The growth of gas-assisted injection molding has opened up a whole new market for Bauer Compressors Inc., which sells a machine that separates nitrogen from ambient air.
Bauer, of Norfolk, Va., supplies gasses, compressors and other equipment for the general industrial gas market. Before the emergence of gas-assisted molding, the company had no dealings in the plastics industry, according to William Weaver, vice president of industrial products.
``It's opened a whole new market for us,'' Weaver said.
Nitrogen gas is widely used in gas-assisted injection molding. Using the technology, a processor can make hollow parts when gas is injected into the mold, forcing the melted plastic out against the mold walls.
Traditionally, molders that use nitrogen gas for the process have bought compressed gas in cylinders from a supplier. Bauer lets them make their own gas, through its nitrogen generator.
``Gas-assist fits with our technology,'' Weaver said. ``We take ambient air and we separate the oxygen from the nitrogen.'' The nitrogen gas is pressurized, then usually put into tanks. The tanks go to the gas-assist equipment.
Bauer already was making the generators for the U.S. military, which uses inert nitrogen gas to fill tires, struts and shock absorbers for aircraft, Weaver said.
Bauer first began supplying generators to the European gas-assisted injection molding industry, so the firm had a head start when the technology began to grow in North America, he said.
Weaver said two suppliers of gas-assisted molding systems are distributing Bauer nitrogen compressors: Gain Technologies Inc. of Sterling Heights, Mich., and Cinpres Ltd. of Tamworth, England. Bauer also is working with other equipment suppliers.
Any molder can buy nitrogen generators directly from Bauer, he said.
Bauer also makes a gas-control unit, under an exclusive agreement with Gain Technologies covering the Americas. Gain announced the deal at NPE 1997. Gain markets and sells the control unit under the Gain label.
The June show in Chicago was the first time Bauer had its own exhibit at an NPE, although the company has exhibited at a few smaller regional U.S. shows.
Bauer Compressors manufactures its equipment at its Norfolk headquarters. It runs distribution facilities in Sunrise, Fla., and Hayward, Calif.