CHICAGO (July 2, 10:50 a.m. EDT) — A little more than three years since Trexel Inc. began introducing MuCell to the auto industry, the processing system is starting to gain traction.
It is no surprise that it has taken time for automakers and their suppliers to begin putting the system into use, said Dan Szczurko, a vice president with Woburn, Mass.-based Trexel. The industry has a long product development cycle, so new technology rarely makes a sudden appearance.
However, he noted, MuCell is gaining new converts as companies begin to recognize its value at the molding level.
“Starting now and over the next few months and the next year or two, there are going to be a plethora of parts coming out on the market,” Szczurko said.
Trexel rolled out MuCell for injection molding in time for the 2000 NPE. For 2003, processors and equipment suppliers showed specific components. JSW Plastics Machine Inc. ran a 200-ton, all-electric press molding door lock parts produced with MuCell. The parts offer a 10 percent density reduction and 14 percent cost savings.
Branson Ultrasonics displayed vibration welding of an air-intake manifold made using the system.
The system's highest-profile vehicle win so far is on the rear door components of Porsche AG's sport utility vehicle, the Cayenne.
“There's still a lot of education going on,” said Jeff Terrell, manager of product development for Tricon Industries Inc. of Lisle, Ill. “A lot of people in the industry still don't even know what MuCell is.”
Tricon signed up for a MuCell license two years ago. It launches production later this year for a universal socket component used in lighting systems.
From the start, Tricon targeted specific systems within the auto industry for early adaptation of the process, Szczurko said, such as electronics units where molders could prove out the technology according to standards accepted by all carmakers. Its list also includes functional systems units in fans and radiator end tanks and interior components where processors could take advantage of MuCell to make large parts on smaller presses.
“What's happening now is that companies are starting to look at it in terms of what it can bring them for specific improvements [such as] dimensional stability or cycle time or tonnage reductions,” he said.
Delphi Corp., the world's largest auto supplier, brought in Trexel representatives and some of its suppliers to generate more interest in the process throughout its supply chain. Valeo SA of Paris is looking into its value for heating and air conditioning components. Other firms throughout Asia are launching programs as well.
“They're finding places where the technology has a fit,” Szczur-ko said.
And companies like Tricon, encouraged by one customer to invest in MuCell, now are spreading its possibilities to other customers.
“We're taking it to them and saying that these are the types of components that lend themselves perfectly to MuCell,” Terrell said. “They may ask us for one thing, but we're bringing them prototypes with MuCell as well and showing them what we can do for them with it.”