Field Notes: Kiefel USA Thin Gauge Thermoforming Workshop

By Conor Carlin, International Sales Manager

On June 27-28, CMT participated in an impressive thin gauge thermoforming workshop hosted by Kiefel Technologies USA at their facility in Portsmouth, NH. The event was a highly technical affair with presentations from a variety of experts as well as a demonstration of a KMD85 inline thermoforming system. Attendees and participants came from both sides of the Atlantic including Germany and the Netherlands, New England, Canada, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, California and Florida.

If any single theme emerged from the two-day event, it was that new technology has most certainly impacted the thermoforming process. The increased adoption of fast-cycling, tilt mold machinery means that tooling, including the plug assist, must be exceptionally precise and engineered to very tight tolerances. The use of air-save technology is just one of the new innovations in thermoform tooling. On the topic of air consumption, Kiefel explained how new high-volume, dual circuit pressure forming valves allow air to flow in and out of the mold cavities for faster cycle speeds and a significant reduction in air consumption and, by extension, operating costs.

The application of information technology to thermoforming is proving to be a rich vein of conversation in the industry. As demonstrated by Sam Hacman of uVu Technologies, real-time visualization of data from multiple monitored points (strain gauges, temperature sensors, plug drive sensors, vacuum/pressure transducers) can now allow operators to truly understand the variables in the forming process, further removing the moniker of ‘black art’ from thermoforming.

Here is the list of speakers and topics:

Julie Griswold – Sharples: “Structural Design Considerations for Steel Rule Die Applications”

Conor Carlin – CMT Materials:  “Best Practices for Using Syntactic Foam Plug Assists in Thermoforming”

Frank Karai – ODC Tooling:  “Tooling and Challenging Applications”

Michael Walper – Hekuma:  “T-IML Automation: Technology Ready for the Market”

Martijn Haex – Bosch Sprang: “Advanced Tooling Technology for In-Mold Cutting”

Jeff Nigro – Klockner: “New Product Innovation”

Markuz Zlotosch – Kiefel Technologies: “Advantages of a Speedformer”

Todd Morgan – Ametek LAND: “Scanners for Thermoforming Applications”

Brian Golden – Kiefel Technologies: “Beyond Conventional Wisdom”

Sam Hacman – uVu Technologies/ToolVu: “Thermoforming Quality Control and Process Monitoring”

Thomas Huber – Kiefel Technologies: “CAT System Presentation on Kiefel KMD85B”

Our presentation on plug assists began with a live poll of the audience to determine the percentage of tools that were manufactured with plugs. A second question explored the different types of materials used for plug assist. From the responses, it appears that syntactic foam is the leading choice of thermoformers and toolmakers. We dug further into why it is important to understand the interplay of the plug material, plug geometry, tool design and sheet temperature, and not just to look at each element in isolation. While the choice of plug assist material directly impacts the plug life, machinability and ease of processing, it is also directly tied to material distribution, cycle time, start-up time and process cost.

In addition to bringing together industry experts and processors for a great seminar, the Kiefel team also proved to be generous and thoughtful hosts. We were treated to a tour of The Redhook Ale Brewery and a traditional New England lobster bake for dinner! Here’s hoping they make this an annual event….