GE Plastics has expanded its Visualfx compounds line into films for in-mold decoration, and has added two finishes.
The new effects - a glow-in-the-dark Luminescent and a dark metallic Ferrite - bring the Visualfx portfolio to 18, said Andrew Day, global aesthetics manager with the firm in Pittsfield, Mass. GE Plastics introduced the two finishes in late June at Chinaplas 2002 in Shanghai, China.
During the Industrial Designers Society of America 2002 National Conference, held July 20-23 in Monterey, Day said Ferrite ``has some improvement in reduction of flow lines.'' But at least one designer has appearance concerns.
``GE and others boast these metallic colors, but when molded into a real-world part, they look terrible,'' Mike Morgan, general manager and engineering head for the Lake Forest, Calif., office of Herbst LaZar Bell Inc., said by telephone. ``Weld lines are always there.''
``That is a real concern,'' Day acknowledged. Some current effects are immune to flow lines, but ``the real aggressive metallics are much more susceptible,'' he said.
``When you jump into a Visualfx, some work great and others are tricky. That is why we provide processing and design assistance to predict where the flow lines will be a problem,'' Day said.
Some designers successfully have moved flow lines into a styling line, but ``the best current solution is in-mold film,'' he said.
Traditionally, metallic-appearing in-mold films have been achieved using printing or paint.
GE Plastics unveiled the Visualfx films at the IDSA event, exhibiting glossy panels such as a laptop computer cover. Among six initial film offerings, in thicknesses of 0.01-0.03 inch, are the Ares, Intrigue, Illuminate, Diamond and Lustre. GE initially is targeting computer and consumer electronic applications.
``In this economy, there is more desperation for companies to differentiate'' their products, Day said. A next-generation product may be two years away in some cases, and substituting a Visualfx resin for a standard material helps freshen appearance.
``We view all of the aesthetic effects as an emerging market for us,'' he said. The segment has ``much more growth available than in core product line areas. Even in a down economy, Visualfx sales are up.''