Centralized Gas Supply in Structural Foam Molding Reduces Costs
Structural foam molding is more popular than ever. It saves raw material, energy, and weight, supporting the objective of producing and using plastic parts in a more sustainable way. At K 2022, Engel (hall 15, booth C58) is presenting a new technology for plastics processors who produce parts in parallel on several production cells using the structural foam molding process.
Whereas each injection molding machine previously required its own gas supply, Engel now offers the e-foam XL multi, a central unit for supplying several injection molding machines with highly compressed nitrogen for structural foam molding. Only the plasticizing and control technology remain decentralized on the individual machines. This new solution sees Engel significantly reduce the capital outlay for structural foam molding and makes a major contribution to reducing unit costs. The new modular Engel e-foam XL multi systems, based on Trexel’s MuCell technology, are offered exclusively by Engel.
Together with Tier 1 supplier Faurecia, Engel is demonstrating the potential of structural foam molding technology at its K booth. Sample parts with a sophisticated surface structure are being produced on an Engel duo 1000 injection molding machine. The new MicroJect Advanced process developed by Faurecia Interiors (Hagenbach, Germany) and Eschmann Textures International (Gummersbach, Germany) is being used in this application. The process makes it possible to produce lightweight, visible components with a high-quality Class A surface using only structural foam molding.
Among other things, a new tool technology is responsible for this leap in development. Ceramic coatings in the cavities prevent the otherwise typical foam streaks, weld lines, tiger stripes, or gloss differences from appearing on the surface of the foam molded part. Additionally, different surface structures can be created directly in the injection mold via the cavity coating.
In addition, new materials developed by Faurecia Interiors for structural foam molding contribute to the surface quality. An IniCycle talc-filled polypropylene grade with 30% recycled material content will be processed during the K show. IniCycle is suitable for all physical and chemical foam molding processes.
Further, the combination of new system technology by Engel and MicroJect Advanced leverages unprecedented efficiency and sustainability potential in structural foam molding, according to Engel. Structural foam molded parts no longer need to be painted, and there is no need for additional energy-intensive process technology, such as intermittent mold heating, for parts in customer-facing applications.
In general, structural foam molding requires less energy and raw material, and uses lower clamping forces, than conventional injection molding. The dissolved blowing agent improves flowability of the molten plastic. In addition, the foam molding pressure, which is independent of the location, enables molding of thicker ribs. These effects can be used to reduce wall thickness, which has a positive effect on the required cooling time and, in turn, on the cycle time.
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