Large-volume compression molders, particularly in the automotive industry, are beginning to outfit multiple presses with dielectric cure controllers, but the process is not used widely in injection molding. Most of Micromet Instruments Inc.'s 20 compression molding presses use a $17,900 ICAM-2000 single-channel press controller to reduce cycle times in molding large parts such as vehicle door and trunk panels and satellite dishes.
Only a couple of injection molding presses use the controller. Their fast cycles and short part runs differ from extended automotive requirements, which can justify a large investment.
To make the technology more accessible, Newton Centre, Mass.-based Micromet introduced the ICAM-3000 controller, which can monitor six presses simultaneously. The per-press cost is less than $9,000 including sensors, plus another $2,000 per mold to machine a hole for the reusable sensor.
That requirement may change. Micromet is developing sensors that an injection molder can insert in ejector pins to eliminate machining costs.
Questions remain about whether injection molders ever will embrace dielectric technology. Most operators view it as expensive and probably more sophisticated than they need or want.
Dielectric analysis could be used on about half of all thermoset polymer applications, according to Nathaniel Smith, Micromet sales manager, but ``given the existing technology, it is questionable that dielectric analysis will ever become a mainstream production tool as common as pressure or temperature measurements.''
Micromet managers expect the compression molding industry, particularly the automotive portion, ``to provide us with the biggest growth in the next several years,'' Smith said.