CHICAGO (June 22, 3:50 p.m. EDT) — A just-announced alliance between engineering resin maker Bayer Corp. (Booth S154) and Innova Engineering GmbH plans to keep North American molds cooler while heating up molders' profits.
Bayer of Pittsburgh will work with Innova of Menden, Germany, to promote Contura technology, a patented cooling system that can reduce cooling time by an average of 30 percent while improving molded part quality.
The technology first was introduced in Europe in 1994 and now is used in 3,000 European presses. The alliance with Bayer could lead to annual sales of 2,000 Contura systems in North America, according to Innova General Manager Reiner Westhoff.
Contura is a three-dimensional, conformal mold-cooling system that separates the mold core into slices, inserts water channels and bonds them together using patented vacuum brazing technology. Westhoff said molders can be confident of the bonding strength, because vacuum brazing technology also is used in aircraft turbine engines.
"You entrust your life to this technology every time you're 30,000 feet up in a plane," Westhoff said.
Pittsburgh-based Bayer became involved when it realized the significance of the improvements the technology could provide to its injection molding customers, according to plastics division President Nicholas Cullen Jr.
"We had a large customer tell us that one second in cycle-time savings could result in savings of more than $1 million a year on their global business," Cullen said. "With reducing cooling time in the cycle by 30 percent, you can basically have three molds doing the work of four."
"Conformal mold cooling has been the Holy Grail of the injection molding industry," he added.
Contura aims to speed up the cooling process by eliminating heat peaks and leveling the mold temperature to allow for more uniform cooling. It's also been able to reduce warp in finished parts, reduce scrap and avoid tool corrections, officials said.
"Molders ask why they spend so much time waiting for cooling," Westhoff said. "The other question is, why do they spend so much money just for waiting?''
Initially, Bayer will have three of its 25 employees working out of Bayer's Pittsburgh headquarters. Molds will be sent to Pittsburgh where they will be outfitted with the Contura technology. Lead time on technology installation will be less than one week.
Although Contura-enhanced molds will be 10-15 percent more expensive than standard products, Westhoff said cycle-time savings will allow molders to recover the extra expense in less than a year.
There are no limitations on the size of the molds that can use Contura. A European automaker is using Contura in a 2,300-ton press to make door panels. The number of mold cavities also is not limited by the technology.
In other European applications, Contura has been able to improve cycle times by 45 percent in a connector tool made from nylon 6; by 35 percent in a blood transfusion filter made from polycarbonate; and by 23 percent in a vacuum-cleaner housing made from ABS.
Bayer's Cullen said the technology could particularly offer benefits for molded parts for thin-wall information technology applications, as well as for parts in medical, consumer and automotive markets.
Bayer does not profit from Contura sales, but plans to benefit from improving its customers' outputs and profitability, Bayer plastics technology director Mark Witman said.
"In more and more cases, our customers are turning to us after exhausting all other possible ways to improve their productivity," he said.
The Bayer-Innova alliance will be aimed at Bayer's customer base, but will not be limited to or tailored for Bayer resins, officials said.
Privately owned Innova does not release annual sales figures. The company has had an informal working arrangement for several years with Bayer AG, Bayer Corp.'s parent firm in Leverkeusen, Germany.
In North America, the alliance will compete with several companies that have developed improved cooling technologies, including Infinite Plastics Group of Warwick, R.I., and Metallamics Inc. of Traverse City, Mich.