ComoNeoMULTIFLOW: automatic hot runner balancing
Mike Busser had his own plastics company for micro-precision parts before joining EVCO, where he has now been in post as Innovation Center Manager for over three years. He reports:
“Requirements in medical device manufacturing are exceptionally high in terms of norms and regulations. We want to offer our customers added-value solutions: the trend is clearly towards zero defect – and that’s where Kistler comes in.”
Mike Busser, Innovation Center Manager at EVCO Plastics
The two companies first made contact at K 2019 in Düsseldorf, where EVCO was in search of optimization potential for their medtech projects. At this trade fair, they were introduced to cavity pressure sensors from Kistler as well as its ComoNeo process monitoring and control system – including ComoNeoMULTIFLOW, a feature that enables hot runner balancing for multi-cavity molds based on precise cavity pressure measurement. “MULTIFLOW detects the different filling statuses in each cavity, and automatically adapts the temperature of the injection nozzles,” Busser explains. “We're currently using the system for zero-defect manufacturing of a component for a medical diagnostic kit. But in principle, all our molds now have a pocket for Kistler sensors. Now that the Kistler team in the US has supplied us with the portable ComoNeo, we're able to use it flexibly for different projects.”
Multiple benefits thanks to integrated measurement technology
The current solution at EVCO operates with sixteen 9011C load cell washers from Kistler - one for each cavity at end-of-fill, mounted indirectly using a sleeve. Connecting cables can be exchanged independently of the sensor in case of damage or transmission problems, and non-compliant parts are separated robotically for each cavity. The team of process engineers headed by Mike Busser also installed a diagnostic tool that can monitor the status of the mold and its integrated Kistler measurement system at any time. “This unique solution has truly helped us to achieve zero defect for our customer. It wouldn't have been possible without the tremendous support of Kistler US – namely Jim Flom, Curtis Krick and Mike Prisby, who are now part of the family. By using ComoNeo, we've not only eliminated challenges with core shift, but also ramped up productivity and reduced cycle time.”
Given these convincing results and overall customer satisfaction, a strategic partnership between the two companies is ready to go live. Anna Bartz again: “Our growth and the success story with Kistler are just about to take off. With Kistler's help, we can offer our clients solutions they didn't even know before. For example, we're already looking into projects for our large parts business, and there's an upcoming opportunity with a big and globally present medical device supplier where we can count on Kistler – for sure.”
Progress and innovation together with partners and clients
Another key element of a joint approach from EVCO and Kistler will be customer education. Kistler solutions are not yet as well known or widely present in the US as in other markets, so a Tech Center demonstrating all the technologies and opportunities both parties can offer to a larger audience would be a major step forward for injection molding and plastics processing in general. As Busser notes, this could leverage huge potential for EVCO clients in the Americas and beyond. “We can do more – that's always our attitude and message towards our customers. Together with Kistler, we're able to offer them solutions for needs they didn't know they had – but, of course, this requires some education beforehand.” James Flom, Field Sales Engineer Plastics at Kistler, comments: “We embrace the idea of jointly educating new and existing clients, and we're excited about the many new opportunities and programs”.
Meanwhile, injection molding as a technology is certainly not standing still: at EVCO, engineers are looking into ways of continuing to improve traceability, down to each single part and its manufacturing footprint (including a complete record of conditions) – even for high-volume lots with millions of parts. “Here, we already acquire valuable data from the ComoDataCenter, but there's still some way to go before we can assign that data to every single produced part – with a QR code, for example,” Busser explains. Liquid Silicone Rubber (or LSR) is another innovation that EVCO is pursuing. This unique material offers new opportunities for industry in general and the medtech sector in particular. “There are plenty of possible applications, but also a lot of skepticism in the market because of the difference in technology. But – with Kistler as an asset in our pocket – we're optimistic that we will overcome the remaining obstacles and go to market before the end of 2022,” Busser concludes.