ARC Group Worldwide this month announced development of a new, proprietary thixomolding process that targets one of the process’s leading problems: high costs.
No details were provided on the new technology, which is said to lower porosity, achieve tighter tolerances, create more complex parts, and develop thinner walls than traditional magnesium or aluminum die casting processes.
“Up until now, cost has been one of the biggest barriers to growth in the thixomolding sector, but with ARC’s new proprietary process, the company can offer prices that are more competitive than traditional magnesium and aluminum die casting,” said ARC CEO Jason Young. “We are excited to announce our new thixoforming capabilities which will enable ARC’s customers to have lighter, more complex parts than die casting, with price no longer being the barrier to adoption.”
Thixoforming technology was invented by Dow in 1987, but like other liquid metal molding processes has been slow to achieve commercial acceptance. ARC is one of just four U.S. licensees, each of which only operates a handful of machines at the most. Among machine builders, only Japan Steel Works is still listed as a licensee by Thixomat, which acquired the intellectual property from Dow in 1997. Husky and HPM had been involved in developing thixomolding machines.
In thixomolding, chipped magnesium feedstock is heated in the barrel of an injection molding machine. After a reciprocating screw melts the material, it is injected into a mold at high speed and pressure to create the part. The process is much hotter than traditional plastic molding.
The process has had more commercial success in Asia because many of the applications are in electronics. Thixomat lists 11 Asian licensees, including Nypro, which operates thixomolding machines in Singapore. Some of the Asian licensees operates machines in the U.S.
The stars seem to be aligned for greater use of magnesium in cars, but applications are still lagging due to high costs.
ARC Group is a consortium of companies, many recently acquired, targeting production of precision metal parts via metal injection molding, 3D printing, thixomolding, and other processes. Thixomolding is a small part of its overall operations.