Plastics Machinery

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Founded in 1968, Value Plastics may have been one of the first lights-out molding operations in the plastics industry. In its early years, the owner and his family lived on the second floor of the factory to answer machinery malfunction alarms at night.

Today the company, now known as the Nordson Medical Fluid Management Manufacturing Facility, operates from a state-of-the-art plant where 48 unattended injection molding machines and a complement of robots are molding, assembling and packaging 1.2 million parts every day in a huge clean room. No one needs to live upstairs in the 2-year-old, 115,000-square-foot plant in Loveland, Colo. The current managers lock the doors and leave every evening and don’t bother with remote monitors, pagers, iPad links or other devices to tell them there is a malfunction.

The heart of the plant is a 37,000-square-foot Class 8 (Class 100,000) clean room that has space for as many as 56 molding machines, robots and assembly and automated packaging operations. The 48 electric machines currently in place consist of 47 Fanuc Roboshot presses ranging from 17 tons to 198 tons of clamping force, although most are 55-ton models. There is one Engel press. Sprue pickers and other robots are from Yushin. Most of the servo robots have dualtelescoping- arm units with a servo wrist. The lifeblood for the cleanroom operation is a sophisticated materials-handling system from Piovan.

“We designed our materialhandling system to meet our business needs,” plant manager Ray Townsend said. “It allows us to run lights out, which is the key to our business. “Lights-out manufacturing is a mind-set for processing,” Townsend said. “It starts with picking the right equipment, then following a super-good preventive maintenance program with tight tolerances on everything, then training on all the equipment to make sure everyone knows how it works. Part design and tool design are also key to our success to support the lights-out environment. “When everything comes together and you have a solid, validated process, you don’t have much tweaking to do. Everything just runs,” he said.


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