Transparency with depth effect: Producing high-quality surfaces sustainably
| Michael Fuchs, Gerhard Konrad
Techniplas has relied on ColorForm technology for years
Our demands on control elements and surfaces in automobiles are constantly increasing. They should be multifunctional, elegant and of the highest quality, and ideally produced in a sustainable manner. ColorForm technology meets all these requirements. Techniplas in Treuen / Saxony has relied for years on this technology, which is also used in cleanroom processes for production.
Reduction of working steps saves money and conserves CO2
ColorForm is the combination of injection molding technology and surface finishing with polyurethane in a single work step. This makes the production of high-quality components in large series equally economical and sustainable. "ColorForm technology offers great potential for a lower CO₂ footprint in the production of components with a noble, multifunctional surface," explains Michael Fuchs, Global Application Owner Surface & Lightweight at KraussMaffei. This saves the user work steps such as intermediate storage, painting and reworking of components. In addition, thanks to the transparent polyurethane surface, depth effects can be achieved and functions integrated into the component.
ColorForm: Coating right in the mold
The ColorForm process is based on a combination of injection molding and polyurethane processing. The tried-and-tested multi-component injection molding procedure is the foundation of this process. What is special about it: After injection molding of the thermoplastic mold base body, this body is flow-coated with polyurethane (PUR) or polyurea (PUA) as the surface material in a second cycle.
The RimStar Flex ColorForm reaction process machine, which was designed specifically for this process, and the mixing head feed the surface material (PUR/PUA) directly into the cavity. "RimStar systems take up very little space and meter even small amounts precisely and at a high cycle frequency," explains Philipp Strasser, Global Application Owner RPM & Automotive at KraussMaffei.
Production efficient and sustainable
Originally, ColorForm was developed for higher production efficiency and special effects for vehicle interior components. The MXW 1000 ColorForm system at Techniplas plays these qualities to the full. Today, however, aspects such as occupational health and safety and the technology's CO₂ footprint are also becoming increasingly important compared to other manufacturing methods. And here, too, the ColorForm process scores in more than one discipline. In addition, ColorForm components are also gaining more and more applications in the exterior sector, because here, too, a high-quality appearance is crucial for end customers.
Not a speck of dust in the paint
"Our customers, major OEMs from the automotive industry, place the highest demands on quality. There must be no defects larger than 0.2mm on the entire transparent component. With the MXW 1000 in combination with the RimStar Flex for PUR metering, we fully meet these requirements," explains Toni Luckner, process developer at Techniplas in Treuen (Vogtland).
"Our ColorForm system is used to produce parts using the injection compression molding process, which are given a high-quality, transparent PUR surface for a special depth effect," says Luckner. "Another line for the project is currently being commissioned."
Production in the clean room
"We produce under cleanroom conditions in the process. Thus, when the mold is open, no grain of dust can get between the coating and the substrate surface." Accordingly, the entire plant is also equipped with a cleanroom enclosure. "We thus achieve very low reject rates," emphasizes Luckner.
Increased potential for saving
Not only is the ColorForm technology eliminate the need to transport and paint components, and to invest in a painting plant – the ColorForm components are also ready for installation as they are discharged from the highly automated production cell. This saves both production time and money for buffer storage and drying of the components.
Techniplas already has many years of good experience with KraussMaffei's ColorForm technology. At Techniplas, the technology is called "ColorFuse". The company currently has four ColorForm systems in Treuen and one in Rüti/CH. This plant has already been producing ColorForm components in series since 2016. In addition, the in-house technical center in Treuen uses two further systems.
Upgrade in difficult times
For the system that has been put into operation now, Techniplas used an existing MXW 1000 injection molding machine from KraussMaffei as the basis. Techniplas had the MXW retrofitted at its manufacturer's main factory in Munich's Allach neighborhood.
"There, all necessary equipment is available on-site, and commissioning at the TechCenter was also completed on schedule – both for the injection molding machine and for the PUR technology, that is, for the RimStar Flex with two MK 5-2K CCM mixing heads for simultaneous production of two components. This cannot be taken for granted under the current basic conditions determined by the pandemic," says Luckner.
New control system and ORCA cooling
The MXW 1000 was not just retrofitted for ColorForm technology. Its control system was also completely upgraded to the MC6 control system, and a new ORCA cooling system was installed. "The system performs a contact-free temperature measurement, which minimizes maintenance. The technology allows us to control the twenty cooling circuits of the MXW precisely and thus makes a critical contribution to the high, uniform quality of the components," explains Luckner.
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