Earlier this year at Chinaplas 2006, Battenfeld displayed the HM 270/1330H/1000H, a multi-component injection molding machine that used a patented air-injection process. The machine first injects an outer skin, then a second core material and finally a gas to fill the mold. Water injection provides additional capability and even faster cooling. "You could make a tube, for example, out of a rigid plastic," says Thomas Betts, regional representative for Battenfeld. "Using water assist, you could hollow it out and then overmold it with a TPR on the end to give you a flexible hose connection." For the system designer, the water assist approach eliminates two or even three components. Although licensing is required for the patented process, the shortened cooling phase may provide justification for the added expense.
What if algae borne of fertilizer runoff that pollutes rivers and lakes could be harvested and used as biofuel feedstock? What if the leftovers could be recycled into farm soil nutrients, eliminating at least some of the need for artificial fertilizers in the first place? Western Michigan University researchers have a plan.
Manufacturers of plastic parts recognize the potential of conformal cooling to reduce molding cycle times. Problem is, conformal molds require additive manufacturing (AM), and technologies in that space are still evolving. Costs also can be high, and beyond that, many manufacturing organizations lack the knowledge and expertise needed to apply and incorporate additive technologies into their operations.
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