Custom molder Innatech LLC has developed a new multishot technology, called Innaflex, that uses very soft grades of thermoplastic elastomers to make padded parts like armrests, door bolsters, and seat cushions and backs, at a lower cost than current methods.
The Innaflex technology makes use of the Rochester, Mich.-based company's experience in multimaterial, multishot molding, according to Fred Rheinlander, sales and marketing director.
Innatech makes its own molds and the rotating mold plates used in multishot molding.
Innaflex is a three-shot process that uses three different materials. The substrate part is injection molded of polypropylene. The mold rotates through two other stations that mold two different grades of TPE.
The padding is achieved through a combination of materials and an air-chamber effect, Rheinlander said.
Innatech is targeting Innaflex for automotive interiors, child safety seats and office furniture.
The company is marketing Innaflex as a replacement for PVC and urethane foam, which are commonly used today. Innatech said the new process offers increased styling flexibility for padded corners and absorption of energy from side impacts.
Designers also can use Innaflex to position a soft area where a user will come into contact with the part, and with a specific degree of deflection. It also can transition between a hard surface and a soft one, according to Innatech.
The production of padded parts typically requires that some rigid parts be injection molded, and then additional assembly or molding steps with foam are needed. With Innaflex, the finished part is made on a single, multishot injection press.
In one benchmark application, Innatech said it has found the technology can replace eight components by integrating them into a single molded assembly.
Rheinlander said the company has started to show Innaflex to some customers. A patent is pending.
Innatech has molding factories in Richmond, Ind., and Lebanon, Ohio, and an assembly plant in Middletown, Ohio. The mold-building operation is at the corporate office in Rochester.