In an era where sustainability initiatives are of paramount importance to the future of industry and the planet, injection molded plastics manufacturing has remained largely behind the innovation curve. Despite calls for more sustainable practices, injection molded plastics have been made the same way for decades, utilizing conventional high-speed, high-pressure methods that result in high energy usage, scrap, and limits on the kinds of materials — like post-consumer resins (PCR) and other novel materials — molders are able to use.
In 2017, iMFLUX introduced the most significant breakthrough for injection molded plastics manufacturing in generations. Dubbed “The Green Curve,” iMFLUX technology functions using a low constant pressure injection process that allows for the production of high-quality products made with more versatile materials and less energy. Molders and brand owners are celebrating iMFLUX for offering sustainable solutions, often at a cost savings over conventional methods.
Sustainability leaders are also recognizing iMFLUX in a big way. This year, the innovative company won a prestigious Edison Award for their Auto Viscosity Adjust™ technology, a key component of their low constant pressure system that automatically adapts to viscosity variations commonly found in alternative materials like PCR. This groundbreaking innovation allows for less human intervention in the molding process. It also reduces downtime, energy usage, plastic scrap/waste, cost and more.
iMFLUX technology was designed and developed to advance process control technology for injection molding. When industrial processes are improved oftentimes there are sustainability advantages built in! At the outset, the innovators at iMFLUX were highly conscious that wholesale adoption of new technology by manufacturing stakeholders is often a barrier to the sort of advancement that technology offers. That’s why they created their pioneering technology to work with virtually any existing injection molding machine format — hydraulic, electric, or hybrid — keeping the cost of entry negligible when compared to the long-term potential savings it offers.
The secret behind the revolutionary Green Curve lies in the way the advanced software and hardware retrofit to molders’ existing equipment, creating a closed loop control that allows for parts to be molded in a single phase. By using low constant pressure control, the mold is filled, packed, and cooled in one phase, improving quality, cycle time, and energy consumption.
- Reduced Plastic Waste: iMFLUX’s award-winning Auto Viscosity Adjust™ technology adjusts injection speed when variation is present to prevent waste-producing short shots and flashing. This is key when using highly variable PCR regrind materials that tend to produce high levels of scrap or waste in conventional high-pressure molding. Adopting iMFLUX technology for use with regrind has all but eliminated plastic scrap with some of their manufacturing customers.1
- Lower Energy Usage: Low constant pressure means the injection molding machines do less work to mold a part than the conventional high pressure approach. Reductions in energy use happen at every stage of the molding process. Using lower pressure to fill the mold can be up to half of the energy initially required to fill a mold with the conventional decoupled process. And because parts are molded in a single phase, with generally shorter cycle times, the net energy reduction is generally 10-30%.
- Lighter Weight Parts: With iMFLUX, brand owners are finally able to strike a previously elusive balance between designing their products for manufacture (DFM) and designing them for sustainability (DFS). Because iMFLUX uses lower molding pressures, packing molds as it fills, product designers are not only able to create thin-walled and uniquely shaped parts that would be impossible to mold using conventional methods, but are also able to reduce product weight by up to 25% as a result of iMFLUX’s no-hesitation mold filling capabilities.3
Optimized for Recycled Material
The pressure on plastics manufacturers to increase the amount of PCR and other more sustainable materials is increasing. Market demand for recycled plastic packaging and parts is outpacing conventional injection molding’s ability to manufacture parts that are both of high quality, efficient to produce, and cost effective.
Processing highly variable materials using conventional means presents a number of challenges, including wear and tear on equipment, inconsistent product, and high levels of scrap waste. This is because high pressure injection molding has no efficient way to account for the variability found in regrind plastic.
The iMFLUX system addresses all of these obstacles at once with its low constant pressure molding platform using Auto Viscosity Adjust™ (AVA) technology. To ensure consistent filling time and pressure, the proprietary AVA algorithm can identify variables that would normally require an operator to intervene. Instead, AVA can automatically adjust for viscosity changes and other process variations within all elements of production — molds, equipment, and material. The Green Curve builds machine-learning into the process to adapt to variation within the injection molding cycle.
Creating a Circular Economy
It used to be that the lifecycle of plastics was a straight line, from manufacturer to consumer to the trash can and primarily to landfill. With the availability of PCR slowly increasing, process waste is still a concern because conventional injection molding platforms are unable to efficiently handle the variability of recycled material.
iMFLUX’s mission is to turn that straight line into a circular path where plastic materials are able to live many lives as many different products, and don’t just find their way into landfills. With its groundbreaking technology, iMFLUX delivers cost-effective solutions to help pioneer a sustainable circular plastics economy.