PHOTO: The new 1000-ton KraussMaffei MX 1000 6100 ‘BluePower’ machine brings to four the number of these top marque Germany injection systems at the Automould plant in East London; the original KM machine was installed prior to the Metair group business’s purchase of the plant
AUTOMOULD has commissioned another big KraussMaffei injection moulding machine, the fourth so far, at its plant in East London.
The MX 1000-6100 ‘BluePower’ unit from the German machine manufacturer can operate three injection units (with two being bolt-on or ‘Baby Plas’ supplementary systems) which suits Automould’s need to produce the 2K mouldings that are increasingly being required by the automotive OEMs.
Automould’s East London production unit, operating in the Industrial Development Zone near the city’s harbour, was originally planned as a satellite operation to do additional work for automotive manufacturers in the Eastern Cape, but the plant has in recent years become a fully-fledged operation with significant injection capacity, which is now supplying auto manufacturers around the country.
Established in Durban in 1984, Automould has been a subsidiary of the listed Metair group for the past 10 years. The bulk of the machines at its plant in Westmead are from Engel. According to Automould managing director Brent Latter, the company prefers to work with dedicated suppliers, and the result has been that the East London plant is now using mainly KM technology.
This was at least partly the consequence of a vigorous tendering process in 2006, when the plant was still run by Control Instruments. A number of machine suppliers were invited to tender to supply their equipment, with Plastic & Chemical Trading, the Johannesburg-based agent for KraussMaffei, emerging very favourably from the interviews.
The process continued and Automould has installed other KM systems, including a 1600-ton machine with 2K capability in 2016. PCT’s Ben Cockram was apparently able to offer a complete solution, including the robot (from Sepro, France), hopper/blender (Matsui, Japan) and magnetic clamp system (Technomagnete, Italy). The KM 1600t machine was commissioned in mid-2016 and the fact that it has operated virtually flawlessly since must have helped make the decision to purchase the new machine easier.
“We look at a lot of factors when buying machines,” said Latter.
“The cost of the machine is just one of the aspects that’s considered: once the machine is operating optimally and pumping out product, the actual cost of the machine becomes a minor factor, especially considering the extended life we expect from these systems.
“We like to run the same makes of machine in plants, which also makes sense for service back-up,” added Latter.
Same main suppliers
The new production ‘cell’ includes the same main equipment suppliers in what was a major capex project. The Sepro robot fitted on the new machine is well suited for the production of large dimension mouldings, operating continuously with virtually zero maintenance.
The Matsui blender/feeding system has been offered by PCT for a number of years and is ideal for the dosing of materials with high glassfibre loadings. Some of the Automould mouldings require a high level of reinforcement, in some cases over 30% glassfibre content. Use of long strand glassfibre has also been a requirement, which the Matsui system handles comfortably.
And the magnetic mould clamp system from Technomagnete has also proved a winner: the technology allows for quicker mould change times, which has become another necessity in auto component manufacturing where moulders are running a wide range of products often with relatively short runs.
The complete solution provided by PCT appears to be producing the desired results for Automould.
“We give the customers what they want,” said PCT’s Matthew Cockram. “The main objective is to optimise the process and get cycle times down as much as possible. Some of the machines here are even running above spec, one of the KM units is running at 104% capacity.