DETROIT - Injection molder Montaplast of North America Inc., keeping pace with a growing demand for underhood nylon automotive parts, is expandingproduction of air intake manifolds. Montaplast is adding two air intake manifold molding lines at its facility in Frankfort, Ky., boosting the number of lines to four.
The company, a subsidiary of Montaplast GmbH based in Morsbach, Germany, has developed a proprietary molding system to handle the lost-core process.
To accommodate the expan-sion, Montaplast is adding 50,000 square feet of space to the 75,000-square-foot building in Frankfort.
The expansion should be completed by March, said Michael Ellenbeck, a Montaplast manifold engineer.
Ellenbeck declined to disclose the company's investment in the plant and equipment.
In Frankfort, Montaplast also expects to expand its injection molding capacity, which is now primarily used to make wheel covers and caps.
The company operates five injection molding presses with clamping forces ranging from 250-850 tons.
For intake manifolds, the Montaplast expansion will increase capacity for future business.
The molder is producing a manifold for Ford Motor Co.'s 4.6-liter engine, the first time the automaker has used a nylon on a V-8.
The highly automated molding process incorporates a single metal core, weighing about 110 pounds, over which the plastic is molded with a clamping force of 800-1,000 tons. After molding, the tin-bismuth core is melted away in an oil bath, leaving a hollow plastic part.
Although narrowly conceived as an application for the 1996 Mustang, with a projected production run of about 70,000 units, Ford quickly expanded the nylon manifold program to include V-8 applications on other high-volume car models.
Besides the Mustang, the Montaplast manifold is being installed on the 4.6-liter engine in the 1996 Ford Thunderbird and Mercury Cougar, Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Marquis and the Lincoln Town Car.
Since June, Ford has assembled more than 100,000 engines with the plastic manifold. Montaplast has capacity to produce up to 650,000 units per year.
``When the parts came in and were initially evaluated, we were so proud of the results that we quickly expanded the program to the entire [engine] product line for that year,'' said Gerald H. Czadzeck, a supervisor of induction systems for Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Mich.
The manifold was jointly developed by Ford, Montaplast and DuPont Automotive, which is supplying glass-reinforced nylon 6/6 for production versions. DuPont said the manifold, compared with the aluminum part it replaced, is less expensive, about half the weight at 9 pounds, and boosts engine performance by five horsepower.
Ellenbeck said Montaplast took only 24 weeks to produce the manifold tooling and first moldings, producing a good part on the third shot.
The molder, which builds its tools in Germany, also worked with DuPont technical staff in Geneva in designing the mold.
Using a single core, rather than a grouping of individual metal cores, was important in holding tight tolerances for the plastic manifold and controlling shrinkage, according to Ellenbeck.
``This was really the key for a high-quality part,'' he said.
The market for automotive nylon, driven in large part by the continued replacement of metal intake manifolds, is expected to increase by better than 10 percent per year into the next decade, said David Recktenwald, market development manager for Monsanto Co. in Southfield, Mich.
Nylon also has won favor for its noise absorption qualities and its usefulness in consolidating a number of parts into one molded piece, he said.
The auto industry continues to develop major conversions away from metal in underhood applications, said Al Winterman, director of BASF Corp.'s automo-tive polymers group in Wyandotte, Mich.
Worldwide, BASF is supplying nylon for 22 intake manifolds now in production, Winterman said.
Still, Winterman cautions, the metals industry isn't standing still in the face of the tougher competition from plastics producers.