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Engel Injection Molding Article on J.W. Speaker Corporations Solid Optic Molding Technology


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Engel Injection Molding Article on J.W. Speaker Corporations Solid Optic Molding Technology

  1. 1. press | report ENGEL AUSTRIA GmbH | A-4311 Schwertberg, Austria | tel: +43 (0)50 620 0 | fax: +43 (0)50 620 3009 e-mail: | 1 ENGEL system solutions boost efficiency for J.W. Speaker. Making thick LED lenses the "easy" way Lighting systems for automobiles are continually being reinvented within short peri- ods. For more than half a century, the J.W. Speaker Corporation in Germantown, Wis- consin, USA has been involved in this dynamic market and taking on the constant challenge of uniting innovative strength with cost-efficiency. In the area of injection molding, this balance is successfully managed with the help of many years of cooper- ation with ENGEL. The focus already stood on the automobile industry when the company was established in 1935 by John W. Speaker. In the 1960s, the family-owned company – run in the second generation by then – placed its concentration on lighting technology and quickly became an important partner for the lead- ing major OEMs. Today, the company and a broad product program are managed by the grandchil- dren of John W. Among other things, J.W. Speaker develops and produces lighting systems for pas- senger, utility and two-wheeled vehicles. "The requirements are getting tougher all the time. Vehicle lighting is continually achieving higher levels performance and integrating more and more functions," explains Sales Manager Matthew Galloway. "We implement the innovative technologies in intelligent solutions and efficient production processes." And this is achieved within short periods of time, be- cause the past ten years have seen great leaps in the development of LED technology alone. "Our first LED headlamps had a light output of 100 effective lumens, today we produce headlamps with 20,000 effective lumens," says Galloway. One key factor for this high level of output are the optical lenses, which are increasingly being made out of plastics. In comparison to glass, polymers allow a lot of freedom for the design. In addition, they can be produced easily and economically by injection molding. The injection molding facilities occupy 57,000 square meters of floorspace at the J.W. Speaker head- quarters in Germantown. The new building, which provides ideal working conditions for the 500 em- ployees, was taken into operation in 2009. Thanks to the modern architecture, the production are flooded with daylight. The material supply is located in the basement to reduce the noise level. The injection molding machines also contribute to this. Two thirds of the hydraulic machines have already been equipped with the ENGEL servo-hydraulic ecodrive, which not only reduces energy consump- tion, but also noise and heat emission. In 1988, J.W. Speaker invested in its first ENGEL machine, and has been relying to one hundred per- cent on this brand ever since. "The longer one works together with a partner, the closer the connec-
  2. 2. press | report ENGEL AUSTRIA GmbH | A-4311 Schwertberg, Austria | tel: +43 (0)50 620 0 | fax: +43 (0)50 620 3009 e-mail: | 2 tion becomes. We know all our contacts personally, both at ENGEL in York, and in the technical de- partments in Austria. That speeds up the solution finding process for new projects as well as for ser- vice," says Co-President Jamie Speaker, and then adds: "ENGEL is familiar with our applications and adapts individually to our requirements. That is also something we appreciate about our longstanding partnership." Multilayer technology makes injection molding of thick lenses possible ENGEL delivers not only individual injection molding machines to Germantown, but also turn-key so- lutions including automation and processing technology. The partners develop some injection mold- ing processes together, the most recent example being for a new generation of lenses that are built into headlamps for Harley-Davidson, among others. "Together with ENGEL, we were able to master the transition from glass to plastics," emphasizes Matthew Galloway. With a thickness of 49 mm for the low and 60 mm for the high beam lamps, the lenses are already close to the upper limits of what injection molding can currently achieve. "Our goal is to also produce the very thick lenses in a com- paratively short cycle time. In addition, it was necessary to keep the injection points small in order to ensure that we achieve the desired photometric output," says Galloway. The solution to these challenges was found by splitting the injection molding process into three steps. The basis for this is the ENGEL optimelt technology, in which a substrate is first molded and then overmolded with the same material multiple times. "The advantage over a single-component process lies mainly in much shorter cycle times due to shorter cooling phases. Another benefit is that shrink marks and other defects on the surface of the previously injected layer are filled out by the overmold- ing process, thus making it possible to produce thick lenses with a very high optical quality using in- jection molding," explains Mike Wright, Account Manager at ENGEL Machinery Inc. with headquar- ters in York, Pennsylvania, USA. "Photometric examinations of multi-layer components show that boundary layers between coatings have no effect on the optical properties." The lenses for the Harley-Davidson headlamps are manufactured on an ENGEL victory 160 injection molding machine with an integrated ENGEL viper linear robot. For this, a rotary plate mold is used that has three stations with two cavities each. The robot removes two lenses per shot and places them on a conveyor belt. Before being assembled to ready-to-install headlamp modules, which is done in the same building, the sprue at the sides are cut off with a laser. PMMA, the material that J.W. Speaker prefers for lenses, is used for this process. In comparison to polycarbonate, acrylate is easier to process and achieves better optical properties. "With the help of multi-component technology, we have been able to develop a very easy solution for a very sophisticated application," concludes Matthew Galloway. The word "easy" describes the ease
  3. 3. press | report ENGEL AUSTRIA GmbH | A-4311 Schwertberg, Austria | tel: +43 (0)50 620 0 | fax: +43 (0)50 620 3009 e-mail: | 3 with which the serial process achieves a high level of efficiency, but is not meant to detract from the great deal of expertise that was needed for its development. First, simulations were used to deter- mine the ideal number of components that the lenses should be made up and how the boundaries of the segments should be arranged for optimal results. The same care was applied to ascertain the best balance of flow distances, injection points and speeds, processing temperatures and pressures for the three individual injection molding steps. An effort that has paid off considering the high levels of efficiency and lens quality achieved with the multi-component process. For J.W. Speaker, this pio- neering technology points the way to further advances. "In the future, we will be producing even thicker lenses with injection molding," says Galloway. Tie-bar-less machines increase flexibility Just like the ENGEL victory 160, many other injection molding machines and production cells at the plant have been configured für a specific product. But flexibility is still important at J.W. Speaker. "The ENGEL machines are very robust," says Facilities and Maintenance Team Leader Bill Greuel. Sever- al machines have already been in service for more than 20 years and have outlived a number of products in that time. It is above all the tie-bar-less clamping unit that makes the ENGEL victory machines – which has be- come the preferred model at J.W. Speaker – particularly flexible and able to adapt to new tasks again and again. "I was already working here when we got our first tie-bar-less ENGEL machine early in the 1990s," recalls Greuel. "The large mold area impressed us right from the start. It provides great free- dom for mold design." "Many of our products require three to four core-pulls at the same time," says Galloway. "That means that the mold constructions are quite large, while the relatively small projected part surfaces require comparatively little clamping force. Under these circumstances, the tie-bar-less design helps us to realize compact production cells. We can choose the size of the injection molding machine according to the amount of clamping force, because very large molds still fit on comparatively small machines." In addition, the freely accessible mold makes automation easier to integrate and mold set-up can be done faster. "The large molds don't need to be swung so high through the production hall, but can rather be comfortably and safely fitted in from the side," says Greuel. Because the complexity of the parts is constantly increasing, these efficiency factors will continue to grow in importance in the future. The trend of increasingly intelligent lighting systems is continuing very rapidly and will also pose new challenges for the injection molding processes. For example, more and more sensors are being integrated into the headlamps, so that the beam of light can auto- matically adjust itself to the surroundings or warn about dangers. At the same time, more and more
  4. 4. press | report ENGEL AUSTRIA GmbH | A-4311 Schwertberg, Austria | tel: +43 (0)50 620 0 | fax: +43 (0)50 620 3009 e-mail: | 4 semiconducting materials are being used, and another trend is moving towards networking the ma- chines, production facilities and the entire company together to share data and achieve even greater efficiency and safety. "We are convinced that we will also successfully master these challenges to- gether with our partner ENGEL," says Jamie Speaker, looking towards the not-too-distant future. "ENGEL is the technological leader in the market, and we are confident that ENGEL will remain ahead of the field in the future. Like us, ENGEL is a family-owned company. We both have in com- mon that we think in the long term and make far-sighted decisions."
  5. 5. press | report ENGEL AUSTRIA GmbH | A-4311 Schwertberg, Austria | tel: +43 (0)50 620 0 | fax: +43 (0)50 620 3009 e-mail: | 5 Light is their specialty at J.W. Speaker. In Germantown, Wisconsin, the family-owned company produces intelli- gent lighting systems for vehicles and many other applications. Almost 30 years of partnership: Mike Wright from ENGEL Machinery Inc., Matthew Galloway and Jamie Speak- er from J.W. Speaker, Franz Pressl from ENGEL AUSTRIA and Bill Greuel, also from J.W. Speaker (from left to right). // Almost 30 years of partnership: Matthew Galloway and Jamie Speaker from J.W. Speaker, Mike Wright from ENGEL Machinery Inc., Franz Pressl from ENGEL AUSTRIA and Bill Greuel, from J.W. Speaker (from left to right). J.W. Speaker produces headlamps for Harley Davidson, among others. The lens for the low beam (in the left
  6. 6. press | report ENGEL AUSTRIA GmbH | A-4311 Schwertberg, Austria | tel: +43 (0)50 620 0 | fax: +43 (0)50 620 3009 e-mail: | 6 hand) has a thickness of 49 mm. 60 mm lenses are needed for the high beam. For the production of the lenses made of PMMA, J.W. Speaker invested in a tie-bar-less ENGEL victory 160 injection molding machine with ecodrive and an integrated ENGEL viper robot. The lenses are produced in three steps in the ENGEL optimelt process. The substrate is overmolded twice be- fore the robot removes two finished lenses.