5 Ways to Optimize your Thermoforming Operations to Restore Performance

by Bruce Hayward, President of Commodore Technology

We were recently a guest blogger on The Plastics Technology blog, in case you missed it here is the article we posted.

Production floor in the Commodore Foam Plant

Modernization of Equipment- Are you looking at your thermoforming equipment, wondering if there could be a better way to get more out of them? Are you noticing subtle reductions to your output? How long have you owned your machines? Although the process of thermoforming has been around for a long time, in recent years many advances have been made to the components of machines allowing for higher speeds and output. Older machines that are not running at peak could be costing you time and money due to decreased performance, slower cycle times, higher energy use, decreased flexibility and ever increasing maintenance costs. Modernizing your existing equipment with marginal capital investment will quickly improve your productivity by greater output and reduced downtime.

Here are five important areas to review that could help restore your plant's efficiency:

Technician at the control panel for thermoformer
New control feature intuitive user interface.

Controls Upgrade- Does the thought of your thermoformer's obsolete control system failing send you into a panic searching for electrical components? If you are lucky to find them, you may be forced to pay a small ransom to get your machine back into production. Installing an integrated modern control package will eliminate the anxiety from the above scenario while improving performance of your equipment. Thermoforming control upgrade packages start at less than $30,000. Not only will you receive the benefit of a current control, but these controls allow greater speeds and remote connections/monitoring. Furthermore, the obsolete parts that you remove from your thermoformer can be used as backups for your other machines

Calrod oven being upgraded for Commodore Foam Plant
Oven upgrade with calrods and programmable zones.

Ovens and Zone Control- Are you getting consistent heating through your oven zones? Do you have a predictable level of control when heating your foam sheet? Retrofitting your oven can boost efficiencies and minimize scrap. Creating different heating zones can provide greater control, preventing sheet overheating and increasing adaptability for new products. Replacing old components with newer technology allows for more accurate material heating with less guessing, resulting in more accurate forming that results in higher quality foam trays.

Commodore Quick Change Molds
Quick change mold with inserts that can be changed inside the thermoformer machine.

Quick Set Up of Molds and Trim Tools- Are your molds designed to assure quick set up? Incorporating alignment pins into molds assures "no guess" alignment accuracy. Running stops insure that the mold gap is ideal for your sheet thickness. Quick change mold inserts can reduce a two hour set up down to a matter of minutes. Utilizing interchangeable logo plates can provide a quick custom solution for customer personalization at a minimal cost. Most companies look for the least expensive option when it comes to purchasing tooling, but these low cost featureless molds can drive inefficiencies to your operation.

Plate mold and plates , custom molds
Mold with integrated photo eye and guidance tabs.

Improved Quality and Scrap Reduction – Taking proactive measures in your mold design will pay immediate dividends. Incorporating photo eye references within the mold will satisfy the need for accurate trimming. Adding features to the mold to create stiffness to the web will improve guidance and will also contribute greater trim accuracy. When troubleshooting quality issues, individual numbering of the mold cavities may help identify the problem cavity. Utilizing temperature control units on your molds will assure consistent draw and forming precision. If you have damaged molds, stoning and/or patching will provide a quick solution to restore quality.

Thermoformer framing being refurbished for use in Commodore Foam Plant
Bolt on treadle support to add rigidity.

Trimming- - Are you slowing down your thermoformer to keep pace with your trim press? Is vibration at higher speeds causing poor trim on your finished product? Simple frame modifications can be incorporated to offset the reciprocal motions of the treadle. Replacement of the primary chain drive with a more compliant belt drive will smooth out trimming. These simple modifications can increase your cycles per minute.

Many companies believe that once their equipment is paid for, they no longer need to invest in the machinery, but with some basic upgrades to the existing machinery you could see an increase in production by 25 to 30%. Many of the solutions listed above can be implemented with upgrades that Commodore Technology provides. Contact us today and have our application engineers complete a full audit and see how we can help your plant produce more.