Over 50 million AVENT soothers are produced at the Suffolk plant every year
Manufacturer of health and wellness products, Philips AVENT, has installed three 100 tonne all-electric injection moulding machines at its UK production facility in Suffolk.
The three Sumitomo (SHI) Demag systems, which were acquired solely for the production of protective caps and gumshields for AVENT baby soothers, are the company’s first all-electric machines.
The company undertook an early stage tool trial at a facility in Telford before purchasing the machines to test the capabilities of the technology.
“Naturally, with any manufacturing of baby products, precision and quality is paramount and every component we produce here is thoroughly trialed and tested,” explained Matt Panton, Senior Process Technician at Philips AVENT.
Using an 8-impression shield mould tool, the Philips AVENT team ran a like-for-like production scenario on a Sumitomo Demag IntElect machine during the trial, which showed an instant 62 percent energy saving.
“I knew that all-electric technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but I never imagined that the technology was this efficient,” Panton continued. “As well as reducing the cycle time by 3.45 seconds, the energy saving climbed to 65 percent when during the trial we ramped the IntElect up to its full speed. With an average cycle time reduction of 30 percent across the component variance that we mould we have increased our capacity, even though we are using the same tooling technology.”
The three new IntElect’s went into full production in March 2015, alongside over 100 injection moulding machines in Philips AVENT’s Suffolk plant, including a large number of hydraulics. Two of the new machines produce dummy caps, and the other protective mouth shields, often 24/7. This limits the number of tool changes, according to Panton.
“Here in Suffolk we produce over 50 million soothers a year. It’s big volumes and therefore we need our machines to run quickly and consistently.” The AVENT soother caps are produced on 16-impression moulds at an average cycle time of 10 seconds, and 8-cavity moulds are used for the soother shield with a cycle time averaging 15 seconds in the new machines. “In fact, because these new machines run so quickly, the technicians are forever switching the colour dosing units to cater for the 20 different cap colour variants,” Panton added.
All three IntElect machines are equipped with Sumitomo Demag’s activeFlowBalance, which is designed to ensure a more even filling of the mould. “For the soother shield especially, activeFlowBalance delivers a much more balanced shot across the tool. Before this we would have achieved a similar balance by adjusting the temperature. Now there are less manual adjustments and tweaks for our technicians to perform,” Panton said.
In addition to the IMMs, Philips AVENT’s is due to take delivery of three robotic sprue pickers to remove any waste material and parts from the mould. It is also utilising the machinery’s control panel and interface to optimise functionality and speed.”
According to Philips AVENT, the switch to all-electric machines has overall achieved significant energy savings and improved production efficiency.