BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Field of the Invention:
The present invention relates to a method and apparatus of blow molding
a preform which has been previously formed by injection molding or extruding. Particularly,
the present invention concerns a blow molding technique which utilizes molds arranged
in two rows.
Description of the Related Art:
In order to improve throughput, it is customarily performed in the
blow molding technique that a plurality of hollow containers are simultaneously
formed through one cycle including a series of steps such as injection molding
step, blow molding step, ejecting step and other steps. One of the prior art systems
for performing such a cycle comprises two rows of supporting plates for neck molds
and two rows of blowing molds as described in Japanese Patent Publication No.
18847/1989. Figure 9 is a cross-sectional view showing such a blow molding system
which comprises an injection molding stage 10 for forming a preform and a blow
molding stage 12 for forming a final product 22 from the preform. The system also
comprises two rows of supporting plates 16 at each stage, each row of which are
arranged spaced away from one another by a pitch P. Each of the supporting
plates 16 holds one or more than two neck molds 14. The preform injection molding
stage 10 includes two rows of injection-cavity molds 18 arranged opposed to the
corresponding row of supporting plates 16 and spaced away from one another by the
pitch P while the blow molding stage 12 includes two rows of blow-cavity
molds 20 arranged opposed to the corresponding row of supporting plates 16 and
spaced away from one another by the same pitch.
However, the pitch P between each row of supporting plates
16 must be selected to be relatively wide. This causes the entire system to increase
in dimension because the pitch P
must be determined to be compatible with
the opening motion in the blow molding stage 12. More particularly, each of the
blow-cavity molds 20 comprises a pair of mold halves 20a which are opened when
a hollow product is to be removed out of the mold. Therefore, the magnitude of
the pitch P is required to be equal to the total thickness of two inside
mold halves 20a plus the movement of the blow mold halves 20a on being opened.
Simultaneously, each of the mold halves 20a must have a sufficient thickness to
resist a given internal pressure (blowing pressure) without flexure. Thus, such
a thickness in each mold half 20a will be added into the thickness of a backing
plate (not shown) for supporting that mold half. This will cause the pitch
P to increase.
For such a reason, the entire molding system cannot but increase
in size and also occupy a larger space. Such a problem is exaggerated when it is
wanted to form hollow containers having an increased diameter. Two rows of injection
molds or temperature regulating sections can be, arranged at most in alignment
with the rows of blowing molds. In addition, this results in increase of conveying
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a blow
molding method and apparatus which can reduce the entire size of the system while
utilizing two rows of preform supporting plates so as to increase the throughput
per one cycle.
To this end, the present invention provides a method of conveying
preforms to a blow molding stage while supporting the preforms by two rows of supporting
plates, placing each preform within the respective one blowing mold in two rows
of blowing molds for two rows of supporting plates, closing each of the blowing
molds to form a hollow product and opening the blowing mold to remove the hollow
product, the improvement being characterized by the steps of providing two rows
of supporting plates which are variable in row pitch;supporting the preforms by
the respective supporting plates; and changing the row pitch from one to another
in the blow molding stage.
The row pitch between two rows of supporting plates becomes the maximum
value when the blowing molds are opened in the blow molding stage. If the row pitch
can be changed from the maximum value to another smaller value, the row pitch
between the supporting plates only in the blow molding stage may be increased when
it is wanted to increase the row pitch for the opening. The row pitch between two
rows of supporting plates may be decreased on conveying or in the other operating
stage. This enables the entire system to reduce in size, in comparison with the
prior art system which utilizes the fixed row pitch between two rows of supporting
Where each of the blowing molds includes a pair of mold halves, the
first mold halves in the blowing molds may be fixedly mounted on each other in
a back-to-back manner, with each of the second mold halves being only moved. In
such an arrangement, each of the first mold halves can have its thinned thickness
sufficient to resist the blowing pressure. The center-to-center distance between
two rows of blowing molds can be correspondingly reduced when the second mold
halves are opened. Even though the value of the row pitch on opening is applied
to the row pitch between two rows of supporting plates on conveyance or in the
other operating stage, the entire system can be reduced in size. In such a case,
the row pitch between two rows of supporting plates is preferably decreased to
be equal to the row pitch between two rows of blowing molds since only the first
mold half is moved toward the second mold half on blow molding to reduce the row
pitch between the rows of blowing molds.
Where a pair of mold halves are to be moved away from each other
about the row pitch line in two rows of blowing molds, the fixed row pitch between
the rows of blowing molds becomes substantially larger. If the system is constructed
to be variable in row pitch, the row pitch can be increased only in the blow molding
stage while the row pitch can be decreased on conveyance or in the other operating
stage. This also contributes to reduction of the entire size of the system.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Figures 1 and 2 are schematic views of one embodiment of a preform
moving frame constructed in accordance with the present invention, with the pitch
between each row of supporting plates being variable.
Figure 3 is a schematically cross-sectional view of the blow molding
system with the blowing molds being opened.
Figure 4 is a schematically cross-sectional view of the blow molding
system with the blowing molds being closed.
Figure 5 is an enlarged view illustrating the relationship between
first and second neck-mold supporting plates.
Figure 6 is a schematic view illustrating a modification of the mechanism
for changing the row pitch between two rows of supporting plates.
Figure 7 is a schematic view illustrating the other embodiment which
has a different timing for changing the row pitch.
Figure 8 is a schematic view of a further embodiment of the present
invention which is applied to a blow molding stage including first and second movable
mold halves in each blowing mold.
Figure 9 is a schematically cross-sectional view of a prior art blow
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
The present invention will be described in connection with a biaxial
orientation type blow molding process.
Referring to Figures 1 and 2, there is shown a neck-mold moving frame
30 which is of a square-like configuration and includes two rows of first neck-mold
supporting plates 32 mounted therein such that the row pitch between these rows
is variable. The row pitch can be changed between a first smaller pitch
P1 and a second larger pitch P2. The moving frame 30 also includes
four stoppers 30a formed therein adjacent to its four corners and four positioning
member 30b for centering the supporting plates in the second pitch P2. The moving
frame 30 further includes guide shafts 34 along which the two rows of supporting
plates 32 are moved. Each of the guide shafts 34 extends through each of the supporting
plates 32 at a through-hole 32a. Each through-hole 32a is stepped to form a shoulder.
A coil-shaped compression spring 36 is located between the shoulders in the opposite
through-holes 32a and slidably fitted around the corresponding one of the guide
shafts 34 which extends through the through-holes 32a. Under the influence of each
spring 36, the first neck-mold supporting plates 32 are biased to provide the second
pitch P2. When the supporting plates 32 are set to have the second row
pitch P2, the positioning members 30b engage into triangle-shaped grooves
32b formed in the respective first neck-mold supporting plates 32 at their end
faces. When any external force is applied to the first neck-mold supporting plates
32 against the action of the springs 36, the supporting plates 32 may engage with
each other at their opposed faces to realize the first pitch P1, for example.
Alternatively, another stopper means may be provided for positioning the first
neck-mold supporting plates 32 in the first pitch P1.
As shown, in Figure 5, the first neck-mold supporting plates 32 are
mounted at their bottom on a guide rail 32c. The guide rail 32c slidably supports
second openable neck-mold supporting plates 38 (also see Figure 3). By opening
and closing the second neck-mold supporting plates 38, the neck molds 14 (e.g.
two for each plate) are opened and closed.
Figures 3 and 4 illustrate a biaxial orientation type blow molding
stage into which the aforementioned neck-mold moving frame 30 is incorporated.
The neck-mold moving frame 30 is so arranged that it is horizontally moved and
guided by any suitable actuating mechanism which may be one as disclosed in U.
S. Patent Application No. 07/559,266 or European Patent Application No. 90114722.3.
Alternatively, a rotary conveyance type mechanism as disclosed in Japanese Patent
publication No. 18847/1989 may be used herein.
Two rows of blowing molds 40 are provided for two rows of first neck-mold
supporting plates 32. Each of the blowing molds 40 comprises a first mold half
42 fixed to another first mold half 42 in the other blowing mold in a back-to-back
manner and a second mold half 44 which is movable relative to the stationary mold
half 42. Each of the second mold halves 44 is rigidly connected with a movable
block 46 which also serves as a reinforcing member resisting the blowing pressure.
Each of the movable blocks 46 is connected with a locking and driving mechanism
Each of the movable blocks 46 fixedly supports, at its top, a pushing
member 50 which is used to urge the corresponding one of the neck-mold supporting
plates. Each of the pushing members 50 is connected with a damper spring 52 for
absorbing an impact on actuation. The pushing members 50 are located at the same
height whereat the second neck-mold supporting plates 38 are positioned.
In such an arrangement, one blow molding cycle is as follows:
Preforms 24 are formed in an injection molding state (not shown) and then supported
by the first neck-mold supporting plates 32. The preforms 24 are then regulated
in temperature in a temperature regulating state (not shown) and thereafter conveyed
to the biaxial orientation type blow molding stage. On conveyance, the row pitch
between the rows of first neck-mold supporting plates 32 is set at the second pitch
As seen from Figure 3, the second pitch P2 is selected to
be equal to a center-to-center pitch between two rows of first and second mold
halves 42, 44 when they are opened. In each blowing mold 40, the second mold half
44 is movable while the first mold half 42 is stationary. Furthermore, the two
first mold halves 42 in the adjacent blowing molds 40 are rigidly connected with
each other in the back-to-back manner. Therefore, the first mold halves 42 can
resist a given blowing pressure even if they have a decreased thickness. As a
result, the present embodiment may have the second pitch P2
reduced in size,
in comparison with the prior art blowing molds 20 having a center-to-center pitch
P shown in Figure 9.
In such a second pitch P2, the preforms may be conveyed and
the injection molding cavity molds and temperature regulating pots and the others
may be arranged. Therefore, the entire system may be miniaturized correspondingly.
In the biaxial orientation type blow molding stage, the row pitch
in the first neck-mold supporting plates 32 is set to be the second pitch
P2 when the preforms are conveyed into the blowing molds 40.
As shown in Figure 3, the locking and driving mechanisms 48 are actuated
after each of the preforms 24 has been placed between the first and second mold
halves 42, 44 in one pair. As the movable blocks 44 are moved by the respective
locking and driving mechanism 48, the second mold halves 44 are moved into their
closed position. At the same time, the pushing members 50 are moved against the
respective second neck-mold supporting plates 38. After the pushing members 50
engage the respective plates 38, the pushing members 50 moves the second movable
supporting plates 38 to reduce the row pitch between the first and second supporting
plates, against the action of the compression springs 36. After the locking has
been completed as shown in Figure 4, the first pitch P1 is set with the
opposite ends of the first neck-mold supporting plates 32 being in contact with
each other. Simultaneously, the first and second mold halves 42, 44 will be brought
into intimate contact with each other in each blowing mold 40. This condition
enables the biaxial orientation type blow molding process to be executed. Thus,
each preform 24 will be formed into a hollow container 22 stretched in both the
horizontal and vertical axes.
After the blow molding step, the locking and driving mechanisms 48
are again actuated in the opposite direction to move the second mold halves 44
into their opened position and to release the pushing members 50. Thus, the rows
of first neck-mold supporting plates 32 are automatically returned to their original
positions in the second pitch P2 under the action of the compression coil
springs 36. As a result, hollow containers 22 may be removed out of the blowing
molds 40 in the final or ejection step.
The opening and closing of the blowing molds 40 are performed only
by driving the second mold halves 44. Therefore, the opening and closing mechanism
may be simplified in construction and reduced in size.
It is to be understood that the present invention is not limited
to the aforementioned arrangement and may be applied in various modifications or
changes within the scope of the invention.
Figure 7 shows another embodiment of a blow molding apparatus according
to the present invention, in which the row pitch can be changed at a different
timing. Referring, to Figure 7, each of blowing molds 40 is vertical movable between
a position shown in Figure 7(A) and another position shown in Figure 7(B). On
the upward movement, the blowing mold 40 is opened such that a preform 24 can be
placed therein. On the downward movement, the final product 22 can be removed from
the blowing mold 40. Alternatively, supporting plates which hold preforms may
be moved vertically.
First of all, the first pitch P1 is set. Under this condition,
blow molding operation are carried out. When it is wanted to open the blowing molds,
the second pitch P2 is set. After the final products 22 have been removed
out of the molds, the row pitch is again set at the first pitch P1. During
the steps before and after the blow molding stage, the conveying and molding of
preforms 24 can be realized with the first pitch P1. Thus, the entire system
can be reduced in size. In such a case, the rows of first neck-mold supporting
plates 32 may be biased to set the second pitch P1 under the action of
a coil-like tension spring 70. In order to set the second pitch P2, the first neck-mold
supporting plates 32 may be moved away from each other against the action of the
tension spring 70 by the use of any suitable drive mechanism. If done so, any
external force will not be required to provide the first pitch P1 in the conveying
or other step.
The present invention may be applied also to a blow molding system
including blowing molds 20 each of which comprises a pair of mold halves 20a movable
into their open position as shown in Figure 9. Such an embodiment is shown in
Figure 8. Referring to Figure 8, two rows of blowing molds 20 has a row pitch equal
to the second pitch P2. During one cycle including preform placement, blow
molding and final product removal, first neck-mold supporting plates 32 are set
to have the same row pitch as that of the blowing mold rows, as shown in Figure
8(A). In the conveying or other steps, the row pitch is set to be smaller than
the second pitch P2 (i.e. the first pitch P1), as shown in Figure
8(B). As a result, the size of the blow molding stage is maintained invariable,
but the conveying path and other stages may be reduced in size. Even in such a
case, it is preferred that the first neck-mold supporting plates 32 are biased
to provide the first or smaller pitch P1 therebetween at all times, under
the action of the tension spring 70.
Although the present invention is preferably applied to a blow molding
system operated in a cycle having all the steps from the initial injection molding
step to the final ejection step, it may be similarly applied to a so-called cold
preform system operated with only two steps of regulating the temperature of a
preform and blow molding the preform at a proper blowing temperature. In the latter
case, such neck-mold supporting plates as described above will not be utilized
and the row pitch between supporting plates for supporting preforms at their neck
portions may be variable.
The aforementioned embodiments are not intended to limit any mechanism
for changing the pitch in the supporting plate rows. Figure 6 shows another mechanism
for changing the row pitch by the use of tapered surfaces which are moved relative
to each other. As seen from Figure 6(A), each of the first neck-mold supporting
plates 32 includes a tapered face 32d formed therein at one side edge and functioning
a cam follower. A plate closing cylinder 60 is disposed above the first neck-mold
supporting plate rows 32. The cylinder 60 comprises a cylinder rod 62 which supports
a slope cams 64 adapted to cooperate with the tapered faces 32d in the supporting
plates 32. When the cylinder rod 62 is downwardly moved by the cylinder 60 before
the second mold halves 44 are moved to their closed positions or in synchronism
with the mold closing operation, the slope cams 64 cooperate with the respective
tapered faces 32d in a surface contact manner to move the first neck-mold supporting
plates 32 toward each other so that the first pitch P1 will be provided,
as shown in Figure 6(B).