Innovation through technology will increasingly dictate business success as globalization and the Internet flatten the global economy. No where is that more important than product design where new processes, ranging from multi-material molding to gas-assist, create opportunities to make quantum improvements in product performance, appearance and cost.
“In today’s environment, innovation must provide value, which translates into growth,” said consultant Jack Avery in a presentation called “Growth through Innovation”, at the most recent Annual Technical conference of the Society of Plastics Engineers. Avery, who led processing innovation at GE’s Technical Center for many years, points to multi-material processing and design as important new areas for innovation. In one new hybrid process, deep-drawn perforated sheet metal parts are inserted into an injection mold. Plastic melt passes through openings in the sheet metal forming rivet heads, creating strong functional integration of the plastic and metal. Another plastics technology innovation is called the Skin-Form Process, in which a polyurethane mix head is installed on the moving side of an injection molding machine. A shuttle table is fitted to the fixed side of the clamping unit. After a thermoplastic part is made, the mold opens and the shuttle table moves the component into the polyurethane casting position. The reactive urethane components are injected into the mold, creating a two-component part that combines the leather-like quality of urethane and the strength of thermoplastic.