EPW Inc., a maker of reaction injection molded tools and parts, is adding thermoforming to its list of services.
EPW will install its first in-line thermoforming machine by the year's end and start producing automotive interior parts, primarily for process development, said EPW Vice President Doug Moore at Plastics Encounter Indianapolis, held Sept. 17-19.
The Elkhart, Ind., firm wants to boost work for its RIM division by offering thermoformed parts for automotive door, side and instrument panels, Moore said. Previously, EPW risked losing business when customers wanted to compare thermoformed skins with those using other processes, including foam-in-place molding.
The strategy expands the relationship between EPW and thermoforming equipment maker Kiefel Technologies Inc. EPW will buy thermoforming equipment from Kiefel in Hampton, N.H. EPW previously had sent some customers to Kiefel Extrusionstechnik GmbH of Freilassing, Germany, to obtain prototype, thermoformed automotive panels, Moore said.
``That sometimes blew us out of the water, when customers wanted work done quickly by a [domestic producer],'' Moore said. ``Now, we'll give customers more options for panels made with different processes.''
The thermoformed door panels typically are less expensive and made of a harder surface material than those that are reaction injection molded, Moore said. The thermoformed panels commonly are used for the lower half of the door, while the upper portion uses the softer, structural foam process for a more luxurious feel.
Only about a quarter of EPW's business comes from its molding operation, with about 75 percent coming from the production of molds for RIM and other specialized injection processes. But the company would like to increase its molding work. EPW is growing its window-encapsulation business by surrounding automotive glass with either PVC or urethane, Moore said.