Rival makers of bimetallic barrels expect to meet in court in February, and one firm says it expects to recapture business with Van Dorn Demag Corp. it recently lost. Xaloy Inc. is suing Inductametals Corp., which Van Dorn recently named as its supplier of high-performance, bimetallic barrels for Van Dorn's injection molding presses. Xaloy alleges patent infringement and unfair competition. In a separate lawsuit, Xaloy makes the same allegations against barrel supplier Wexco Corp.
"Van Dorn will probably change its mind back [from Inductametals to Xaloy]," said Gunther Hoyt, Xaloy's vice president of marketing.
Van Dorn's decision to sell injection presses with Inductametals' Ultramax bimetallic barrel "will be questionable" in the climate of the lawsuit, he said.
Hoyt said millions of dollars of sales are at stake in its lawsuits.
Van Dorn officials said they will watch the legal events. But as of Jan. 27, Van Dorn had not severed its new relationship with Inductametals.
"We will do what is best for our customers," said Van Dorn spokeswoman Patrice Aylward.
Inductametals expects Xaloy's lawsuit to have no impact on the company's arrangement with Van Dorn, according to Vice President Louis Berger.
"We don't believe their suit has merit," Berger said.
Wexco sales manager Robert Snaden said his firm had no comment since it was not familiar with the lawsuit.
Xaloy alleges that Inductametals of Chicago and Wexco of Lynchburg, Va., infringed on its U.S. Patent No. 5,565,277, which was issued in 1996.
The patent covers several types of bimetallic barrels, including high-performance types using microalloy steel as the outer barrel layer. The composition of the outer steel layer allows the barrel to withstand pressures of up to 30,000 pounds per square inch.
The lawsuits assert the defendants copied Xaloy's unique combination of "an inner layer of metal [inlay] formulated to withstand the friction and heat of the injection molding process and an outer layer of metal [backing material] to support the inlay."
That combination allows Xaloy's barrels to operate at higher pressures in the injection process, according to the lawsuits.
Xaloy filed the suits Jan. 26 in U.S. District Court in Roanoke, Va. Hoyt said the suits are scheduled to be heard Feb. 16 and 17.
Hoyt said his company, based in Pulaski, Va., obtained barrel samples and had them analyzed by an independent laboratory. The results were "clear cut" that Inductametals and Wexco violated Xaloy's patent, according to Hoyt.
Berger said Inductametals uses "a different process and a different alloy." He said the arrangement with Van Dorn is exciting because it shows that an original equipment manufacturer "realizes that the internal diameter of the barrel is a main component of what happens in an injection molding machine."
Van Dorn originally announced its choice of Ultramax barrels Jan. 1. Van Dorn said it carefully reviewed test data and manufacturing results from customer plants during the past few years.
In a news release announcing the decision, Bill Carteaux, Van Dorn vice president of sales and marketing, said the Ultramax barrel was two to three times more wear-resistant than competitive barrels.
Inductametals said its unique technology uses rapid-induction, coil-heat fusion and advanced process control instead of traditional furnace casting.
After Jan. 1, Van Dorn customers had the choice of Van Dorn's standard ion-nitrided barrel or bimetallic barrel, or the Ultramax barrel. The bimetallic barrel and Ultramax product are available as options for injection presses with shot sizes of more than 40 ounces.
Hoyt said Xaloy decided to look at competitors' barrels more closely because "we were getting tired of mounting claims."
Xaloy already has had a run-in with Wexco. Last summer it won an injunction against Wexco's use of the Xaloy trademark on the Internet.
When someone surfing the Internet looked up "Xaloy" through a search engine, hits popped up for Wexco.
Wexco officials said someone who created Wexco's Web site added "Xaloy" in internal coding called a metatag.
According to Xaloy, it is the world's leading producer of bimetallic machine barrels, high-performance screws and shut-off nozzles for plastics and rubber molding and extrusion. The company's manufacturing plants are in Pulaski; Newburyport, Mass.; and Chon Buri, Thailand. Inductametals' plant is in Germantown, Wis.