ATLANTA — Growing pressure to cut costs could provide the push aluminum toolmakers have been seeking to gain more acceptance for their products, said David G. Bank, principal of consulting company David Bank Associates.
Many molders and original equipment manufacturers can benefit from an aluminum mold that can be produced faster and cheaper and can cut molding cycle times by as much as 30 percent, Bank said April 2 during the Society of the Plastics Industries' Structural Plastics Division conference in Atlanta.
That is "found money" available for operators willing to try something new, he said.
"I don't know what is going to trigger that paradigm shift," Bank noted. "More than at any other time, aluminum has a chance to be a bigger player."
Bank of Geneseo, N.Y., got involved in aluminum-based molds for prototype parts through his former company, Papago Plastics Inc.
Now he is convinced aluminum can replace steel in more production molding operations, particularly in gas-assisted injection molding. Molders already have taken advantage of the ability of a gas-assist system to begin producing parts in smaller machines.
"Everybody is saying, `Now I can use a bigger tool in a smaller press,'|" Bank said. "No one ever asks the press whether it wants the bigger tool."
The biggest obstacle to aluminum is acceptance from OEMs, Bank said. Automakers, for instance, may want less-expensive parts and processing, but they still are paying for the molds. As long as they are not willing to try something new, the standard practice will remain in place.
But Bank predicts change may come soon. Some big manufacturer finally will be the one to break through the steel curtain.
"The pot is churning, and I don't know what's going to fall out where," he said. "It's going to be somebody big. It needs somebody's acceptance for it to really surface."