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Title:
ELECTRONIC CYCLE COUNTER
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2010/148278
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
A monitor for maintaining a mold cycle count with an actuator sending a count signal to a processor following a mold operation. The monitor further includes a timer having an active mode and a sleep mode. The processor generates an average cycle time and an activity percentage of the mold taking into account active and sleep periods of the mold.

Inventors:
STARKEY, Glenn (557 Marina Street, Wauconda, IL, 60084, US)
Application Number:
US2010/039126
Publication Date:
December 23, 2010
Filing Date:
June 18, 2010
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
PROGRESSIVE COMPONENTS INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION (235 Industrial Drive, Wauconda, IL, 60084, US)
STARKEY, Glenn (557 Marina Street, Wauconda, IL, 60084, US)
International Classes:
B29C45/76; B29C45/80
Foreign References:
JPH06328458A1994-11-29
KR100552951B12006-02-15
KR20090004791A2009-01-12
JP2003266498A2003-09-24
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PAULEY, Douglas, H. et al. (Pauley Petersen & Erickson, 2800 West Higgins Road Suite 36, Hoffman Estates IL, 60169, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

1. A monitor for maintaining a mold cycle count, the monitor comprising: a housing; a processor positioned with respect to the housing; an actuator positioned with respect to the housing, the actuator sending a count signal to the processor following a mold operation; an electronic display positioned with respect to the housing; a timer electronically connected with the processor, the timer having an active mode and a sleep mode; a function button positioned with respect to the housing and electronically connected with the display and the processor to generate on the display a total count, an average cycle time and an activity percentage of the mold.

2. The monitor of Claim 1 wherein the processor discards downtime of the mold in excess of a predetermined limit to reach the activity percentage.

3. The monitor of Claim 1 wherein the timer activates the sleep mode following mold inactivity exceeding a predetermined threshold.

4. The monitor of Claim 1 wherein the processor further generates a recent average cycle time and a recent activity percentage.

5. The monitor of Claim 1 wherein the processor further generates an interim cycle count in addition to a total cycle count.

6. The monitor of Claim 1 further comprising: a port positioned within the housing and electronically connected with respect to the processor, the port connectable to an external computer.

7. The monitor of Claim 1 wherein the actuator is positionable between a released mode and an activated mode, the timer tracking the total duration of each of the released mode and the activated mode.

8 . The monitor of Claim 1 further comprising: a non-transitory, computer readable medium positioned within the housing and electronically connected with the processor, the electronic display and the actuator, the non- transitory, computer readable medium for storing the total count, the average cycle time and the activity percentage of the mold.

9. A method for retrieving mold cycle data comprising: positioning a monitor with respect to a mold; recording a number of cycles generated by the mold; recording a time that the mold is in operation; recording a time that the mold is not in operation; and generating an average cycle time and an activity percentage of the mold.

10. The method of Claim 9 further comprising: entering a sleep mode following mold inactivity exceeding a predetermined threshold.

11. The method of Claim 9 further comprising: generating a recent average cycle time and a recent activity percentage based on a predetermined session period.

12. The method of Claim 9 further comprising: generating an interim cycle count in addition to a total cycle count.

13. The method of Claim 9 further comprising: generating a release signal when the mold is open and an active signal when the mold is closed; tracking a duration of time of each of the release signal and the active signal.

14. The method of Claim 9 further comprising: storing the total count, the average cycle time and the activity percentage of the mold within a non-transitory, computer readable medium positioned within the monitor.

15. The method of Claim 9 further comprising: affixing a unique serial number to the monitor; retrieving data regarding the mold remotely based upon entry of the unique serial number into a remote interface.

16. A monitor for maintaining a mold cycle count, the monitor comprising: a processor generating an average cycle time and an activity percentage of the mold; a timer electronically connected with the processor, the timer having an active mode and a sleep mode; and an actuator sending a count signal to the processor following a mold operation.

Description:
ELECTRONIC CYCLE COUNTER

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Field of the Invention The present invention relates to injection molding devices, and more specifically to an electronic monitor.

Discussion of Related Art

Injection molds were in the past permitted to run in the press for very long part runs; and the mold was seldom removed from the press for storage. In these past systems, the molds were continuously associated with the press so that cycle counters on the press itself could be relied upon to provide the number of cycles of the mold and this was used to provide information relative to preventative maintenance, such as cleaning of the mold or lubricating critical surfaces.

Contemporary manufacturers utilize "just-in-time" practices wherein the purchaser does not maintain an inventory of large quantities of plastic parts, but manufactures the parts in smaller batches to be delivered on an "as-needed" basis. Such just-in-time practices may require molds to be swapped in and out of the press to produce different parts on an as-needed basis. As a result, press cycle counters which count the number of cycles of the press, can no longer be relied upon for maintenance schedules because a series of different molds is used in the press for relatively short periods of time.

Currently, records may be kept as to when and how long a particular mold has been run using mechanical counters that are affixed to the respective molds. Such mechanical counters include the COUNTER VIEW® cycle counter manufactured by Progressive Components International Corporation of Wauconda, Illinois. Starkey, U.S. Patent 5,571,539 is incorporated herein by reference and teaches one such mechanical counter. Such mechanical counters reveal a running tally of the number of cycles that a particular mold has run but little else about the manufacturing process.

Mechanical counters such as the COUNTERVIEW® cycle counter may positively monitor mold activity and validate process monitoring data. In addition, a serial number may be physically affixed to a surface of the COUNTERVIEW® cycle counter for association between the cycle counter and the particular mold. As a result of the association between the cycle counter and the mold, a manufacturer may then monitor mold data and thereby improve mold maintenance.

Such mechanical counters may be susceptible to physical tampering and also may result in inaccurate record keeping because of the reliance on human operators to verify and transcribe mold cycle counts and/or serial numbers. Improper or infrequent record keeping associated with a particular mold may have negative effects on the maintenance of the mold and/or maintaining a desired inventory of resulting parts. Obviously, without the proper maintenance of an injection mold, damage may occur and down time may also be the result.

Likewise, failure to maintain a desired inventory of parts may have serious consequences on resulting production.

Thus, there remains a need for an improved cycle counter and manufacturing monitor.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In accordance with the present invention, an injection plastic mold or similar actuating manufacturing tool is provided with a monitor, which is actuated with each opening and closing cycle of the mold to maintain a count of the operating cycles performed, as well as additional information about the mold and its operation. This information is maintained or associated with the monitor in the mold, whether the mold is on the press or a storage rack, and may be retrieved remotely or directly from the monitor. The monitor is preferably relatively inexpensive and unobtrusive and capable of withstanding severe environments including extreme temperatures and shock that may be encountered in a molding operation.

Other features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the following figures, wherein like reference numerals represent like features.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Fig. 1 shows a monitor according to a preferred embodiment of this invention; Fig. 2 shows a monitor placed within a mold according to one preferred embodiment of this invention; Fig. 3 shows various information sets as shown on a display of the monitor according to one preferred embodiment of this invention;

Fig.4 shows a sample historical record generated by software used in association with a monitor according to one preferred embodiment of this invention; Fig. 5 shows a sample report generated by software used in association with a monitor according to one preferred embodiment of this invention; and

Fig. 6 shows a schematic of a monitor according to one preferred embodiment of this invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

As shown in Figs. 1 and 2 for purposes for illustration, a monitor 60 is used in connection with a mold 50. As shown in Fig. 2, the mold 50 includes a first mold half 52 and a second mold half 54. The first mold half 52 and the second mold half 54 preferably reciprocate relative to each other to result in closure of the mold 50, the molding operation and a resulting molded component. For instance, the first mold half 52 may be mounted for reciprocal movement on four posts which are stationary or fixably mounted at their ends to the second mold half 54 and the first mold half 52 may be closed relative to the second mold half 54 to complete a typical molding cycle within a molding press.

The term "mold" as used herein refers to mold bases or frames sold by mold manufacturers without the final cavity therein, as well as refers to molds that actually have the cavities therein. Thus, it is contemplated that a mold base or frame may be sold with a monitor or counter therein prior to actual cavity being formed. Similarly, although plastic injection molds are shown and described by example, the monitor 60 may be used in connection with any reciprocating, molding or cycling manufacturing equipment including but not limited to blow molding, stamping, die casting, etc.

According to a preferred embodiment of this invention, the mold 50 is provided with the monitor 60. The monitor 60, which may also be referred to as "counter" herein, preferably includes an actuator 70. The actuator 70 is preferably triggered with each opening and closing movement of the mold 50 when it is in an injection molding press. The actuator 70 may comprise a mechanically and/or an electrically and/or magnetically actuated switch that registers following every actuation of the mold 50 within the molding press. According to one preferred embodiment, the actuator 70 is preferably positioned to generate and send a count signal following a mold operation.

According to one preferred embodiment, the actuator 70 is positionable between a released mode, such as when the mold 50 is open, and an activated mode, such as when the mold 50 is closed. The duration of both the released mode and the activated mode may be trackable and recorded by the monitor 60.

The monitor 60 preferably includes a housing 80 that is molded and/or otherwise formed into a body that is compatible with a pocket 55 or similar accommodation within the mold 50. The housing 80 is preferably formed of a rigid, sealable and/or enclosed body for substantially enclosing and protecting the internal electronics and devices of the monitor 60.

Preferably, an outer wall of the monitor 60 is substantially flush with an upper surface of either the first half 52 or second half 54 of the mold 50. In this manner, the actuator 70 may be engageable with a surface of an opposite second half 54 or first half 52 of the mold 50. As described above, the engagement may occur mechanically with a portion of the actuator proj ecting above the upper surface or otherwise through a magnetic and/or electrical engagement and actuation.

The monitor 60 additionally includes an internal power supply, such as a battery. The battery is preferably sealed within the housing 80 and therefore tamper resistant. According to one preferred embodiment of this invention, the battery is a Vi AA. It is contemplated in one preferred embodiment of this invention that the battery is not accessible following placement of the monitor 60 within the mold 50. As such, an extended battery life is a desired feature of the present invention.

In addition, and as shown schematically in Fig. 6, the monitor 60 preferably includes a processor 100 within the housing 80. A processor 100 is preferably positioned with respect to the housing 80, and preferably sealed therein. The processor 100 preferably comprises a generally compact or micro device that converts an input to an output, such as a CPU and associated memory, as described in more detail below.

A non-transitory, computer readable medium 110, such as an internal memory, is preferably positioned within the housing 80 and is electronically connected with the processor 100, the actuator 70, and, preferably, an electronic display 65. As described, the actuator 70 preferably tracks cycle count and sends a count signal to the processor 100. Using cycle count information from the actuator and time information sent from the timer 120, the processor 100 generates average cycle time and the activity percentage of the mold 50. The computer readable medium 110 then stores the mold data, including, but not limited to, total count, the average cycle time and the activity percentage of the mold. This data is preferably retained independent of a malfunction by the mold 50 and/or the monitor 60. In this manner, the cycle and other information is retained when the mold 50 is removed from the molding press and moved to a new molding press or stored during downtime.

The monitor 60 according to this invention preferably tracks one or more of the following sets of information: Total Cycles; Total Time; Active (Up) Time; Idle Time; Idle Time Total; Active (Up) Time Average; Sleep Time; Sleep Time Total; Cycle Time; Average Cycle Life to Date; Average Cycle Recent; Activity Percentage; Activity Percentage Recent; Resettable Trip Count; Down Days; Days Initiated; Battery Level; Segment Time; Device ID; Mold ID; and/or PM Cycles. Each of these categories will be described in more detail in the following discussion. Total Cycles includes the cycle count as described above. A cycle is generally defined as the opening and closing of a tool that creates a pulse by the actuator 70. That is, every actuation of the mold results in an additional cycle count. Such Total Cycles is important when tracking maintenance requirements for the particular mold 50 to which the monitor 60 is associated. The Total Cycles are also applicable to inventory management and/or manufacturing analysis.

In addition, the monitor 60 may further generate an Interim Cycle Count in addition to a Total Cycle count. A user may temporarily reset the Total Cycle count to obtain an temporal or interim cycle count during an interim molding operation.

The monitor 60 preferably also includes an internal clock or timer 120 to time a molding cycle and a means to provide an average production cycle time for the molder. The timer 120 is preferably electronically connected with the processor 100. In this manner, Average Cycle Time may be measured which may account for an average cycle during a specified time period, for instance, an average cycle time since the mold 50 was most recently placed into service. The Average Cycle Time preferably includes the total time the mold was active divided by the total cycles. Preferably the active time does not include time that the mold was intentionally idled, or sleep time, which is described in more detail herein. In addition, an Average Cycle Life to Date may be calculated which determines an average cycle time from the first operation of the mold 50, or more specifically, an average cycle time since the monitor 60 was first associated with the mold 50. In addition, a Days Initiated or similar time interval since inception or "date of birth" may be tracked to determine the total service time of the mold 50 associated with the respective monitor 60.

The timer 120 preferably further includes an active mode and a sleep mode depending on the state of operation of the associated mold 50. Specifically, during generally constant operation of the mold 50, the timer 120 preferably maintains the active mode. However, should the mold 50 discontinue operation for a predetermined period of time, for instance, six hours, or any other suitable time increment indicating discontinuance of ordinary molding operations, then the monitor 60 enters sleep mode.

The timer 120 may further record and track the total duration of each of the released mode and the activated mode of the actuator 70, as described above. The actuator 70 may thereby generate and send a release signal when the mold is open and generate and send an active signal when the mold is closed. The processor 100 preferably receives these signals and then tracks a duration of time of each of the release signal and the active signal. Such measurements may be used in the calculation of various data fields including activity percentage and average cycle time.

According to a preferred embodiment of this invention, the monitor 60 may additionally include an internal date or calendar so that the date of usage of the mold 50 and/or placement into service may also be stored and retrieved. Alternatively, the user can record a service entry date and use the internal clock described above to count from the service entry date as a baseline and therefore constructively maintain day and date interval counting. In this manner, the monitor 60 may record Idle Time or Down Days or similar downtime information. Likewise, operation time may be compared with downtime and/or sleep time to reach a Activity Percentage. Activity Percentage is defined generally as for the life of the mold, the time that the mold is active based on the total available time it could be active. The calculation is generally up or active time divided by up or active time plus idle time. According to a preferred embodiment, the processor 100 discards idle time of the mold in excess of a predetermined limit (sleep time) to determine an Activity Percentage. In this regard, the timer 120 preferably activates the sleep mode following mold inactivity exceeding a predetermined threshold, such as six hours.

The monitor 60 may further record an in-service or "born-on" date based on when a battery is inserted and the monitor 60 is turned on for the first time. As a result, the monitor 60 preferably records and provides the time and/or dates on which the mold 50 was placed into production and the associated Total Cycles for this usage period. In this manner, a history may be developed to readily determine important manufacturing information about the mold 50.

According to a preferred embodiment of this invention, the monitor 60 may further include a display 65, such as an electronic display positioned with respect to the housing 80, for example an LED or LCD display that provides one or more of the preceding or following data categories. Such data categories are preferably shown on the display 65 in a readily viewable manner, such as in sequence, either automatically or by a function button that permits a user to scroll through such data categories. Fig. 3 is exemplary of such data categories that may be viewable on the display 65. The function button is preferably positioned in an outwardly exposed, prominent portion of the housing 80 and electronically connected with the display 65 and the processor 100 to generate one or more preferred data categories.

According to a preferred embodiment of this invention, a default setting of the display 65 includes a powered-off or blank display, that is, an absence of any data categories thereby conserving the battery or other power supply within the monitor 60. In such a default setting of the display 65, the Total Cycles is preferably most readily accessible to a user, either on an automatic periodic basis or through actuation of a function button on the monitor 60.

Although the monitor 60 is capable of real-time counting and display, a battery conserve state may keep the display screen off as the monitor 60 is actuated, for instance as a magnet engages a surface of the monitor 60. The display 65 in such a battery conserve state may update in predetermined increments, depending on the cycle time or the intentions of the user.

The sleep mode and the battery conserve state may be coordinated or separate operational modes of the monitor 60. In addition, a user interface, such as a function button on the monitor 60 may permit the user to view an actual datapoint in realtime, regardless of a particular current mode of the monitor 60, including a moving counter after the monitor 60 is placed into the mold 60. According to one preferred embodiment of the invention, a default display interface will include: Total Cycles; Average Cycle Recent; Average Cycle Life to Date; Days Initiated; Idle Time Total; Activity Percentage; Battery Level Percentage; and Device ID. Fig. 3 shows an example of displays showing representative outputs.

According to a preferred embodiment of this invention, a Battery Level and/or

Battery Level Percentage may be included in the information available from the monitor 60. The Battery Level may be shown on display 65 or, like all data categories described herein may be tracked and displayed periodically and/or in real time on an external display that is connected to or connectable with the monitor 60.

According to a preferred embodiment of this invention, a Segment Time may be set and/or adjustable within the monitor 60. The Segment Time is preferably the interval in which the monitor writes data to internal storage, such as the internal memory. This Segment Time may or may not correspond with a time to sleep mode described herein. For instance, a battery conservation mode of the monitor 60 may write gathered data to storage, such as internal memory every 120 minutes. In this manner, battery life may be further conserved by minimizing the activity required of the monitor 60 during operation of the press. According to a preferred embodiment, the monitor 60 can maintain multiple segments, for instance eight segments or sessions. In this embodiment, when a ninth session is initiated, the first or oldest session is preferably overwritten. The monitor 60 may be programmed to permit any desirable number of segments or sessions.

The monitor 60 may additionally include an on/off switch. However, such on/off switch may solely be associated with the display and preferably does not prevent the recording and collection of any category of data described herein.

In addition, a Device ID and a Mold ID may be programmed into the monitor 60. In this manner, a user can maintain a positive connection between the mold 50 and the monitor 60 to ensure that the gathered data is correctly assigned to the intended mold 50 and/or press. According to one preferred embodiment of this invention, Preventative

Maintenance ("PM") Cycles and/or a countdown to scheduled PM may additionally be included as a data category in and/or from the monitor 60. Preferably, when the mold 50 has been cycled through to the desired PM Cycles and/or scheduled PM date, an alarm or indicator is triggered to alert the user that mold maintenance is required. Such an alarm or indicator may be external to the monitor 60, such as a flashing warning, or may be external coupled with the monitor 60 such as a warning light on the press containing the mold 50. With the one or more collections of the foregoing information, a manufacturer can create a history of the operation of the mold including the number of specific parts made, the date of manufacture, average cycle time and/or other information so as to provide a better history with respect to when maintenance should be made and what type of maintenance should be used. Examples of such histories or reports are shown, by illustration, in Figs. 4 and 5.

According to a preferred embodiment of this invention, the monitor further includes a port 90 positioned within the housing 80 and electronically connected with respect to the non-transitory computer readable medium 110. The port 90 is preferably connectable to an external computer. The port 90 may comprise a USB port for connecting the monitor 60 to a computer, printer, PDA or similar device so that the history and average cycle time and/or total cycles as well as any stored maintenance information may be read, recorded and/or offloaded.

According to one preferred embodiment of this invention, information is exported into an internal and/or external memory of the monitor 60 in predetermined intervals. Included in such information is the mold downtime. For instance, assuming no molding cycle is over 200 seconds, the monitor is triggered to begin counting downtime. Information is preferably written in increments, for instance, two hour increments. Such incremental recording of downtime and/or data storage assists in maintaining a long term battery life for the monitor 60.

The monitor 60 preferably operates in connection with bridge software to write the collected information to the internal and/or external memory of the monitor 60 and then permit retrieval of the collected information.

As described, a port 90, such as a USB port, a bluetooth interface and/or other wired or wireless connection may be used to connect with a readout device, such as a local or networked computer, an internet site, a handheld, readout device or similar output device. The associated device may also be used to input information into the internal and/or external memory of the monitor 60 with respect to a particular desired setting, preventive maintenance operation or other data or operation so that the mold 60 includes an intended protocol or history of what maintenance has been accomplished or needs to be done.

According to one preferred embodiment of this invention, representative reports derived from the monitor 60 are shown in Figs. 4 and 5. Such reports may be prepared in real time or in increments on schedule. The monitor 60 as described may also permit remote access to tool information for remote tracking and data analysis by the mold builder, the mold operator and/or suppliers or customers in the manufacturing supply chain. Such remote access may permit resupply of maintenance items as well as just-in-time scheduling. Essential information regarding the mold or group of molds may be organized, updated and stored including part name, part id, mold id, number of cavities, etc. Status of multiple mold groupings may be tracked to consolidate information regarding a specific product' s tooling program. Alerts may be provided on the mold and/or in the various reports that indicate inactivity affecting product launch or inventory requirements. Such alerts may be provided to the mold operator and/or program managers through a personal computer, smart phone or similar delivery system.

The monitor 60 as described provides numerous benefits to users including access to actual manufacturing information maintained in real time, better documentation of systems, repeatability and tracing. Manufacturing assets may be better and more accurately tracked and real time "post mortem" information is available should a tool or press unexpectedly cease operation. Likewise, process parameters are readily accessible and preventative maintenance schedules are readily viewable, budgetable and predictive. In addition, users are aware of mold usage, can improve scheduling capability, capacity utilization and can store and view auxiliary equipment notes.

In this regard, the monitor 60 may include a serial number physically affixed to a surface of the housing 80 for association between the monitor 60 and the particular mold 50. As a result of the association between the monitor 60 and the mold 50, a manufacturer may then monitor mold data and thereby improve mold maintenance. Specifically, for example, a user may enter the serial number of the particular monitor 60 into an electronic database or website, such as www.profilecv.com, and track the particular performance of the mold 50 associated with that monitor 60. If no data exists for the particular monitor 60, the user may be provided with an overview of available information for the monitor 60 and/or mold 50. Data similar to that shown in Figs. 4 and 5 may then be available, on a remote but secure basis.

In addition, according to one preferred embodiment of this invention, the monitor 60 and/or related software may include sufficient memory to permit on-mold storage of piece part or mold prints, files, manufacturing specifications and other critical data related to the part to be manufactured and/or the mold. In addition, a GPS or RFID may be provided within or in association with the monitor 60 to permit location tracking of the mold. Further, mold diagnostic and telemetry sensors and equipment may be connected with respect to the monitor 60 to provide temperature monitoring and similar information in association with the reports discussed herein.

Accordingly, a method for retrieving mold cycle data in accordance with the subject invention includes positioning the monitor 60 with respect to the mold 50; recording a number of cycles generated by the mold 50; recording a time that the mold is in operation (or active); recording a time that the mold is not in operation (or idle or in sleep mode); and generating an average cycle time and an activity percentage of the mold 50. The subject method may or may not include the monitor 60 entering a sleep mode following mold inactivity exceeding a predetermined threshold.

According to one embodiment, the following data is gathered and/or calculated by the monitor 60.

From the foregoing, it is seen that there is provided a device which serves as a monitor and/or counter for an injection mold, similar mold and/or similar reciprocating tooling which is relatively inexpensive and yet generates an accurate history of the extent and usage of the mold for particular molded parts. Preferably, the monitor is more sophisticated than a simple counter and records therein mold identification information, part identification information, average cycle time information as well as actual dates and quantities of parts molded over particular times. The invention is particularly useful in that accurate information is retained about the usage of the mold and timely, proper maintenance can be more readily facilitated. While specific embodiments have been illustrated and described, numerous modifications come to mind without significantly departing from the spirit of the invention and the scope of protection is limited by the scope of the accompanying claims. These modification include, but are not limited to, replacing other types of cycle counters with cycle counters made according to the present invention and or retrofitting other types of cycle counters using the principles of the present invention.