CHICAGO — Fuel cells — a promising new technology that could power tomorrow's cars and generate electricity — could give a needed shot in the arm to thermoset molding, according to three partner companies exhibiting at NPE.
Apex Plastic Technologies Inc. is injection molding thermoset plates, known as bipolar plates, for fuel cells at Booth S349. In a typical fuel cell, 120-200 of the flat plates are stacked together. Fuel cells produce electricity from propane, natural gas or hydrogen, with water and heat as the only emissions.
Apex President Taras Konowal said plates in early fuel cells were made of super-expensive platinum, which prohibited the product from moving beyond the exotic-idea stage. Currently, the plates are made of machined steel, which is still fairly expensive, or compression molded thermosets, a process much slower than thermoset injection molding.
Premix Inc. developed a special thermoset material through its Quantum Composites division for the fuel-cell plates. The material, called Pemtex, must be able to conduct electricity and be corrosion resistant.
Apex, Premix and Milacron Inc., which uses Apex technology for its thermoset injection presses, began a cooperative development project last year.
Konowal said the innovation at NPE gives thermoset injection molders access to a market projected to grow by 2 billion pounds of material a year by 2003.
At the Apex booth, a Milacron Magna injection press is molding the parts. Apex's new Revolution stuffer allows the overlapping of plasticating and clamp operations for continuous processing.