2020 in review: 3-D printing as part of an overall manufacturing strategy

Dec. 14, 2020
Cobots learn to pick parts from a bin; a new mold design can make two different parts from two different materials on the same injection press; and machinery builders help processors deal with skilled labor shortages.

There were plenty of memorable stories and new products in the pages of Plastics Machinery Magazine in 2020. Before moving on to 2021, it is worth remembering a few of the most interesting, as selected by PMM editors and writers. 

We are highlighting a few stories each week until the end of the year. 

Don’t think about a 3-D printing strategy; think about a manufacturing strategy that includes 3-D printing 

Additive manufacturing can transform how a company implements its manufacturing strategy. That’s the case at Eaton Vehicle Group, which provides automotive and commercial vehicle manufacturers worldwide with products and systems to improve vehicle efficiency, performance and power.  

Eaton Vehicle Group has 49 facilities on six continents.It sources parts from many different vendors, which often resulted in delays getting quotes for any single part. It found a solution by 3-D printing some parts in-house.

One Eaton Vehicle Group location started working with additive manufacturing in 2013 and its popularity grew until the company standardized in 2018 on two models of polymer 3-D printers made by two companies. 

Read the details on how Eaton Vehicle Group reduced delays and saved money in the process. 


Universal Robots has bin-picking in hand  

Programming a robot to extract a part from an injection molding machine and drop it into a bin is not much of a challenge. But picking up a part from a bin, orienting it and putting it where it needs to go has always been a vexing problem for plastics processors, who often have been forced to use human hands because robots were too costly to buy and program for such complex tasks.   

Universal Robots has developed a system called ActiNav Autonomous Bin Picking, which some processors may find to be a game-changer. The ActiNav kit contains an Autonomous Motion Module, ActiNavURCap user-interface software and a choice of 3-D sensors.   

The system works on Universal Robots’ UR5e and UR10e series collaborative robots, which are designed for lighter payloads. ActiNav handles parts with dimensions that range from 0.5 inch to 5 inches.   


New mold design enables parts from different materials on the same molding machine 

Foboha’s new mold design divides a rotating cube mold in half horizontally, with each cube half thermally separated from the other. The halves turn in 90-degree increments in opposite directions before each injection cycle.  

Finished parts are removed after each half-rotation. A monitoring system regulates and oversees the quality of the parts, while a second system controls the condition of the injection molds and cavities.

Molders who use the Reverse Cube can produce and assemble different parts from different materials on the same injection molding machine. 

The new technology is currently only available for use with the Allrounder Cube injection molding machines from Arburg. 


Quote of the week 

Finding and retaining a qualified, skilled workforce  all the individuals that it takes to run a manufacturing plant — has become harder and harder for our customers. In response, equipment has had to become more robust and easier to handle, easier to troubleshoot and easier to service. Equipment manufacturers have had to take that upon ourselves — to develop machinery that requires the least possible amount of human intervention.” 

— Aline Alroy, VP of sales for High-Technology Corp. 


Previous installments of our look back at 2020: 







About the Author

Ron Shinn | Editor

Editor Ron Shinn is a co-founder of Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing and has been covering the plastics industry for more than 35 years. He leads the editorial team, directs coverage and sets the editorial calendar. He also writes features, including the Talking Points column and On the Factory Floor, and covers recycling and sustainability for PMM and Plastics Recycling.