A Cincinnati injection molder is teaming up with a German company to begin producing thermoplastic parts for vacuum brakes for the North American auto market. PET and polybutylene terephthalate parts will replace the thermoset ones now used in the United States, said Tom Hennings, president of Plastic Moldings Co. LLC.
"The old thermoset parts will go by the wayside," Hennings said May 11 by telephone.
Plastic Moldings has signed a joint venture contract with Wiesauplast GmbH & Co. of Wiesau, Germany, to transfer the German company's technical expertise to the American auto market.
The vacuum is the trigger in the system, connecting the pedal with the brakes. Wiesauplast supplies more than 12 million thermoplastic vacuum-brake components annually, Hennings said.
By switching to thermoplastics, suppliers can produce parts with a tighter tolerance, using detailed molds to reduce production time while also making a recyclable part, Hennings said.
"Performance is the biggest key," he said.
Global auto supplier TRW Inc. has studied thermoplastics vs. thermosets, said a company spokesman. While the business is sticking with thermoset parts for now, it is continuing to watch thermoplastics' progress.
Plastic Moldings will use Wiesauplast's molds for the U.S. market, turning out pieces for Tier 1 auto suppliers.
"The tooling is extremely, extremely important," Hennings said. "The tooling has got to be right on the money."
Hennings said he believes a large-scale switch could hit soon, with Plastic Moldings set to begin production by the end of this year.
"They've got the technology coming in with thermoplastics," he said. "The North American market is very slow to make a change. The attitude tends to be that if it's working now, why make the change?"