Tooling costs to make plastic bumpers and fascia can be reduced by a factor of five using a thermoformable sheet, which for the first time can now be laser welded. Fittings can be welded that allow attachment to cars. “In the past, it was impossible to fasten components to the thermoformed sheet in a cost-effective way,” comments Thilo Stier, innovation manager for A. Schulman, a plastic compounder based in Akron, OH. The main reason is that the visible surface of the sheet would show sink marks on the cosmetic surface.The solution is use of a black laser-absorbing layer to concentrate the heat zone on the area that is being welded. A fitting can be welded in two to three seconds, Stier says.
The new technology could put Invasion five-layer extruded thermoformable sheet on a fast track. Schulman introduced its Invision sheet product in 2006 and formed A. Schulman Invision, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary. Schulman is building a new Invision plant in Findlay, OH. Sheet can be extruded in thicknesses ranging from 0.4 mm to 12 mm. Properties include good impact strength, UV stability and Class A surface, according to Stier.