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But rather injection molding?

Overath, Oct. 26, 2021 Additive manufacturing processes are becoming ever smarter. Injection molding nevertheless often remains an alternative – also thanks to a wide range of established services and measuring techniques specializing in it. For example, they bring prototypes closer to series production and even future-proof processes already underway.

BARLOG Plastics GmbH, Overath near Cologne, Germany, will be presenting its updated range of customized development services for plastics processors at this year’s Formnext – Hall 12.1, Stand F59. BARLOG Plastics is taking up current market trends under the guiding principle “From the idea to series production” and, in addition to focusing on article development and prototype construction for injection molding, is also increasingly focusing on aspects that the environmental protection concept demands of the industry today: key words are agile design for manufacturing, among other things with digital twins, and the determination of material data – also from recycled plastics – for simulation. Added to this are capability analyses in the area of quality assurance, also for external customers, for example via CT analysis of molded parts: In this way, even injection molding processes that are already underway can be continuously improved.

The aim of this comprehensive overall package is to further increase the cost-effectiveness of plastics processing and to reduce scrap and thus unnecessary waste and CO2 emissions; higher part quality also stands for a longer service life – and thus waste avoidance – while at the same time increasing added value. All in all, it is clear that injection molding can compete with 3D printing for smaller and medium batch sizes, even in economic terms – but is more flexible and closer to the user thanks to an unrestricted choice of materials and development and production support technologies.

Extremely broad range of services for product development

“Formnext is considered one of the leading industry platforms for additive manufacturing,” says Frank Barlog, joint managing director of BARLOG Plastics GmbH with his brother Peter Barlog. “Of course, as plastics professionals, we are also at home here and offer 3D printing of more than just prototypes as a service to our customers upon request. We have even gained some experience with printed injection molds. In recent years, however, product development for injection molding has also evolved. Today, those who rely on this technology have access to a highly interesting range of services.”

This starts with so-called “rapid tooling”, which allows BARLOG Plastics customers to have their first product samples in their hands, ideally after just a few days, which already largely correspond to the later series products in terms of their material properties. Responsible for this speed are, among other things, the use of CNC-milled aluminum instead of steel tools and the close cooperation with the company’s materials experts.

More recently, these competencies have been significantly expanded at BARLOG Plastics: “For example, we have improved our expertise in the qualification of recycled materials for injection molding use,” says Frank Barlog. “We also determine the material data of recycled, sustainable PEEK, PA12, PPS, PC/ABS and PET compounds for our customers – which we also offer fiber-reinforced or mineral-filled as well as suitable for food applications. This is complemented by competent simulation of their flow behavior in the mold and their subsequent mechanical or thermal behavior in the application. Our service practically starts with the granules – and all from a single source, saving time and using all the necessary competencies in a house that combines both materials and simulation expertise.”

Closely interlinked with customers

“A new addition is that we have now also sharpened our decades of experience for what is known as design for manufacturing,” says Frank Barlog. “This means that when a molded part is ‘born’ in the computer, we already have its series production in mind – and we do this with the help of digital twins, i.e. even before the first prototypes are produced. Starting from the customer’s CAD data, we try to improve the product bit by bit – long before the customer holds the first prototype in his hands. Of course, the development steps are documented for the customer. Afterwards, we are happy to accompany the production process further to series production, if desired, with the full support of our measurement technology and simulation expertise.”

In this context, it is important that the article development is very closely interlocked with the corresponding departments of the customer right from the start. An iterative process of design and simulation always ensures the best results, he adds. “Our agile project management is something completely different from the linear ‘waterfall’ solution that has been common up to now, where only a development order is placed and the customer is left alone with the results afterwards.”

BARLOG Plastics not only throws its comprehensive plastics know-how into the balance, but also a broad spectrum of measurement technology – with plastics and process expertise. The spectrum of what is possible includes CT (computed tomography) and strip light analyses of the molded parts: They help to draw conclusions about the manufacturing process from the “X-rayed” products and to improve it if necessary. It is very important to Frank Barlog that these technologies are also available to external customers who have already established their own manufacturing process but want to improve it further or need to identify weak points. For example, to ensure high molded part quality even over several thousand cycles and to meet high demands on the molded part even in the long term. “We can use our high-end measurement technology to identify problems that make a process unnecessarily error-prone or unstable. Often, even small adjustments, for example in temperature control or with regard to injection pressures, are enough for the manufacturing process to run more stably in the long term and remain within the tolerance band.”

Sometimes injection molding is the better alternative

Additive manufacturing processes still have to do without such “gimmicks” and qualification options due to their principle. “So when it comes to high-quality products for demanding, yet economical and environmentally friendly applications, injection molding should definitely continue to be shortlisted,” says Frank Barlog. “There are a whole range of options in favor of this process that facilitate development work and also make the products better in terms of long-term requirements, such as their recyclability.”

Frank Barlog, Managing Partner of BARLOG Plastics GmbH
Product development from idea to series: development, rapid prototyping, simulation and injection molding. Our reusable and recyclable coffee-to-go cup combines our entire range of engineering services.
Mehr als ein Prototyp aus Serienmaterial im Serienprozess: Wirtschaftliche Kleinserienproduktion eines Werbemittels aus KEBALLOY ECO - Recycling Werkstoff für Lebensmittelanwendungen.

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