Virtual Innovation Day 2021

Road of Tooling Innovation

The panel discussion brought the highlight of the last Moulding Expo to the digital stage. Renowned drivers of innovation in the industry presented their future oriented tool and production concepts. They were to be showcased live at the cancelled Moulding Expo 2021 covering a broad range from the triple family tool through to foil-back moulding, foamed components from recycled materials, sensor technology in Mould Monitoring and innovations in particle foam processing with 3D-printed tools.

Innovations from the Plastics Technology Centre

The Road of Tooling Innovation presents tool and production concepts of the future

Progress thrives on cooperation. In an industry that has to prove itself in a strong international competition, it is especially important to think across the boundaries of one’s own development department in order to generate benefit for the users. This can be achieved by regarding several steps of the process chain as a whole - and more and more by cooperating. The Road of Tooling Innovation reflects exactly this approach: Selected international tool making champions present themselves together with renowned makers of injection moulding machines. The special show was expected to be the highlight of Moulding Expo 2021 showcasing state-of-the-art production concepts in action. Due to the Corona pandemic, the exhibition concept can only be realised in 2023, but individual projects will be presented to the public in the run-up to the event.

1. From sequential to centralised workflow

To know the outcome before the production has even started - simulations can predict how processes are going to run: with more and more precision and for more and more processes. This also applies to melting processes in injection moulding. Three enterprises joined their respective competences to create a simulation process that can predict the course of an injection moulding process as close to the process in reality as possible and thus being able to adjust the procedure optimally.

A complex 3-fold family tool, specific material parameters, machine data and simulation know-how were the ingredients every participant added up to: Borealis provided the test materials with appropriate physical, chemical and thermodynamic properties, while Oerlikon HRSflow contributed the tool with hotrunner system and the simulation software. Machine manufacturer Engel brought a hydraulic injection unit with temperature control and the information required for the simulation to the project. A loudspeaker grille was the challenging test product in this case. “The good news is that we matched the simulation to the millimetre! The comparison after measuring the finished component showed a 0.04% difference to the predicted geometry”, comments a delighted Stephan Berz of Oerlikon GRSflow.

Main learning

  • If all project participants work on the same platform, optimisation cycles can be reduced considerably. Results get to the point much quicker, costs can be reduced and the time-to-market can be shortened if all partners contribute their know-how from the beginning.

2. Teamwork in foil decoration

Currently, three major trends are discernible in foil decoration: Decorated surfaces are in growing demand. The refined components are required to include additional technical feature more and more frequently. The cost pressure remains on a high level. In order to find adequate answers to these trends, the enterprises Georg Kaufmann Formenbau AG, HRS Flow, Leonhard Kurz, Poly IC and Wittmann Battenfeld joined forces to start a project: They set-up a process to transform and deep-draw the decorative foil in the injection mould, eliminating the usually preceding transformation and trimming process. This is combined with an in-mould wrapping technology that also entirely decorates and trims the front edges in the undercut areas.

Such components are made intelligent by inserting three dimensionally reshaped sensors which get embedded in the tool. “Thus, back-moulded components are created that are fully decorated on the front and carry a sensor on the back. A combination that we can process in a 60 second cycle” explains Christian Götze of Georg Kaufmann Formenbau AG

Main learning

  • For smart plastics applications in the automobile and electronics industry, components can be decorated, thermoformed, back-moulded and stamped as well as equipped with sensors in a single process step.

3. Glossy surfaces for sustainable components from recycled materials

“Sustainability is going to accompany us for the next 50 years. A valuable contribution can be made even today by a process that has almost been forgotten: spray foaming”, explains Anna Tschacha, Managing Partner of Deckerform, at the presentation of a joint project. It aims at using renewable raw materials and recyclates without having to accept any disadvantages in terms of surface quality.

The combination of these sustainable materials with the spray foaming procedure holds a lot of fascination. The first advantage of foamed components is the reduction in material and weight. A high insulation value, reduced cycle times and dimensionally accurate parts are additional desirable properties, the entrepreneur underlines.

In the past, the surface finishing of recyclates that did not live up to the requirements of many applications, has been a great obstacle to the overall use of the technology, though. Teamed up with Johannes Romming of the Leonhard Kurz Foundation, a solution can now be presented that uses hot-stamping decoration. The joint project proved that refined surfaces, modern design, durability and the use of sustainable materials can get together well. “Especially recyclates with difficult surface texture, we can enhance visually with our decoration solutions and give it the appearance of new materials” Romming is certain.

Main learning

  • The combination of recycling plastics and surface finishing with decoration processes is a good example for a closed circuit in plastics recycling.

4. 3D print reduces energy consumption

Sustainability in injection moulding and in particle foam processing is the mission of Stefan Hofmann, Managing Director of Siegfried Hofmann GmbH. In order to produce more sustainably, his enterprise has researched the use of 3D print in toolmaking for years. Instead of producing the final product in an additive way, the idea here is to make tools that would be impossible to manufacture with cutting processes. An example for this constructive measure is the free choice of cooling channel geometry. It avoids the formation of hot spots and supports a controlled cooling process.

In combination with a shape moulding machine that was presented as well, Hofmann produces particle foam components that reach the quality of injection mouldings in terms of dimensional accuracy and reproducibility.

Main learning

  • The presented machine in combination with 3D-printed tools reduces cycle times by up to 50% and saves up to 75% in steam and energy consumption compared to the processes in use before the three-year project.

5. Design, functionality and sustainability

Manufacturing everyday objects more efficiently and sustainably - that is the approach of project partners Haidlmair, Digital Moulds and Engel. Demonstrated in the production of a beverage carrier for six bottles they set up a production process that focusses on the reuse of recycling material.

A special sword shutter nozzle, exchangeable contours and the use of laser to create particular textures are a few of the specific features exploited in the project. The technical highlight are sensors that monitor the process within the tool and enable control and preventive intervention during the injection moulding procedure.

The collected real time data also help to simulate new processes in advance and to make the process for injection mouldings machines, in this case with 250t clamping force, more efficient.

Main learning

  • The used components in combination with real-time monitoring by sensors shorten cycle times and reduce the necessary injection pressure saving both time and energy.

6. Would you like to save on machines and production area?

“Our industry needs the courage to innovate and, above all, the courage to take a controlled risk”, is how Timo Steinbrunner of Braunform GmbH started his presentation of their innovation project. The team of the precision mould maker chose the manufacturing of a 2K-application with pressure membrane to optimise the production process. In order to realise a concealment in only on process step and in a limited space the engineers developed the redirection of a rotary movement into a translational movement within the tool.

The servo electric rotatory drives used for the process move quickly and gently within the mould and enable the combination of three work steps. Instead of a three-component piece consisting of a PE upper part, a PE lower part and an LSR membrane, a two-component piece is produced. This saves money and time but above all, only one injection moulding tool and machine is used instead of two. This also made the component assembly line obsolete.

Main learning

  • If we manage to merge several process steps, immense saving potentials beckon. In the case of the concealment with a membrane within the injection moulding tool, the cost savings amount to at least 45% assuming that the 2K-tool is twice as expensive as a 1K-tool.


HostsSusanne Schröder, Carl Hanser Verlag, and Prof. Dr. Thomas Seul, VDWF