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Rotational Molding

Rotational Molding

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Published by Prithviraj Daga
Roto Molding Basic Introduction....
Roto Molding Basic Introduction....

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Published by: Prithviraj Daga on Apr 13, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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In 1855 R. Peters, of Britain, documented the first use of biaxial rotation and heat. Thisrotational molding process was used to create metal artillery shellsand other hollow vessels. The main purpose of using rotational molding was to create consistency in wallthickness and density. In 1905 F.A. Voelke, used this method for the hollowing of waxobjects in the US. This lead to G.S. Baker and G.W. Perks process of making hollowchocolate eggsin 1910. Rotational molding developed further and R.J. Powell used this process for molding plaster of Parisin the 1920’s. These early methods using differentmaterials directed the advancements in the way rotational molding is used today with plastics.
Plastics where introduced to the rotational molding process in the early 1950’s. One of the first applications was to manufacture doll heads. The machinery was made up of an EBlue box-oven machine, inspired byGeneral Motorsback axle, powered by an externalelectric motor and heated by floor-mounted gas burners. The mold was made out of electroformed nickel-copper, and the plastic was a liquidPVC plastisol. The coolingmethod consisted of placing the mold into cold water. This process of rotational moldingled to the creation of other plastic toys. As demand and popularity of this processincreased, it was used to create other products such as road cones, marine buoys, and car armrests. This popularity lead to the development of larger machinery. A new system of heating was also created, going from the original direct gas jets to the current indirecthigh velocity air system. In Europe during the 1960’s the Engel process was developed.This allowed the creation of large hollow containers to be created in low-density polyethylene. The cooling method consisted of turning off the burners and allowing the plastic to harden while still rocking in the mold.
In 1976, the Association of Rotational Moulders (ARM) was started inChicagoas aworldwide trade association. The main objective of this association is to increaseawareness of the rotational molding technology and process. 
In the 1980’s, new plastics, ( polycarbonate,  polyester , nylon, etc…) were introduced to rotational molding. This has lead to new uses for this process, such as the creation of fueltanksand industrial moldings. The research that has been done since the 1980’s atQueen’s Universityhas lead to the development of more precise monitoring and controlof the cooling processes based on their development of the “Rotolog system”.
[edit] Equipment and Tooling
Rotational molding machines are made in a wide range of sizes. They normally consist of molds, an oven, a cooling chamber, and mold spindles. the spindles are mounted on arotating axis, which provides a uniform coating of the plastic inside each mold.
Molds (or tooling) are either fabricated from welded sheet steel or cast. The fabricationmethod is often driven by part size and complexity; Most intricate parts are likely madeout of cast tooling. Molds are typically manufactured from stainless steel or aluminum. Aluminum molds are usually much thicker than an equivalent steel mold, as it is a softer metal. This thickness doesn't affect cycle times significantly since aluminum's thermalconductivity is many times greater than steel. Aluminum molds tend to be costlier thansimilar steel molds. However, some molds contain both aluminum and steel. This allowsfor variable thicknesses in the walls of the product. While this process is not as precise asinjection molding, it does provide the designer with more options. The aluminumaddition to the steel provides moreheat capacity,causing the melt-flow to stay in a fluid state for a longer period.
[edit] Rotational Molding Machines
] Rock and Roll Machine
It is a specialized single arm machine. This machine rotates or rolls the mold 360 degreesin one direction and at the same time tips and rocks the mold 45 degrees above or belowhorizontal in the other direction. Newer machines use forced hot air to heat the mold.These machines are best for large parts that have long length to width ratio. Because of the smaller heating chambers, there is a saving in heating costs. 
] Clamshell Machine
This is a single arm rotational molding machine. The arm is usually supported by other arms on both ends. The clamshell machine heats and cools the mold in the same chamber.It takes up less space then equivalent shuttle and swing arm rotational molders. It is lowin cost compared to the size of products made. Available in smaller scales for schoolsinterested in prototyping, and high quality models. More then one mold can be attachedto the single arm.
] Vertical or Up & Over Rotational Machine
The loading and unloading area is at the front of the machine between the heating andcooling areas. These machines vary in size between small to medium compared to other rotational machines. Vertical rotational molding machines are energy efficient due to itscompact heating and cooling chambers. These machines have the same ability of thehorizontal carousel multi arm machines but take up a much smaller space.
[edit] Shuttle or Swing Arm Machine
This is a single arm turret machine that moves the mold back and forth between theheating and cooling chambers. This machine moves the mold in a linear direction in andout of heating and cooling chambers. Low in cost for the size of product produced. It isalso available in smaller scale for schools and prototyping. 
[edit] Carousel Machine
This is one of the most common machines in the industry. It can have up to 6 arms andcomes in a wide range of sizes. The machine comes in two different models Fixed andIndependent. Fixed consists of 3 fixed arms that must move together. One arm will be inthe heating chamber while the other is in the cooling chamber and the other in theloading, reloading area. The Fixed Carousel works well when working with the samemold. The Independent carousel machines are available with more arms that can moveseparately from the others. This allows for different size molds, with different heating andthicknesses needs.
[edit] Production Process
The rotational molding process is a high-temperature, low-pressure plastic-forming process that uses heat and biaxial rotation (i.e. rotation on two axes) to produce hollow,one-piece parts.Critics of the process point to its long cycle times—only one or two cycles an hour cantypically occur, as opposed to other processes such asinjection molding, where parts can be made in a few seconds. The process does have distinct advantages. Manufacturinglarge, hollow parts such as oil tanks is much easier by rotational molding than any other method. Rotational molds are significantly cheaper than other types of mold. Very littlematerial is wasted using this process, and excess material can often be re-used, making ita very economically and environmentally viable manufacturing process.Rotational Molding Process

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