As auto makers strive to reduce costs and boost quality, molded-in color is increasingly being used to replace painted parts.
One interesting example is what Ford describes as the industry’s first use of molded-in high gloss black in a high-tough application for interior parts. Painting and clear coatings were eliminated.
Ford was actually in production last April of the 2013 model year Fusion when it realized it had a scratch and mar problem on molded, painted high-gloss back door switch bezels. A four-month crash research effort involving engineers form Ford, BASF, Michael Tool & Mold, Synventive (hot runner system) and Summitt Polymers resulted in development of a process and new polyamide that solved the problem.
BASF developed a grade of polyamide (Ultramid A3L BK7793) that meets the color, gloss, molding, UV, scratch, and microscratch resistance requirements. “E Mold” rapid heating and cooling technology eliminates knitlines and helps achieve a resin-rich source that meets high gloss and depth of color requirements. E Mold, developed in South Korea, is short for electricity mold. It’s one of several variotherm technologies in which mold temperatures are changed to increase melt fluidity in the filling stage.
Annual savings to Ford are more than a quarter million dollars.
The new technology required new testing protocols. One used by Ford is a test in which food is spilled on the door switch bezel and then cleaned with a McDonald’s paper napkin.
The application is a finalist in the 2012 Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Innovation Awards program. Winners will be announced at a banquet in Livonia, MI on Nov. 7.