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ROLE OF UTILITIES IN A MOLDING SHOP

UTILITIES:
Irrespective of the discipline of operations, “Utilities” or “service equipments”
form the back bone of a manufacturing system as these equipments contribute
to the proper functioning of the main machinery.

In a molding industry, supporting equipments that assists the process are:


• Raw material handling equipments. (Hopper Loader, Blenders,
Dozers, Dehumidifiers, Hopper dryers, Ovens etc.,)
• Recovery Equipments. (Grinders, Granulators etc.,)
• Mold Temperature Controllers & Hot runner Controllers
• Part Handling equipments (Robots, conveyors, sprue separators etc.,)

Similarly, the service line equipments that support the system of operation are:
• Cooling towers as to supply cooling water recycled.
• Softeners as to maintain the quality of the cooling medium
• Chillers for supply of chilled water to molds and Mold sweat preventor
• Air compressors for supply of air
• Hoists for handling of molds, machine assembly etc.,

Why we need a cooling system?


In every manufacturing process, repeatability is the key factor for productivity.
Consistency of the process parameters is essential for the repeatability. These
process parameters are influenced by various factors and temperature (of oil,
mold) is one of the major factors that influence the process parameters. As to
maintain a consistent temperature, a cooling system is essential. We control
the temperature of Hydraulic oil (used in the machine), hopper throat area and
molds in our process.

The effects due to lack of sufficient cooling system:


If the temperature of hydraulic oil is not maintained (recommended value is
47°C to 50°C), pressure differences would occur because of drop in viscosity
resulting in inconsistency of process parameters. Over heating of oil would
also damage the oil condition, the seals, result in leak and loss of oil etc.

Similarly, if the hopper throat is kept hot, the plastic granules enter into the
barrel begins to soften at this stage itself. They stick to each other, prevent free
flow of granules. This will increase doze time, lead to material bridging.

If the mold temperature is not maintained, the dimensional consistency of the


part produced cannot be controlled. The increase in mold temperature leads to
heating of machine platens, which, in turn, lead to increase in tonnage than the
set value (only in toggle machines).

How a cooling system works:


Water from a sump is pumped into a system where it will extract heat. The
heated water is forced through a cooling tower, cooled and brought back to the
sump for another cycle. During the process, there will be loss and this loss has
to be compensated from time and again.

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ROLE OF UTILITIES IN A MOLDING SHOP

Heat Exchanger: is a device that transfers heat through a conducting wall


from one fluid to another. The heated water is cooled further for recycling.

COOLING TOWERS:
Principle of Operation:
In an induced draught type cooling towers, the principle of adiabatic
expansion is adapted to cool the water.

The cooling tower houses multiple nozzles that have small orifices as
openings, PVC fills or wooden logs stacked in zigzag manner as to create a
turbulent flow and a fan to blow air outside. When the water (that carries the
heat from the system) is sprinkled through the small nozzle openings, the
temperature reduces. As the air is thrown out of the tower by the fan, the water
evaporates. This evaporation removes the heat from the remaining water. This
results in the cooling of water. The cooled water is again taken to sump for
another cycle.

Though this forms a close-loop, there is a loss of water due to evaporation.


This loss is directly proportional to the difference in temperature (ΔT). This
loss of water is to be made up at regular intervals.

However, in this process, one cannot reduce the water temperature less than
the wet-bulb temperature. The wet bulb temperature is read when a wet wick
is covered over the bulb dipped in a distilled water container whereas the dry
bulb temperature is read as it is.

Reasons for not getting desired cooling:


The fan in the cooling tower is not working
The sprinkle-nozzles are clogged or broken.
Scale formation on the wall of heat exchangers resulting in water not taking
away the heat.
In-sufficient water flow rate. Water flow has to be turbulent for efficient heat
transfer. Laminar flow will not extract heat from the system.

How scaling is formed:


We have seen that evaporation takes place while cooling. Water contains
variety of salts in it. As the water evaporates, the pure water goes as vapor and
the salts are left over and get sediment in the cooling tower itself. Similarly,
on the heat exchanger walls, the alkaline contents in the water form a layer of
scale in the process of extracting heat.

Blow-down and Water treatment:


The salt sediment collected in the bottom of the cooling tower has to be
removed to prevent clogging of water lines and hence the water from the
bottom of the cooling tower reservoir is removed and so the sediments. This is
termed as blow-down.

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ROLE OF UTILITIES IN A MOLDING SHOP

To avoid frequent scaling water is treated with scaling inhibitors, corrosion


inhibitors and treated for hardness control. Softeners are used for this.

CHILLERS:
We have seen that with cooling towers, we cannot reduce the water
temperature lesser than the wet bulb temperature. However, our process
requires more cooling and perforce we use chillers. Chillers are of two types
namely Water-cooled and Air-cooled. In our facility, the impac chillers and
Flying tiger chillers are water cooled ones and the Nova-Frigo are air-cooled
ones.

How it works:
The chilling medium or refrigerant is compressed and the gas is transformed
into vapor with high pressure. This is passed through condensers (water or air)
where the vapor is transformed into liquid. This liquid at high pressure is
passed through an expansion valve. Due to Joule-Kelvin effect, the
temperature drops drastically and this chilled liquid is passed into exchangers
and this takes away the heat from the water. In the process, the liquid is heated
and transforms into gas that is compressed again for further cycles.

A closed-loop circuit gives better efficiency in a chilling system. The


temperature required for mold cooling should be 10° to 15°C. A chilling
system requires 3% more capacity to reduce every 1° of water temperature
below 10°C.

Mold Sweat Preventor:


Here the atmospheric air is sucked in, cooled by means of chilled water
dehumidified, then further cooled by refrigeration and warmed by the
condensation process and blown. The functioning of this is similar to a chiller.

General problems with chillers:


The compressor would trip due to two major problems, High and Low
pressure. If the cooling medium (water or air) itself is hot or lack of the
cooling medium, the compressor would trip due to High pressure. If the
cooling medium is cooler more than the required range or lack of gas at the
suction point of compressor, the compressor would trip due to low pressure.

Calculating the size of the system and flow rate:


The amount of heat to be removed depends on the quantity of the plastics
produced. The table provides guidelines on ton requirement for every kg of
plastics produced for different materials.
POLYMERS Kg/ hour / ton
HDPE 13.6
LDPE 15.9
PP 16
ABS 22.75
HIPS 24

Hot runner molds would require chilling capacity of 0.15tons/Kw of heater


load.

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ROLE OF UTILITIES IN A MOLDING SHOP

Optimum heat transfer would take place if the flow were turbulent. To ensure
turbulent flow the flow rate should be of 150 liters /min. Cumulative flow
requirement of heat exchangers, hopper throats and molds are to be calculated.

To overcome the resistance in the pipe lines, the water pressure at the
generating point should be at least 5kg/cm². If the pressure requirement at the
end point is more, we can use booster pumps.

WATER QUALITY:
Despite having all the equipments working in good order, one may not get the
desired results if the quality of the water is not good. Water can classified into
two categories namely Scaling and Corrosive. More the water is harder, more
the potential for scaling and more the water is softer heavier the corrosion in
the lines. One has to strike a balance between the two by monitoring the key
parameters.

Those key parameters are pH value, Hardness (total Magnesium and calcium
carbonate content, total alkaline content), Total dissolved salts (TDS) and iron
content. The hardness and TDS is measured in PPM (parts per million).

The pH value of the water can be maintained by dozing acids. The ideal range
is 7.5 to 8.5. The hardness of the water can be maintained by operating the
softeners. By adding sodium chloride (common salt), the magnesium and

Calcium ions are replaced with sodium ions thus turning the water softer.
However, in this process the TDS remains unaltered. The ideal range of
hardness would be 50 to 100ppm. The TDS can be reduced only by changing
the basic nature of the water. Water harvesting and re-charging ground water
table is the permanent solution for this. However, TDS ranging less than
1000ppm is normal.

As we have read earlier, we have to strike a balance between harness and TDS
levels. On ideal conditions, one would maintain the ranges of pH 7.5 -8.5;
Hardness <50ppm; TDS<1900ppm.

AIR COMPRESSORS:
Compressors are required for raw material handling equipment, part handling
equipment, pneumatic ejection in molds, movement of safety gates,
maintenance of molds and machine and though not advised cleaning.

Compressors are of two types – Reciprocating and Rotary Screw compressors.


The compressed air can be stored in a receiver and from there the air can be
distributed. This also facilitates removal of moisture or water that has
condensed in the receiver.

Flow rate is necessary to add up the compressed air requirement in terms of


m³/hr for the shop floor. As to compensate the leakage and expansion the air

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capacity has to be calculated at 25% more. Similarly, pressure has to be


maintained at 6 kg/cm² and hence at the generation point the pressure should
be 8.5 kg/cm².

Hopper Dryers, Ovens and Dehumidifiers:


Some of the polymers processed are hygroscopic in nature that means they can
absorb moisture from the atmosphere. When these materials are processed
with moisture content, they would result in poor surface finishes such as silver
streaks, diesel effect and splashing. This also will have effect on the impact
and tensile strength of the part produced. Hence it is necessary to remove the
moisture from the material. Nylon, Polycarbonate, Polysulphone, ABS are
some materials that are hygroscopic by nature.

Preheating of material improves the plasticizing rate of a machine.

The atmospheric air is a mixture of various gases and water vapor. The
presence of water vapor in the air is termed as Humidity. The amount of vapor
contained in the air depends upon the temperature and pressure.

The factors that influence drying of plastics are


 Air temperature
 Initial moisture content
 Pellet size
 Dew point

In an oven, there will be number of trays with tiny holes on the bottom to
facilitate hot air to be blown. The blower will be mounted on the rear side with
heaters in the sideward. The requisite temperature can be set on the
temperature controller. As the blower pumps air that is heated by the heaters,
the plastics is dried.

Hopper dryers are nothing but a hopper with passage for the hot air to be
blown inside. The principle of operation is similar to oven. Heater with a
temperature controller and the air-duct is provided on the side of the dryer.

Higher air temperature means lesser relative humidity. However, the dew point
would not change with higher air temperature. Thus the moisture cannot be
removed from the air. As the moisture equilibrium content of the plastic pellets
is limited, the degree of dryness is also limited. Thus smaller pellets dry faster
than the larger ones.

WHY DEHUMIDIFIER?
The air surrounding the pellets should have lesser dryness as to pull out the
moisture from the pellet to atmosphere. A dryer only blows hot air onto the
pellets and the moisture is not effectively removed.

Effective drying requires desiccant dehumidifier, which functions on the


principle of physical adsorption. Desiccant, a highly hygroscopic material is
porous in nature and can absorb moisture without any change in its size. When
a heated air is passed through a desiccant, the dryness of the air is improved.

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The desiccant can get saturated beyond which it cannot absorb moisture.
However, by regenerating the same, it can be re-used. If the desiccant is
exposed to a flow of air stream at very high temperature, the moisture from the
desiccant is driven out and it is ready for another cycle of adsorption.

In a dehumidifying unit, there will be two sets of desiccant cartridges. While


one will be absorbing moisture the other will be in regeneration process and
the dehumidification of material will not have hindrances.

HOT RUNNER CONTROLLER:


To facilitate free flow of molten plastics into a vast area and reduce wastage
on runners, hot runners are used in molds. Heaters will be provided on the
runner passage and they will be controlled by controllers from outside.
Though this similar to the temperature controllers used on the machines, this is
special because it drives heaters of smaller sizes and accuracy is the main
criteria (or else the material will decompose). There will be 6-8 zones
mounted on racks with a mother board connecting all these cards.

A conventional controller will have analog temperature controllers with


feedback through a thermocouple and dimmer-stat (auto transformer) where
there is no feedback available on the right temperature of the surface where
the heater is mounted.

Courtesy, technology advances, now days we have PID based (Proportionate


Integrated and Derivative) temperature controllers that are driven by
microprocessors. In this type, we can choose closed-loop with thermocouple,
use in percentages and in pulse mode.

Based on the circuit and feedback the card will drive the triac to energize the
heater. A fast acting glass fuse (faster than HRC fuses and MCBs) are used in
this circuit as to prevent damage to heater or triacs.

MOLD TEMPERATURE CONTROLLERS:


The temperature of the mold is maintained at a desired value by balancing the
heat exchange (between melt and by water from cooling channels). A
stipulated temperature of a mold minimizes the initial rejections during start-
up. As we have seen earlier, a rise in mold surface temperature leads to
dimensional inconsistency of the part produced and tonnage variations in
toggle locking machine.

The heating medium in MTCs can be Oil or Water. Oil is preferred the
temperature is to be maintained more than 60°C. We use MTC with water
circulation.

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