Industrial automation is more than just automating existing processes with standard components. Demcon Industrial Systems also develops new, high-quality production technology for the manufacturing industry, such as the Fleximould. The manufacture of moulds is time-consuming and expensive, certainly for small series production. A solution lies in a mould that is easy to reconfigure for subsequent products. Fleximould is such a reconfigurable mould that can be used, for instance, for relatively fast and inexpensive thermoforming of plastic products of a complex design. Individual products, prototypes and series of one – with Fleximould they can be accomplished in just a few hours. Also, the environmentally sustainable system is utilizing the same pins over and over again. No waste, no crowded stock of moulds.
Demcon acquired the Fleximould concept, which had been developed elsewhere. Fleximould is a ‘pin bed’ in which pins are wedged next to each other and are height adjustable to 0.1 millimetre precision. DIS is working together with the Hochschule Niederrhein in Krefeld (D) in the ‘Smart production’ Interreg project on the further development of the concept for industrial application. The mould used for research in Krefeld has 30,000 pins of 6 millimetres in diameter and 300 mm in length in a 1,600 by 600 millimetre bed. The most important development challenges were ensuring that the mould is vacuum tight (for thermoforming) and the configuration of the mould.
To position the pins, the software translates the 3D CAD drawing of a product into height coordinates for the individual pins. Pneumatical actuators beneath the mould ‘re-set’ the mould, so that all the pins can be configured in batches to the highest position. The linear electric actuators above the mould then push the pins downwards one by one, until they are at the desired height. An actuator needs to ‘touch’ a pin precisely up to tenths of a millimetre, otherwise the mould will be damaged.
The pins retain their position through friction with a rubber mat into which they are ‘inserted’; this mat is wedged between metal plates. The friction force of 30 N means that only a limited number of pins are configured simultaneously. For the larger mould with 30,000 pins, this takes several hours because of the large number of pins and the required precision; this is precision positioning on industrial scale. Demcon Industrial Systems is the designated specialist for this, supported by all the Demcon group’s mechatronic competences.
For more information visit www.demcon.com/industrial.