New Berlin Plastics once again sent delegates to the International Plastics Showcase hosted this year in Orlando, Florida. This year’s event was attended by more than 60,000 professionals from over 100 countries and 20,000 unique buying companies totaling $100 billion dollars of buying power.

This year there were many exciting technologies and advances in the plastics industry to show including new trends and applications in manufacturing practices. Some of the more popular items were 3-D printing applications, advanced simulation software, the use of virtual reality in prototyping and mold analysis, and other exciting technologies.

Here is a brief summary of some of the more interesting attractions and trends seen at NPE 2015.

3-D printing is making waves in the manufacturing industry. Properly called additive manufacturing, 3-D printing offers new ways to create prototype and production components, manufacture replacement parts, and streamline program realization. 3-D printing also allows the creation of end of arm tooling before mold building is complete. Assembly fixtures and other metrology functions can take place early in the project timeline as well.

3-d Printed Bicycle Frame

Using dry ice pellets to “sand blast” a mold. This allows an effective cleaning method while being low-impact and producing minimal surface abrasion compared to more conventional techniques. This not only reduces debris, as the dry ice melts and evaporates, but also prevents damage to the tool in the form of surface abrasion.

A Rubber Mold Being Cleaned

Do you have minimal tool damage that needs welding but doesn’t necessitate sending the tool out? SST showed off a micro laser-welding system that can be learned by anyone capable of TIG welding in under an hour. This provides a portable, affordable means of making small repairs to delicate molding/parting line surfaces. The SST micro-welding system is capable of welding ferrous as well as non-ferrous metals.

An SST Member Forming A Weld

Another piece of new technology was Canon’s MREAL. It’s a mixed-reality platform allowing the viewing of 2-D prints and images in 3-D through the use of a headset that combines video of your surroundings with computer generated graphics. This allows the physical manipulation of digital parts and processes which can be used to better understand design and molding objectives.

Canon MReal

Silicon was very trendy at this year’s event. Especially popular were clarified and optically clear material. The cell phone case shown was produced in two shots consisting of nine separate materials in one tool. That itself is an achievement.

Silicon Samples Bottom: Phone Case

Sigmasoft drew people in by asking a question many molders wonder. How valuable would it be for your business if a new mold produces good parts at the first trial – without any re-cutting of cavity, cooling lines, or runner? Sigmasoft showcased virtual molding technology they developed as a new and unique approach to analyzing and optimizing processes and molds so you can see how your tool will perform before its cut.

Virtual Molding Demo

An interesting innovation in decorating was shown off by TWIN Industries. Their booth exhibited water transfer printing, a process in which a decorative film is laid in a tub of water and then had parts dipped into it which then picks up color and design. Dipping allows you to decorate as many parts as you can fit in the tank, making it an effective way to treat large batches of product.

TWIN Industries Water Transfer Tank

Alcoa drew interest due to their new QC-10 aluminum. Usually aluminum is used for prototyping purposes, but Alcoa claims their new grade is able to meet full production needs. It can be machined faster than steel and can be cut, polished, and textured using electrical discharge. They also boast that QC-10 is able to dissipate heat 5x faster than steel reducing cycle times by 20-50%. The mold shown has run over 500,000 cycles.

ALCOA QC-10 Aluminum

RocTool displayed some interesting technology that allows extremely fine detail cosmetic work to be accomplished via induction heating coils buried beneath the molding surface combined with laser etching. This combination allows for the creation of high polish features that stand out against patterns, logos, and text. This application can even replace painting and other secondary decorative operations. These highlights are truly the tip of the iceberg that is NPE. The only down side to the event is that it’s hard to find enough time to view everything. As always, we left wanting more and can’t wait to see what’s new at NPE 2018.

ROCTool Laser Etching