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Computer-automated RIM system is process optimization tool.

After years in development, an automated RIM system with 171 data-collection points for closely monitoring 15 key process variables is now running test parts at the Dow Polyurethanes & Composites Application Development Laboratory in Freeport, Texas. The automated RIM system, known as the RIM Process Development Lab, represents a joint research effort between Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Mich., and its subsidiary, Admiral Equipment Co., Akron, Ohio. The two firms are combining their respective resin and machinery expertise in an effort to define and optimize a computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) strategy for this process.


Admiral's automated RIM system is designed more for R&D than for actual production use, though it is expected to yield new technology that can be retrofitted to RIM production systems. Tary L. Schumacher, Admiral's director of marketing, sales and service, says correlation of data from the machine's 171 data-acquisition points will help define control limits for polyurethane chemistry and process parameters that optimize molded part quality. In particular, it will be used to prove out methods for achieving cycle times as short as 40 sec with polyurea and 60 sec with polyurethane. SPC and SQC capabilities are built into the control system.

The system is capable of molding parts weighing up to 67 lb and as large as a pickup truck box in one shot. The system can be used to make filled (RRIM) and mat-reinforced structural (SRIM) parts. One test program in Freeport will use a pickup-truck sidepanel tool from Ford Motor Co. to run tests with high filler levels and high-viscosity resins.

A vertical press whose clamp force is variable from 100 to 1000 tons is the centerpiece of the new RIM system. The press contains a new patented tonnage application and locking system, involving the use of eight hydraulic cylinders to provide even distribution of force over the entire platen, Admiral says. The upper platen books 45|degrees~, while the automated lower platen shuttles in and out to accommodate SRIM preform loading.

A PUR material conditioning system contains patent-pending technology to control resin nucleation and bubble size, handling viscosities in excess of 50,000 cp. Schumacher says the technology will be utilized to produce reduced-density parts without compromising physical properties. Computerized tool sensors will help optimize part quality.

A lance metering system can inject at rates from 5 to 40 lb/sec, feeding a mixhead that can handle fillers and operates at 4000-psi injection pressures. New filler technology, incorporating novel mica and glass systems that promote improved surface quality of reinforced RIM components, also will be tested.

The control system includes Allen-Bradley and Motorola computer hardware, the latter to control the optical-disk data storage.

Two robots, located behind and in front of the press, are used to assist molding operations. One GMF robot removes parts from the mold and places them on a scale for a quality check; once weighed, the part is automatically shuttled away.

A second, smaller GMF robot is mounted behind the RIM press and is utilized for flash management and mold preparation. Part flash will be collected through an air-knife vacuum pickup. The smaller robot also will be used to apply in-mold coating and external mold release, when applicable. A vision system will monitor the robots' operations. (CIRCLE 1)
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Title Annotation:RIM; Technology News; reaction injection molding manufacturing system
Author:Gabriele, Michael C.
Publication:Plastics Technology
Date:May 1, 1992
Previous Article:Controller gives robots added 'smarts.' (remote control of robotics) (Technology News)(Injection Molding)
Next Article:In-mold coatings advance on many fronts.

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