CHICAGO (June 19, 2:50 p.m. EDT) — Trexel Inc. (Booth S4144) has signed up five major automotive molders for its MuCell process, and is poised to spread its tiny-bubbles technology into the high-volume market of blow molded consumer bottles, officials announced Monday at NPE.
Trexel blow molded the first prototype MuCell milk bottle just last week, Richard Straff, vice president of extrusion and blow molding, said at a news conference.
In automotive molding, Trexel announced licensing agreements with five molding companies:
* Johnson Controls Interior GmbH, a German subsidiary of Glendale, Wis.-based Johnson Controls Inc., which makes automotive seating, instrument panels and other interior car parts.
* MIG Plastics Inc. of Morenci, Mich. At NPE, Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. (Booth S2983) announced that MIG has ordered a 2,200-ton Husky press, the largest MuCell-equipped machine to date, for a new, 90,000-square-foot factory under construction in Morenci.
* Inoac Corp. of Nagoya, Japan.
* Magna Eybl GmbH of Ebergassing, Austria.
* Takagi Seiko Corp. of Toyama, Japan.
According to Trexel officials, MuCell licenses for global companies typically cover all their molding factories around the world.
MuCell works by adding microscopic bubbles to parts that are injection molded, blow molded or extruded. The gas — carbon dioxide or nitrogen — is brought to a supercritical state, having properties of both a liquid and a gas. The gas creates a single-phase solution, and the bubbles form as the melt goes into the mold.
According to Trexel, MuCell benefits include a reduction in the amount of resin required, lighter-weight parts that run at lower molding pressures, lower melt temperatures and faster cycle times. Pressure from the bubbles in the mold also reduce warping and sink marks.
Trexel says those features will make MuCell attractive for things like shampoo bottles, milk bottles and margarine tubs — price-sensitive packaging markets that have been thin-walled and weight-reduced down to their thinnest possible level. Straff said MuCell can reduce the weight of packaging by at least 20 percent, with no loss in the integrity of the bottle.
Milacron and its licensee, Uniloy-Milacron, have completed the first MuCell-capable reciprocating screw blow molding machine.
Straff said foams have had a checkered history in blow molding of consumer packaging. The main technology tried so far, chemical blowing agents, has not worked well, he said.
At the news conference, Trexel showed two of the prototype milk bottles straight off the molding machine. They were opaque bottles with a white appearance, not translucent like the most common high density polyethylene milk bottles. Straff said the foaming process inherently creates an opaque bottle. Colorants also can be added, he said.
Straff said a commercial MuCell reciprocating screw blow molder could be available commercially by the end of this year.
Beyond milk bottles, Trexel also said it has completed a joint development project with an unidentified company — a consumer products company that is a big user of plastic bottles — to take MuCell foaming into HDPE bottles. Initially, Trexel wants to retrofit high-volume wheel blow molding machines already in production.