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Manufacturing on a diet: Energy efficiency with lightweight components

24 February 2021

Have you read our list of trends in plastic technology for 2020? In this week's article we highlight point 6 of this list, a very important aspect if you ask us. It’s regarding the usage of lightweight components to reduce energy by using, for example, special injection-moulding techniques! Below we tell you all about it!

Weight reduction technology in manufacturing has been one of the main topics in recent years. Good examples can be found in the automotive, shipbuilding and aerospace engineering industry where less weight equals less fuel consumption, which in turn reduces emissions and the impact on climate change. The production of these lighter options is initially often a bit more expensive due to the newer processes and technologies behind it, but in the long term, definitely profitable! Even though less fuel usage is already a good enough reason to manufacture as light as possible, there is also the saving of natural resources.

With modern technologies it means that materials are better and last longer. Plastics are on top of the game in this trend because of their low density compared to metals. But how can we make plastics even lighter while retaining strength, durability and stiffness? At Rompa we keep improving many available methods and concepts!

Lightweight components for energy-efficient machine tools

When talking about the efficiency of energy used in manufacturing, you might not directly think about the details of machine tools. Machine tools contain components such as motors with widely varying energy consumption during machining operations. But there are definitely several means that can be employed to reduce the amount of energy these machines consume. In the current market the aim is to have production systems and machine tools as energy efficient as possible. Logically, energy efficient machines help lower the costs of operating, which in return increases productivity. This way of thinking is primarily used by companies that want to see their business run long term. It requires a financial investment to actually make these components energy-efficient for their machines, it does have to make sense for the future of course! Also think about the flexibility you gain for new product requirements!

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The injection moulding process

Manufacturing of lightweight components by using the injection moulding process is one of the concepts of making components as strong as steel but light as a feather. Before the plastic pallets are being forced in the mould, the pallets are plasticised and pressurized by a heated screw. Once cooled down, the moulded part is ejected. Manufacturers have good reason to focus on injection molding in their production processes as these components offer a high mechanical strength and up to 25% less weight than metal components! With the flexibility and efficient processes, the injection moulders are clearly in the majority compared with 3D printing, extruding, foaming, and thermoforming. From all solutions, there is no getting around injection moulding if you want to combine highly complex components and a lightweight design.

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Lightweight components and the plastic industry

Did you know that plastics make up about 50% of a modern vehicle’s volume, but they only account for about 10% of its weight? The current industry requires manufacturers to make products functional, safe and environmentally correct, combined with good design. Rompa is proud to meet all of these requirements for their clients and always seeks the best solutions.

The market is using several types of lightweight plastics, below we list 7 of the main used ones:

  • Acrylic or Poly Methyl Methacrylate (PMMA) - this type of transparent plastic is one of the top lightweight options on the market.
  • Polycarbonate (PC) - an excellent engineering type of plastic, one of the strongest of its kind!
  • Polyethylene (PE) - The most commonly used plastic and divided again in several types of Polyethylene.
  • Polypropylene (PP) - Also one of the commonly used plastic just behind PE. The difference? PP is a lot more flexible.
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET) - Known for resistance to organic materials and easy to recycle.
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) - Blends easily with other materials
  • Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS) - Low in manufacturing costs, but very strong.

New technologies at Rompa

With increasing awareness of the impact, we have on the environment, where private citizens already do their best to reduce this, companies must follow. Companies such as ours, Rompa, need to save natural resources and eliminate potential harmful emissions. We do our best to implement lean processes and by innovations in manufacturing such as this topic of lightweight plastics and components. At Rompa we have been developing this, like the injection moulding process, and we hope to develop these processes even further in the future! This article is focussed on lightweight components for energy efficient machines but note that this is just a small part of the bigger goal. Would you like to read about more processes and methods Rompa is encouraging and implementing? Make sure to read and follow our news page

Contact Rompa for more information

At Rompa we are constantly improving our technologies and methods and making sure concepts like lightweight components are being implemented. This article is only the tip of the iceberg among many options we offer at Rompa and we are happy to tell you all about it if you are interested! Would you like to speak to our specialists about this? Don’t hesitate and contact us! We at Rompa are always happy to answer all your questions and give you additional advice.