DUSSELDORF, GERMANY—Weber Manufacturing Ltd. is growing, partially thanks to Chrysler Corp.'s innovative, all-plastic-body car.
The Midland, Ontario-based tool builder has improved its nickel-vapor mold making to build a production-quality tool for Chrysler's Composite Concept Vehicle. Now Weber is expanding its factory to handle demand for lightweight nickel tools.
The company is spending C$3 million (US$1.95 million) to build and equip a 15,000-square-foot addition to its Midland plant and add a 4,000-square-foot engineering center. The facility will feature two milling centers.
The expansion will produce normal steel molds. But the increased capacity is needed because of demand for the nickel-vapor-deposition process, which uses steel molds to create a lightweight nickel shell that replaces the steel mold, said Alan Sundeen, president and chief executive officer.
Weber already has built a mold for a CCV prototype. The prototype body was molded in four pieces that were joined together to create the finished part. But the production version probably will be molded in one piece, said Chairman Reinhart Weber.
Weber officials said Chrysler has indicated it could use a large nickel-shell mold to make the production part.
``Unofficially, we heard they were very pleased,'' Sundeen said at K'98 in Dusseldorf.
Weber now can build the mold in one piece because it added a much larger nickel-vapor-deposition chamber in July. The chamber is nearly 10 feet long, 6 feet wide and 4 feet high.
``It will make it possible to get the high-volume, quality parts,'' Weber said. ``With the four-part mold, it was hard to get the quality you needed.''
The nickel-shell mold has several advantages, Weber said: It is half the weight of steel, handles heat well and can be cheaper than steel if a customer needs several molds. The firm is looking at nickel-shell for auto interior trim and injection and compression molding of large auto parts and 100-gallon containers, he said.
The company has added 50 em-ployees for nickel-shell in the past 18 months, and plans to bring on 25 more in the next six months, he said. The firm does about C$25 million (US$15 million) in sales, and expects its nickel business to equal its steel mold making in two years, Weber said.
Nickel shell works by putting a steel mold into a chamber that uses nickel carbonyl gas to deposit nickel on it. The nickel shell is removed, forming a new mold.