CHICAGO (July 17, 10:05 a.m. EDT) — DuPont has branched out into the world of screw design with the ELCee screw, a product that the firm claims can save the equivalent of 5-14 cents per pound on resin costs and cut retraction time by as much as 50 percent, leading to much shorter cycle times for injection molders.
DuPont commercialized the ELCee screw in Europe in 1999 and will launch it in North America later this year. More than 100 ELCee screws are in use worldwide, including five already in commercial use in the United States. DuPont expects the U.S. number to increase to 25 by year's end.
Spirex Corp. of Youngstown, Ohio, is handling North American production of the screw, while PMT of Liege, Belgium, is making it in Europe.
Spirex operated the screw in Chicago at its booth during NPE. Both Spirex and DuPont ran computer models that show how much cycle times can be reduced by using the screw.
"We had been working in screw design with individual customers for years, but this is the first time we've been involved from a manufacturing perspective," said Dan Saunders, a senior technical consultant with Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont.
"We always understood what different screw designs would do with our polymers," he said. "We see (the ELCee screw) as a way of giving additional services to our customers."
Spirex and PMT are handling all sales and marketing of the ELCee, which to date has been produced in sizes of 30-90 millimeters.
Spirex — a 160-employee firm that specializes in screws, barrels and valves for injection molding and extrusion — had worked with other resin firms to test new materials, but the ELCee project marks the first time it has collaborated with a resin maker on screw design, according to Darrel Vertanen, Spirex's vice president of sales.
The ELCee screw can be modified to use non-DuPont resins as well.
"If someone comes in with a competitive material, that's fine," Saunders said. "We don't have a problem with it."
DuPont bases the resin savings estimate of 5-14 cents per pound on the experiences of European injection molders that have been using the screw since last year. Some in this same group of molders report reductions as high as 75-80 percent in rejected parts.
The impetus for the project came in early 1998 when DuPont realized that a number of molders were looking to solve the same problems. At that point, DuPont decided it would be more productive to produce a single screw than to provide individual support for dozens of customers, Saunders said.
Currently, between 30 and 40 molders are using the screw to mold products for electrical/electronic applications and consumer markets.
"Certain markets are driving production to the nth degree," Saunders said. "They're fighting to get tenths of seconds off cycle times."
Saunders said DuPont is looking for an ELCee licensee in Asia, but is not seeking further licensees in North America or Europe.
He added that DuPont has no plans to enter into screw production.
"We have no desire to become a screw manufacturer," Saunders said. "That's not our expertise."
Spirex's Vertanen said his firm is testing the screw with several customers and plans to begin an aggressive marketing campaign.
"Working with DuPont on this project has been a very positive experience for Spirex," he said. "We expect to do a lot of good things together."