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Continuous and batch mixers | processing


Anyone wanting to catch up on the latest developments in batch mixers for plastics should have been in Halls 9 and 10 at K 2016 in October, where the mixing world gathered to show off its latest developments. Peter Mapleston reports


Automating the mixing process


Robots were everywhere at K 2016, doing all sorts of things from manipulating car bumpers to throwing basketballs into a hoop (the latter demonstrated on the Wittmann stand with an eerily-effective 100% hit rate). But perhaps one of the most unusual and imposing robotic demonstrations was to be found on the stand of mixing technology firm MTI Mischtechnik, where the company was demonstrating its new fully automatic C tec PRO container mixer system. Built around a Kuka six-axis robot - which in its black paint livery conjured up images from the Alien movie series - the C tec PRO relies on what MTI describes as a rigorous separation of the mixing vessel from the machine base to eliminate idle times and improve operating efficiencies. This separation strategy makes it possible to use


containers with different heights and diameters (volumes ranging between 100 and 600 litres) in a single system and eliminates costly downtimes associated with cleaning the container every time there is a change of recipe. Instead, the robot simply sets down one container, complete with its lid and integrated mixing tool, and moves on to the next. The original container can then be taken away, emptied, cleaned if necessary, refilled and placed in a central pick-up station while the C tec PRO is processing the second batch. The robot incorporates a camera-based vision system to find mixing containers and identify their configuration, as well as a laser-based levelling system to compensate for any inconsistencies in positioning. Along with the new robotic design comes a new


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business plan. MTI says it does not plan to sell the C tec PRO but to lease it instead, rather like car makers do. So the customer pays a monthly fee for three years, after which point they will have the opportunity of changing the robotic system for a new (and likely improved) one. The contract includes the main robot and two other smaller units for lid handling and for


cleaning, at least three containers, training,


wear-and-tear part replacement, annual inspection, and an on-line remote service


desk operated by MTI and Kuka. The C tec PRO is MTI’s first entry into container


mixers. “This is the first fully automated container mixer in the world and the first real innovation in this sector for a decade,” claims Managing Director Christian Honemeyer. “It makes it possible to produce even single batches in the most economical way.” He calculates that companies using the system will be able to improve productivity “by a factor or three or even four” and reduce their costs by between 15 and 18%, based on machine costs and direct labour. The unit shown at K2016 will be delivered in early


2017 to Clariant—which has been collaborating with MTI over the past three years in the development of the C tec PRO—where it will be used for production of masterbatches. Honemeyer says sales to other companies will begin in late Q2 2017. Deliveries next year are likely to be very modest as the company wants to gain additional experience in real-life conditions, but the aim is to eventually supply around 50 units per year


Main image: MTI Mischtech- nik’s robotised C tec PRO, which was


demonstrated at K2016, presents a


radical new twist on


container mixing


technology


November 2016 | COMPOUNDING WORLD 55


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