PatentDe  


Dokumentenidentifikation EP1232055 11.03.2004
EP-Veröffentlichungsnummer 0001232055
Titel BLASFORMVERFAHREN UND BLASFORMVORRICHTUNG ZUM HERSTELLEN VON PASTEURISIERBAREN BEHÄLTERN
Anmelder AMCOR Ltd., Abbotsford, Victoria, AU
Erfinder BOYD, J., Timothy, Ypsilanti, US;
SILVERS, W., Kerry, Chelsea, US;
VAILLIENCOURT, G., Dwayne, Manchester, US;
LISCH, David, G., Jackson, US
Vertreter derzeit kein Vertreter bestellt
DE-Aktenzeichen 60008135
Vertragsstaaten AT, BE, CH, CY, DE, DK, ES, FI, FR, GB, GR, IE, IT, LI, LU, MC, NL, PT, SE
Sprache des Dokument EN
EP-Anmeldetag 08.09.2000
EP-Aktenzeichen 009600461
WO-Anmeldetag 08.09.2000
PCT-Aktenzeichen PCT/US00/24703
WO-Veröffentlichungsnummer 0134370
WO-Veröffentlichungsdatum 17.05.2001
EP-Offenlegungsdatum 21.08.2002
EP date of grant 04.02.2004
Veröffentlichungstag im Patentblatt 11.03.2004
IPC-Hauptklasse B29C 49/64
IPC-Nebenklasse B29C 49/46   B29C 71/02   

Beschreibung[en]
TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention generally relates to blow molding methods and machines for producing heat set plastic containers. More specifically, this invention relates to blow molding methods and machines for producing biaxially oriented plastic containers with high crystallinity sidewalls.

BACKGROUND

Recently, manufacturers of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers have begun to supply plastic containers for commodities that were previously packaged in glass containers. The manufacturers, as well as consumers, have recognized that PET containers are lightweight, inexpensive, recyclable, and manufacturable in large quantities. Manufacturers currently supply PET containers for various liquid commodities, such as juices. They also desire to supply PET containers for solid commodities, such as pickles. Many solid commodities, however, require pasteurization or retort, which presents an enormous challenge for manufactures of PET containers.

Pasteurization and retort are both methods for sterilizing the contents of a container after it has been filled. Both processes include the heating of the contents of the container to a specified temperature, usually above 70°C, for duration of a specified length. Retort differs from pasteurization in that it also applies overpressure to the container. This overpressure is necessary because a hot water bath is often used and the overpressure keeps the water in liquid form above its boiling point temperature. These processes present technical challenges for manufactures of PET containers, since new pasteurizable and retortable PET containers for these food products will have to perform above and beyond the current capabilities of conventional heat set containers. Quite simply, the PET containers of the current techniques in the art cannot be produced in an economical manner such that they maintain their material integrity during the thermal processing of pasteurization and retort and during subsequent shipping.

PET is a crystallizable polymer, meaning that it is available in an amorphous form or a semi-crystalline form. The ability of a PET container to maintain its material integrity is related, in part, to the percentage of the PET container in crystalline form, also known as the "crystallinity" of the PET container. Crystallinity is characterized as a volume fraction by the equation: Crystallinity = ρ - ρa / (ρc - ρa) where ρ is the density of the PET material; ρa is the density of pure amorphous PET material (1.333 g/cc); and ρc is the density of pure crystalline material (1.455 g/cc).

The crystallinity of a PET container can be increased by mechanical processing and by thermal processing.

Mechanical processing involves orienting the amorphous material to achieve strain hardening. This processing commonly involves stretching a PET container along a longitudinal axis and expanding the PET container along a transverse axis. The combination promotes biaxial orientation. Manufacturers of PET bottles currently use mechanical processing to produce PET bottles having roughly 20% crystallinity (average sidewall crystallinity).

Thermal processing involves heating the material (either amorphous or semi-crystalline) to promote crystal growth. Used by itself on amorphous material, thermal processing of PET material results in a spherulitic morphology that interferes with the transmission of light. In other words, the resulting crystalline material is opaque (and generally undesirable as the sidewall of the container). Used after mechanical processing, however, thermal processing results in higher crystallinity and excellent clarity. The thermal processing of an oriented PET container, which is known as heat setting, typically includes blow molding a PET preform against a heated blow mold, (at a temperature of 120 - 130°C) and holding the blown container for about 3 seconds. Manufacturers of PET juice bottles, which must be hot filled at about 85°C, currently use heat setting to produce PET juice bottles having a range of up to 25-30% crystallinity. Although these hot fill PET containers exhibit a significant improvement over the non-hot fill PET containers, they cannot maintain material integrity during the thermal processing of pasteurization and retort.

A logical extension of this heat setting process involves blow molding a PET preform against a blow mold that is held at a considerably higher temperature, up to 250°C, as discussed in the Jabarin references (US 4,476,170 and US 4,512,948). In theory, a manufacturer using this process could produce a PET container having over 50% crystallinity which allows the PET container to maintain its material integrity properties during a subsequent pasteurization or retort process of the contents in the PET container as well as during any subsequent shipment of the PET container. However, once this heat setting process has been completed, the PET container must be removed from the mold. At a temperature around 250°C, upon removal of the PET container will instantly shrink and possibly collapse.

Recognizing this disadvantage, the Jabarin references offer two options for removing the PET containers: (1) lowering the mold temperature to the point where the PET container may be removed without any deformation, and (2) removing the PET container while applying internal pressure sufficient to resist any subsequent shrinkage thereafter and reducing the pressure when the bottle has reached a self-sustaining temperature. Neither of these options are commercially feasible. The first option involves extremely long cycle times (unless expensive liquid nitrogen machinery is employed) while the second option involves extremely complex processing to control the inherent variability of the system.

Reference EP-A-0646453 discloses a method of producing a heat set container wherein steam is used to clean the inside of a returnable/refillable bottle by scrubbing and removing absorbates from the interior surfaces of the bottle. Such absorbates are deposited on the interior surfaces of the bottle during previous use. Reference WO-A-9926771 discloses the method of producing a thermoplastic container having an inside surface with a crystallinity greater than the remainder of the container: The crystallinity of the inside surface of the container is increased through the use of a hydrolysis surface treatment agent which causes the PET molecular weight of the surface to be significantly reduced. An energy source then causes the low molecular weight surface molecules to align and crystallize. JP-A-59129125 and JP-A-53078268 disclose methods for heat-setting blow moulded thermoplastic containers using steam or warm air.

Thus, the manufacturers of PET containers desire an efficient and inexpensive method and apparatus that produces PET containers having high average sidewall crystallinities greater than 30%, which allow the PET containers to maintain their material integrity during any subsequent pasteurization or retort of the contents in the PET container, and during shipment of the PET containers. It is therefore an object of this invention to provide such a container that overcomes the problems and disadvantages of the conventional techniques in the art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, this invention provides for an efficient blow molding method and machine that produces PET containers having high average sidewall crystallinities of at least 30%, which allow the PET containers to maintain their material integrity during any subsequent high performance pasteurization or retort of the contents in the PET containers, and during shipment of the PET containers. As used herein, "high performance" pasteurization and retort are pasteurization and retort processes where the container is exposed to temperatures greater than about 80°C.

At its broadest, the invention is a method of producing a heat set plastic container according to claim 1, or a blow moulding machine for producing a heat set container according to claim 15. As used herein, "high-temperature gas" typically includes a gas at a temperature between 200 to 400°C and a pressure between 100 to 300 psi (7 to 21 kg/cm2), but pressures up to 600 psi (42 kg/cm2) may be used.

Briefly, the machine includes a blow mold defining a mold cavity, which is capable of receiving a plastic preform. A high-temperature gas source and a fluid source communicate with a blow core assembly that engages the plastic preform. A mixer, which is coupled to the high-temperature gas source and to the fluid source, selectively mixes the high-temperature gas with the fluid and produces a mixture with a heat transfer coefficient that is greater than the heat transfer coefficient of the high-temperature gas. The blow core assembly further includes an exhaust to exhaust the mixture from the interior portion of the preform. A controller coupled to the high-temperature gas source and to the fluid source selectively controlls the supply of the high-temperature gas and the fluid to the blow core assembly. The controller is also coupled to the exhaust to selectively control the exhaust of the mixture. By introducing a fluid into the high-temperature gas, the heat transfer coefficient of the high-temperature gas is effectively increased. Because of this increase, heat is transferred to the plastic container more rapidly and the temperature of the plastic container reaches a target temperature more quickly. Thus, by mixing a fluid into the high-temperature gas, the cycle time to produce a high crystallinity, heat set container may be reduced and efficiency may be increased.

Further features and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following discussion and accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

  • FIGS. 1-4 are schematic cross-sectional views of a portion of a blow molding machine of the present invention during various stages and processes taken along a line generally bisecting the blow molding machine;
  • FIG. 5 is a timing chart for the control valves of the blow molding machine according to the blow molding method of the present invention;
  • FIG. 6 is a schematic cross-sectional view of a portion of another embodiment of the present invention; and
  • FIG. 7 is a timing chart for the embodiment shown in FIG. 6.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

As shown in FIG. 1, the blow molding machine of the present invention has a blow molding station 10 that generally includes a blow mold 12, a neck ring 13, a blow core assembly 14, a stretch rod 16, and a heating element 18. While the machine itself will have other stations and components, those are conventional in nature and need only be briefly discussed below.

Two styles of blow molding machines exist, one-step machines and two-step machines. The difference between them is that in a one-step machine, a plastic preform is both injection molded and blow molded while in a two-step machine, an already formed plastic preform is fed into the machine and then blow molded. Each machine includes various stations. The number and type of these stations will differ from machine to machine. Generally, the stations may include either a preform injection molding station or a preform infeed station, a preform conditioning station, a blow mold station and a bottle outtake station. The present invention particularly involves the blow molding station 10 of either a one or two-step machine, but particularly a two step machine. As such, only the blow molding station 10 is described in detail.

The blow mold 12 itself includes two separable halves (hydraulically or pneumatically controlled, the actuators not being shown) that cooperate to define a mold cavity 20, which functions to receive a plastic preform 22 conditioned for blow molding. The blow mold 12 is made from appropriate materials, such as steel, to withstand and to hold temperatures of about 120-250°C, typically 130-170°C. The mold cavity 20 is designed with an appropriate shape to ultimately define the contours of the exterior surface of the desired plastic container.

The neck ring 13 (also hydraulically or pneumatically actuated, the actuators not being shown) is located above the blow mold 12 and adapted to receive, hold and position the plastic preform 22 in an appropriate location relative to the mold cavity 20 during the blow molding and heat setting processes. To accomplish this function, the neck ring 13 defines an annular receiving cavity 28 of a shape and size to receive the neck of the plastic preform 22.

The blow core assembly 14 engages the top of the plastic preform 22 to allow for the injection of a fluid medium into the plastic preform 22. To accomplish this function, the assembly 14 includes a blow core manifold 15 to which is mounted, in a conventional manner, a blow seal 31. The blow seal 31 defines an annular channel 32 that communicates with a first inlet port 24 and a second inlet port 26, as further discussed below. The neck ring 13, as well as the blow core manifold 15 and the blow seal 31, are all made from a strong material, such as steel.

The stretch rod 16, also a part of the blow core assembly 14, extends generally through the center of the blow core manifold 15 and is movable from a retracted position, as shown in FIG. 1, to an extended position, as shown in FIG. 2. The stretch rod 16 functions to stretch the plastic preform 22 along a longitudinal axis and to induce axial orientation into the plastic material of the plastic preform 22. In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the stretch rod 16 includes several exhaust ports 34. The exhaust ports 34 function to exhaust fluids from the plastic preform 22, as further explained below. The exhaust ports 34 communicate with a channel 35 inside the stretch.rod 16 to convey the fluids to an exhaust area (not shown). The stretch rod 16 is made from a strong material, such as steel.

As shown in FIGS. 1 and 3, the first inlet port 24 is connected to a high-pressure conduit 36, which supplies a high-pressure gas 38 from a high-pressure gas source 39. As used herein, "high-pressure gas" typically includes a gas at a pressure between 500 to 600 psi (35 to 42 kg/cm2). The high-pressure gas 38 functions to expand the plastic preform 22 against the mold cavity 20 and to thereby form a biaxially oriented plastic container 40 in a process commonly referred to as blow molding. A control valve 42 controls the flow of the high-pressure gas 38. The control valve 42 is automatically and systematically controlled by a system controller 43, as further explained below. The high-pressure conduit 36 is made from a flexible material, which permits movement and retraction of the blow core assembly 14 as it engages and disengages during the blow molding process.

A first mixer 45, which is controlled by the system controller 43 and is connected to a first mixing fluid source 48, communicates with the high-pressure conduit 36. The first mixer 45 functions to selectively introduce a first mixing fluid into the high-pressure gas 38 to effectively increase the heat transfer coefficient of the high-pressure gas. The first mixer 45 preferably includes a vaporizer, but may alternately include other devices, such as an atomizer, that would effectively and efficiently introduce and mix the first mixing fluid into the high-pressure gas. The first mixing fluid preferably is water, but may alternately be and include other fluids with relatively high heat transfer coefficients. Vaporizers and atomizers, such as the first mixer 45, are well known in the art of fluid mechanics and their implementation into the blow molding machine of the present invention would be readily understood by a person skilled in the art.

As also shown in FIGS. 1 and 4, the second inlet port 26 is connected to a high-temperature conduit 44, which supplies a high-temperature gas 46 from a high-temperature gas source 47. The high-temperature gas 46 functions to heat set the plastic container 40, through a convection heat transfer, and to thereby form a biaxially oriented, heat set plastic container 40. The term "convection heat transfer" is defined as the transfer of heat from a fluid to a solid, by way of the fluid flowing over or near the surface of the solid. "Convection heat transfer" actually includes both a conductive heat transfer and a convection heat transfer, but the combination of these two heat transfers is commonly referred to as simply "convention heat transfer".

To supply the high-temperature gas 46, a fluid from a fluid source 49 is passed through a filter 50 and the heating element 18. The heating element 18 may be one of a well-known variety, such as an electrical resistance heater, which may contain a ferrous alloy wound around a ceramic rod (not shown). A person of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate the various types of filters and heating elements capable of being used with the invention to produce the desired effects. In the preferred embodiment, the heating element 18 is small in size and high in intensity to heat the fluid from ambient air temperature to roughly the 370 °C temperature of the high-temperature gas 46.

A second mixer 51, which is controlled by the system controller 43 and is connected to a second mixing fluid source 53, communicates with the high-temperature conduit 44. The second mixer 51 functions to selectively introduce a second mixing fluid into the high-temperature gas 46 to effectively increase the heat transfer coefficient of the high-temperature gas 46. Because of this increase, heat from the high-temperature gas 46 is transferred to the plastic container 40 more rapidly and the temperature of the plastic container 40 reaches a target temperature more quickly, as further explained below. The second mixer 51 preferably includes a vaporizer, but may alternatively include other devices, such as an atomizer, that would effectively and efficiently introduce and mix the second mixing fluid into the high-temperature gas 46. The second mixing fluid preferably is water, but may alternatively be or include other fluids with relatively high heat transfer coefficients. The first mixing fluid and the second mixing fluid are preferably in a liquid state during ordinary conditions. Vaporizers and atomizers, such as the second mixer 51, are well known in the art of fluid mechanics and their implementation into the blow molding machine of the present invention would be readily understood by a person skilled in the art. As used herein, a vaporizer introduces either a fine spray of liquid droplets that almost instantly vaporize or introduces a fluid in a gaseous state, while an atomizer introduces a fine spray of liquid droplets.

Like the control valve 42, a control valve 52 controls the flow of the high-temperature gas 46 and is automatically and systematically controlled by the system controller 43, as further explained below. A check valve 54 functions to prevent the high-pressure gas 38 from traveling through the second inlet port 26 and into the high-temperature conduit 44. A person of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate the appropriate control valves and check valves.

The method of the present invention for producing a biaxially oriented, heat set plastic container having a sidewall with a high crystallinity generally includes blow molding process and a heat setting process. The blow molding process includes providing a properly conditioned plastic preform 22 in the mold cavity 20 of the blow mold 12 and closing the blow mold 12. The plastic preform 22 is preferably made from PET, but may be made from other crystallizable materials. The blow core assembly 14 is next lowered into the plastic preform 22 such that a collar 33 of the blow seal is positioned interiorly of the finish or neck of the plastic preform 22 and a flange 37 engages the top of the plastic preform 22, as shown in FIG. 1. The stretch rod 16 is then moved by the pneumatic or hydraulic actuator from its retracted position to its extended position, as shown in FIG. 2. This extension of the stretch rod 16 into the plastic preform 22 axially stretches the sidewall 56 of the plastic preform 22, and triggers the start of the fluid cycle.

The fluid cycle includes the opening and closing of the control valves 42 and 52 and a control valve 58, to blow mold the plastic preform 22 and to circulate the high-temperature gas 46 over an interior surface 59 of the plastic preform 22, as shown in FIGS. 2-4. The extension of the stretch rod 16 starts the fluid cycle at time=t0, as shown in FIG. 5. After the time delay 62 from time=t0 to time=t1, the control valve 52 is opened and the high-temperature gas 46 is injected through the second inlet port 26, through the annular channel 32, and into the plastic preform 22. The pre-blow stage 64 occurs during axial stretching of the plastic preform 22 and operates to keep the stretching plastic preform 22 from contacting the stretch rod 16. The pre-blow stage 64 is in preparation for the blow molding process 66 and is of relatively short duration. The high-temperature gas 46 used in the pre-blow stage 64 is merely the preferred method; fluids from other sources with lower or higher temperatures may be used. At time=t2, the control valve 42 is opened and the high-pressure gas 38 is injected through the first inlet port 24, through the annular channel 32, and into the plastic preform 22. This blow molding process 66 is timed to occur when the plastic preform 22 is pinned against the bottom of the blow mold 12 by the stretch rod 16. As the high-pressure gas 38 is injected into the plastic preform 22, the high-temperature gas 46 is not turned off via the control valve 52. Rather, the high-pressure gas 38 causes the check valve 54 to close, effectively shutting off the high-temperature gas 46, as shown by the dashed lines in FIG. 5. The high-pressure gas 38, which is preferably at a pressure of 500-600 psi (35-42 kg/cm2), inflates and expands the plastic preform 22 against the mold cavity 20 of the blow mold 12. As the plastic preform 22 is stretched and expanded, it forms the biaxially oriented plastic container 40. Throughout the blow molding process 66, the blow mold 12 is held at a temperature of around 120-250°C, preferably 130-170°C.

Once the plastic container 40 has been fully stretched and expanded, at time=t3, the second mixer begins to mix the second mixing fluid into the high-temperature gas 46, the control valve 58 is opened, and the control valve 42 is closed, shutting off the high-pressure gas 38. At this time, the control valve 52 remains open. During the circulation process 68, the high-temperature fluid 46 is exhausted through the exhaust ports 34 of the stretch rod 16. More importantly, the control valve 52 and the control valve 58 cooperate to circulate the high-temperature gas 46 and second mixing fluid over an interior surface 60 of the sidewall 56 of the plastic container 40. The high-temperature gas 46 and second mixing fluid exhaust through the exhaust ports 34, through the channel 35 in the stretch rod 16, past the control valve 58, and into the exhaust area (not shown).

The high-temperature gas 46 is circulated over the interior surface 60 of the plastic container 40 for a sufficient duration to allow the interior surface 60 of the plastic container 40 to reach a temperature of at least 120°C. Because of the introduction of the second mixing fluid, heat from the high-temperature gas 46 quickly and effectively transfers to the interior surface 60 of the sidewall 58, which reduces the time to produce the plastic container 40. The actual duration will depend on the composition of the high-temperature gas 46, the temperature and pressure of the high-temperature gas 46, the composition of the second mixing fluid, and the flow rate of the high-temperature gas 46 over the interior surface 60. In the preferred method, the high-temperature gas 46 is air, at a temperature between 200 to 400°C, preferably 285 to 370°C, and at a pressure typically between 100 to 300 psi (7 to 21 kg/cm2), preferably 250 to 300 psi (17.6 to 21 kg/cm2), but pressures up to 600 psi (42 kg/cm2) may be used. Also, in the preferred method, the second mixing fluid is water, at a sufficient temperature and pressure such that the second mixing fluid is quickly vaporized into the high-temperature gas 46. At the preferred values, the high-temperature gas 46 is circulated over the interior surface 60 of the plastic container 40 for 1 to 15 seconds, preferably 3 to 7 seconds, in order to transfer the necessary heat energy and in order to induce the appropriate amount of crystallinity into the plastic container 40.

After the conclusion of the circulation process 68, at time=t4, the second mixer 51 stops, the control valve 52 is closed, and the control valve 42 is opened. During the cooling process 70, the first mixer 45 begins to mix the first mixing fluid into the high-pressure gas 38, and then the cooler high-pressure gas 38 and first mixing fluid is circulated over the interior surface 60 to reduce the temperature of the plastic container 40. The temperature of the plastic container 40 must be reduced to a temperature that allows the plastic container 40 to be removed from the mold cavity 20 without any shrinkage or other deformation. Because of the introduction of the first mixing fluid, heat from the plastic container 40 quickly and effectively transfers to the high-pressure gas 38, which further reduces the time to produce the plastic container 40. In the preferred method, the first mixing fluid is water, at a sufficient temperature and pressure such that the first mixing fluid is quickly vaporized into the high-pressure gas 38. In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, the second mixing fluid source 53 and the first mixing fluid source 48 may be the same component. To reduce the possibility of moisture remaining in the plastic container 40, the first mixer 45 may be stopped while the control valve 42 remains open. In this manner, the high-pressure would "blow-out" any remaining moisture in the plastic container 40.

After the cooling process 70, the control valve 42 is closed and shortly thereafter, as the final stage 72, the high-pressure gas 38 is exhausted, the control valve 58 is closed, the mold cavity 20 is opened, and the plastic container 40 is removed. This entire process is then repeated for the subsequent production of further plastic containers. Since the entire process can be completed in less than 6 seconds, the process provides an efficient and inexpensive method for producing plastic containers having a high crystallinity, which allows the plastic containers to maintain their material integrity during any subsequent pasteurization or retort of its contents, and during shipment.

Using the method of the invention, the plastic container 40 can be produced having a sidewall 56 with an average density greater than 1.37 g/cc. This average density roughly corresponds to a 30.3% crystallinity and will minimally allow the plastic containers 40 to maintain its material integrity during subsequent high performance pasteurization or retort of the contents in the plastic containers 40, and during shipment of the plastic containers 40. As used herein, crystallinities greater than 30% are considered "high crystallinities". Other average densities greater than 1.37 g/cc, including 1.375 g/cc (roughly corresponding to 34.4% crystallinity), 1.38 g/cc (roughly corresponding to 38.5% crystallinity), 1.385 g/cc (roughly corresponding to 42.6% crystallinity), and even 1.39 g/cc (roughly corresponding to 46.7% crystallinity) are possible with the method of the present invention and without significantly impacting the visually perceptible transparency or clarity of the plastic containers 40.

As shown in FIG. 6, an alternative embodiment of the invention is particularly adaptable to multi-cavity machines, which have more than one mold cavity where stretching and blowing occurs simultaneously. In this embodiment, the high-temperature gas 46, the high-pressure gas 38, the first mixing fluid, and the second mixing fluid are all provided as in the first embodiment (and therefore attention is directed to the discussion above regarding the same) except that they communicate through the stretch/blow rod 16'. Located along the length of a stretch/blow rod 16' are a large number of small diameter blow ports 74, preferably all of the same diameter. The ports 74 direct the high-temperature gas 46 to the interior surface of the plastic preform and direct the high-pressure gas 38 to the interior surface 60 of the plastic container 40, generally in a perpendicular direction. The consistent and small diameter of the ports 74 enhances the velocity at which the fluids are introduced and further allows for a more even discharge of the fluids along the length of the stretch/blow rod 16'.

Exhausting of the high-temperature gas 46 and the high-pressure gas 38 is accomplished through a channel 76 formed within the blow seal 31. An exhaust valve 78, controlled by the system controller 43, is opened when necessary during the blow molding process. A muffler or silencer 80 may be mounted at the end of the exhaust line 82 to reduce noise during exhausting.

Another variance from the first embodiment is that the pre-blow fluid is no longer provided through the high-temperature gas 46. Instead, a low pressure, low temperature fluid 84 is provided from a source 86 through a line 88 and into the plastic preform 22 through a channel 90, also formed in the blow seal 31. As shown in FIG. 6, the pre-blow fluid 84, preferably air at ambient temperature and at about 200 psi, is provided by the opening of a control valve 92 by the system controller 43 during advancement of the stretch/blow rod 16' and stretching of the plastic preform 22. For maximum control of the pre-blow fluid 84, one control valve 92 is used for each mold cavity of the machine 10.

As shown in FIG. 7, at time=t1, the control valve 92 is opened and pre-blow fluid 84 is injected through the channel 90 into the plastic preform 22. This pre-blow stage 64' occurs during stretching of the plastic preform 22 and operates to keep the plastic preform 22 from contacting the stretch/blow rod 16'. At time=t2, the control valve 92 is closed and the control valve 42 is opened to inject the high-pressure gas 38 through the stretch/blow rod 16' and to inflate and expand the plastic preform 22 against the mold cavity 20 thereby forming the plastic container 40. At time=t3, the control valve 42 is closed.

Preferably, at sometime between time=t1 and time=t3, the control valve 52 is opened by the system controller 43. In this manner, when the control valve 42 is closed at time=t3, the high-temperature gas 46 immediately flows through the ports 74 and is directed at the interior surface 60 of the plastic container 40.

The remainder of the process sequence is as described above and reference should be made to that portion of this description.


Anspruch[de]
  1. Verfahren zum Herstellen eines hitzefestigenden Kunststoff-Behälters umfassend die Schritte:
    • Bereitstellung einer Kunststoff-Vorform innerhalb eines Form-Hohlraums; und
    • Dehnen und Weiten der Vorform in Übereinstimmung mit den Form-Hohlraum definierenden Oberflächen;
    • Mischen eines Hochtemperatur-Gases mit einem Fluid, so dass ein Wärmeleit-Koeffizient des Gemisches aus Hochtemperatur-Gas und Fluid größer ist als ein Wärmeleit-Koeffizient des Hochtemperatur-Gases alleine, wobei das Hochtemperatur-Gas eine Temperatur zwischen 200°C und 400°C und einen Druck zwischen 100 psi und 600 psi (7 kg/cm2 und 42 kg/cm2) aufweist;
    • Zirkulieren des Gemisches aus Hochtemperatur-Gas und Fluid durch das Innere des Kunststoff-Behälters um Kristallinität in dem Kunststoff-Behälter zu induzieren; und
    • Steuern, unter Verwendung einer Steuervorrichtung, welche an eine Hochtemperatur-Gasquelle und an eine Fluidquelle gekoppelt ist, des Mischens des Fluids mit dem Hochtemperatur-Gas und der Zirkulation des Gemisches durch den inneren Bereich des Kunststoff-Behälters.
  2. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Mischschritt ein Mischen des Hochtemperatur-Gases mit einem Fluid im flüssigen Zustand und bei Umgebungstemperatur und -druck beinhaltet.
  3. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Mischschritt ein Mischen des Hochtemperatur-Gases mit Wasser beinhaltet.
  4. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Mischschritt ein Zerstäuben des Fluids in das Hochtemperatur-Gas beinhaltet.
  5. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Mischschritt ein Verdampfen des Fluids in das Hochtemperatur-Gas beinhaltet.
  6. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, darüber hinaus umfassend die Schritte eines Mischens eines Niedrigtemperatur-Gases mit einem zweiten Fluid, so dass der Wärmeleit-Koeffizient des Gemisches aus dem Niedrigtemperatur-Gas und einem zweiten Fluid größer ist als der Wärmeleit-Koeffizient des Niedrigtemperatur-Gases alleine, wobei das Niedrigtemperatur-Gas bei Raumtemperatur und einem Druck von ungefähr 200 psi (14 kg/cm2) vorliegt; und Zirkulieren des Gemisches aus Niedrigtemperatur-Gas und zweitem Fluid durch das Innere des Kunststoff-Behälters, um den Kunststoff-Behälter zu kühlen.
  7. Verfahren nach Anspruch 6, darüber hinaus umfassend den Schritt einer Bereitstellung des Fluids und des zweiten Fluids aus einer gemeinsamen Quelle.
  8. Verfahren nach Anspruch 6, wobei der zweite Mischschritt ein Mischen des Niedrigtemperatur-Gases mit einem zweiten Fluid im flüssigen Zustand und bei Umgebungstemperatur und -druck beinhaltet.
  9. Verfahren nach Anspruch 6, wobei der Mischschritt ein Mischen des Niedrigtemperatur-Gases mit Wasser beinhaltet.
  10. Verfahren nach Anspruch 6, wobei der zweite Mischschritt ein Zerstäuben des zweiten Fluids in das Niedrigtemperatur-Gas beinhaltet.
  11. Verfahren nach Anspruch 6, wobei der zweite Mischschritt ein Verdampfen des zweiten Fluids in das Niedrigtemperatur-Gas beinhaltet.
  12. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Mischschritt ein Mischen eines Hochtemperatur-Gases, welches Luft enthält, beinhaltet.
  13. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Mischschritt ein Mischen des Hochtemperatur-Gases für eine Dauer im Bereich von 1 Sekunde bis 15 Sekunden beinhaltet.
  14. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Zirkulationsschritt durchgeführt wird, während der Kunststoff-Behälter in dem Form-Hohlraum verbleibt.
  15. Blasform-Maschine zur Herstellung eines hitzefestigenden Behälters, wobei die Maschine umfasst:
    • eine Blasform (12), welche einen Form-Hohlraum (20) definiert und geeignet ist, eine Vorform (22) aufzunehmen;
    • eine Hochdruck-Gasquelle (39) zur Bereitstellung eines Hochdruck-Gases (38),
    wobei das Hochdruck-Gas (38) einen Druck zwischen 100 psi und 600 psi (7 kg/cm2 und 42 kg/cm2) aufweist;

    eine Hochtemperatur-Gasquelle (47) zur Bereitstellung eines Hochtemperatur-Gases (46), wobei das Hochtemperatur-Gas (46) eine Temperatur zwischen 200°C und 400°C aufweist;

    eine Fluidquelle (53) zu Bereitstellung von einem Fluid; und

    eine Blas-Kerneinheit (14), welche mit der Vorform (22) in Eingriff bringbar ist und an die Hochdruck-Gasquelle (39), an die Hochtemperatur-Gasquelle (47) und an die Fluidquelle (53) gekoppelt ist, wobei die Blas-Kerneinheit (14) auch einen Auslass aufweist;

    wobei die Maschine dadurch gekennzeichnet ist, dass sie darüber hinaus umfasst:
    • einen an die Hochtemperatur-Gasquelle (39) und die Fluidquelle (49) gekoppelten Mischer zum Mischen des Hochtemperatur-Gases (46) mit dem Fluid;
    • eine Steuervorrichtung, welche an die Hochdruck-Gasquelle (39), die Hochtemperatur-Gasquelle (47) und an die Fluidquelle (53) gekoppelt ist, wobei die Steuervorrichtung zum Steuern der Bereitstellung des Hochdruck-Gases (38) in die Vorform (22), um die Vorform (22) durch Blasen zu einem Behälter (40) zu formen, und zum Steuern des Mischens des Fluids mit dem Hochtemperatur-Gas (46) zu einem Gemisch, so dass der Wärmeleit-Koeffizient des Gemisches größer ist als der Wärmeleit-Koeffizient des Hochtemperatur-Gases (46) allein, und zum Steuern der Bereitstellung des Gemisches in einen inneren Abschnitt des Behälters (40), um Kristallinität in dem Behälter (40) zu induzieren, und zum Steuern des Entlassens des Gemisches durch den Auslass, betrieben werden kann.
  16. Blasform-Maschine nach Anspruch 15, wobei der Mischer einen Zerstäuber beinhaltet.
  17. Blasform-Maschine nach Anspruch 15, wobei der Mischer einen Verdampfer beinhaltet.
  18. Blasform-Maschine nach Anspruch 15, darüber hinaus umfassend eine Niedrigtemperatur-Gasquelle (86) zur Bereitstellung eines Niedrigtemperatur-Gases (84), wobei das Niedrigtemperatur-Gas bei Umgebungstemperatur und einem Druck von ungefähr 200 psi (14 kg/cm2) vorliegt, und einen zweiten Mischer, welcher an die Niedrigtemperatur-Gasquelle (86) und die Fluidquelle (53) gekoppelt ist, zum Mischen des Niedrigtemperatur-Gases (84) mit dem Fluid, wobei die Steuervorrichtung weiterhin an die Niedrigtemperatur-Gasquelle (86) gekoppelt ist, wobei die Steuervorrichtung zum Steuern des Mischens des Fluids mit dem Niedrigtemperatur-Gas (84) zu einem zweiten Gemisch, so dass der Wärmeleit-Koeffizient des zweiten Gemisches größer ist als der Wärmeleit-Koeffizient des Niedrigtemperatur-Gases (84) allein, und zum Steuern der Bereitstellung des zweiten Gemisches in einen inneren Abschnitt des Behälters (40), um den Behälter (40) zu kühlen, betrieben werden kann.
Anspruch[en]
  1. A method of producing a heat set plastic container comprising the steps of:
    • providing a plastic preform within a mold cavity; and
    • expanding and stretching the preform into conformity with surfaces defining the mold cavity;
    • mixing a high-temperature gas with a fluid such that a heat transfer coefficient of the high-temperature gas and fluid mixture is greater than a heat transfer coefficient of the high-temperature gas alone, said high temperature gas having a temperature between 200°C and 400°C and a pressure between 100 psi and 600 psi (7 kg/cm2 and 42 kg/cm2);
    • circulating the high-temperature gas and fluid mixture through the interior of the plastic container to induce crystallinity in the plastic container; and
    • controlling, using a controller coupled to a high-temperature gas source and to a fluid source, the mixing of the fluid with the high-temperature gas, and the circulation of the mixture through the interior portion of the plastic container.
  2. The method of Claim 1 wherein said mixing step includes mixing the high-temperature gas with a fluid in liquid state and at ambient temperature and pressure.
  3. The method of Claim 1 wherein said mixing step includes mixing the high-temperature gas with water.
  4. The method of Claim 1 wherein said mixing step includes atomizing the fluid into the high-temperature gas.
  5. The method of Claim 1 wherein said mixing step includes vaporizing the fluid into the high-temperature gas.
  6. The method of Claim 1 further comprising the steps of mixing a low-temperature gas with a second fluid such that the heat transfer coefficient of the low-temperature gas and a second fluid mixture is greater than the heat transfer coefficient of the low-temperature gas alone, said low-temperature gas being at ambient temperature and a pressure at about 200 psi (14 kg/cm2); and circulating the low-temperature gas and second fluid mixture through the interior of the plastic container to cool the plastic container.
  7. The method of Claim 6 further comprising the step of providing the fluid and the second fluid from a common source.
  8. The method of Claim 6 wherein said second mixing step includes mixing the low-temperature gas with a second fluid in liquid state and at ambient temperature and pressure.
  9. The method of Claim 6 wherein said mixing step includes mixing the low-temperature gas with water.
  10. The method of Claim 6 wherein said second mixing step includes atomizing the second fluid into the low-temperature gas.
  11. The method of Claim 6 wherein said second mixing step includes vaporizing the second fluid into the low-temperature gas.
  12. The method of Claim 1 wherein said mixing step includes mixing a high-temperature gas that includes air.
  13. The method of Claim 1 wherein said mixing step includes mixing the high-temperature gas for a duration in the range of 1 second to 15 seconds.
  14. The method of Claim 1 wherein said circulating step is performed while the plastic container remains within the mold cavity.
  15. A blow molding machine for producing a heat set container, said machine comprising:
    • a blow mold (12) defining a mold cavity (20) capable of receiving a preform (22);
    • a high-pressure gas source (39) for supplying a high-pressure gas (38), said high-pressure gas (38) having a pressure between 100 psi and 600 psi (7 kg/cm2 and 42 kg/cm2);
    • a high-temperature gas source (47) for supplying a high-temperature gas (46), said high-temperature gas (46) having a temperature between 200°C and 400°C;
    • a fluid source (53) for supplying a fluid; and
    • a blow core assembly (14) engagable with the preform (22) and coupled to said high-pressure gas source (39), to said high-temperature gas source (47), and to said fluid source (53), said blow core assembly (14) also having an exhaust;
    • the machine characterized in that it further comprises:
      • a mixer coupled to said high-temperature gas source (39) and to said fluid source (49) for mixing the high-temperature gas (46) with the fluid;
      • a controller coupled to said high-pressure gas source (39), to said high-temperature gas source (47), and to said fluid source (53), whereby said controller is operable to control the providing of the high-pressure gas (38) into the preform (22) to blow mold the preform (22) into a container (40), and to control the mixing of the fluid with the high-temperature gas (46) into a mixture such that the heat transfer coefficient of the mixture is greater than the heat transfer coefficient of the high-temperature gas (46) alone, and to control the providing of the mixture to an interior portion of the container (40) to induce crystallinity into the container (40), and to control the exhausting of the mixture through said exhaust.
  16. The blow molding machine of Claim 15 wherein said mixer includes an atomizer.
  17. The blow molding machine of Claim 15 wherein said mixer includes a vaporizer.
  18. The blow molding machine of Claim 15 further comprising a low-temperature gas source (86) for supplying a low-temperature gas (84), said low-temperature gas being at ambient temperature and a pressure at about 200 psi (14 kg/cm2), and a second mixer coupled to said low-temperature gas source (86) and to said fluid source (53) for mixing the low-temperature gas (84) with the fluid, said controller further coupled to said low-temperature gas source (86), whereby said controller is operable to control the mixing of the fluid with the low-temperature gas (84) into a second mixture such that the heat transfer coefficient of the second mixture is greater than the heat transfer coefficient of the low-temperature gas (84) alone, and to control the providing of the second mixture to an interior portion of the container (40) to cool the container (40).
Anspruch[fr]
  1. Procédé de production d'un récipient en plastique thermodurci comprenant les étapes consistant à :
    • fournir une préforme en plastique à l'intérieur d'une cavité de moule ; et
    • élargir et étirer la préforme pour obtenir conformité avec les surfaces définissant la cavité du moule ;
    • mélanger un gaz à haute température avec un fluide de telle sorte qu' un coefficient de transfert de chaleur du mélange de gaz à haute température et fluide est supérieur à un coefficient de transfert de chaleur du gaz à haute température seul, ledit gaz à haute température ayant une température comprise entre 200°C et 400°C et une pression comprise entre 100 psi et 600 psi (7 kg/cm2 et 42 kg/cm2) ;
    • faire circuler le mélange de gaz à haute température et fluide à travers l'intérieur du récipient en plastique pour provoquer la cristallinité dans le récipient en plastique ; et
    • contrôler, avec un contrôleur couplé à une source de gaz à haute température et à une source de fluide, le mélangeage du fluide avec le gaz à haute température, et la circulation du mélange à travers la partie intérieure du récipient en plastique.
  2. Procédé selon la revendication 1 dans lequel ladite étape de mélangeage comprend le fait de mélanger le gaz à haute température avec un fluide à l'état liquide et à température et pression ambiantes.
  3. Procédé selon la revendication 1 dans lequel ladite étape de mélangeage comprend le fait de mélanger le gaz à haute température avec de l'eau.
  4. Procédé selon la revendication 1 dans lequel ladite étape de mélangeage comprend le fait d'atomiser le fluide dans le gaz à haute température.
  5. Procédé selon la revendication 1 dans lequel ladite étape de mélangeage comprend le fait de vaporiser le fluide dans le gaz à haute température.
  6. Procédé selon la revendication 1 comprenant en outre les étapes consistant à mélanger un gaz à basse température avec un second fluide de telle sorte que le coefficient de transfert de chaleur du mélange de gaz à basse température et second fluide est supérieur au coefficient de transfert de chaleur du gaz à basse température seul, ledit gaz à basse température étant à température ambiante et ayant une pression d'environ 200 psi (14 kg/cm2) ; et faire circuler le mélange de gaz à basse température et second fluide à travers l'intérieur du récipient en plastique pour refroidir le récipient en plastique.
  7. Procédé selon la revendication 6 comprenant en outre l'étape de fournir le fluide et le second fluide à partir d'une source commune.
  8. Procédé selon la revendication 6 dans lequel ladite seconde étape de mélangeage comprend le fait de mélanger le gaz à basse température avec un second fluide à l'état liquide et à température et pression ambiantes.
  9. Procédé de claim 6 dans lequel ladite étape de mélangeage comprend le fait de mélanger le gaz à basse température avec de l'eau.
  10. Procédé selon la revendication 6 dans lequel ladite seconde étape de mélangeage comprend le fait d'atomiser le second fluide dans le gaz à basse température.
  11. Procédé selon la revendication 6 dans lequel ladite seconde étape de mélangeage comprend le fait de vaporiser le second fluide dans le gaz à basse température.
  12. Procédé selon la revendication 1 dans lequel ladite étape de mélangeage comprend le fait de mélanger un gaz à haute température qui comprend de l'air.
  13. Procédé selon la revendication 1 dans lequel ladite étape de mélangeage comprend le fait de mélanger le gaz à haute température pendant une durée de l'ordre de 1 seconde à 15 secondes.
  14. Procédé selon la revendication 1 dans lequel ladite étape de circulation est réalisée alors que le récipient en plastique reste à l'intérieur de la cavité du moule.
  15. Machine de moulage par soufflage pour produire un récipient thermodurci, ladite machine comprenant :
    • un moule de soufflage (12) définissant une cavité de moule (20) capable de recevoir une préforme (22) ;
    • une source de gaz à haute pression (39) pour fournir un gaz à haute pression (38), ledit gaz à haute pression (38) ayant une pression comprise entre 100 psi et 600 psi (7 kg/cm2 et 42 kg/cm2) ;
    • une source de gaz à haute température (47) pour fournir un gaz à haute température (46), ledit gaz à haute température (46) ayant une température comprise entre 200°C et 400°C ;
    • une source de fluide (53) pour fournir un fluide ; et
    • un ensemble de centre de soufflage (14) pouvant venir en prise avec la préforme (22) et couplé à ladite source de gaz à haute pression (39), à ladite source de gaz à haute température (47), et à ladite source de fluide (53), ledit ensemble de centre de soufflage (14) ayant également une section d'évacuation ;
    • la machine caractérisée en ce qu'elle comprend en outre :
      • un mélangeur couplé à ladite source de gaz à haute température (39) et à ladite source de fluide (49) pour mélanger le gaz à haute température (46) avec le fluide ;
      • un contrôleur couplé à ladite source de gaz à haute pression (39), à ladite source de gaz à haute température (47), et à ladite source de fluide (53), moyennant quoi ledit contrôleur peut être actionné pour contrôler l'approvisionnement du gaz à haute pression (38) dans la préforme (22) pour mouler par soufflage la préforme (22) dans un récipient (40), et pour contrôler le mélangeage du fluide avec le gaz à haute température (46) en un mélange de telle sorte que le coefficient de transfert de chaleur du mélange est supérieur au coefficient de transfert de chaleur du gaz à haute température (46) seul, et pour contrôler l'approvisionnement du mélange vers une partie intérieure du récipient (40) pour provoquer la cristallinité dans le récipient (40), et pour contrôler l'évacuation du mélange à travers ladite section d'évacuation.
  16. Machine de moulage par soufflage selon la revendication 15 dans laquelle ledit mélangeur comprend un atomiseur.
  17. Machine de moulage par soufflage selon la revendication 15 dans laquelle ledit mélangeur comprend un vaporisateur.
  18. Machine de moulage par soufflage selon la revendication 15 comprenant en outre une source de gaz à basse température (86) pour fournir un gaz à basse température (84), ledit gaz à basse température étant à température ambiante et ayant une pression d'environ 200 psi (14 kg/cm2), et un second mélangeur couplé à ladite source de gaz à basse température (66) et à ladite source de fluide (53) pour mélanger le gaz à basse température (84) avec le fluide, ledit contrôleur couplé en outre à ladite source de gaz à basse température (86), moyennant quoi ledit contrôleur peut être actionné pour contrôler le mélangeage du fluide avec le gaz à basse température (84) en un second mélange de telle sorte que le coefficient de transfert de chaleur du second mélange est supérieur au coefficient de transfert de chaleur du gaz à basse température (84) seul, et pour contrôler l'approvisionnement du second mélange vers une partie intérieure du récipient (40) pour refroidir le récipient (40).






IPC
A Täglicher Lebensbedarf
B Arbeitsverfahren; Transportieren
C Chemie; Hüttenwesen
D Textilien; Papier
E Bauwesen; Erdbohren; Bergbau
F Maschinenbau; Beleuchtung; Heizung; Waffen; Sprengen
G Physik
H Elektrotechnik

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