TROY, MICH. — Automotive consultant Boney A. Mathew is putting his ideas to the test with a new production facility to injection mold plastics, ceramics and powdered metals. His Troy-based Mathson Industries has one contract in hand, worth $4 million during the next seven years, to turn out plastic fuel connectors for an unspecified Tier 1 supplier.
Mathson also is working with HPM Corp. to develop injection molding machines for powdered metal and ceramics, based on Mathson's designs.
"It gives us a chance to work together to develop a better leading-edge technology," said Stephen Byrnes, president of injection molding for Mount Gilead, Ohio-based HPM.
"HPM is developing the machines hand-in-hand with the customer for the end market."
Mathson has specialized in providing technical advice to manufacturers, helping with projects such as plastic fuel tanks and integrated fuel systems.
The new project will continue to focus on Mathew's ideas, but this time he actually will turn out his own parts from a 15-employee operation using three HPM presses.
Both the powdered-metal and ceramic injection process use polymers as a binder during molding, turning out small pieces that otherwise would require extensive machining. Prospective items take in everything from an air-bag sensor or fuel-injection nozzle in autos to the cleat in a golf shoe.
Once molded, the pieces go through a debinding and sintering process to remove the polymer. Tooling costs make the system too expensive except for high production runs, but Mathew expects the injection metal and ceramics molding to continue growing.
"If you can avoid all the machining, you can reduce costs by 30-40 percent," he said.
HPM and Mathew expect other firms to build on his work and promote the technology further. "Lack of knowledge won't allow the program to develop," he said. "We are creating our own competition because we believe this technology is so good, we think everyone should have it."
Plastics molding will retain its solid hold in the auto industry, however, Mathew said. Injection molding of ceramics and metals only offers another alternative.