MEX Moulding Expo starts series production of a new product with a university

Editor: Steffen Donath

The highly specialised occupation of a tool, pattern and mould-maker will find a perfect platform at Moulding Expo which will be staged at Messe Stuttgart from 21 to 24 May 2019. The trade fair will provide an extensive overview of the educational and training programmes in the industry, and will become involved directly in advanced training and education of young people.

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A total of 21 students at Reutlingen University worked during one semester to turn the MEX BOX into reality.
A total of 21 students at Reutlingen University worked during one semester to turn the MEX BOX into reality.
(Source: Messe Stuttgart)

Moulding Expo will show that the creation of a product is an exciting and unique experience. Messe Stuttgart will act as the “customer” in this case. With the support of project partners, a group of mechanical engineering students under the supervision of Steffen Ritter, Professor in the Technology Faculty of Reutlingen University, designed, developed and produced the tool for the give-away at Moulding Expo 2019 within one semester: this give-away is the MEX Box, a two-part lunch box with film hinges. “We members of the trade fair team acted here as the direct customer and included the product requirements in the study project,” said Florian Niethammer, Project Manager for Moulding Expo. “It was also important that the product to be developed is really useful in everyday life.” Niethammer is delighted that the MEX Box mould can be seen in use and will be produced live in an injection moulding machine during the trade fair: “An idea with a development time of 6 months will then be transformed in a production time of 20 seconds into the give-away for trade visitors at Moulding Expo.”

In 2017 Ritter and his students were responsible for the give-away at the trade fair. That time it was the eating utensil “3-2-eat”. “However, everything this time became slightly larger,” explained Professor Ritter. A mould weighing 1.45 tonnes had to be produced for the MEX Box. This was only possible with the assistance of professionals from the company Deckerform. “At the University we have never before coped with a mould which was more complex than this one,” said Professor Ritter. The special design was a welcome challenge for the 21-strong team of students – especially the unique size of the mould and the design of the tempering and the filigree film hinges. The order from Messe Stuttgart was carried out by the students in an ideal way. They produced a family mould with a large number of technical features such as a hot runner manifold with needle valve nozzles. “With all the additional 'specialities' relating to the component, this is a production category in which we had never before been involved,” said Professor Ritter.

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Together with the Association of German Tool and Mould Makers (VDWF) as a network partner, other companies were found that proved indispensable in the development of the lunch box: the company Reichle with which an engraving tailored to the product was developed, Meusburger as a partner for the standard components and PSG which planned the hot runner. Borealis from Austria is supporting the project with its plastic and, in order to offer visitors to the trade fair a wide variety of colours, Granula made its coloured granulates available.

With its order Messe Stuttgart achieved precisely the desired effect among the students. The students experienced all the highs and lows in the development of a plastic product. They co-operated with industry professionals and forged initial contacts with companies. Some students worked on the design of the MEX Box tool at Deckerform under the supervision of the Design Manager of the Aichach-based tool and mould making company. “Within two days the students completely implemented the project on their own and on an equal footing with the designers. That's something very special,” said Professor Ritter. “MEX Box is a real product – my students experienced a genuine production process with real problems and a real timetable. An incalculably valuable experience for them.”

Grant for an advanced training course

Another initiative of Moulding Expo, which supports on-the-job training, is the grant now being awarded for the second time for the advanced training course “Project Manager (FH) for Tool Construction and Mould Making” at Schmalkalden University. With effect from the 2019/20 winter semester, a student will therefore be able to receive advanced training. The costs amounting to around €5,000 will be paid by Messe Stuttgart. “Really every conceivable area of the profession was included in this advanced training course,” said Thomas Brandt, the grant holder in 2017, “from purchasing, sales marketing and employment law through to technical components and assembly or plastics chemistry.” For the 34-year-old mechatronics and automation technology engineer, “this is precisely the right way to tackle the challenges of global structural change which is primarily having an effect in the high-tech tool, pattern and mould making industry. Continuous advanced training for technicians and engineers is now simply obligatory,” said Brandt. Candidates with a thirst for knowledge can apply to Schmalkalden University (Moulding Expo Stipendium), the winner will be determined in a draw during the Exhibitors' Evening at Moulding Expo on 23 May 2019.

“Get your future into shape!”

Due to the rapid development of technological innovations, it's not just communication of knowledge in the industry that is in more demand than ever – the presentation of the efficiency of the tool, pattern and mould making profession is vital, especially also to attract suitable young people. In order to arouse young people's interest in the vocational field, school classes will therefore have an opportunity to exchange information with trainers and trainees during Moulding Expo at the Stuttgart Trade Fair Centre. Under the motto “Get your future into shape!” managing directors or association functionaries from the industry will also offer tours of the trade fair to show what technological and professional opportunities are offered by the tool, pattern and mould making industry – and there are plenty of them! Interested parties can now already arrange a date with Messe Stuttgart. The Initiative is being jointly supported by four industry associations, i.e. the German Association of Model and Mould Manufacturers (BVMF), the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), the German Machine Tool Builders' Association (VDW) and the Association of German Tool and Mould Makers (VDWF).