Wilmington Machinery Inc.'s 10,000-square-foot laboratory can test the latest possibilities in structural foam molding, industrial blow molding and gas-assisted injection molding.
But the company is thinking beyond refinements to those technologies, and investigating the prospect of building one machine that would combine two different processes.
``We're very fascinated with multiprocess molding, mixing injection molding and blow molding, for instance,'' Russ LaBelle, president of the Wilmington, N.C.-based machinery maker, said during a March 22 interview at the Society of the Plastics Industry's Structural Plastics Division conference in Lake Buena Vista.
LaBelle, who was named to the division's Pioneers Club during the event, said he can see the potential for one such piece of equipment, without the need for secondary operations.
Consider a blow molded bottle that requires a cap with tight tolerances only possible from injection molding, he said. Rather than automating a system to move the bottle to an injection molding press - or weld the two separate components - LaBelle and his engineers want to know if they can build one machine that could accomplish both tasks.
A blow molded fuel tank, meanwhile, could have components and connections injection molded as one integral process.
Wilmington has had some ``live discussions'' on the possibilities, LaBelle said.
Richard Morgan, business manager for injection molding at Wilmington, said the firm is driven by the potential to make specialized equipment that larger competitors cannot match.
Wilmington's Foam Laboratory has a 375-ton injection press capable of evaluating structural foam production, gas-assisted molding and specialty techniques such as molding for wood-filled applications. The lab's blow molding equipment can test products of up to six layers.