DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Oct. 29, 9:50 a.m. EST) — Two of Canada's largest toolmakers are combining forces to launch a new mold-making process that merges a unique nickel shell insert with a standard blow mold.
Ryka Blow Molds Ltd. of Mississauga, Ontario, will distribute its blow mold bases with a shell made by Midland, Ontario-based Weber Manufacturing Ltd. using the nickel vapor deposition process. The nickel inserts, replacing traditional tool steel, never have been used with blow molds, Ryka President Michael Ryan said Oct. 25 at K 2001 in Dusseldorf.
“This will be of major benefit to us and to blow molders. It became evident to both of us as we talked about this that we needed to work with each other,” Ryan said.
The uncommon partnership, cemented with a just-signed, exclusive cooperation agreement, joins two mold shops that have more than four decades of experience between them and have shown steady growth during the late 1990s.
Sales at both tool shops are more than US$12 million, placing them within the upper ranks of sales for North American mold makers.
Weber's nickel vapor process was developed 12 years ago for use in a mold cavity in injection and compression molding, and for other processes. The company opened its first nickel production plant in early 2000, spending about US$8.1 million to continue developing that process at the new plant.
During the NVD process, nickel powder is deposited using carbonyl gas. The gas vapors decompose in a deposition chamber, and the powder hardens around the steel shell to create core and cavity components.
Ryka will provide the mandrels, or the blow mold shells. The completed NVD cavity shells will be shipped from Weber to Ryka. The Mississauga manufacturer then will assemble the mold package around a holder and ship it to blow mold customers.
Although no commercial applications have started, the mold shops expect the process to be used by manufacturers of PET packaging and for high density polyethylene products, said Weber Manufacturing President Reinhart Weber. Of special interest for the technology are two-stage stretch blow processes for packaging and larger automotive and industrial blow molds.
The NVD shells are especially cost-effective for molds with 30 or more cavities, he said.
“This will offer us great technological advantages,” Weber said. “ We expect to see a major decrease in manufacturing costs in the packaging field. We can use our engineering to take time out of mold manufacturing.”
The companies claim that, for multicavity installation, delivery times can be reduced 30 percent. The cavities can be made in less than three weeks, compared with five to eight weeks of production time for standard blow mold cavities, Ryan said. It only takes 12 hours to make a 3-millimeter NVD shell, Weber added.
The NVD blow molds also present cost advantages over conventional blow molds, he said. No machining, hand finishing or polishing work is needed on the smoother NVD material, while molds easily can be engraved during the process, Weber said. And because the molds are produced quickly, a molder easily can replace a worn shell instead of instead of buying a new tool, he added.
“It doesn't pay to ship the mold back for repair in some cases,” Weber said. “The molds will prove out to be more economical.”
Nickel shells cost more than steel molds, and the mold makers will have some work ahead to convince customers of the longer-term payback of those NVD blow molds and their shorter delivery times, Weber said.
But both companies, located less than an hour from each other, believe the technology is worth the attempt in blow molds. The partners have taken out a U.S. patent application and are in the final stages of testing and evaluation. Samples produced from PET preforms are being discussed with potential customers, Ryan said.
Weber also has been active on another front to grow NVD molds. The company is working with equipment supplier Krauss-Maffei AG to develop a reproducible wood-grain finish for injection molders, he said.
The company also is developing an NVD mold that can be overlaid with polyurethane or sprayed with the material to give the finished parts a deeper gloss, he said.