The Diaphorm Division of Solectria Inc. has developed a new manufacturing process that takes aim at the high cost of compression molding continuous-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics at low production volumes.
The patent-pending Pressure Diaphorm process relies on a rubber diaphragm to press the molding material over a single-sided mold at low pressures—30 to 45 psi versus 1,000 or more tons for a comparable compression molded part. These single-sided tools can be built from wood, composites, or aluminum. "Tooling that might cost $100,000 or more for a 1,000-ton compression machine could cost as little as $25,000 or less with Diaphorm's process," reports development manager Tyler Johnson.
Without the expense of conventional molds and machines, the process can turn out molded parts that cost 20 to 70% less than comparable compression moldings, at product volumes between 1,000 and 100,000 parts, Johnson estimates.
Diaphorm supplies these custom molded parts in polypropylene, thermoplastic urethanes, and nylons. The company uses common reinforcing fibers, including glass, carbon, and aramid.