3DM Worldwide plc has licensed its plastics powder impression molding process to a new company that will use it to manufacture composite construction and materials-handling products.
Intellectual property firm 3DM of Caerphilly, Wales, said it has signed a technology-transfer license with RJ Plastics Ltd. of Sandwell, England, which expects to commission its first PIM line at a plant being established in England by the end of this year. 3DM will receive a total of £150,000 ($294,000) in staged payments from the molder. 3DM's agreement with RJ Plastics covers up to five lines for PIM.
RJ Plastics will use post-consumer waste in its PIM material mix, for products that include modular housing components suitable for use by international aid agencies, according to 3DM Chief Executive Officer Niall MacKay.
3DM said it is experiencing new commercial success abroad for PIM, particularly in Africa and Eastern Europe. In each case, a large amount of recycled waste plastics will be required to feed the process.
The PIM process uses a cost-saving open-mold technology to produce complex composite products.
``We see significant benefits in using the PIM process, not only to utilize waste plastic material, which would have been destined for landfill, but also for the significant competitive advantages we can gain on a range of products,'' said RJ Plastics' director, Richard Campbell.
RJ Plastics, whose founders have ties to charity organization the Salvation Army, is already in talks with the Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council - a municipal authority in Oldbury, Endland, comprising several towns - to secure waste plastic for the plant.
PIM originally was developed for the automotive industry. The concept, launched in 2002, offers significant weight-strength ratio advantages over traditionally made complex metal assemblies, according to 3DM.
PIM's large, lightweight, durable products are suitable for reinforced scaffold boards and lightweight concrete substitutes in construction; chassis or cab assemblies for trucks and off-road vehicles as well as car trunk floors; spare-wheel wells or underbody panels; and heavy-duty molded crates and pallets for materials handling, 3DM said.
In the U.S., 3DM licensee Global Tech International Inc. signed PIM license agreements with aerospace and military equipment parts suppliers Plasco Corp. Inc. of Romeo, Mich., and AeroPro Corp. of San Bernardino, Calif. Potential applications include aircraft air ducts, underbody and seat components, and bulletproof material.
In December, Global reached a license agreement with Chinese-owned auto supplier Asimco Technologies Inc. in Southfield, Mich.
Meanwhile, 3DM has sold a robot-equipped production line to Environmental Polymer Technologies Europe Ltd. in Caerphilly. EPT is working with German machinery and mold makers to develop deep-draw applications for PIM.
The PIM process can use a significant amount of mixed plastics waste for the core of bulky products, with a skin of virgin polymers, 3DM said. The process preheats the aluminum mold in an oven before the polymer skins are applied to the open upper and lower molds. Core material is then deposited on the lower mold before the two halves are clamped together.
The closed mold then passes to a curing oven.
MacKay said the company is waiting on funding for projects to use PIM to make modular housing in Tanzania and Kenya.
3DM also is preparing to patent a three-dimensional blow molding process.