Optical process control for machines
Power hidden beneath the surface should also be reflected in design – for cars and machines alike. Customized cladding made from PLEXIGLAS® not only protects the machine, but also adds value.
As many as 800 blisters per minute pass through the several-meter-long machine. The pharmaceutical preparations are sorted, separated and transported until every single one is neatly enclosed in the blister packaging. The sheer precision of the packaging process is also visible from the outside, as it takes place behind a transparent machine cover made from PLEXIGLAS®.
“The expertise behind a precision machine should be noticeable both optically and haptically. Much like race cars, machines should also be visually impressive,” explains Manfred Primke, Managing Partner at HECKER® Kunststofftechnik. The company is based in Dortmund, where it manufactures protective covers for industrial machines among other products. PLEXIGLAS® is ideally suited for this application due to its flexible plasticity, transparency and brilliance.
An insight into the production process
“The high-quality PLEXIGLAS® cover also influences a machine’s image value.”
- Manfred Primke
Managing Partner at HECKER® Kunststofftechnik
A transparent machine cover is mainly useful for optical process control. “You want to see what is going on inside,” says Primke, elaborating on the example of the blister packaging machine: “Everything needs to be hygienic here and the right products need to end up in the packaging.” A cover made from transparent PLEXIGLAS® thus ensures the required cleanliness and, unlike opaque machine cladding, enables production control during operation.
Protection for people, machine and products
A machine cover can be necessary for a wide variety of other reasons, too, for example to protect against splashes or dust. It also prevents foreign substances from contaminating the goods, which could lead to recalls that harm a company’s reputation, or damaging the machine and causing an expensive production standstill. Moreover, a protective cover protects the people working on the machine from accidents and from exposure to harmful substances or high noise pollution.
Material and design give a competitive edge
High-quality machine cladding is not only an important factor in the production process, however: It also boosts the machine manufacturer’s image. Unique design, improved functionality and high-quality materials can set a manufacturer apart from the competition and potentially warrant higher sales prices.
“In this context, PLEXIGLAS® impresses with a wide range of processing and shaping options and its superb visual impact, which supports the customer’s corporate design,” explains Primke. For example, the brand acrylic glass can also be used for colored, opaque, high-gloss machine covers that are far more elegant and vibrant than a metal cover. The ergonomic shape of a PLEXIGLAS® cover can be another competitive advantage.
As such, experts can immediately determine how powerful the machine on the factory floor really is.
PLEXIGLAS® instead of metal
High-quality machine cladding fits in seamlessly with the corporate design, as demonstrated by this cover made from dark gray PLEXIGLAS® that has been thermoformed, precisely milled with a five-axis CNC milling machine and bonded to a metal structure so that it is ready for installation.
Protection, aesthetics and ergonomics
The elegant, opaque printed cladding conceals and protects the inside of the machine, but can easily be folded up for maintenance access.
PLEXIGLAS® machine covers are easy to print via screen printing or digital direct printing. This is a front screen made from PLEXIGLAS® that is partially printed blue.
Customized machine cladding
HECKER® Kunststofftechnik’s customers include global market leaders from a broad range of sectors, such as the food industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the medical and laboratory technology industries, the packaging industry, the machine tool industry and electronics.
The customized PLEXIGLAS® cladding made by the plastics processing specialist is just as specialized as the customers’ machines themselves: “It takes a combination of craftsmanship and CNC processing with up to five-axis simultaneous milling, sawing, shaping, bonding, printing and firm fixation to a supporting frame to form an installable component,” says Managing Partner Primke. “A great deal of skill is required in manufacturing since PLEXIGLAS® covers cannot be manufactured from a single sheet – instead, parts need to be precisely bonded without leaving any visible joints.”
The ideal solution for a wide range of requirements
HECKER® generally uses the standard versions of the brand acrylic glass, PLEXIGLAS® GS and PLEXIGLAS® XT, for protective machine covers. Some applications require specific properties such as higher impact resistance, abrasion resistance or anti-static properties. The PLEXIGLAS® manufacturer Röhm also has suitable PMMA semi-finished products in its portfolio that meet these requirements.
For example, if the cover needs to be especially robust, as is the case with machine tools, PLEXIGLAS® Resist is used, which has been modified to have improved impact resistance. In the electronics and semiconductor industry, it is crucial to protect sensitive components such as microchips against damage from electrostatic discharge. ESD glazing made from EUROPLEX® provides this protection as it has a conductive surface.
Many machines for the production of food or medication for the US market need to conform to the hygiene and safety regulations of the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many transparent and colorless PLEXIGLAS® sheets meet this requirement.
Medical and laboratory technology
PLEXIGLAS® is also a proven material in medical and laboratory technology – both for complex analytical devices made entirely from PLEXIGLAS® as well as for protective covers for the visual inspection of reaction processes. For example, this freeze-drying machine has a cube-shaped top section made from transparent, virtually seamlessly bonded PLEXIGLAS®.