Faced with an aging molding lab in Wyandotte, Michigan, BASF undertook an extensive redesign project that entailed the removal of outdated equipment and potential workplace hazards, installation of new injection molding machines and a revised layout.
Originally proposed in the summer of 2018, the project was completed in December of 2020 with almost no delays and zero safety mishaps — an accomplishment in ordinary times, let alone during a global pandemic. The secret? Continuous cooperation and communication, plus a bit of ingenuity.
Investment in all-electric injection molding machines of the PX series
The main objective of the project was to replace a number of outdated machines with newer, more advanced machines; the existing machine lineup consisted of four machines that were between 21-34 years old.
These machines operated independently of one another, decreasing the lab’s efficiency while increasing its complexity. Some also had electrical or water lines protruding from their base, posing potential tripping hazards. BASF wanted the new injection molding machines to be “smart” and function as a cell of sorts to allow sharable injection profiles for harmonized operation and flexibility.
“We were looking for an industry-standard molding machine because we have a lot of different customers come through, so we wanted our equipment to be well recognized."
KraussMaffei rose to the challenge. With their expertise and assistance, BASF ordered two high-tech all-electric injection molding machines.
"Dennis“ and "Beau“
Affectionately named Dennis and Beau after a retired BASF molding specialist and his successor, these machines belong to KraussMaffei’s PX product series, which feature excellent flexibility in a variety of applications thanks to a high-injection capacity and modular design. The machines also boast a modern touchscreen control system, allowing users to create their own individual interfaces and share information between the two machines. The Smart Assist feature allows technicians to provide guided assistance from anywhere in the world.
"We can take the profiles from one machine and move them to another, which was impossible with our old setup, Because the machines are the same model, the training required is reduced, as is the number of spare parts and maintenance time."
Logistic challenge 2nd floor
Strong technical capabilities weren’t the only requirement for the new machines: with a location on the second floor, bringing the heavy machines into the lab would require either separating the machines into smaller parts or removing a large wall. The latter being not ideal, BASF needed their equipment supplier to be willing to disassemble the machine before installation, allowing it to fit onto a service elevator so it could be moved into the space
“Injection molding machines are composed of a clamp and injection unit,” explained KraussMaffei Regional Sales Director Rajesh Shah. “Normally a 50-ton machine comes as one piece, so we had to take the measurement and weight of each half to make sure that it fit both from a weight perspective and from a dimension perspective.”.
“That was a huge support,” Krueger said. “Raj and his team visited the plant to take the elevator’s dimensions to ensure everything would fit as planned.”
Fast commissionning despite Covid-19
Adding to the logistical challenges of the project was the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions.“We had some delays during that time because there were limitations about bringing people to the site, so we did as much pre-work as we could,” said Krueger. “When the machine arrived in the U.S., we didn't want to put it in a warehouse because of the risk of something happening in the warehouse and the potential for extra costs.”
Despite these minor hiccups, the machines were safely moved into the space. “All the safety protocols and the social distancing rules were maintained during the project, and we didn't have any safety incidents or illnesses associated with the installation,” Krueger said.
New and improved
With the project completed, the Wyandotte lab, which is ISO 17025 certified, can benefit from the improved capabilities provided by advanced molding machines and a safer and more efficient layout.Customers can create high-quality components using Ultramid®, Ultraform® and Ultradur® engineering plastics made by BASF. Strong and versatile, these thermoplastics can be used for a variety of applications in industries such as automotive manufacturing, medical technologies and electronics.
Additionally, the all-electric machines will use less energy than hydraulic or hybrid machines, contributing to BASF’s sustainability objectives.
"One of the things BASF is working on is reducing our carbon footprint, and these all-electric machines are a huge step in that direction. They’re also a long-term commitment to the industry and the continuing commitment from BASF to be a strong supplier for our customers."
Teamwork is the key to success
Both BASF and KraussMaffei attribute the project’s success to the strong communication and coordination demonstrated by both parties throughout the project timeline.
“It was a wonderful collaboration,” Shah said. “Dave and his team had a lot of patience, and we had a couple of meetings with our teams before the machines arrived, so we understood exactly what we had to do. I think that's why the whole process went very smoothly. Dave did an excellent job in managing the complete project from BASF's perspective.”
“I think it was a very successful project,” added Krueger. “We significantly upgraded our equipment and the design of our lab, and we were able to do it at the height of the quarantine and pandemic with cooperation and coordination from the people at KraussMaffei.”
Thank you to the team members who made this project possible Lab Leader: Tom Vick Injection Molding Specialist: Mike Beauregard, Dennis Lozowski (retired) QA Team: Roger Marquardt, Steve Sountas Project Coordinators: Craig Fogus, Paul Hopkins Project Manager: Dave Krueger