Bytes and beads – reimagining plastic

With its vaporless processing of particle foam in combination with FILL CYBERNETICS, Fill supplies a perfectly coordinated overall package for the most demanding requirements.

Energy savings, efficiency, and quality assurance – these are the clear terms of reference for material producers, machine builders, and end processors in the field of particle foam processing. Upper Austrian machine engineering company Fill has developed and patented a vaporless pre-foaming technology that removes the need for drying before further processing. 

This doesn't just allow the required parameters to be fulfilled – it elevates the entire process to a new level in terms of efficiency and quality.

Gurten, December 5, 2022 – In collaboration with partners in the field of research, a method has been developed whereby the process is tailored precisely to the respective raw material. The materials are then processed vapor-free into functional components in variothermal molds. With complementary options, from an automatic filling system through to connection of a central control system, the Upper Austrian machine engineering experts supply a perfectly coordinated overall package that meets the most demanding requirements.

Sensors make the difference
The quality requirements in particle foam processing are increasing constantly. Even minor variations in the raw material can lead to different results. In order to compensate for these variations and ensure the required process quality, appropriate sensors are employed on the Fill systems. Without this possibility of intervention, fluctuations in quality are preprogrammed. It is therefore essential to record all parameters along the production chain and to use these for process optimization and control: Beads need bytes!

Reimagining plastic
What partner companies think about the new technology: "For us here at INEOS Styrolution, this collaboration was a research project in which we could test new expandable particle foams based on ABS. Our new foams stood the test successfully and make an important contribution to energy saving with their wide ranging properties and application profile in combination with a high proportion of recycled material. Due to the excellent results, we are envisaging an introduction to production in the near future," explains Bianca Wilhelmus, Senior Research Scientist at INEOS Styrolution Group GmbH.

"In future material cycles for trim components, the particle foams can play a significant role in the production of lightweight, cost-effective, highly attractive solutions as well as in reducing CO2 emissions. New machining and molding technologies enable processing of a broad spectrum of thermoplastics and foam backing of decorative parts and films. The particle foams can therefore be used to exploit new application areas, not only in vehicle trim panels and machine casings, but also in the fields of medical technology and power sports. There is great momentum in the development of raw materials. Our company is working on affordable lightweight solutions with drastically reduced CO2 emissions. We are reimagining plastics," reports Frank Peters, CEO at PARAT Beteiligungs GmbH.

"Neue Materialien Bayreuth GmbH has been engaged in IR-based pre-foaming since 2015 and is advancing vaporless pre-foaming technology in cooperation with development partners. One year later, we invested in a high-tech project to examine radiation-based pre-foaming, as developed by Fill. The scientific investigations of the physical/chemical principles of operation laid the foundations for successful scaling of this energy-efficient processing technology for expandable bulk materials. Thanks to the completely dry and continuous pre-foaming process, there is no need for drying of the pre-foamed foam beads. In addition, the vaporless processing technology enables pre-foaming of particle foam materials sensitive to hydrolysis, such as PLA, and the expansion of microgranules doped with foaming agent based on technical thermoplastics or high-performance plastics. In the opinion of Neue Materialien Bayreuth GmbH, radiation-based pre-foaming in combination with the new vaporless foam molding technologies represents the ideal prerequisite for significantly increasing the flexibility of the entire particle foam process chain," explains Johannes Goerl, Neue Materialien Bayreuth GmbH.

System optimization by FILL CYBERNETICS
The digital FILL CYBERNETICS products are a key component of Fill’s machines and systems. FILL CYBERNETICS covers the entire bandwidth of required solutions – from the monitoring of complex individual operations and seamless component recording, through to automated system optimization by means of artificial intelligence (AI). Not only standard solutions, but also customer-specific and platform-independent dashboards, ensure an optimum overview and enable detailed analyses of production and machines. The sensor system plays a key role in this process, enabling extremely high availability with maximum productivity.

Corporate data
Fill is a leading international machine engineering company based in Gurten, Upper Austria. With sophisticated high-tech systems and custom manufacturing solutions for metal, plastics and wood, Fill makes its customers the best in their fields. The automotive, aviation, sports and building industries all benefit from Fill's expertise. Since it was founded in 1966, the company has distinguished itself through enormous innovative strength, strong values and the best jobs. “If you are seeking the best solution, shape your future with Fill” is the guiding principle of the company’s more than 950 employees. “Wir sind 1! We are one!” is their vision and stands for togetherness not only with the team, but also with customers, suppliers and partners. The company is 100 percent family-owned and managed by Andreas Fill (CEO), Martin Reiter (CSO), Alois Wiesinger (CTO), and Günter Redhammer (COO). In 2021, Fill recorded sales of around 180 million euros.


Figure 1:
Thanks to the fully automatic production system for particle foam components from Fill Maschinenbau, drying before further processing is no longer necessary.

Figure 2:
The digital FILL CYBERNETICS products are a key component of Fill’s machines and systems.

© Fill Maschinenbau (free)


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