hotsets Z‑System is regarded as a pioneering development of variotherm mold temperature control. Since its market launch at the end of 2016, the high-speed process for partial-cyclical temperature control of injection molds has been used by more and more plastics processors in the consumer and automotive industries. ENGEL is now the first machine manufacturer to offer the integration of the Z‑system as an additional equipment option for its injection molding machines. In an interview, hotset CEO Ralf Schwarzkopf and ENGEL Germany Managing Director Rolf Saß explain the benefits this offers users.
Mr. Schwarzkopf, which user groups in plastics processing benefit from the hotset Z‑System?
Schwarzkopf: Above all, all those OEMs, Tear 1 suppliers, injection molders and toolmakers who place great value on top surfaces without weld lines and dull spots when manufacturing components and functional assemblies from engineering plastics. Its use is also worthwhile when filigree designs with low wall thicknesses are to be produced. In addition, we are constantly encountering new applications and are often surprised at what the Z‑System is capable of.
In what form and which variants do you currently offer the Z‑System?
Schwarzkopf: The system is extremely flexible and is configured by us according to customer specifications so that it fits compactly and with minimal effort into the mold — similar to a hot runner system. Even during the design phase, we can incorporate its design and integration into the mold’s data set. Thanks to thermal simulations, we can predict with great accuracy at an early stage what temperatures will prevail on the walls of the cavities. Since we also accompany the installation and commissioning, the customer always receives a 360° carefree package. This applies in particular to the new machine-integrated variant of the Z‑system, which we are implementing in cooperation with the SGM manufacturer ENGEL.
The Z‑System is now available on all ENGEL injection molding machines that operate with a CC300 control unit. The user can select all the necessary parameters for mould temperature control on the CC300 control panel.
Mr. Saß, which ENGEL injection moulding machines already have this additional option?
Saß: Regardless of the machine series and the drive technology used, we are now offering the Z‑System for all injection moulding machines in our portfolio that work with a CC300 control unit. The CC300 is our current control generation. It is characterized by intuitive operation and clear menu navigation and enables smart, highly efficient navigation through complex manufacturing processes.
And how can we specifically imagine the interaction of the Z‑System with the control system of the SGM?
Saß: Just as the user is familiar with from the use of additional pressure or temperature sensors, the Z‑System mold is integrated into the functional scope of our injection molding machine. When the mold is set up, the process-specific setting data record is automatically adopted, in which all relevant temperature and time parameters are stored. On a separate Z‑system page on the CC300’s touchscreen control panel, the user can then see all the required parameters and make his selection. This means that he does not have to use additional external devices or go to the back of the machine to make adjustments to the Z‑system. All selected values are also stored in the production data record. This means that they are immediately available for retrieval as soon as the tool is placed on the machine again.
Why did you as a machine manufacturer decide to integrate the Z‑System from hotset?
Saß: Our two companies have already had a very lively cooperation for many years. And since we pursue the same goal with the topic “avoidance of weld lines”, it was an important concern for us to cooperate also in this area. In addition, as a machine manufacturer, we always focus on two — sometimes opposing — lines of development: on the one hand, we enable our customers to meet the continuously increasing quality requirements for visible plastic components; on the other hand, we have to offer the users of our SGM options with which they can design their processing operations even more efficiently and economically. From our point of view, this balancing act succeeds particularly well with the Z‑System.
Schwarzkopf: Above all, because this high-speed solution with its targeted partial dynamic temperature control also makes a central contribution to optimizing the entire injection molding process beyond improving part quality. This is because its extreme heating speed of 60 K/s and very short cooling rates of around 30 K/s allow highly dynamic mold temperature control to be implemented without extending the cycle time. Since these enormously fast temperature changes are also achieved with an average energy consumption of only about 100 W/h, the Z‑system is an extremely energy-efficient solution.
Can you confirm this from the point of view of the machine builder, Mr. Saß?
Saß: Yes, absolutely. Not only does the energy efficiency of mold temperature control improve measurably, but output also increases because significantly shorter cycle times can be achieved compared to classic variothermal temperature control. For example, there is no longer an injection delay until the target temperature is reached at the cavity wall.
At hotset’s new System Center for Industrial Temperature Control Technology (SIT), the Z‑System can be tested both as a stand-alone and retrofit solution for specific customers and as a fully integrated variant in an 80-tonne SGM from ENGEL.
Higher energy efficiency, better surfaces and more productivity — you might think that the injection molder benefits threefold?
Saß: That is de facto the case! With the Z‑System, our customers get a simple plug-and-play solution to avoid weld lines and matte yards — without having to invest in an additional control system. So that’s significant added value! And in view of the increasing complexity of production processes in plastics processing, users increase their competitiveness with this practical contribution to simplicity — as we call this trend at ENGEL.
This sounds promising. What opportunities do interested parties have to examine and test the Z‑System?
Schwarzkopf: We opened theSystem Center for Industrial Temperature Control Technology, the SIT, in Lüdenscheid a few months ago specifically for this purpose. This facility is a result of our cooperation with ENGEL and gives injection molders, mold makers as well as quality- process optimizers a lot of scope to convince themselves of the performance of the Z‑system. It is available here both as an integrated system solution in an ENGEL SGM and as a separate system with external control. In this case, the specific test conditions or more advanced scenarios can be agreed upon depending on the application. Just recently, for example, the effects of the Z‑system were tested at SIT when using semi-crystalline materials — with astonishing results.
Mr. Saß, Mr. Schwarzkopf, thank you for the interview.