Plastics processing Supporting injection moulders in achieving their sustainability goals

Source: Mold-Masters

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Mold-Masters equipment and technology supports its customers in reaching their sustainability targets in several significant ways. The company’s solutions cover a five-tiered approach that covers different aspects of sustainability.

Refork utensils based on bio-resins include a selection of forks, knives and spoons.
Refork utensils based on bio-resins include a selection of forks, knives and spoons.
(Source: Mold-Masters)

Product owners and brands often look for ways to minimise their carbon footprint by evaluating every aspect of their business. One area that offers a great opportunity to reach sustainability targets is by evaluating the manufacturing plants and the process of how the products are produced. A key component of the evaluation is the equipment, especially the mould.

Sustainability and maximising productivity to lower part costs goes hand-in-hand. It’s something that’s been a priority for Mold-Masters and a component of its R&D for over 50 years. Here are five main ways through which it actively supports sustainability:

  • Hot runners vs. cold runners: Technology reduces plastic consumption
  • Product light weighting: Product design lowers plastic consumption
  • Enable processing of sustainable materials with post-consumer recycled materials and bio resins
  • Increasing energy efficiency: Lowering energy consumption of the equipment
  • Lifecycle management service programs: Extending the service life of the equipment

Hot runners offer significant advantages compared to cold runners.
Hot runners offer significant advantages compared to cold runners.
(Source: Mold-Masters)

Hot runners vs. cold runners

Superior process control, enhanced gate/part quality, faster cycle times, faster colour change, scrap reduction, lower energy consumption, highly automated processing and operating less capital equipment are all significant benefits of choosing hot runners over cold runners. The result is higher productivity that supports sustainability. These advancements is the reason behind Mold-Masters focusing and investing so much in innovative technology.

Light-weighting of parts

A team of experienced engineers is constantly helping customers make part designs more efficient. Light weighting has a direct impact on reducing plastic consumption and also supports the sustainability goals of other industries. In the automotive market for example, lighter components help to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles.

The company has spent extensive time testing a wide selection of bio-resins.
The company has spent extensive time testing a wide selection of bio-resins.
(Source: Mold-Masters)

Enabling the use of bio-resins and PCR

Mold-Masters also supports sustainability by enabling the processing of alternative sustainable materials such as bio resins and Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) materials. Bio resins incorporate natural materials such as wood flour, which repurposes waste from the wood industry, allows products to be compostable. Maximising utilisation of PCR minimises the use of virgin resin to extend its lifecycle.

Mold-Masters has spent extensive time testing a wide selection of these materials in its R&D facility and through a partnership with the University of Massachusetts. In addition, they worked with leading converters and brand owners to select resins and to define a priority test sequence.

Mold-Masters’ Brazed Heater Technology offers a more efficient heating process.
Mold-Masters’ Brazed Heater Technology offers a more efficient heating process.
(Source: Mold-Masters)

Lowering energy consumption

The company’s Master-Series hot runner system is one of the most energy-efficient in the industry. This is the result of a unique system design, material selections and the incorporation of a range of advanced innovations such as the proprietary Brazed Heater and iFlow Manifold Technology. The Brazed Heater Technology offers a more efficient heating process in part due to the fact that the heater elements are embedded into the steel as compared to conventional heater bands that only have minimal contact with the steel which allows most of their heat to dissipate into other areas of the mould and requires more power to maintain proper processing temperatures. iFlow Manifolds are thinner than conventional gun-drilled manifolds which mean they are more efficient to heat due to their lower mass. In addition, these types of manifolds reduce pressure drop which results in reduced total system energy consumption.

Extending the service life of the equipment

Like any piece of equipment, performance can degrade over time with continued use. The Canadian supplier supports customers during the lifecycle of their mould with services designed to maximise productivity to extend the life of their equipment. In addition, high-quality components that incorporate our unique Brazed Heater Technology have a lifespan up to ten times longer than conventional components which significantly minimises spare part requirements, the company states.

Mastering processing challenges

Product owners are also looking at ways to make their end products more sustainable. For some, this can mean creating those products from sustainable materials such as compostable bio resins or Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) materials. However, processing these materials can be very challenging compared to the conventional resins they typically aim to replace. This of course can make production of good parts very difficult and sometimes impossible. Mold-Masters understands the unique properties and effective processing requirements.

The most exciting development when it comes to sustainability is the introduction of new bio resin materials and PCR processes. Bio resins are materials that repurpose natural materials to replace conventional resins. These materials are typically bio-degradable, compostable and/or industrial compostable. PCR on the other hand, repurposes existing materials into new products in order to minimise new virgin material content and prevent materials from ending up in landfills thus extending the lifecycle of materials.

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Mold-Masters has extensive experience and gathered sustainable application knowledge which extends to both bio resins and Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) materials. Sustainability is not only driven by government regulations, but consumer demand and environmental awareness around the globe is accelerating the need for companies to find solutions for sustainable applications.

When it comes to PCR and sustainable applications, Mold-Masters has proven its capability. Utilising their innovative co-injection multi-layer technology, the company has the ability to combine two separate resins into a single 3-layer melt flow. This enables users to inject high PCR content as the core layer up to 50 percent of total part weight without sacrificing part quality or cycle time. In a recent production application, Mold-Masters implemented a 2-cavity co-injection system for producing 20 liter pails. Each of these 700 g pails incorporated 50 percent PCR as the core layer.

This sustainable solution has the potential to generate significant savings for the moulder (based on current prices) by reducing the use of virgin material and TiO2 when compared to traditional mono-layer pails. These significant savings and favourable return on investment (ROI) mean that sustainability initiatives can also make good financial sense.

Successful use case

Utilising a proprietary bio-resin blend, the company Refork, makes use of injection moulds to produce sustainable single use utensils. The bio-resin material consists of wood flour that re-purposes waste from the wood industry, PHA as binder and various renewable minerals to enhance mechanical properties. This special blend is fully biodegradable in home compost, soil or marine environments. Refork utensils include a selection of forks, knives and spoons. Mold-Masters worked closely with Refork to supply hot runner solutions that allowed them to successfully achieve all of their goals.

Mold-Masters first introduced this capability as part of its advanced co-injection technology back in 2015. According to the company, its leading-edge control sets them apart from other suppliers. This control allows users to precisely control distribution and thickness of the core layer. In this way a higher percentage of PCR content can be injected compared with competitive systems. Where Mold-Masters can inject up to 50 percent PCR core, many other systems are limited to incorporating up to 35 percent which could limit sustainability targets and can significantly affect implementation of the ROI. Uniform control is another feature Mold-Masters mentions with regard to achieving more consistent and fuller core fill. Their patented “fold-over” capabilities is a technical advantage that enables customers to achieve high core percentage and allows them to ensure uniform distribution and complete coverage of PCR resins while preventing contact of PCR with the product, which is often a customer requirement.

Another significant difference is the ability to position the core where it is required. For example, on packaging applications customers may prefer to keep any PCR core away from the injection point to avoid moulded in stresses which can cause brittleness and result in drop test failures.

One of the major advantages of this co-injection technology is that there is no penalty to cycle time and existing tooling can be re-used. A variety of materials can be combined although those with similar melt temperatures are ideal for compatibility. Many applications are those that utilise the same material, for instance 50 percent virgin HDPE, 50 percent PCR HDPE). However, Mold-Masters’ thermally isolated manifolds make it possible to combine two thermally different resins.

The supplier thus offers sustainable application knowledge and success which extends to processing both bio resins and Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) materials. Many of the existing products are well suited for such applications.