Products such as shopping carts and baskets for supermarkets depend on having an individualized coloring — that enables them to fit in perfectly with the particular look of a retail store chain. From the perspective of manufacturing, the injection molding machine has to respond flexibly to what the customer wants. Take, for example, Mouldtec Kunststoff GmbH in Kaufbeuren, Germany, which has optimized its manufacturing with a broad spectrum of KraussMaffei machines and automation solutions.
Nearly everyone comes into contact with products from Mouldtec every day, all the while not taking much notice of them. "We manufacture all of the plastic components with which a shopping cart is equipped," explains Managing Director Christian Wagner. "These include, for example, the entire handle unit, the wheels and the child's seat." But Mouldtec also produces shopping baskets. The company belongs to the Wanzl Group, the world's largest manufacturer of shopping carts, headquartered in Leipheim, Germany.
Small batch sizes with many changes of dye
The biggest challenge with these products, however, is the coloring. "The big advantage of plastic is that it can be individualized very well through the color. That way each company can receive shopping carts that fit perfectly with its particular corporate design," explains Ewald Eger, Head of Production at Mouldtec. "For us in manufacturing that means small batch sizes in combination with many dye changes. We have to respond quickly and flexibly to what the Wanzl customer wants." To that end, there is a machine pool available with just under 70 injection molding machines in the clamping force range between 25 and 850 tonnes. Wagner sums up, "We produce five to seven days a week in 3-shift operation with about 150 employees." This involves processing almost all common thermoplastics, a total of 5000 tonnes per year.
Continuous investments in automation
The topic playing an ever more important role in manufacturing is automation. According to Ewald Eger, "We are continuously investing in automation solutions. Now 80 percent of the machines have already been automated. For automation of its machine pool Mouldtec depends on the robots from KraussMaffei. "We primarily have robots from the LRX series in use, but also have two industrial robots of the IR series for more complex tasks. When we retroactively automate existing machines, then the robots are used not only on KraussMaffei machines, but also on machines of other brands," explains Wagner.
Automation solutionsNow 80 percent of the machines have already been automated
Critical factor of energy efficiency
Another critical factor in manufacturing at Mouldtec is the energy efficiency. "The factor of energy consumption is extremely important to us as a plastics processor, because the energy costs have a large impact on production costs for the component," Wagner observes. "The BluePower options of KraussMaffei machines help us reduce costs and maintain our competitiveness." In the scope of the BluePower initiative KraussMaffei offers, for example, drive units with very high efficiency, active accumulator management or a fully insulated plasticizing barrel.
Products made of 100% recycled material
In connection with the numerous dye changes required in injection molding operation, processing of recycled materials plays an important role at Mouldtec. This is because every time the dye is changed and the process is starting up, components are made that do not yet meet specifications. The components produced during this period are ground and recycled. "Then the material is used to make new products, such as the GT40 eco shopping basket, which is made of 100% recycled material," explains Eger. "The APC system on the KraussMaffei machines ensures a stable injection molding process, even if deviations occur in the recycled material's viscosity. Thanks to that, we achieve uniform component quality."
More about Mouldtec
The company was founded in 1952 under the name MHK Max Hübner GmbH and has been operating since 1995 as Mouldtec Kunststoff GmbH. The product range was focused on the area of packaging and closures for foodstuffs until the 1990s. Since being taken over by Wanzl in 1995, Mouldtec has continuously expanded its retail business unit and technical parts. Clothes hangers and dosing spoons round out the product range. www.mouldtec.de