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From concept to market – a complete manufacturing solution

02 February 2017

Essentra Component’s site in Kidlington, Oxford is one of its ‘centres of global excellence’.

Out of its 12 principle manufacturing facilities, this particular site demonstrates how Essentra is embracing innovative manufacturing methods such as 3D printing and improving its productivity by upgrading its machines with predictive maintenance capability.

The company provide essential components and solutions to customers worldwide. Essentra’s experience lies in the manufacturing and distribution of plastic injection moulded, vinyl dip moulded and metal solutions. The company has over 300 injection moulding machines globally, with 100 of these situated in its EMEA region, producing over 1 billion components a year. 

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is ushering companies into a new age of control and analysis. It was essential that Essentra continue to grow to meet the changing demands of the market. Over the past couple of years the company has invested heavily in improving its manufacturing process, with the introduction of upgraded machinery for predictive maintenance and increased use of 3D printing to improve its design process.

Machine upgrade

At its site in Oxford, Essentra recently invested in the installation of 122 new Systec hydraulic injection moulding machines from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag. Speed, machine quality and quick access for engineers were essential and the machines easily fitted into the sites manufacturing space and offered a new quick tool change system that allows engineers to keep production running efficiently.

Its retrofit has helped Essentra move to the forefront of Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Demag’s single control interface is a huge benefit for the operatives and has lowered the overall system cost. The Demag machines predictive maintenance capability has increased productivity and reduced downtime. Instead of being informed of a machines breakdown after the incident, Demag machines can actively monitor all parts for wear and tear and inform operatives if parts are near to failing. This way, replacement parts can be ordered and fitted in enough time to keep production running smoothly. 

3D printing

Essentra can create custom solutions for all its customers. Whether it’s a simple colour change or a small modification, Essentra have a large tooling profile (Circa £50 million at the Oxford site) and an extensive library of 3D CAD drawings. Engineers and designers can benefit from downloading and inserting 3D CAD drawings directly into their projects, letting them preview and manipulate the part before purchase. This makes the design process quicker and cheaper for the customer. 

From the concept phase through to manufacture, Essentra make use of 3D printing for its bespoke solutions. Essentra have three Stratasys Objet30 Pro printers, one in each region (EMEA, AMERs & APAC). Powered by PolyJet technology, they offer eight different 3D printing materials, among them clear, high-temperature and simulated polypropylene, with a tray size of 300 x 200 x 150mm. This printer allows Essentra to create realistic models with specialised properties quickly and in-house. 

3D printing simplifies the prototyping stage. Depending on the type of application, customers can have a complete prototype within a matter of hours as opposed to weeks. An exact production part can then be manufactured to meet precise material and dimensional requirements for final testing.

One of the key advantages of 3D printing, not only from a design side but from a business perspective, is that Essentra can produce numerous products at the same time. Whereas on a shop floor, there would have been six or seven different main tools to achieve the same outcome. This increases the productivity of the company and ensures a quick turn-around for customers. 

Conclusion

Essentra’s investment in new machines and 3D printers has enabled it to provide a complete, efficient manufacturing solution. With increased control and predictive maintenance, the Demag machines ensure the production process keeps running smoothly. 3D printing is used to enhance the company’s capability and gives customers the ability to bring their ideas to life.

For more information, click here to visit the Essentra website.


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