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X-Mould sign of SIPA strength in pet preform processing technology

PET preform technology specialist SIPA turned the spotlight on moulds as well as machines at past K2013. The company exhibited an innovative 128-cavity mould incorporating X-Mould technology on its stand B11 in Hall 13.

It also highlighed its extensive in-house capability to develop and produce moulds to enhance both the quality and the quantity of its customers’ output. SIPA designs and produces preform injection moulds and also moulds for stretch-blow moulding.

With SIPA injection moulds standing out with their low maintenance requirement — SIPA guarantees a mould life of up to eight million cycles for its cold halves — total costs of ownership for users are among the lowest obtainable. Hot runners, an integral part of PET preform moulds, are also made to demanding standards by the company itself.

X-Mould is the result of SIPA taking a fresh and innovative approach to PET preform mould design; so innovative in fact that details of the technology remain secret. What is not a secret is that the new technology enables processors to fill thinner wall sections, so designers can create preforms that are longer or wider, and which create containers with more suitable stretch ratios. For example, it is now possible to design a 500-mL bottle preform weighing as little as 7.2 g that presents no production issues, either in injection or in stretch-blow with existing legacy equipment.

X-Mould enables the production of preforms that are extremely light, and which can be moulded and blown highly cost-effectively — all while maintaining the high mechanical performance required in the finished bottle. The new preform designs save on material and energy, so carbon footprints along the production and supply chain are smaller than ever.

X-Mould technology now makes it possible to produce preforms with ratios of length to wall thickness (L/t) close to 60, while applying injection pressure similar to that normally used for preforms with 45 L/t ratios. This means that the stretch ratio in the final 7.2 g bottle is between 10.5 and 13.6, depending on its design — highly manageable for modern stretch-blow moulding equipment. Plus, the performance of the bottle, on the filling line and in use, meets all relevant requirements.

"X-Mould technology is a small revolution in the way conventional injection moulding boundaries have been revised," says Laurent Sigler, SIPA’s Innovation Director. "The L/t limit of 50 for preform injection has remained the magic number for legacy tooling for more than 20 years. But now, thanks to X-Mould, new preform design opportunities are available, and our customers can lightweight their preforms even more and/or further improve their bottle performance."

SIPA is making the advantages of X-Mould technology available across the market. Injection moulding of the new preform designs can be carried out, not only on the company’s latest generation of processing equipment — XFORM — but also on most existing preform injection moulding machines, regardless of their brand. Similarly, the preforms can be blown not only on SIPA linear and rotary stretch-blow lines, but also on lines from other suppliers.
In-house development and production of moulds and hot-runners
All SIPA moulds and hot runners are engineered and built in-house. The hot half of each mould requires maintenance only after five million cycles, and it is possible to maintain mould components such as piston, flange O-rings and pin valves without opening the whole mould.
The company’s range of solutions has a special focus on reducing energy consumption. With better distribution flow and a higher water temperature (14-15 °C instead of 8 °C), water consumption is minimized and performance in terms of condensation reduction is improved.

The smooth, polished, rounded profiles on SIPA hot runners reduce stress on material, resulting in better preform quality and a reduced AA level. Mould systems also exhibit enhanced cooling performance, resulting in high quality preforms, maximum productivity and reduced production costs.

SIPA has also just introduced moulds refurbishing and conversion services. In mould refurbishing, some parts of a mould are replaced by new ones in order to improve preform quality. In a mould conversion, some parts are replaced in order to produce a new preform design — very often a lighter one.

The advantage of mould conversion over buying a brand new mould lies in the lower capital investment involved, since the existing mould shoe is reused in a conversion, and return of investment is faster.

SIPA has put in place dedicated teams of professionals in three dedicated service centers to support the growing demand for refurbishing and conversions. The service centers are close to main customer concentrations in Italy (Vittorio Veneto), China (Hangzhou), and the USA (Atlanta), so logistics are simple and turnaround times short.

On top of this new service, SIPA offers an extensive mould audit program supported by its experts in the field. This helps customers to assess the state of wear of mould components in their own plant; different options on refurbishing or converting the audited mould can then be proposed.

SIPA has expertise in injection moulding and stretch-blow moulding all under one roof, so creative and sound packaging development programs can be bundled together with mould conversion programs, enabling customers to take full advantage of their mould conversion investment.