sector with all-round support, ranging from the construction of moulds to the supply of technical products and services. iHR Solution, one of the four companies comprising the group (see box at page 37), specialises in the design and production of hot runner injection systems, an area in which it has proprietary technology, including several patented features.
Faster colour changes and lower energy consumption
This Marche-based company is justifiably proud of its technical department, which boasts a considerable depth of know-how as well as a PDM system that allows it to work highly efficiently, reducing design times and eliminating the possibility of errors. «Our expertise translates into solutions providing high added value and uncompromisingly high quality» says Michele Ranco, CEO of Plasteel Group.
«Our hot runner systems stand out for several very clear strengths that, for the user, are reflected in numerous operational and process benefits.
One of the main ones is that colour changes can be carried out in half the time compared to the traditional solutions available on the market. This is made possible by technology developed and patented by iHR, such as the Topless T tip».
Another advantage, equally interesting and positive, is the lower energy consumption; this stems from the careful attention paid to the development of the injection systems. «They are designed with screwed nozzles; moreover, the geometries and masses are optimally sized and proportioned in order to minimise energy dissipation and provide greater thermal insulation, so as to protect the mould.
These are characteristics that allow our injection systems to work, on average, at 15-20% of the machine’s installed power» Ranco points out. What is more, the technical department has further optimised these levels of efficiency and performance by managing to convey the plastic material inside the mould cavity, reducing pressure drops to a minimum, especially towards the gate. «The front gate area uses an innovative and patented system that, thanks to the low pressure drop, keeps material stress to a minimum, and this has the benefit of ensuring greater thermal uniformity of the polymer» the manager goes on.
Ease of maintenance
iHR Solution pays particular attention to productivity and efficiency. «Each of our hot runner injection systems is designed and built as a single piece that, as far as the components subject to wear are concerned, can be very easily maintained.
And it is this simplicity that keeps the global performance of the system constant over time» Ranco explains. It is also worth noting that the hot runners developed by the company are characterised by a high level of technological flexibility, which means that they can easily be adapted to operational requirements. «The system can be rapidly upgraded to match any change in requirement«» he continues. «For example, a customer might start off using the system in a pin gate modality, and subsequently switch to the more performing needle-valve modality. Obviously, the system needs to be correctly prepared and set up beforehand, but the time frame and costs of the work are unambiguous. In short, it ensures maximum versatility and interchangeability of components to perfectly reflect the growing needs of the customer» Ranco underlines.
More than just nozzles and Hot-Half systems
The iHR Solution product range, in addition to hot runners, includes screw-type single nozzles, Hot-Half plates, as well as electronic and electrical monitoring components and equipment, specifically «Temperature control units that govern our hot runner systems and carefully monitor the application parameters, providing us with useful data and information, also in relation to alarms, as well as direct evidence of actual energy savings» Ranco says. In detail, iHR’s single nozzles can be divided into four categories, called: Single standards, Individual Eco-Line, Individual Mini-Mould and Multi-Tip. These different solutions allow the company to meet all kinds of needs, ranging from requests for the most economical solutions, for the moulding of commonly used amorphous polymers, to solutions for high-performance technical polymers, able to ensure an excellent finish at the injection point and elimination of all possible material loss. «We also offer Hot-Half systems as an advanced interface with the mould. In this way, through a specific design, we are able to meet the increasingly pressing needs coming from the plastic moulding world» Ranco continues.
These Hot-Half systems are produced completely wired, assembled and tested, in order to maximise their performance. This makes for faster assembly on the mould and faster maintenance. «On the basis of individual needs, we can design the best Hot-Half solution, adaptable to any type of mould holder, thereby eliminating all possible installation errors».
The added value of simulation
Another important aspect to underline is the support that iHR Solution offers, in the form of simulations, rheological analyses and feasibility studies, to those wanting to control, improve and optimally manage the moulding process and moulded parts. «The initial analysis allows us to verify, in a virtual way, the functionality of the injection system itself, and thus to identify the best possible configuration, reducing errors and any loss of time. It also allows the customer to optimise the mould design and anticipate problems that may arise during the moulding phase» Ranco says.
Injection simulation, combined with the specific expertise developed by the company, which is always in close contact with its customers/partners through co-design and co-engineering activities, serves to bring the virtual world, like that of CAE analysis, closer to the real one. In this way, simulating alternative technical solutions makes it possible to reduce the project start-up costs related to its actual implementation phase. «Because we have the possibility of simulating the use conditions of needle-valve systems, without having to wait for the actual moulding, we can optimise the positions and the balancing of the sequential closing of the needles from as early as the initial design stage. Investing in preventive analyses is becoming more and more important and strategic as a factor contributing to the success of a project.
The possibility, through the software, of changing the design, process and hot channel in the initial phase will translate into considerable savings, both of time and money. Because, this way, the mould and the injection system are correctly designed and constructed from the very start» concludes Michele Ranco