Haas Automation has relied on the use of foam packaging products for years. From polyethylene end-caps to expanded polystyrene inserts and everything in between. However in a departure from the traditional ordering and storing process of manufactured foam items, Haas has adopted a new method for creating their own go-to foam inserts in-house and on-demand using the Sealed Air iMold system.
Haas Automation in Oxnard, California is an industry leader in the development of machines that, well, build other machines. They have been at it since 1983 and they're good at it. Haas is home to innovation on an everlasting quest for increased productivity and manufacturing efficiencies through the development of cutting edge (literally) machines. Their headquarters in Oxnard, CA boasts a 1.6 million square foot manufacturing plant responsible for the output of 1000+ machines per month.
"Haas Automation is the largest machine tool builder in the western world, manufacturing a complete line of CNC vertical machining centers, horizontal machining centers, CNC lathes, and rotary products." -Haascnc.com
The Bulky & Time Consuming Problem
Along with manufacturing and shipping machines, Haas also creates, packages, and ships replacement parts from their Oxnard location. They ship 100s of packages per day with only about 10% that require the use of a foam insert/end-cap. In this environment Haas experiences:
1) Larger than needed order volumes that take up valuable pallet racking space in a factory that is outputting more and more machines every month. As with all manufacturing plants, storage space is at a premium. The minimization of space allocated for storage means more space for value-added manufacturing processes.
2) Long and delayed delivery lead times that in turn mean delayed shipments from Haas to customers who are waiting on a replacement part. Considering the nature of Haas' core products, customers with machines that are not functioning properly or that are completely inoperative while waiting for a replacement part suffer large costs due to downtime.
3) In cases of urgency, parts that absolutely have to ship regardless of foam packaging component/s availability get prepared with alternate materials "on the fly". Although the parts are packaged by a knowledgeable and experienced crew, packing inconsistencies are inevitable and may compromise part safety during transit.
4) With four main buildings on-site, decentralized storing of foam sets that are used in various areas across the factory adds to already maxed-out internal forklift traffic. Foam packaging is found in 2 of 4 buildings in pallet racking spread across each of them. This means when parts in one area of a building need to be packed, someone with a forklift needs to drive to a designated packaging storage location, pull down a pallet of material, grab whatever amount of material they need, and place the pallet back on the rack in its original location. For an everyday task that is repeated in multiple 250,000 square foot buildings, this proves to be too time consuming.
Sealed Air iMold®: Foam On Your terms
The iMold system from Sealed Air is a fully automated machine designed for bringing the foam manufacturing process in-house in a compact, efficient, and reliable package.
How It Works
The Instapak foam material created by the iMold is a result of the combination of separate "A" and "B" chemical components. These liquids are ordered and delivered in 55 gallon drums and routed into the iMold via an included pump system. In a completely self-contained design, skin-to-skin contact with these chemicals is avoided.
The source of the iMold's consistency and efficiency are the custom molds used to create each foam part. These molds are lightweight, easy to store, and quick to install. They come in two standard sizes (lengths) based on the actual molded part and remain compact enough for ease of storage. At Haas, they store their molds in a utility cabinet right next to the machine.
Each mold is marked with an RFID tag that is loaded with the molds unique foam recipe. This minimizes otherwise common errors that would come with responsibility of making sure to adjust settings when molds are changed out.
1) Bag/Foam Dispensing: Once a mold is loaded, the operator sets how many units should be produced. Upon starting the machine, film is simultaneously dispensed vertically off of a roll and filled with the A/B foam agents. This continues until the bag is lowered to its final position.
2) Curing: Right before the self-closing door locks, the machine applies a
continuous suction in order to ensure that all features of the mold are formed properly. This is especially important around areas of the mold that include small features and sharp corners. This suction process also speeds the curing process. The cycle time for most parts at Haas from dispensing to curing is 60-80 seconds.
3) Ejection: Once the curing process is complete, the foam inlet side of the film is heat-sealed followed by the opening of the automatic door and ejection of the molded part. This automated process from start to completion proves to be very convenient and efficient for Haas when batches of product are required to be made.
Since its introduction, the iMold machine at Haas has replaced 20+ SKUs of foam items that used to be ordered from outside vendors. Not only has this freed-up dozens of pallet spaces around the factory, it has also eradicated the need for buyers to place orders for these items. This means reduced traffic from delivery trucks to Haas.
With the ability to create any of their designated foam products on-demand, there is full control over the part availability. No more worry about the possibility of delayed shipments. and predictable lead times translate creation of these foam products without the worry of delayed shipments.
With consideration of the packaging environment at Haas Automation, the use of traditional manufactured foam end-caps/inserts for the shipping of delicate and expensive replacement parts resulted in:
Larger than needed order volumes
Long and delayed delivery lead times
Shipments prepared with alternate materials "on the fly"
Decentralized storing of foam sets resulting in excess forklift traffic
In an effort to alleviate these symptoms, the adoption of Sealed Air's iMold packing system resulted in:
The ability to quickly create the same foam products in-house
No more pallet racking dedicated to the storing of delivered foam products
Eradication of need to package parts with alternative materials
Decreased forklift traffic and time required for packing
Decreased delivery traffic from outside vendors