PATAC Pioneers 3D-Printed PA6 For Intake Manifold Parts

IThe Shanghai-based Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC), a joint venture between General Motors and SAIC Motor, wants to take a leadership role in developing 3D-printed parts for intake manifold development. Read more »

Additive manufacturing, Asia, Automotive, Polyamides , ,

Nike Develops Improved 3D-Printed Golf Ball

Nike is developing a 3D-printed golf ball that it says may last longer and outperform the best golf balls made today.

3D-printed golf balls are not brand new, but high-tech 3D printed golf balls are.

Nike is still using an elastomeric material for an inner core and a rigid material for an outer core, but the 3D printing process allows for smoother transitions between a multitude of layers as well as the introduction of unique internal geometric feature, such as voids, that may improve performance.

The key goal is to balance soft feel with resilience. Hardness allows long drives with minimal spin. Softer balls spin more, improving control for shorter shots to the green.

In one configuration of a new Nike patent, each shell comprises rings aligned at a different azimuth angle of 0 to 90 degrees. In another, each shell layer may be formed from many arcs extending away from the work surface. That type of construction is not possible with injection or compression molding.

In the final step, the golf balls would still be fused and overmolded with a material such as DuPont Surlyn. The type of 3D printing used is fused deposition, but no specific type of printer is identified in the patent. In fact, some aspects of the technology appear to be new developments, including control and mixing systems.

The inventor is Aaron Bender, a compounding chemical engineer at Nike, Beaverton, Oregon.

Nike developed its first golf ball 18 years ago, and ironically announced last August that it will be phasing out of the golf ball business and focusing on golf clothing. The invention application was filed at the end of 2013.

It’s not your father’s golf ball. (USPTO)

Additive manufacturing

SABIC Seeks Patent For Conformal Cooling Via Additive Manufacturing

SABIC is seeking to patent the concept of creating conformal cooling channels in mold inserts with additive manufacturing processes such as laser sintering. 

A U.S. patent application titled “Molds And Methods Of Making Molds Having Conforming Heating And Cooling Systems” was published yesterday.

The specific goal of the SABIC approach is to more efficiently use rapid heating and cooling systems for the injection molding of parts such as mobile phone covers and automotive reflectors made from polycarbonate.

But the technology described in the patent appears to be a broad brush that covers almost any additive manufacturing process to produce cooling channels that are located close to a mold wall and curve in a way not possible with traditional machining methods. The concept has been used for more than 20 years, although infrequently because of its cost.

The patent application reads like a commonly available primer on how these systems work and are produced.

The assignee on the application is SABIC Global Technologies, B.V., Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands. The inventor is Venkatesha Narayanaswamy, a research associate at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India.

SABIC CAD file showing conformal cooling concept. (USPTO)

Additive manufacturing, Automotive, Cooling/Heating, Design, Electronics, Injection Molding , ,

New Machine Reduces Entry Bar For Injection Molding

The “maker” manufacturing movement, which propelled 3D printing to headline status, is now embracing injection molding.

For a $6,250 pledge on Kickstarter, you can get an injection molding machine—a small, simple one. In fact, it operates on a wall outlet. It will be competing against 3D printers priced as low as $1,000, but it has one very big advantage. It runs on pellets that cost around $2 per pound compared to $55 per pound for the PLA used in 3D printers. It also offers other benefits of injection molding: faster production, longer product runs, better impact resistance, better surface finish, and superior part-to-part repeatability.

The quality probably is not comparable to what you would receive on a Wittmann Battenfeld or Arburg machine. And you lose some of the benefits of 3D printing, such as the ability to make internal, curving channels.

But it fits a niche for short-run production and prototyping.

The machine was developed by a small company near Cincinnati called APSX  started by two engineers, Burak Cevik and Kubi Kara, in 2006 to make RFID devices. They decided to design and make their own injection molding machine because of problems finding reasonably priced parts.

“The only thing we needed was a small plastic enclosure about 2-inch by 4-inch and 1-inch deep,” says Kara. “We started with US-based companies first to make it easy…They were starting about $15K up to $25K only for a small mold. Plus the piece price was about $2-$3. The problem was that we needed only about 25 pieces just to have some tests with. “

Here are key specs for the machine:

  • Piston Dia [in]: 1 
  • Injection Volume [cu-in]: 1.83 
  • Injection Pressure [PSI]: 5000 
  • Clamping Force [lbs]: 15000 
  • Opening Stroke [in]: 6 
  • Ejector Stroke [in]: 3 
  • Weight [lbs]: 250 
  • Max Mold Size [in]: 4.8″ (W) X 6.0″ (H) 
  • Min Mold Height [in]: 4 
  • Machine Dimensions [in]: 43″ (L) X 10″ (W) X 15″ (H) 
  • Max Processing temp [F]: 600 
  • Power Supply [V]: 115 
  • Heating Power [W]: 1200 
  • Warranty: 1 year 
  • Plastic Materials for Injection: HDPE, PP, TPO, PS, ABS, anything with melt flow rate higher than 15 g/10 min is good. 






Injection Molding, North America

Thermoplastics Eye Greater Role At JEC World

Look for new concepts at next month’s JEC World International Composites show in Paris as interest in composites for aircraft continues to grow rapidly.

One example is injection molding machine builder Engel, which will be producing parts for the first time at the JEC event.  At the Bond-Laminates stand, Engel and partners will demonstrate the injection molding of a housing with a wall thickness of 0.6 mm. At its own stand, Engel will exhibit (but not demonstrate) its in-situ polymerization technology shown at K2016.

Engel developed a machine series specifically for composites.

Also at JEC, Victrex will show a TxV Aero Composites sample, the result of a collaboration with Tri-Mack Plastics Manufacturing Corp. to accelerate the adoption of polyketone (PAEK) composites in the aerospace industry.

“Our Aerospace Loaded Brackets program is a great example of how we can offer new forms and components, alongside supplying materials, and build a new supply chain to address the unmet needs of the aerospace industry,” said David Hummel, chief executive of Victrex.

The intent is to offer a range of PAEK composites, from custom laminates to pre-formed composite inserts for hybrid molding processes, as well as finished composite parts and complete over-molded hybrid composite components and assemblies. 

TxV Aero Composites said it will complete a polyketone composite center of excellence in the USA this year.

Aircraft, Composites, Injection Molding , ,

MCC’s New BioPlastic Is Expensive Niche Material

Acceptance rates are slow for a new engineering plastic called Durabio developed by Mazda and Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. (MCC) that targets polycarbonate and acrylic. The big problem is its cost—about $6 per pound.

Mazda continues to add new applications for the plastic, including mirror housings for the new model of the Roadster RF. The new grade has been used for interior and exterior design parts of Mazda’s CX-9, Axela, and Demio since 2015, when it was first adopted for the newly launched Roadstar.

The only other announced user is Sharp, which is using Durabio for the front panel of the Aquos Crystal 2 smartphone.

MCC began production of Durabio in 2012 with an annual production capacity of 5,000 metric tons.  Capacity was boosted to 16,000 metric tons in 2015. Global capacity of polycarbonate in comparison is above 4 million metric tons.

The pitch for Durabio is both performance and environmental.

Durabio is said to nearly eliminate distortion in light transmission, making it easy to see a touch panel surface. Its scratch resistance is also said to be superior to polycarbonate. The mirror housings, for example, require no coating.

The main raw materials used to make the plastic are based on sorbitol, a starch derivative. Durabio contains no BPA.

Asia, Automotive, Bioplastics, Electronics, Green

Isometric Ramps Up Micro Molding

The small, but elite, club of custom micro injection molders in the United States has a new member.

Isometric Micromolding of New Richmond, Wisconsin, is now rapidly ramping up its capabilities in micro injection molding, says Donna Bibber, the company’s VP of Business Development.

Bibber is well known in the micro field. She was a founding partner of MTD Micro Molding in Charlton, Massachusetts, and has frequently spoken to SPE groups about her work in micro product development work as CEO of Micro Engineering Solutions.

Parts range from 5.0mm to 2.0mm. Resins are polycarbonate, acetal, HIPS. (Isometric)

“We established Isometric Micromolding in 2013 from scratch, added an ERP system, ISO 13485,  scanner ($1MM of metrology equipment), two cleanrooms, one class 7 and one class 8,” says Bibber.  The company is adding two micro molding machines this year, bringing its total to seven.

Isometric calls itself the largest medical-focused micro molder in the U.S, serving the intraocular, vascular, neuromodulation, orthopedic, and drug delivery device markets.

Isometric Companies, Inc., a privately held corporation formally announced the micro molding business last week. Isometric Tool & Design, Inc., a precision injection mold and automation fabrication company, was established in 1990. Isometric has 60 employees and 33,000 sq ft of manufacturing space.

Bibber says that vertical integration is one of the strengths of the new company.

“We have 100 percent in-house services of tooling, molding, automation, and CT scanning–all specific to micro molding and very high precision components.”     

Isometric President Michael Hudalla comments: “One of the largest, publicly traded medical device companies in the world traveled the globe in search of a micro molding firm capable of singular micron tolerance molding and selected Isometric Micro Molding, Inc. because of our precision tooling and transparent customer service- both critical to medical device design history filing.”

Medical, Micro Molding, North America ,

Extraction Unit Allows Safe Molding of Teflon

Technical parts made from Teflon are often machined because the polymer begins to decompose into hazardous fluorocarbon gases above 662°F.

German electronics equipment producer Rohde & Schwarz, however, is significantly reducing the per-part cost of Teflon for a micro application with a specially developed molding cell. The part is a Teflon spacer used in high-frequency components.

High-precision Teflon spacers are used in high-frequency components. (Photo: Wittmann Battenfeld)

Micro injection molding machines from Wittmann Battenfeld are enclosed and equipped with an extraction unit with a thermo microbalance combined with an infrared spectrometer.

The thermo microbalance determines changes in mass while gases released from samples are measured by a Fourier-Transform infrared spectrometer, which covers spectral range from 500 cm-1 up to 6.000 cm-1. Integrated flow controllers ensure precisely regulated flow quantities for two flushing gases and one shielding gas.

“With this method, Rohde & Schwarz was able to prove beyond doubt that processing of the Teflon used does not involve any health or safety hazard for the workers,” stated a press release issued by Wittmann Battenfeld.

To achieve very tight tolerance requirements, the two micro machines are located in an air-conditioned room where both temperature and humidity are kept constant. The molds and the material are also stored in the room. MicroPower machines (5 to 15 metric tons of clamping force) use a two-step screw-and-plunger injection unit with shot volumes ranging from 0.05 to 4 cm³.

While the machined parts had to be deburred, no secondary finishing of the injection molded parts is required.

The Rohde & Schwarz plant is in Teisnach, Germany. The company, which is highly integrated, makes its own molds and its own EDM milling equipment to achieve tolerances of ±3 μm. Typical micro parts made by Rohde & Schwarz in Teisnach are power plugs with a tolerance margin around ±12 μm between the internal and external conductors.

Micro injection molding machines at Rohde & Schwarz are located in an air-conditioned room. (Photo: Wittmann Battenfeld)

Automation/Robotics, Automation/Robots, Electronics, Europe, Micro Molding , ,

Microfluidics Heat Up At MD&M West

The state of the art in microfluidics, which allow integration of many medical tests on a single chip, will be a highlight at MD&M West, Feb. 7-9 in Anaheim, California. The global market for microfluidic devices is expected to go as high as $798.4 billion by the end of 2021 with an annual growth rate exceeding 20 percent, according to a recent research report.

Plustech, Schaumburg, Illinois, will demonstrate medical microfluidic molding with the Sodick GL30 micro injection molding machine. The mold will be supplied by Plustech customer, Plas-Tech Engineering, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The molded material will be Topas COC material 8007×10. Automation supplied by Star Automation will include a side-entry robot that will remove the part from the mold.

The Sodick GL30 uses a V-Line two-stage plunger system, which separates the plasticization and injection processes for what is described as consistent measurement and injection of the melt stream. The 30-ton machine incorporates a hybrid clamping mechanism utilizing an upgraded servo motor-controlled hydraulic pumping system.

Dolomite’s Fluidic Factory, a commercially available 3D printer for sealed microfluidic devices, will be on display at the Topas Advanced Polymers’ booth. It will produce a variety of microfluidic demonstration parts.

The Fluidic Factory is used for rapid prototyping of fluidically sealed devices such as chips, sensor cartridges, fluid manifolds, valves, connectors, and medical devices. The additive manufacturing process allows creation of geometries, particularly complex, internal features not possible with machining, etching, or injection molding.

The Dolomite printer can create devices that seal at higher pressures than are possible with conventional 3D printers. The maximum sealing pressure is 10-20 bar. Also, the plastics used with traditional 3D printers, such as ABS or PLA, are not appropriate for microdfluidics due to lack of transparency or biocompatability. Dolomite is the sole supplier of the COC filaments.

In one example of how the Fluidic Factory is optimized for creating tight seals for microfluidics, it uses a “squashed” bead method when depositing beads as opposed to many traditional FDM printers which deposit beads in circular cross-sections.

COC (cyclic olefin copolymer) is often used for microfluidic devices because it is a hard, transparent, and  biologically compatible polymer.



Additive manufacturing, Design, Medical, Micro Molding, North America, Other , , , ,

Google Invents Molding Process For Phone Lens

Injection molding is hot in Silicon Valley.

Apple has famously invented new technology for the molding of amorphous metals and composites, racking up more than 50 patents in its IP portfolio.

Now Google is getting in on the act.

Google Technology Holdings, Mountain View, California, was awarded a patent this week for injection molding a display for a phone or other mobile electronic device that it said overcomes limitations of previous versions, particularly breakage of the edges of the glass  lens.

In the invention, a stepped flange is added to the perimeter of a lens coated with liquid-repelling material. The lens is inserted in a mold. Plastic is injected to cover the perimeter, including the stepped flange. Optically clear light-curable resin goes on the rear surface of the transparent lens.

A display module is placed on the resin, which is then cured with at least one optical source. The housing is then molded, using the flange to help guard against edge breakage of the lens.

Patent drawing shows critical steps in Google invention. (USPTO)

Consumer Goods, Electronics, North America , ,